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PeculiarPhilosopher

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  1. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic NRx, Democracy, and Modernity   

    Those are the folks to whom Levitsky and Way are responding.
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  2. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic NRx, Democracy, and Modernity   

    Clearing up Confusions about Fertility, Development, Population Growth, and Diversity

    Much of the writing that I see from neo-reactionaries suggests that they, by and large, have seriously misunderstood the demographic facts key to making sense of population change in the contemporary world. On the neo-reactionary view, developing nations are seeing significant population growth because their peoples are breeding like rabbits, while growth in the Western world is stagnating because a kind of cultural weakness of will is killing fertility rates. In certain respects, this analysis is flatly wrong; in others, it masks important nuances of the current demographic picture. I'll try to give a more accurate assessment below.

    One of the key facts that neo-reactionaries miss is that fertility rates are falling more or less the world over, with some important exceptions, like sub-Saharan Africa (I'll be focusing on SSA later in this post). Consider this chart:

    http://gyazo.com/627...dda0853137d3a69

    Let's get more specific. In the 2012 edition of Population, the demographer John Weeks has this to say about fertility rates in Northern Africa and Western Asia (Egypt is focused on because it is the most populous country in Northern Africa/Western Asia):

    “As mortality declined, fertility remained almost intransigently high in Egypt until the 1980s, save for brief dips during World War II and again during the wars with Israel in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For as long as statistics had been kept, Egyptian women had been bearing an average of six children, until the late 1970s. Massive family planning efforts were initiated in the 1970s under President Sadat and then reinvigorated in the 1980s under President Mubarak. These programs, especially in combination with increasing levels of education among women (Fargues 1997, 2000), have had an effect, and the estimated fertility level is now an average of 3.0 children per woman, much lower than it used to be but still well above replacement level. Because of the high fertility, a very high proportion (33 percent) of the population is under age 15” (p. 56).

    It is population momentum, the effect of previously high fertility on current population growth, together with precipitously falling mortality since WWII that explains the population growth seen in Northern Africa and Western Asia. Per one of the most well-established patterns in demography, the demographic transition, as countries modernize, mortality rates fall and then fertility rates fall (in the case of the developing world, their entry into the demographic transition was significantly different from the developed world's, because the developing world imported medicine from the developed world after WWII; for this reason, mortality rates dropped much more sharply in the developing world than they did in the developed world, where the initial drop in mortality rates for the latter resulted from improvements in sanitation necessitated by urbanization). The lag between the drop in mortality and the drop in fertility (when fertility is still high but mortality is low) causes substantial population growth. But note what this means down the line: even if fertility rates rapidly decline, the large number of young persons with reproductive capacity added to the population from previous high fertility and low mortality typically leads to continued absolute population growth. A population that has 10 women and a fertility rate of 1.0 will obviously produce a smaller absolute number of new persons than a population that has 1 million women reproducing at the same rate. Population momentum can thus entail absolute population growth even with a fertility rate that is below the "replacement level" (which is typically 2.1, because a woman has to produce 2 children to replace herself and the man with whom she reproduced; the replacement level isn't usually 2.0, in that some children die young).

    What about sub-Saharan Africa? There has been notable decline in sub-Saharan Africa's fertility rate since 1950:

    http://gyazo.com/127...e396974c856e5ab

    But recent findings suggest that the decline in fertility has stagnated. Two major reasons for this have been given: "a failure to meet the need for contraception and a continued preference for large families. 'The unmet need for contraception - at 25% of women - has not changed for 20 years' . . . . The preference for large families is linked to lack of female education which limits women’s life choices . . . . In Nigeria, 28% of girls still do not complete primary education" (see the following: http://www.theguardi...study-11bn-2100).

