History (Justin's) and "actualism" -Reply

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Mon Apr 10 12:04:32 MDT 1995

On Mon, 10 Apr 1995, Lisa Rogers wrote:

> > Hans D. If world history is governed by resistence against domination,
'what  > > must human beings be like to resist domination?'
> Justin S: My answer, very briefly: creatures who tend to act on their group
> interests.
> Lisa Rogers asks:
> How did humans come to be creature who act on group interests?  Do
> they have other interests than "group"?  How do they define the group
> with which they have interests or to which they belong?

Thereis probably ann evolutionary explanation for why we act mainly on
group interests. We're social animals, dependent on others for survival,
so there would be selection pressures for group solidarity. (Don't have a
cow about sociobiology, all you Marx-listers: there's good SB, since we
are biological organisms, and bad SB.)

We obviously have other than group interests. Simply as organisms we have
individual interests in survival, food, etc. As individuals in society we
may have interests which oppose that of our own group or indeed any group
to which we belong. Thenn we may have common interests with all humans or
all rational, or all sentient beings, universal as opposed to group interests.

People define the groups to which the belong variously: there's class,
gender, race, kin, religion, nation, political party, sexual preference,
and that's just for starters. There are elements of self-constitution and
objectivity involved in group membership. A nation is a self-constituting
group such that anyone whom the nation regards as a member and who so
regards herself is one. But there are objective elements too--given the
nature of class, what it is, I cannot be a member of the bourgeoisie, even
if I think I am and even if they think I am, as long as I lack productive
property. Group membership is a big mess, conceptually. Marx's distinction
between a class in and for itself is a start in thinking about it. I
realize this is handwavbing here, but that's what I have to offer just now.

In another post Lisa asked about group interests. This is another
conceptual mess. As Lisa says, your interests are what's good for you. That
needn't be morally good--it wasn't good for Hitler to lose the war,
although it was morally good that he did. Group interests are what's good
for you qua a member of the sort of group you're in. Profits are good for
capitalists, reducing exploitation is good for workers. What makes
sometghing in your group interests depends on the sort of group in
question and the circumstances it's in. Revolution is good for the
bourgeoisie under feudalism, bad for it under capitalism. There's no a
priori way to determine what's in your group interests, since this will
depend on facts about the groups and the situation and you which can only
be discovered empirically and theoretically and practically, i.ei.e., by
living in the world as a  member of a group, struggling tro realize what
you think its interests are, and learning more about it by thinking and
perhaps study. People belong to overlapping groups and their interests as
members of different groups may conflict, as a worker may also be a
beneficiary of race or sex privilege. But Lisa knew all this, eh?

--Justin Schwartz

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