– So we're now on the, into the fifth part of the course called, what is to be done? And I want to just begin by talking about the key features of the
politics of insecurity, some of which we addressed
earlier in the course and some in the last two lectures. But they really shape
the landscape on which we have to think about,
what can and cannot be done in politics, in
the world as we actually find it. And so, first thinking about voters. One thing that we have learned is that local inequalities matter
to people much more than global inequalities. Bernie Sanders can talk
as much as he likes about the top 1% and it will motivate activists on the left of the Democratic party but most voters really
care about much more local inequalities.
And we talked about this
earlier in the course when we were talking
about how capuchin monkey experiment was misinterpreted when the angry monkey was likened to
the Wall Street protester but whether the monkey was
angry because she or he was not getting something
that a similarly situated monkey was getting. The monkey was not troubled
that the researcher had a big bowl of grapes and cucumbers. So people tend to compare
themselves to similarly situated others. Oil workers might compare
themselves to coal miners. Auto workers might compare themselves to steel workers. And this is true up and
down the occupational scale. I think I mentioned to you, a professor would be much more troubled to learn that she or he is paid significantly less than say, $10,000 less than
a professor in the next office than to learn
they're paid half a million dollars less than the attorney next door.
So people tend to make local comparisons. And the idea that marked hope for, that people would start
to make more global comparisons, is not
supported by the research of sociologists and social psychologists. Secondly, think about
Rick Santelli's rant, another illustration of this point. This is the famous rant
on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange right after
the Obama Administration came into office and had
started talking about minor mortgage relief for homeowners. Nothing like John
Geanakoplos was proposing, but nonetheless he was proposing reducing interest rates at least
for a time on peoples loans and it produced a lot of
rage that was articulated in that video I showed you. At the end of it, his
calling for a tea party and people credit the formation
of the tea party with… As being, if you like,
catalyzed by Rick Santelli's rant on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
And you might also recall
that one of the things he complained about was, he
said, it's a moral hazard. It's a moral hazard. But notice of course,
bailing out the banks is also a moral hazard, right? Bailing out the banks is
giving banks the incentive to gamble with taxpayer's money. So while it may be a
moral hazard to bail out the homeowner's, it's
no less, you might say in some ways it's more
consequential moral hazard to bail out the banks. Nonetheless, what enraged him was that do you wanna pay for your
neighbor's mortgage?, he rhetorically said. So again, local comparisons
that matter to people. Think about the difference
between the Trump and Sander's campaigns on this question of who people compare themselves with. In many ways Trump and
Sanders ran a populist campaigns in the 2016 election. They attacked Wall Street
elites for being corrupt. But a difference was that Sanders talked a lot about inequality
whereas Trump did not. Trump never promised to reduce inequality. He never, as I said, even said what Ronald Reagan had said, that he wants America to be a country in which everybody can get rich.
All he said was that, you
people have been screwed. You people have been… Left behind by the… By the policies of foolish elites, he calls everybody idiots. And I'm gonna put America first and so on. And to the extent there
was a fairness argument. We talked about this in connection with Arlie Hochschild's
narrative of cutting in. Some people have cut in front of me and taken something that I would otherwise have gotten, right? Again, very local comparisons that people are making.
They are not thinking about what people, very distant from them
in the socioeconomic order are making. Related to that, closely related to that is a loss aversion and in its insecurity, often matter much more to
people than inequality. Again, think here of Trump's
make America great again. Something's been taken away from you. We're gonna bring it
back and do something. We're gonna recreate something
that had existed before. I am gonna bring back those jobs. I'm not gonna make you rich. I'm gonna bring back those jobs. That was the essence of his campaign whereas Hilary's was, she
took that other Reagan line, American's best days are ahead. Sunny optimism which is
a lot harder to sustain during an era of endemic
employment insecurity. And again, just driving
home the point that it's insecurity and the
fear of downward mobility that matters much more to
people than their place in the distribution of income and wealth, globally conceived.
