Rationaly Choice Thoery?-Reply

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Wed Apr 5 21:47:28 MDT 1995

In the following Howie gives a nice summary of my argument, inspiring hope
in my that I may sometimes write clearly enough to be understood. I'll
only comment that I am not aware of any conscious influence, in the
structure of the argument, from Cohen or Wright, et al. In fact when I was
working it through and realized that I was commited to a directionality in
history my initially shocked reaction was, Oh God, I'm a Hegelian after
all. But there may be influence from Cohen or WLS--I have studied and
taught their work for years. Be that as it may.

Howie asks why I give a special role to stability in my account--the idea
is that stable justices are better. There are three reasons this notion is
crucial to my argument:

1. Instability due to resistance is evidence of injustice because it shows
that the reconciliation of interests necessary for justice is lacking.

2. Instability also shows that a justice which provokes resistance is
unrealizable, so not binding, by the principle that ought implies can.

3. Both dominant and subordinate groups will accept that an adequate
justice must be stable (because of 1 and 2), so the instability of the
dominant group's justice because of resistance to the harm of domination
provides a non-question-begging internal argument against that justice, at
least if the subordinate group's justice would be stable.

Stability is not thus an ahistorical driving force, unlike Cohen's and
WLS' postulation of an innate humnan drive to increase productive
efficiency. It's just a condition for justice that everyone accepts and
which provides an nonperspectival basis for choosing between the justice
of dominant and subordinate groups. Stability does drive history, on my
story. Class (generally group) struggle does.

I hope this helps.


On Wed, 5 Apr 1995, Howie Chodos wrote:

> Aren't subject lines with multiple typos fun?
> I just want to add a couple of comments to try to explore Fellini's and my
> concerns with certain elements of Justin's argument. For my part I would
> like to make it clear that there are aspects of Justin's argument that I
> find appealing (for eg. its implicit accordance of a relatively autonomous
> terrain to the political struggle), but at the same time I retain a residual
> uneasiness about others. It is this that I hope the discussion will help
> clarify.
> I want to pursue the issue of the similarities and differences between
> Justin and Wright, Levine and Sober (hereafter WLS). It seems to me that
> Justin is right when he says that there is a difference between him and WLS
> concerning the focus of their interventions. WLS, as Justin has suggested,
> detect a certain directionality to history based on the causal asymmetry
> between the tendency of the forces of production to grow and the ability of
> the superstructure to constrain that growth. They see the former as being
> somewhat stronger over time than the latter, and this imparts a certain
> directionality to overall historical development.
> Justin's argument does not have anything to do with the development of the
> productive forces. But I continue to think that the structure of Justin's
> argument is almost identical to that employed by WLS, and that he is in fact
> applying the same type of argument to the domain of emancipation/domination
> or more broadly to the terrain of justice. As I understand Justin's
> argument, it is that over time emancipation is a stronger impetus to
> historical development than domination because it tends to foster a greater
> degree of stability. Stability, in its turn, is an essential precondition
> for justice, defined as the genuine reconciliation of interests. All actors
> are understood to pursue their interests which are shaped by their location
> in a stratified social structure.
> Looked at in this way the logical similarities between the two sets of
> arguments seems to me to be strong. In both cases, and I think Justin
> himself established this parallel in an earlier post, the key to the
> directionality of historical development lies in a causal asymmetry. For WLS
> this asymmetry lies in the relationship between the development of the
> productive forces and the superstructure, for Justin between emancipation
> and domination with regards to stability. (And I think that the source of
> much of this line of reasonming is G. A. Cohen's notion of an "autonomous
> tendency to develop" which he detects in the forces of production, but not
> in the relations of production, but that is a complicated matter that is
> probably best left aside for the time being; though if Justin feels that his
> posts on Cohen to the other list are relevant, I, for one, would be
> interested in reading them).
> My uneasiness with Justin's argument lies with the role that he attributes
> to stability. I read it as being the "selection mechanism" (probably roughly
> analogous to the way natural selection works in the biological world)
> whereby certain types of development tend to be preserved rather than others
> because of the benefits that they generate. Stability thus acquires the role
> of anchoring a non-perspectival approach to justice. It is something which
> history does whether we like it or not. It is an "objective" criterion that
> can decide between bourgeois, pro-domination views of justice and
> emancipatory ones, bestowing on these latter the dignity associated with
> swimming with the tide of history.
> I guess my question is why "stability" acquires this asocial, ahistorical
> ability to adjudicate between competing claims about justice? I am generally
> suspicious of this type of claim precisely because it does situate some
> social good, in this case stability, outside of society and history. Now
> maybe Justin has succeeded in defending this assertion in his twenty pages
> of dense prose, but I remain unconvinced on the basis of what he has offered
> us so far on the list.
> Howie Chodos
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