    Why population growth in the developing world is concerning isn't especially clear. I suspect that there are two worries from the NRx camp: (1) population growth has the potential to deepen the global environmental crisis; (2) population growth in the developing world alongside population stagnation and decline in the developed world increases the demand for immigration in the developed world, and immigration threatens ethnic and cultural "homogeneity", which neo-reactionaries seem to think is bad because diversity is inimical to social capital; neo-reactionaries also tend to fear the "dysgenic" effects of immigration. Both of these worries are best dismissed. In the case of the former, the developing world, especially sub-Saharan Africa, poses a far smaller danger to the environment than the developed world and the mild population growth that parts of it are seeing -- for consumption patterns in the developed world are far worse than in the developing world (the typical Westerner's ecological "footprint" is vastly more damaging than the typical sub-Saharan African's because the former uses up many more resources in the course of his/her life: http://www.developmenteducation.ie/de-in-action/ecological-footprinting/do-we-all.html).

    In the case of the latter, the concern seems to have its basis in the research of political scientist/sociologist Robert Putnam, which appeared in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. But to take the concern seriously, one would have to ignore the subsequent research on diversity and social capital that has been conducted, including Putnam's own work. It is only in the short run that the inverse relationship between degree of diversity and social capital is found, according to Putnam's 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture: "In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital" (p. 137). And Putnam's writing is by no means the only scholarship on this matter worthy of our attention. In their 2008 paper, "Ethnic Diversity and Social Capital in Europe: Tests of Putnam's Thesis in European Countries", social scientists Maurice Gesthuizen, Tom van der Meer, and Peer Scheepers report the following: "The general question is: To what extent do national-level characteristics like ethnic diversity, next to other national characteristics, actually affect dimensions of social capital of individual citizens in European countries? The authors set out to answer this question by testing hypotheses on cross-national data from 28 European countries. These data contain valid measurements of a number of dimensions of social capital. The individual-level data are enriched with contextual- (i.e. national-) level characteristics to be included in more advanced multilevel analyses. The main finding is that Putnam’s hypothesis on ethnic diversity must be refuted in European societies. Instead, it is found that economic inequality and the national history of continuous democracy in European societies turn out to be more important for explaining cross-national differences in social capital in Europe" (p. 121). Further, Will Kymlicka, a political philosopher and probably the best contemporary scholar of multiculturalism, has given reason to think that Putnam's short run findings don't tap into some fundamental truths about racial identity and inevitable inter-racial hostility, but instead merely reveal effects of contingent sociohistorical facts: "Whereas Robert Putnam has found that social capital declines as ethnic and racial diversity increases in the United States, the same pattern has not been observed in Canada, particularly among the younger generations who were raised under the multiculturalism policy. For them, diversity has been normalized" ("Multiculturalism: Success, Failure, and the Future" 2012: p. 12). This, from the same piece, is also illuminating: "Studies show that in the absence of multiculturalism, national identity is more likely to lead to intolerance and xenophobia" (Kymlicka 2012: p. 11-12).

    What about "dysgenic effects", which in this context refers to declining intelligence of a population due to changes in its relevant genetic makeup? James R. Flynn, an eminent philosopher who studies psychometrics and is famous for having discovered the "Flynn effect", has much to say about dysgenics in his 2013 monograph, Intelligence and Human Progress: "If you want to abolish dysgenic reproduction, advanced nations should follow Sweden and Norway: abolish poverty so the lower classes will have middle class aspirations and knowledge of contraception. Even where this is not done, as in the United States and United Kingdom, the rate among the native population is slow enough to tolerate for a century, particularly if the Flynn Effect persists. . . . Immigration is a long-term problem only if you believe that black and Hispanic genes limit their potential" (which Flynn does not -- see the following: http://people.virgin...2groupdiffs.pdf) (p. 56-57).