Remember those data about
Trump primary voters. Only a third of whom earned
lower than the median income, below $50,000 a head per family. Another, 2nd and 3rd earned
between the median income and 100,000, and the third
third of primary voters not Republican voters
in the general election were Trump supporters. And in those primaries, so, again, middle-class people who feel insecure, and this is, what Dan
Markovits' book is about, may be just as anxious and mobilizable by a populist politician as poor people who feel insecure.
So the insecurity and
loss aversion matter more than inequality and
it's local inequalities that matter much more to
people than global ones. And then we're living in a world in which almost everywhere
organized labor is weaker than it's been in decades. We've seen, in country after country, the decline of union
movements, it's way down into single digits, in the US, and the majority of workers that are organized now are in public sector unions which do have some political clout. We will see next week when
we talk about education. But for the most part,
as a force in politics, unions have seldom been as weak, if ever, in the last 80 or 90 years, if ever, as they are today. This is particularly pronounced in the US, but we saw pretty much everywhere except one or two places like
Finland and Iceland, we've seen a decline in the
power of organized labor.
A concomitant to that, business interests are stronger than
they've been for decades. Partly because of the
collapse of a serious alternative out there. Communism to the extent
it exists politically is now supported by capitalists economies in places like China and
Vietnam and so there's no real alternative to
capitalism out there, which obviously, greatly,
increases the power of capital. Particularly in an era of globalization when it can easily flee, the flying East theory that Christina talked about in the China lecture. And in these, as jobs going
increasingly to technology, capital doesn't even need to flee in order to increase its leverage over labor. So we're living in a world in which labor is weaker than its been in living memory and business interests are more powerful than they've been in living memory. And then coming to Thursdays lecture of last week, we're also living in a world in which political
parties have become weaker and more fragmented just about everywhere.
And this is not something that has gone on for eight decades, but it certainly has gone on over the past
four decades as labor has become weaker, parties on the left have fragmented and we saw that as induced fragmentation on the right in multi-party systems and
all over the democratic world, this impulse to
democratize parties, to get more and more direct democracy in the governance of parties, and in making of decisions has greatly weakened parties in both multi-party systems and even two-party systems and indeed, even the… The platonic form of what used to be two-party systems. The Westminster system between their going for referendum between the changes in their leadership selection rules, between adopting things
like fixed parliaments and candidate selection
also being decentralized, they have replicated much of the rest of the democratic world in
making it much more difficult for parties to present, get elected on programmatic platforms
and then implement them as governments.
It's a world that's ripe
for populist charlatans who exploit insecurity and
promise snake oil solutions. So, what is to be done? Now at the beginning of the course when I prefaced some of these themes, in the first few lectures, I also said don't get too depressed. (class laughing) And in many respects, this
is a depressing prospect. But what I want to be arguing in these last lectures is that,
certainly we shouldn't give up hope and there
are ways of thinking constructively about
politics going forward. And indeed, in some
respects, there are reasons not just for hope but even some optimism. This was a distinction
Martin Luther King made towards the end of his life. He said he was no longer optimistic but he hadn't given up hope. I think there are some reasons to think that it might be possible to come up with constructive change and
build regressive support for it to happen.
And so that's where we're
headed in these final lectures. So, a central message of this final part of the course, and if
you like, presupposition of much that I'm gonna
say to you, power phrasing Immanuel Kant is that,
policy without politics is empty, but politics
with policy is blind. Policy, politics without policy is empty and politics without policy is blind. So, let me emphasize that it's not just in the real world but in
the academic literature, for the most part, people who study policy don't think very much about politics. They think about what
policies would be good, what should happen. But they have relatively little to say about how they're gonna get it to happen. Whereas people who study politics tend to explain why what happens happens but have way little to say
about what should happen.
