Bhaskar's Universalizability: Justin's silent violence

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Fri Apr 7 09:14:56 MDT 1995

On Fri, 7 Apr 1995, Hans Despain wrote:

> You are committed to a moral ethic, but you tell Ehrbar such things are
> relativistic and "Moralizing doesn't have much effect"?  Can you have
> it both ways.

The point of my projects is to answer and defeat relativism (about
justice). I think that Hans E may be stuck with relativism. I'm not sure.

Sociologically, moralizing doesn't have much effect. We have to try to be
good and to build movements which are decent, but we also have to
recognize that we cannot hope to keep our hands clean no matter what we
do. If we abstrain because we don't like violence, we are complicit in the
violence of domination. If we resist, we will find that subordinate groups
will not always behave as they should. Popular justice isn't always pretty.

>  Does murder matter or not.

Of course! ANd it is, by definition, to be condemned.

 Moreover, historical we very
> much see that murder, and all else less is justified for historical
> objective ends; religious, socialist, Marxist, or otherwise.  You are
> correct to give an example of my worry but in my view offer nothing
> but faith and hope to ease the worry.

I'm afraid there isn't anythging but that to ease the worry. But my
position does not offer a justification of murder, dictatorship, etc.
> HD> notion of history with its own purpose and direction (Justin I
> HD> know that this is not what you necessarily mean, but all our
> HD> arguments seem to still imply that we be committed to a history
> HD> which is gradually working out social ills, I don't buy it).
> JS> Well, since you acknowledge that it's not what I mean, why mention
> JS> it?
> Because you have a quasi-(resistence-)purpose, as did Hegel a self-
> conscious purpose, I don't buy it.

Resistance is not a Purpose of History, but a consequjence of domination.
People kick when they are hurt--that's all. Nothing teleological about that.

> Is there not a historical necessity for resistence and emancipation
> itself, as you explain it?

No, but given the probability of resistance, there is a probabilistic
tendency for emancipation to increase.

  You see there is no inner propensity, in
> what I believe the others of us, certainly myself, for human
> emancipation, it is simple a choice of ehtical commitment, without my
> own commitment it may not get carried out, but in ours whether I make
> the choice to be part of the struggle is unimportant for someone will
> fight domination.

So, you are essentially an existentialist. You choose the side of the
oppressed. But this is my question: why that side? What makes this an
ethical commitment rather than a personal preference? The point of my
argument is to justify tthat choice of sides. In my view this based on a
nonmoral propensity to resist domination which is a fact about human
nature. That the propensity is nonmoral doesn't mean, by the way, that
anything done to resist domination is OK.

> JS> If overcoming dominanation isn't progress, what is?
> Well it depends on what form of domination you speak of.  There are
> many people that believe that Jews dominate the media and banking
> system, is overcoming this progressive.

But since the Jews do not dominate the media and banks, the belief people
have is false, and there is nothing to overcome in this case.

  As you narrow your
> defination of domination, as you must to protect your theory against
> "misunderstanding" or from its own hidden violence, it becomes less
> and less useful and relavant as an emancipating mechanism.

I define domination as unnecessarily unequal power to frustrate or repress
group interests. The power must actuallly exist, which takes out racist
and anti-semitic fantasies about the Jews, etc.

> HD> Moreover, often it seems history is a return to domination (See E.
> HD> Fromm's *The Anatomy of Human Destructivness* 19??).
> JS> Which, among other reasons, is why I reject any necessity or
> JS> unilinear, irreversible development.
> I am so confussed of what the Hell your argument is suppose to mean,
> progressive is progressive, now it is not irreversible, good God.
> Maybe your silent violence is against us that attempt to take you
> serious.

I don't know what silent violence is, but "progressive" does not mean
neccesary, inevitable, unilinear, or irreversible. It means tending
towards improvement. My argument is that resistance provides a basis for a
non-neccesary, contingent, multiply-branching, and at least sometimes
reversible tendency towards emancipation. What's so hard about that? See
Howie Chodos' summary of my view for a brief restatement.