    Finally, I'd like to touch on the reasons for low fertility in the West. It is bizarre to suggest that low fertility in the West signals civilizational death or decline. If anything, it's the opposite. As I said before, as countries modernize, they experience what's called the "demographic transition", which is a particular pattern of falling mortality and fertility rates. At the bottom of the demographic transition, fertility and mortality rates are low, and roughly matched. This means that, at best, population growth from fertility will be small (once the effects of population momentum die out). Why do fertility rates fall as part of modernization? Because modernization tends to attach advantages to smaller families (due to economic changes and urbanization), afford individuals, rather than groups, control over fertility, and provide knowledge of family planning (and access to contraception and other modes of support to help control family size). These are all consequences of development, not decline. Now, some neo-reactionaries might argue that all of the foregoing is bad, in that modernization is bad (though not all neo-reactionaries are opposed to modernization). But that would require impugning the goodness of the very developments that allowed humans to drop mortality rates and dramatically extend life expectancy (progress that is hard to extricate from the larger modernization process). And that is a hard sell.
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  3. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic NRx, Democracy, and Modernity   

    Is democracy in global decline?

    For an obvious reason, I've been thinking and reading about democracy a lot lately. It's worth noting that NRx writing on democracy, and on the world generally, is suffused with apocalyptic presentiment: the end of democracy (and the world?) is imminent. Interestingly (but probably not coincidentally), a lot of academics think that democracy is starting to die (though I'm unaware of any claiming that we're on the precipice of catastrophic political upheaval). In their 2015 paper, "The Myth of Democratic Decline", Steven Levitsky (professor of government at Harvard) and Lucan Way (professor of political science at the University of Toronto) begin an analysis of dour perspectives on democracy with the following: "A near consensus has emerged that the world has fallen into a 'democratic recession'" (p. 45). But it would seem that this virtual consensus is inaccurate: "A look at the empirical record suggests little or no evidence of a democratic recession. We compared the scores of four prominent global democracy indices . . . . All four indices' mean democracy scores remained the same or increased during the period [of 2000-2013]" (Levitsky and Way 2015: p. 46). What about the number of democracies in the world? "If we examine the overall number of democracies in the world, the data similarly suggest stability rather than decline . . . . Only if we look at the 2005-2013 period do we see any decline, and that decline is very modest. Freedom House shows a drop-off of one democracy between 2005 and 2013. The pattern is similar with respect to the percentage of democracies in the world: Both Freedom House and Polity show a decline of one percentage point between 2005 and 2013" (Levitsky and Way 2015: p. 46). Some more telling information: "Whereas 23 countries experienced a significant improvement in their Freedom House score between 1999 and 2013, only eight experienced a significant decline. Even between 2005 and 2013, the number of significantly improved cases (10) exceeded the number of significant decliners (8). Moreover, most of the significant declines occurred not in democracies but in regimes that were already authoritarian . . . Indeed, what is most striking about the 2000-2013 period is how few democracies actually broke down" (Levitsky and Way 2015: p. 47). So why the pessimism about democracy's global future? According to Levitsky and Way, "Perceptions of a democratic recession, we argue, are rooted in a flawed understanding of the events of the early 1990s. The excessive optimism and voluntarism that pervaded analyses of early post-Cold War transitions generated unrealistic expectations that, when not realized, gave rise to exaggerated pessimism and gloom. In fact, despite increasingly unfavorable global conditions in recent years, new democracies remain strikingly robust" (2015: p. 45-46). Since it seems that beliefs about the rapid decline and and general failure of global democracy are significant to the NRx case, because demonstrative of the untenability of the democratic project, the data presented by Levitsky and Way seem fairly devastating with respect to the legitimacy of the NRx stance on democracy.
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  4. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic NRx, Democracy, and Modernity   