And so there's this sort of
divergence of preoccupations. But I think that that is misguided. That we really need to think about what's desirable in the context
of what's feasible and take into account the constraints and possibilities that might be offered for thinking about policy rather than thinking about it in a vacuum. So just to give a couple of illustrations of policy without politics. Perhaps the most influential
book of political economy written in the last couple of decades is Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. This is the book in which he argues that the reason for increasing inequality is that returns to capital exceed returns to the other factors of production. And so, wealth accumulates over time at the top. Economists debate his data and some ways of measuring this but
that's not my concern here. The other one I wanna just mention to you as examples of these brilliant economists, there's no question about
that, but the things that he says about politics are… Bereft if any serious attention as to how they might be enacted. So for example, in his
book published in 2014, in the penultimate chapter of that book, he calls for aggressive
tax on global capital.
And in the beginning of that chapter he does say, well this
might be a utopian idea. But we should still put it out there for thinking about where we want to get to and besides, it could
inform more realistic proposals like a
Europe-wide tax on capital. Now you might say, well in 2014, that wasn't, you know,
it might not have seemed a naive thing to say,
as naive a thing to say as it is today, but nonetheless, in 2018 he has pushed this
idea further with some other intellectuals in Europe, publishing what they call our Manifesto
for the Democratization of Europe, and you can
find it and peruse it at your leisure on their website.
They're calling for the creation of a new European assembly that would essentially function as a European-wide parliament that would have powers to raise revenue and manage budgets and it would be… The idea is that 80% of the legislators would be elected in the national elections so when you vote for your MP in the UK or Austria, they would
also, not only would they go to the British or Austrian parliament, they would also participate in this new European assembly. 80% of them would come there. The others would come from
the European parliament by proportional allocation. And they portray this as an alternative to the current EU structures
which are so constrained by the treaty-based character
of the European union which I lectured to you
about some months ago. But what do they ignore in proposing this? Why is it that the Lisbon Treaty ended up with a treaty-based system? It was because the more
ambitious proposals envisaged at Maastricht
were roundly rejected in referendums in Europe.
And so they had to
actually cancel a number of the plan referendums
because they saw the whole project of a never closer
union heading for catastrophe. And so they retreated. The Lisbon Treaty is really a retreat back to the idea that while EU is essentially a system of intergovernmental treaties in its ultimate legitimacy. They also argue that the purpose of this new European parliament is to do things like reduce inequality within the member countries. But why, if the member
countries in their own parliaments can't reduce inequality, why would anyone think
that sending them to a European parliament would enable them to reduce inequality any more effectively? So, and if you go and read the website that they have there,
which I urge you to do. It's certainly an
imaginative and interesting proposal in an intellectual sense, you will find the thing I said you should always be careful of.
Or should make you watch your wallet. The vast majority of it is written in a passive voice. The vast majority of it said
about what should happen. What should occur. What needs to happen. But of course, we can
talk until we're blue in the face about what needs to happen without having anything
to say about how to make it happen. What will be the political
forces that are gonna produce an outcome of this kind? And when you think back to the literature on the European Union, Tony Judt published his book in 2006,
post-war, when he warned. He said, the problem
with the European Union is that it's been an elite
project from beginning until end and as soon as
it gets into any trouble the popular resentment
of European-wide politics is going to erupt and it's
not gonna be pretty to see.
He turned out to be right about that. Adam Tooze in Crash
gives chapter and verse of the inability of the
European governing structures to come up with policies
that the populations in the constituent
countries will live with. And so, the nationalists of the countries within the European Union is very powerful in the idea that it's going
to go away anytime soon, I think is implausible. And I gave you a reason, if you think back to my lecture. Among the reasons is that the Europeans have contracted out their security to NATO over these past several decades whereas in the American case, what
built a sense of national purpose when we transitioned
from the Confederacy to the Constitution was the
creation of a National Defense and the funding of
Central National Defense. And then the idea that
people would identify with the national project rather than, what we might call the federal project, rather than the states,
that was a transition that was set in motion
by the centralization of our power over national security in the American system at the
time of the Constitution. There's never been an analog of that and so the idea of an ever closer union has largely been a fantasy
of elites for which popular support has never been dealt and indeed is less likely
to be forthcoming today than it has been since anytime since the financial crisis.
