Justice and Bhaskar's Dialectical Universalizability

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Thu Apr 6 08:01:51 MDT 1995

On Thu, 6 Apr 1995, Hans Ehrbar wrote:

> I sympathize with Howie's concerns about the role of stability in
> Justin's argument.  It is very conservative to turn stability into a
> source of values.

No doubt dominant groups would find my argument that their own xommitment
to a stable justice requires that they embrace emancipation and give up
domination very appealing because it is so conservative.

I do not say tht stabilkity is is a source of values. I said that the
stability of a system of justice is a constraint on the adequacy of that
system. Why is this conservative? Do you want emancipatory justice to be
unstable, so that it is overthrown by internal resistance?

Perhaps things will be clearer if I say that instability, the
unrealizability of a justice of domination, in the long run, is a basis
for critique.

Perhaps Hans is groping towards the worry I address at some length in my
papers, that a stable system of domination would be just on my view, so I
couldn't criticize 1984. The short answer to that is (a) 1984 wouldn't be
stable--that's part of why a directionality to history is important.
People will resist domination. (b) If it were stable because people didn't
have their interests violated by domination, 1984 would be just. (c) If it
were stable because people were intimidated (as in the book), 1984 would
not be just--indimidatiuon is not a way of reconcilining conflicting

  Perhaps Bhaskar's concept of dialectical
> universalizability can give the answer here which both Justin and
> Howie are looking for.  Bhaskar starts his dialectic with absences,
> which may for instance be social ills, unmet needs, etc., which call
> forth the tendencey of absenting ills.  In this absenting of ills, the
> agent will not only want to remedy this ill this particular time, but
> universalize that and provide for remedies in the future.  She may
> also need to solidarize with everyone else afflicted by this ill to be
> able to remedy it---which is then a remedy not only for herself but
> for all.  Both of these are instances of the principle of dialectical
> universalizability, which Bhaskar sees as a general principle valid in
> this world, and which he pairs up with its opposite, namely immanent
> critique.

I don't see where this is going. Bhaskar seems to me, from this
dewscription, to be dressing up some fairly low level generalizations with
fancy language.

  Read for instance Bhaskar about his generic dialectic of
> interests in his Dialectic, p. 289, and the whole C3.10.  This makes
> for an amazing seeming humanization of the world and a transcendental
> grounding for socialism (transcendental because we know about these
> principles only by a transcendental argument: there is no other way to
> make that what we know about the world---and humans are part of this
> world---intelligible.)
A transcendental grounding for socialism--give me a break. What we need is
a case that it's feasible and would be an improvement. If we could show
that an attainable socialism would provide a high level of material
adequacy and political freedom, that is, answer the usualk concerns all
ordinary people have, we'd have all tghe grounding for socialism we need.

Marx wouldn't like my approach, but at the notion of a transcendental
grounding for socialism he'd laugh out loud.


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