patriarchs and dead patriarchy (Justin-Tom)

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Sat Nov 12 06:55:55 MST 1994

On Wed, 9 Nov 1994, Andrew Hagen wrote:

> On Tue, 8 Nov 1994, Ann Ferguson wrote:
> > Justin has already argued that from the fact
> > that men exploit women it doesnt follow that men cannot decide to give up
> > this privilege: just that, as patriarchs, women cant count on your good
> > will to do so without being utopian.  Which is why women, like the working
> > class, need to organize autonomously and not trust lefty men, or
> > capitalists, to have our interests at heart.
> I think this is a very insightful point, transcending gender relations and
> including racial and class relations as well; a particularly helpful one
> to me. I happen to be an upper-middle class/upper class white male with
> privileges so multitudinous that they are beyond my awareness. But still I
> feel very deeply that the basic and most radical points of feminism and
> Marxism are very much necessary and valid. So how do I advocate what I
> feel without hypocrisy? By being as honest as the above passage, I think.
> When I speak or write on a political level I should state my class and
> gender and ethnic privileges along with my arguments, not only to make a
> point, but to de-mystify perceptions amongst my audience.

No, you should _not_ unless you think you have a concrete argument linking
your class etc. position to the reliability of particular claims.
Otherwise it's noise, like saying, I think that... all the time time. Of
course you think that... or you wouldn't say it. Mentioning your class,
etc. is a short-circuit otherwise which enables you and others to avoid
the hard work of _assessing the validity of your arguments on their

I speak, incidentally, as a defender of the _idea_ of standpoint
epistemology, the notion that social position might impart greater or less
reliability to your beliefs because of your interests in the subject
matter on which have beliefs. See my "The Paradox of Ideology," Canadian
Journal of Philosophy, Dec 1993. But I emphasize there too that the
justification of a belief depends largely on the evidence for it, its
logical consistency and theoretical precision, etc. That's what you should
work on, recognizing of course that all your views and everyone else's are
socially conditioned in ways that may affect their reliability.

> If I talk about socialism to a group of interested workers, for example
> they might be more persuaded if I concluded with, "But don't take it from
> me, because I'm from the capitalist class," and leave them be.

In the first place you are probably _not_ from the capitalist class. Do
you own large scale productive property and make your living from profits
deriving from the hired labor of others? Middle class people are normally
in fact wage laborers who make their living from selling their labor
power. Actually you said you are a student. But you are headed for a
career of wage labor.

In the second place you should _not_ say, well don't believe _me_. In most
contexts people will see what you are clearly enough and can form their
own judgements about whether you are likely to be a reliable source. Your
job is to make the most credible, honest, effective case you can for what
you are saying.

 That way
> they could work together to take my class privileges from me. Otherwise, I
> would be working with them against "the capitalists" while they would
> constantly notice how unlike them I would be, for example my affinity for
> Rachmaninoff, and always have suspicions about my actual class position.
> And should they even be trusting me in the first place?

Look, renouncing, or trying to renounce, undeserved advantages does not
mean undergoing a ritual of personal humiliation. Of course people from
different background will notice that you are different, and some of those
differences may create resentment and suspicion. But the way to overcome
these barriers is not to go "prole" (or whatever) and get rid of your
Rachmoninoff in favor of country music. It is to work with others to
defend the _common interests_ you have with them. If you do that well and
sincerely, they should trust you. Which does not mean, as Ann remarks,
that they should rely on _you_ for their emancipation.

> Perhaps my role as a communist (of the freedom-loving variety!) is not
> one of leading the vanguard but raising consciousness. And to raise
> consciousness is not to provide all the answers, and not even to provide
> all the tools necessary to find all the answers, but just to crack the
> brittle armor of bourgeois agitprop allowing a few rays of sunshine to
> illuminate the nightfall of life in our time.

Actually, if you look at what Lenin says about what the vanguard is in The
State and Revolution, he views it as a matter of education and moral
leadership. I'm not a "Leninist," whatever that might mean these days, but
I thought I'd mention this.

> LaClau and Mouffe, who I have not read but only heard about, argue
> (supposedly) that one's class is not determined by money or authority or
> any of that, but instead by the position one takes in the struggle against
> capitalism.

They do say rubbish of this sort. But it is rubbish. Class has an
objective dimension. Try "gender" and you'll see the fallacy. Is my
gender determined by whether I am a feminist?

 There are thus pro-capitalist wage workers and socialist
> CEO's.

This is a matter of your subjective attitude, not your social position.
Engels was socially a capitalist and subjectively a communist.

 At the outset, I find that this perspective is rather blind in that
> it seems to disregard the enormous barriers that our friend, capitalism,
> ;-) has placed between people.

Ah, so we agree.

> Am I off-base here, completely? Partly? And, BTW, this would all apply to
> gender relations and racial relations and sexuality relations, etcetera,
> without an obvious limit.

--Justin Schwartz


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