So the idea that we can
now create a new European parliament that, as they argue in cases of disagreement would
actually trump the decisions of the European Union
who which are constrained by the treaty-based
caricature that strengthens national parliament I think is, it's an example of policy without politics being ultimately empty. What about politics without policy? Well we have examples of that. Just to give one here. (drum music) (crowd chanting) – [All] Occupy Wall
Street all day, all week. Occupy Wall Street. – It's our duty as Americans to fight for our country and to keep it, you know, true to serving its people. And when it doesn't do that, it's immoral not to stand
up and say something. – I'm here myself as a free individual to humanize the markets and to have true participatory democracy.
Bottom up democracy. And to make Wall Street hear the sound of what democracy means. – What kind of power? – [All] People power. – Wall Street, it crashes, and you know, people start, people lose their jobs and things like that. We're very angry at Wall Street. It's a part of capitalism,
American capitalism especially, that's why we're here today… At Wall Street. – There's no reason to not be peaceful. We just wanna get a point across. We're just trying to let people know what's going on and why we're here for it.
– One in seven children
in the United States suffer from hunger, at
the same time we're giving billions and almost
trillions to Wall Street just for bailouts. Something needs to change. We need an economy for the people and by the people. Not by the rich and for the rich. – I mean, and the
government's doing the work for us, all they have
to do is cut some more people's insurance, unemployment benefits and it won't be a bunch
of 20-year old white college students out here, you know? – What would make today a success? What kinds of changes
would you like to see as a result of everyone
demonstrating today? – A success, it's already happening.
They corral the bull. And that's pretty much a
huge symbolic statement. – So there you have it. This is the beginning of
the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It was a movement that
was famously uninterested in articulating particular policies, in organizing itself behind
any particular agenda, but rather its purpose was to express this moral outrage at the
bailing out of the financial crisis and the inability
of the Obama Administration to do much else. They were to some extent triggered by the Arab Spring Movement
which had gotten going that year. But they really didn't advocate
any particular policies. And indeed if you think about… If you think about the
decision to occupy Wall Street, it was, you know, unlike,
at least the Vietnam protesters went to
Washington where something might be done about it. Whereas, here they went to New York and then spent the following Fall on many town and village greens around the country but because they lacked
organization or leadership or resources, once the cold weather came, they soon faded away. Now, this doesn't mean
that they were irrelevant to American politics. They articulated a moral
narrative that was, that had a certain kind
of coherence to it.
You might call it a
reactive moral narrative but I'm gonna have some more to say about the importance of moral narratives in effective distributed
politics later this morning. But they had nothing else. They had nothing more
than a moral narrative. And moral narratives on
their own is not enough. Again, this is politics without policy. So my agenda today is to get us to start thinking about
how, we can think about how there can be effective
policies in light of what we do know about politics. And one phrase that falls to mind is in one of John Rawls's less famous writings, his Law of Peoples it comes from, I believe, the way he first used it, this is the idea of Realistic Utopianism. And so, the thing about being a realist, about politics, in the real
politics sense of realist it is the danger of being
a realist is it might prevent you from trying
to do things that will change reality, right? That you'll be so constrained by one sense of the politic, you know, the politics is the art of the possible. You'll be so constrained by the notion of what's possible that you won't push for policies that might
change what's possible, right? So that…
I think we actually say in our book on the Death by a Thousand Cuts that real political creativity gets people to think that what they
had previously regarded as impossible is in fact possible, right? That's, you know, you wanna use the buzz words. You wanna push the envelope. Think outside the box. You've heard them all before. And if you're very
constrained in your thinking about what appears to be feasible in politics as we know
it today, you will not push to change the boundaries of what is possible in politics today. And so you run a risk
of being, if you like, captive of the inability
to think imaginatively about ways to change what is possible.
