Paternalism

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Thu Apr 13 14:43:28 MDT 1995


On Wed, 12 Apr 1995, Rahul Mahajan wrote:

> It seems to me that the standard Marxist/revolutionary answer to the
> problem of paternalism is that this contradiction points clearly to the
> need to educate people into political consciousness.

Not Marx's answer, though. "Who educates the educator?" He asks Feuerbach.

 The flaw,
> unfortunately, in that conception is that it assumes that once people are
> properly "educated" they will necessarily come to the same point of view,
> at least assuming they come from the same class, material conditions, etc.

Why think that properly educated people in the same circumstances will
agree? Unless that's what you _mean" by "properly educated." But Marx
doesn't assume this. That's why he says that "the Communist have no
sectartian principles of their own to impose upon the working class movement."

> I would claim instead that any non-(or at least not totally)coercive system
> of education will at the least produce people capable of honest
> disagreement about their "interests," among other things.

Sure.

>        Why do we need to tell everyone that socialism is in their best
> interests? It certainly isn't true for everyone.

Is thisz supposed to be news to Marxists?

 And what does it mean to
> say that affirmative action is "really" in the best interest of white
> workers?

Well,Scott gave an argument that you don't address.

 It doesn't seem to produce any class solidarity, so it's hardly
> hastening the revolution.

That's my worry. Scott szuggests that properly designed campaiugns for AA
will produce class solidarity. We'd better try and find out, ehb?

] And what about inequality in the world? Would an
> equitable distribution of the world's resources leave the average American
> better off materially than she is now? I think not.

Well, there is a deed problem abvout a potential contridiction between
democracy and global justice. Two quick answers: (a) a world where we
could do something about global inequality would offer nonmaterial
benefits (freedom, self-determination) to American workers to compensate
for material losses. (b) Getting to that world would require international
working class solidarity of a sort that would reduce the tendency of
workers to think of themselves as Americans and increase their tendency to
think of themselves as workers who benefit when Mexican, etc. workers benefit.

 Furthermore, when we
> tell any given worker anywhere to join the cause, knowing full well, the
> likelihood of a genuine social revolution in the United States, we are very
> likely causing that worker to act against his own best interest by joining
> (the standard Prisoner's Dilemma-type argument from game theory -- if
> everyone cooperates, then society is best off, but you then stand to gain
> from defecting). So let's get off our objective/objectivist high horse and
> tell people to struggle because it's the right thing to do -- that's all we
> can say with surety.

WEll, my worry is how we can say it is the right thing to do--there's a
relativist problem. My agrument, which we've discussed on this list, about
a historical directionality towards increased emancipation, is supposed to
answer the relativist worry. But that argument does depend on
emancipationn being in workers' group interests.

The quick reply to the P-D/public goods problem is that socialism is in
workers' group interests, even if acting to get it isn't in
theirindividual interests. Note that the problem doesn't even purport to
show that socialism is not in their interests, but only that it's in their
interests to let other people bring it about. But PDs are soluable.
Collectgive action occurs. Public goods come about. That's what solidarity
means.

--Justin Schwartz

>
> BTW, ought implies can because no sensible system of morality requires the
> impossible.
>
> Swadesh M. Mahajan: Ph. 512-471-4376, FAX 512-471-6715,
> Mahajan at hagar.ph.utexas.edu
>
>
>
>
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