Justice and Bhaskar's Dialectical Universalizability

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Thu Apr 6 21:56:15 MDT 1995

On Thu, 6 Apr 1995, Hans Ehrbar wrote:

> Ok, Justin, if you don't like the words "stability is a source of
> value", call it "stability is a criterion of adequacy of a system."
> To me it is the same thing.  It is conservative to say emancipation is
> desirable because it creates stability, instead of finding general
> criteria by which emancipation is good in its own right and looking
> around if one can detect such criteria being active in general, which
> is what I see Bhaskar doing.
> Hans.

The problem with finding general (universal, binding for all?) criteria on
the basis of which to endorse emancipation is that if your argument for
emancipation demands universal assent, this is not to be found in a
sociery divided into dominant and subordinat groups. And if you accept
that emancipation is only to be endorsed from the perspective of
subordinate groups, you have relativism. From the perspecxtive of dominant
groups emancipation is to be condemned. Why choose the suvordinate groups'
perspective? I think that the argument you attribute to Bhaskar is stuck
with relativism.

Now my appeal to stability is supposed to help here. I do not say that
emancipation is good because it is stable, as if stability were a good in
itself. Rather I say that stability is _evidence_ that a conception of
justice embodies a genuine reconciliation of interests,a nd instability is
evidence that it does not. That justice requires such a reconciliation of
interests I take to be common ground between dominant and subordinate
groups. It is, in my view, constitutive of justice. So my case for
emancipation is not that it is stable (merely) but that it is just, and
its stability shows this. Domination is to be condemned because it is
unjust and its instability, due to the resistance it causes, shows this.
Since both sides are committed to their preferred regime being just, the
instability of domination and the stability of emancipation gives everyone
a reason to prefer emancipation. Of course dominant groups won't agree,
but they don;t have to. The instability of domination due to the harm it
causes refutes their denial. That's the idea. What's conservative about
this I cannot see.


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