And so I like this phrase
realistic utopianism in that, it conjures up the idea of trying to get to a better
place but thinking about the steps from here to there. You've gotta think about
how you're gonna join the dots. How you're gonna in fact get policies adopted that might change the politics on the ground, which I think
is conspicuously missing in the proposal for European parliament that we just talked about. And so to make that case, what I'm gonna do today and then I'm gonna use this framework in
our remaining lectures is talk about what I'm gonna
call building blocks of effective distributive politics. And there are six of them. And I'm gonna spend a little bit of time on each of them.
And I will start with coalitions. Very important in politics
to think about coalitions. And the reason it's
very important politics to think about coalitions
goes back to our discussion of the differences between
the median voter story and the majority rule divide
the dollar game, right? So just to remind you,
the median voter story created the expectation that
because the median voter is always below the mean
voter, there would be downwardly distribution of wealth because politicians in search
of the median voter would advocate policies that the
median voter would prefer.
And that was the fear of
19th century liberals. It was the hope of Marx in his later years when he started talking
about the parliamentary road to socialism and it's embodied in the median voter theorem. The puzzle was that it doesn't happen in any kind of systematic way. And we thought one
reason for that might be that there's another
dimension such as race that people care about more. And we talked about
Nixon's southern strategy in connection with all of that. But then we talked about
the majority rule divide.
A dollar game …
this video is part 1 of 2 in this episode we'll be looking at the work of Phalguni chef and learning about race racialization and political philosophy in part 2 we'll look at a case study and discuss the racialization of Muslims in so-called Western liberal societies we've got a lot of ground to cover today so I'm going to jump right in there's this big debate over whether race is a series of biological categories or whether it's just a social construct and in her book toward a political philosophy of race Phalguni chef tries to break away from that binary she says that to talk about race just as a biological category ignores all the ways that it's used in politics and law and to talk about it just as a social construct ignores the more interesting questions of who constructs it why do they construct it and how do they do it chef thinks that the concept of race is a type of technology it's a mental tool used by those in power that's the who they use it to manage unruly populations that's the why and they do this through racialization that's the how so let's go through it and I'll explain to you what all of that means the technology of race is used by sovereign power that's term that chef borrows from Foucault and for the purposes of this video we can take it to mean whoever is officially in charge and the systems through which their power is expressed chef's talk specifically about liberal societies by liberal societies shimming societies with certain basic assumptions at their heart for instance a division between the public and the private spheres an insistence that all citizens are equal emphasis on the rule of law where the law is thought to be fair and consented to democratically by the people liberalism also usually means capitalism and since the tail end of the 20th century it's increasingly meant neoliberal capitalism with an emphasis on low welfare low taxes and free markets chef has a very interesting view of what sovereign power and its legal and political systems of four she thinks that the purpose of the state is to conserve its own power and by extension conserve those basic liberal assumptions the function of government is not to ensure peace or justice or fairness or anything like that this is the self-preservation Society she thinks there's a paradox at the heart of liberalism liberal societies will talk the talk of inclusiveness and universal human rights for everyone even as they systemically exclude from that embrace certain groups of people think about how the founding fathers of the u.s.
