To be continued … rdj
Like Gavin, long ago, I shouldn’t have time for this. But, sucker that I am…..
Things happen. Then there are the stories we make up about what happens. Some of those stories more accurately describe what happened than others, although we can never precisely and absolutely know which. For those stories we trust the most — usually because they predict future events — we call them science.
Arguably, that’s the nature of our “reality,” which is limited by our perception.
The practical question is which of the made-up stories to choose. And choose them we do, through one mechanism or another — personal choice, socialization, brainwashing, indoctrination, etc., etc.
I vote to choose those stories that most reflect the “reality” I see.
That’s easy for many things. That’s where much of what is “science” comes in. But if you follow the debate on evolution/intelligent design/creationism, you can clearly see that others “choose” differently.
When it comes to people, politics, society, the choices get harder. Although it has an important role, “self-interest” doesn’t do it for me. It is, after all, the fundamental concept behind capitalism and other “territorial-based” ways of thinking. It can be and is used to justify every abomination imaginable.
“Reason” is a little better. It at least posits that there is some “higher” framework that should guide our actions. Like advancing the better good, doing what makes the most sense for the most people, etc.
While not my personal choice necessarily, religion and faith are another options. In that world view, God (or something like God) requires us to act in certain ways. In the best examples, to promote peace, harmony, justice and doing unto others as we would want them to do unto us.
I can’t say that one is better than another. But I do know and have seen the power that the stories or explanations we choose have.
As important as the mass protests and personal bravery of the civil rights era were to winning the gains of the last few decades (such as they were), we should never discount the power of the vision that was articulated by Dr. King and many others. It has changed things. When the leading advocate of the right in the Maryland House of Delegates co-introduces a bill to name BWI airport after Thurgood Marshall and the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate is an African American, who is also the current Lt. Gov., you have to admit there has been a change in the collective consciousness. Yes, the reality of much of the black community remains bleak, but the terms of the debate have changed and the lives of many individuals are better for it.
I guess I am speaking for the power of the idea — the power of a vision of a better world. Far beyond self-interest, I believe that is what motivates people. That is what moves them to put their lives and futures on the line and to challenge power. It is no accident that the words of the Declaration of Independence (or similar expressions about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or the right to freedom of belief, thought and action) have shown up time and again in revolutionary documents.
I do believe the challenge we face is to create our own “story” or “stories” of reality — as accurate and predictive as we can, but also as uplifting, inspiring and motivating as we can make them.
And now I really am late to work.
As per the below….It seems to me that “false consciousness” occurs when the working class, or any subordinate class, adopts the world view of the bourgeoisie. Marx mentioned that as a problem. He did not define “false consciousness” as a confusion between individual and class interests–and I have not been convinced that he thought such a thing possible.
In the broadest terms, what Marx said about ideology was that small groups had put forward their interests as representing those of all humanity, the biggest possible political group, or of the nation. It seems to me that, given this history, we should be skeptical of anybody’s claim to represent group interests, including class interests. We can, however, trust people who claim only to represent themselves; we can trust them to look out for Number One First.
I therefore think that the most honest policy is for me, for example, to claim to represent myself, leaving to Jesus or somesuch the interests of all humanity. If you, for example, think about your interests, and they run close to mine, we can form a class of two, which, in time, may become a class of four, etc. Pretty soon we might be speaking in the interests of the petty bourgeoisie or some other class–but to be honest, we have to say, “I’m doing this for myself.”
What gets dropped out is the figure who claims to sacrifice himself/herself for the greater good, i.e., Jesus and his imitators.
What gets saved is the wisdom of the 60s, which was that social liberation is inseparable from personal liberation.
Dick J. Reavis
I’m having a deliciously lovely time reading all that’s been written in the past few days. Gavan, you have a more interesting stream-of-consciousness writing style than I had suspected you were capable of. I’ve pondered, giggled, belly-laughed, and enjoyed. I think Paul deserves the lunch Lori offered.
Brother Bill: your posting reminded me of two other ringing phrases to throw into the mix: winners write the official report of a conflict (which is how Julius Caesar could get away with dissing the Druids) and “history is a distillation of rumor” (Thomas Carlyle said that).
A lot of the rhetoric sounds muchly like what y’all were going on and on about 35 years ago, but it’s still interesting. As we said then: What goes around comes around. My assumption is that it has a lot to do with lessons needing to be learned; my faith is that sooner or later it’ll happen.
My point about promoting human flourishing did not concern political action. It was proposed (by Wittgenstein, not me) as the best underlying norm to motivate scientific inquiry.
Anyway, I fail to see how a class can have a consciousness or adopt a world view. This seems quite anthropomorphic to me.
It is certainly true that some people can only act on the basis of self-interest. Kohlberg called them stage 2 moral reasoners. At stages 3 and 4, people act on the basis of social role expectations. At even higher stages, they act on the basis of principles.