> The problem is not stability or resistance, I don't see barely but a
> difference,

You don't?

 the problem is in your notion of push, a push toward
> socailism, a push away from capitalism,

So you don't think that popular resiustance to domination can bring about
a reduction of domination, e.g., the abolition of capitalism?

 I believe that 6 figure
> salary with Hercules (building war heads) does not sound so bad after
> all certainly my effort will eventually constitute a form of
> resistance and a progress toward justice, in your account.

How so? Building warheads for the Pentagon (or the Kremlin) is not
resistance to domination. That is resistance to emancipation, the other
side of the struggle.

> HD> Socialism or any other "better" alternative is not going to emerge
> HD> because history demands it, or because of quasi-human propensity
> HD> of something or other, but from human *conscious* action and
> HD> effort.
> JS> This is what my argument says.
> Your fight against resistence has nothing to do with self-
> consciousness,

I do not fight against resistance, but rather advocate it. But you are
right that the notion of self-consciouness plays no role in my argument.

 you are saying history moves progressive from struggle
> and resistence, historically such struggles have been much less than
> conscious.  For example, U.S.A.'s struggle against Cuba is this
> conscious on the U.S.A.'s part or Cuba's; it cannot be both since they
> have opposing views.

What? Both sides might be conscious of their aims and interests. I think
that typically dominant groups will be far more conscious than subordinate
ones, since they have more resources and opportunity to think. Subordinate
groups tend to learn about their interests in the course of practical
struggle. (See my paper "The Paradox of Ideology," Canadian Jorn. of
Phil., Dec, 1993).

  Hence, if you say that again here something
> about regress, then we agree history need not be progressive.  Which
> seems again agreed to above.

I don't follow this. The possibility of regression to previous or equally
bad forms of domination does not mean that a long term tendency towards
emancipation does not exist. Self-consciousness here is idle, doesn't do
any work one way or another.

> Once again we seem to agree on the "lack" of self-consciousness.  How
> then is there not a propensity of human intention and will, and quasi-
> commitment to some form of Rational Choice,  Fellini and I must both
> have our notion of Rational Choice confussed.

I think you do, if you think that RCT uses anything like a notion of group
interests, which is the core of my argument.

> HD> Bhaskar is always very diplomatic with critiques, and of
> HD> espeically Marx, but he says something to the effect that a
> HD> critique of attempts at alternatives is the fault of
> HD> Marxists who negelect or reduce ethics in their attempts, however,
> HD> the root of this is found within Marx.
> JS> I agree with him here.
> So do I, especially as it applies to your lack of ethics above.
Skepticism as to the efficacy of ethical pronouncement doesn't mean that I
reject morality, unlike Marx, at least officially.

> HD> ethic can be justified
> HD> simply by History's forward march.

This is a caricature. I do not say that anything that pushes history in
the direction it is going is good. I have a detailed argumentthat the
direction in which I suppose history to be going is progressive, i.e., an
improvement, and which explains why that direction is an improvement. The
argument is consistent with there being moral limitations on wwhat may be
done to promote emancipation.

HD>  I reject unilinear history

Me too.

> HD> instead the work and effort which must be accomplished to
> HD> establish; constitute and institute; a humanistic ethic, based on
> HD> our understnading of the world, especially the historical ills,
> HD> abuses, and especially the *absences* which have plauged the
> HD> human race throughout history including "1984".
> I missed misunderstood yours to be progressive!

You mean involving necessity, inevitability, unilinearity?

> Much ado about nothing, and no more ado for me.
> I don't have to struggle so hard to understand Bhaksar.

Different strokes. But the problem is that you keep trying to make me into
Hegel or some old-style Marxist-Leninist, and when I won't go that way you
get frustrated. However, I think that you now have to explain the basis of
your ethics and say why you have more than just an arbitrary existential
choice, if you do.

--Justin Schwartz

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