Preached liberty and justice for all whilst owning slaves it's not always as stark as that but Sheth says that the promise of liberalism is very rarely realized for everyone but sovereign power has to preserve the basic liberal assumptions so what does it do it creates exceptions it rules out certain groups of people as not being eligible for entrance into the promised land as not being eligible for protection benefits voting rights whatever as a bonus if a population is enslaved or there's an unjust war or refugee crisis or a financial crash then those disasters can be written off as mistakes as misapplications of the principles of liberalism because sovereign power can always say oh the exceptions that we made at the time looked illegitimate but in hindsight there are actually errors anything but systemic problems okay so except that the technology of race is used by sovereign power trying to preserve itself we've covered the who but present itself against what exactly time to look at the why fortunately this bits pretty easy sovereign power wants to preserve itself against what chef calls the unruly the unruly is that which is unpredictable undependable or threatening to a political order sovereign power does not make exceptions of people randomly if your existence or the way you live threatens any of the basic liberal assumptions or even as is often the case if it's just perceived as a threat to them then you're in danger of being marked as unruly so for instance if you openly display your private values in public if you remind people that the law isn't always administered equally if you actually need the welfare state in order to survive then in the eyes of sovereign power you can be a threat whether they're consciously aware of that and whether you actually are or not so sovereign power wants to preserve itself against perceived challenges from the unruly by making exceptions of people it's time now to bring race back into this tie all the threads together and explain how making those exceptions works racialization is the process by which a population is divided and one group is pushed further and further away from that promise of liberalism both in the law and in the minds of the people it is quote the process of delineating a population in contrast to a dominant population and the corresponding political tension it is how sovereign power creates exceptions to its own rules and makes those exceptions seem totally legitimate and natural racialization protects sovereign power and suppresses the unruly because there's an implied threat of violence for those who can't get into the promised land if you're in the group that's racialized and pushed out and you don't get the protection or the benefits or whatever it is well then that'd be bad for you wouldn't it so you better stop being unruly and toe the line let's say that you and I represent sovereign power and there's this group of people that we think are unruly and we want to racialize them in order to do that we first need two things they need to have some distinguishing feature that we can use to point them out to the dominant population and say look there's the enemy it could be a physical thing like their skin color but it might not it could be their religion or their socioeconomic status or their sexuality if they don't have a distinguishing feature then we could always try giving them one like for instance making the weary yellow star or a red wristband they also need to be vulnerable already compared to the dominant population otherwise it's going to be very difficult for us to racialize and push them out maybe there's some historical inequality that hasn't been rectified maybe they're not represented in positions of power maybe they're new immigrants to our nation and they need our help to survive we take their perceived unruliness and we say everybody with that distinguishing feature is like that and that's how we write them all off as bad and begin to justify excluding them from society as a race a race that we have effectively just created now this bit is the hardest bit to understand the distinguishing features then become the criteria by which sovereign power tells us it's making the distinction it's actually distinguishing on the basis of unruliness but it's disguising that as a neutral objective possibly biological category think about the links that the Nazis went to to prove that Aryans were a different race from Jews or poles or whoever they wanted rid of at the time it's politics disguising itself as neutral objective science chef thinks that physiological markers like skin color and genetics don't constitute race rather those features are used to point out populations that are already being racialized and pushed out because sovereign power perceives them as unruly that's why some biological differences like skin color are thought to constitute race and some biological differences like hair and eye color are just natural variation within a race because the rules for deploying the concept of race don't come from biology they come from power all this theory might seem a bit abstract so let's look at a concrete example consider the internment of japanese-americans in the USA just prior to World War two many so-called japanese-americans were actually American citizens second or third generation descendants of Japanese immigrants they could be distinguished on-site from the dominant white population their ancestors had faced obstacles like the alien land more and laws against mixed marriages so compared to the white population they were already vulnerable when the war started the US government worried that they might rise up and commit mass sabotage that was the perceived unruliness and so on President Roosevelt's orders 120,000 people had their ordinary rights suspended and were imprisoned in concentration camps the state took a bunch of people who were in their eyes potentially unruly drew a line around them said everybody within that line is the same in terms of their threat to us regardless of how much individual evidence we may have for their cases and use that line as an excuse to literally lock them up so to sum up the concept of race functions as technology in a three-fold way firstly it classifies people according to their perceived unruliness secondly it disguises that classification under criteria that are politically neutral like skin color and finally it hides the true relationship of violence between citizens and sovereign power sheth's model of race is