So, I read you as saying that you are an exemplar of arrested moral development. With self-interest as your guide, you can easily justify all kinds of heinous behavior. You free yourself to manipulate others, or even kill them, so long as doing so serves your self-interest.
I hope someday you develop a principled social consciousness.
At the first meeting of a multi-stakeholder group I was involved in a few years ago, the facilitator put rolls of toilet paper on the table in front of everybody’s chairs. She said that as part of our process, we were all encouraged to speak freely and to disagree with one another. But, Rule #1 was to treat each other respectfully. If we thought somebody was getting out of line, we were supposed to toss our roll towards the offending party (but… not “at” them).
It was a pretty fun idea and it really did work well. Nobody wanted to be shamed by having a big stack of tp in front of themselves at the end of the meeting. Even the redneck logger seemed a bit embarrassed after his reference to effin’ greenies earned him almost every roll at the table. (Oh, yeah, and to avoid the negative impacts of self-interest, we weren’t allowed to keep any of the rolls tossed our way.)
So, sorry, Duffer, but this is coming your way. Lighten up a little bit, boy.
In the post … you say “I’m starting to realize that you’ve been conflating self-interest with group interest.”
Could it not be that you’ve been separating self-interest from group interest?
(I notice that I usually address my arguments to you in the conditional, whereas you speak to me in the declarative. I say “I think” or “it could be”; you declare what’s what–in a manner appropriate to your academic status? Is not some hierarchy in forms of discourse evident here?)
My feeling is simply this. The System has for years taught us self-deprecation. We must sacrifice our desires before God, Morality, Nation, the Economy, Marriage, the Family, etc. The people who speak for all of those capital letters usually turn out to be tyrants.
To turn that game around and put capital letters on Class, Humanity, History–or Morality, the Nation, etc.–may in some ways improve life for the rest of us, but if really successful, leads to another Soviet state.
I don’t think we should don’t deny self or self-interest at the start of our fight or our negotiations with life. I think we ought to stand up for our own “selfish” interests, along with everything else. The selfish interests of the bourgeoise may cause great harm to the rest of us, but the selfish interests of us commoners–I count you as one!–might be really healthy for the species!
Dick J. Reavis
Yes, I agree. I haven’t conflated self-interest and group interest, whereas you have.
Saying “I think” and “it could be” is a way of speaking conditionally. You yourself say “Could it not be” in the sentence that precedes your declarative parenthetical sentence beginning “I notice that I usually address….” “I think” implicates that “I could be wrong.” So I’m not addressing you any differently than you address me and any hierarchy you find in my discourse just isn’t there.
Of course, you consistently refer to me formally as “Mr. Duffy,” which indicates that you want to establish some sort of hierarchy. But, in any event, you seem to do this in an effort to portray yourself in some sort subaltern position in which you feel most comfortable. That doesn’t bother me so much, but please don’t attribute to me any intention to place you in that position. It’s your pomo delusion, not mine.
My perspective does indeed differ. I think that The System encourages us to conceive ourselves as individuals who pursue goals in a self-interested manner. To the extent that we buy into this “false consciousness” (writers more recent than Engels call it “the colonization of the lifeworld”), we fail to see our group interest and our group solidarity is undermined.
I would agree that we should stand up for our group interests, but these are hardly selfish.
So it the glass on self-interest/group interest is half-full, not half-empty,–or is it the other way around?
I do not address Mr. Duffy as “Mr.” because I want to imply any gradation of superiority: to accept anybody as my superior in such discussions would go counter to my self-respect. It’s just that if I knew Duffy, I don’t remember him. We haven’t, as the Brits would say, been properly introduced, to my memory, at least. In any case, I don’t think I’ve seen a post addressed to ‘Gavan,’ and Fitgerald’s “Duffer” seems to be a name of affection. Such affection I will not feign, though I would not say that I will forever regard Duffy as a stranger.
Mr. Duffer–is that any better?–says: To the extent that we buy into this “false consciousness” (writers more recent than Engels call it “the colonization of the lifeworld”), we fail to see our group interest and our group solidarity is undermined.
I don’t know to what “writers” or concepts he refers, so all I can say: What ‘we,’ Lone Ranger?
Dick J. Reavis
I suppose there’s nothing “wrong” with pursuing the ethics of egoism, “self-interest,” if you in fact recognize no higher interest than your own.
But in that pursuit, you lose the chance of bringing anybody with you who is not identical in a lot of categories we have always tried to organize across.
I am thinking that a scab can make a great self-interest argument, and the only sensible reply would be to call the scab short-sighted.
It’s OK to have interests and necessary to be out front about what they are. But if that’s all you have, I don’t trust you to govern yourself in a manner that does not impinge on my interests. Let alone trust you to govern others.