neither biological category nor social construct rather race latches on to certain observable variations in humans sometimes biological sometimes not and attaches socio-political importance to them in order to preserve power and this might actually explain a lot discriminating against somebody because their skin is a different color it's difficult to understand why anyone would do that but discriminating against somebody because you've been told people like them are a threat suddenly that's a lot easier to understand and it might explain a few things too like how young black men in the US are much more likely to be bought threatening and therefore shot by the police than young white men race is more than just a biological Katamon it's a socio-political one it's worth noting that once racialization becomes part of the law and the common discourse we can perpetuate it without even meaning to or realizing shets work has the power to transform not only our understanding of race but our understanding of racism you might have heard people say I have not racist because I don't hate anyone because of the color of their skin well now we know there's more to race than that we are better equipped to identify racist thinking in others and in ourselves I've had the misfortune of meeting a few racists in my time and they won't tell you that they hate people because of the color of their skin they'll tell you that people like that are aggressive or lazy or rude or whatever it is you may have also heard people say you can't be racist towards white people and at first glance that could look very odd but if chef is right that race comes from power given that white people have historically held the balance of power we can see that racism is a more specialized and technical subset of discrimination obviously if anyone were to just to quote the dictionary definition of racism or the common definition of racism to try and refute that they would be begging the question against all of shets work you would need to actually engage with their arguments which leads me finally to this there are some final concerns to address before we finish part 1 firstly does this erase racial identity some people very proudly self-identify as members of a certain race but if race is a tool of division and oppression created by the powerful then aren't we taking that identity away from them chef considers that and says no racial self-identity follows after a population has already been racialized the racialized population learns from sovereign power to identify themselves as different from them they are to be distinguished and we can have both secondly we've talked a lot of other failings of liberalism in this episode does that mean that liberalism as a project is doomed that fairness and equality and justice can't be had well not necessarily but what we need to realize is that the ideal of a liberal society is one that we often fall short of fairness democracy equality these might be worth striving for but we need to recognize not only where we fail to get them but also where we set ourselves up to fail some people I'm sure are going to say that chef is redefining the word race and you can't just redefine words well hold your horses there because she's not just plucking a new definition out of thin air so much as she is arguing that the old definition in the dictionaries and the common discourse actually leaves a lot of very important things out and if we wanted to critique chef's ideas if you're writing an essay or comment then the thing to do would be to ask does her model of race explain how we see the concept actually being used in the world not just how the dictionary says we should see it being used does it make any predictions about what we might observe does it explain any of the things we observed I've suggested already some ways in which it might easy useful remember though that it also makes some predictions about whose evidence we are more likely to think is authoritative in a society governed by sovereign power so what do you think of schatz work on race and power if you'd like a firmer grasp of how this theory translates into reality then you can click on my face right now and head on over to part two or I'll be discussing the racialization of Muslims there is a little bit more to racialization that I had time to mention today so if you want to hear more about it you can pick up a copy of Professor Schatz book leave me a comment telling me what you thought next time we could either look at John Stuart Mill's essay on Liberty or we could discuss what is fate and for more philosophical videos every Friday please subscribe this episode was sponsored by audible.com if you go to audibletrial.com/preneurcast you can cancel at any time and every time one of you signs up I get a tiny bit of cash which I really really appreciate
In Book 1 Chapter 3 of Nicomachean
Ethics, Aristotle discusses two topics: the nature of the conclusions of
political science or ethics, and the character that will be required of the
students of this science. On the first point, Aristotle notes that ethics is an
inexact science, and in this he seems to differ from Plato, who thought that there
was a form of Justice and a form of the Good which we can know with greater and
greater clarity, outside the cave.
Aristotle says we should expect only the
degree of precision which is appropriate to this object. And because there is
great diversity and variation in the spheres of what is noble and what is
just, and because the goods and the use of these goods differs from lifetime to
lifetime, from circumstance to circumstance, we cannot expect precise
answers. I think it's important to recognize here that Aristotle is not
giving us a license for relativism, for supposing that anything can be good for
anybody. He's suggesting that there are a set of objective goods in ethics, but
that there is a range, especially in regard to their application in a
particular person's lifetime and circumstances.
What is good for one
person will not automatically be good for another person; what is good will
vary to a good degree with circumstances. And this means there can be no exact
formula for happiness, and choosing the good over the course of an entire
lifetime will require good judgment and prudence on every occasion. So we
shouldn't expect formulaic or precise mathematical answers: do A, B, and C and
you're guaranteed to be happy. That's not the way human happiness and human
flourishing work, Aristotle is telling us.
Aristotle says we should be satisfied
with this discussion of ethics if we can describe the truth "sketchily and in outline, because we are making generalizations on
the basis of generalizations." Here's one way I think we can think about that. The
first level of generalization deals with our determining the good or the virtue
to pursue in a particular set of circumstances. This can be stated as a
generalization. I might say, in thinking of a fireman facing a burning building,
that in general it is good and courageous for the fireman to go into
the burning building. Now that's a generalization and it can be overturned
by particular circumstances: if the building is about to collapse or if
there's some other circumstance that mitigates against it, I might say that's
not the rule to follow.
But I can make a generalization that it is in general
courageous for firemen to enter burning buildings, and that could be a good guide
for action for this particular man at this particular point in his life. The
second level of generalization, the generalization based upon
generalizations, I think comes in when we think about how to combine all the goods
and all the virtues over an entire lifetime. So think of my fireman trying
now to reconcile his obligations and his virtues as a fireman and as a father and
as a citizen and as a member of a church community and the like. He has to make
all these decisions, balancing these things. This requires a further level of
generalization and I might even say a third level of generalization, where I
try now as a philosopher to describe what does it mean to live a good life,
generally, for for all people, for everyone? Not just this one fireman with
his multiple different circumstances, virtues, and roles to reconcile, but for
any human being.
Notice I've risen here to a level of
generality so high that I'm not going to be able to make even as precise a
statement of what courage is as I could make for the fireman facing the burning,
this particular burning building. So "generalizations upon generalizations"
means we're going to lose a certain level of detail and precision as we try
to give a more and more general account of noble and just and good actions.
Aristotle then emphasizes again that it is the mark of an educated
person to look only for as much precision in our answers as the nature
of the object studied allows. So it's because the the real objective nature of
human noble and good actions varies as much as it does that we have to be
satisfied with less precise answers.
We could state the converse of this claim
as well and say that to ask for more precision than the subject matter's
nature will permit is the mark of an untrained mind. And we can think of this
as a kind of warning Aristotle is giving to his students at the beginning of this
study: "If you're coming in here expecting exact precise formulaic answers for the
good life, for ethics and political science, you
need to correct that expectation right now because that's not the nature of the
object or the nature of the study that we're making of that object."
Aristotle's second point in this chapter is his famous or perhaps infamous
argument that certain character traits of youth disqualify one from the study
of ethics or at the very least they interfere with that study.
And he gives
two reasons for this, two pieces of evidence. First, that ethics and politics
is the science of experience, and youth just by definition has less or none of
this experience. No matter how widely traveled he is, no matter how varied his
experience has been, a 20 year old will not be familiar with the full range of
actions and the full range of circumstances that require judgment and
decision of over the course of an entire human life. We would expect people with
more experience of the world to be more skilled in choosing, if only because
they've been exposed to a much broader range of circumstances. His second piece
of evidence is that young people tend to follow their feelings, and for this
reason the rational study of ethical behavior will be useless for them.
Now he adds immediately that this does not, this is not a matter of years only.
It does not matter if one is immature in age or
immature in character; if they are dominated by their feelings they cannot
profit from this kind of study. So it's not a matter of age alone but of
character, and especially of the balance of reason and emotion in one's soul.
think the key point to get out of this is not that Aristotle is somehow
prejudiced against teenagers but that reason must rule over your desires and
your actions to a certain degree before you can profitably study ethics and
politics. In other words this is an advanced study that requires a certain
level of character development, a certain level of maturity. It's not going to be
helpful for people who haven't resolved that particular problem, who haven't
brought their emotions under the control of their reason to a significant degree
yet. So that's his argument for excluding youth or immature people
from the profitable study of ethics.
So that's been my quick look at Book 1
Chapter 3 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. I hope you found it helpful.
Thanks for watching today; goodbye..