    I wasn't making an argument to this effect: "Rawls said it, therefore he's right." What I'm saying is that in light of the wide use of the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" among experts, and (more commonly) "liberal egalitarianism", it seems that, absent further considerations, a good argument needs to be made for the meaninglessness of the term (that is not equivalent to saying, simply, they are right because they're experts). Your post, it seems, was an effort to briefly get across some concerns that you have with what I wrote. I'm saying that your points should be spelled out in more detail and are best given their own thread if they're to be properly addressed. It is not clear to me where your argument for the meaninglessness of the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" is. Nearly everything that precedes the claim that the term is meaningless deals specifically with the U.S. But I never said that the U.S. is a liberal-egalitarian democracy. As I pointed out in my last reply, I didn't even mention the U.S. in my OP. Where I refer to the Western world generally in my OP, I was careful to speak only of its "liberal democracies", and did not suggest that all (or even any) Western nations are liberal-egalitarian democracies. Christiano uses "egalitarian" to refer to a certain sort of equality (note that, when it comes to the role of votes, he says only that they must be formally equal, because he is aware of issues related to money in politics) in decision-making where he writes of "minimally egalitarian democracies". On the other hand, and roughly, "liberal-egalitarian democracy" refers to a democratic system of governance that affords its citizens robust civil and political liberties (the "liberal" part) and also strives to at least limit economic inequality (the "egalitarian" part). I'll try to be clear about this distinction in relevant future posts, because I failed to be sufficiently explicit about the distinction between these dual senses of the term "egalitarian" in my OP. As a general rule, I'm using both "liberal" and "egalitarian" in the European, not North American, sense, because I was introduced to political philosophy with that jargon.
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  5. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic NRx, Democracy, and Modernity   

    I'm committed to avoiding hostility in this thread; so I won't be responding to points 4 or 5.

    I think I'd prefer if these points you raise were taken up in a separate thread, perhaps about the state of democracy in the U.S., because their relevance to what's at issue is at least unclear to me. DCD has to get his word in first before it's even apparent what needs to be responded to, or how an NRx would square up to what I've so far presented. Also, I may have failed to accurately represent NRx. A further reason why another thread would be preferable is that the basis of your worries is entirely obscure. For instance, I didn't refer to the U.S. in my post, but concerns about the U.S. seem to be central to your reply. As an additional example, you say that the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" is meaningless. That is certainly a dramatic claim since liberal-egalitarian democracy is the favored political system among a lot of leading political philosophers (Rawls' ToJ effectively has the goal of vindicating liberal-egalitarian democracy). But you don't give any argument for that view; you write that you'd argue for the claim and say that "liberal-egalitarian democracy" might make sense if we redefine "liberalism" and "egalitarianism" (and "democracy"?), without explaining what those redefinitions might be or why they're warranted. Given these ambiguities, and the other stuff I've pointed to, we'd be getting on a long and possibly irrelevant tangent in this thread were we to try to handle the issues you bring up. So another thread on what you've posted (minus points 4 and 5, which are obviously directly to do with NRx) is, it seems to me, the best idea. I'd be happy to participate in that.
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  6. PeculiarPhilosopher added a topic in Explore   

    NRx, Democracy, and Modernity
    "Should the facts of history, supported by the reasoning of political and social thought, show that hierarchical regimes are always, or nearly always, oppressive and deny human rights, the case for liberal democracy is made." -- John Rawls, The Law of Peoples

    "I think, normatively . . . I absolutely believe [that Western liberal democracy represents the highest and best form of organizing society]." -- Francis Fukuyama

    DCD and I agreed to have a discussion about democracy and modernity, and neo-reactionary (NRx) dissent from them (I also use "NRx" to refer to "neo-reaction", the political philosophy to which neo-reactionaries subscribe). The original plan was for DCD to write the OP; but it's been a while since then, and I know that he has the tendency to delay starting things like this (apparently because of his perfectionist tendencies). So, at the urging of some other TGL members, I've decided to get the show on the road, so to speak. DCD, if you've already started work on an OP, you can use the completed post as your first reply.

    In the course of this thread, I aim to defend at least three views: (1) liberal-egalitarian democracy is the all-things-considered best form of sociopolitical organization that is available to us; (2) the multicultural project hasn't failed, and in fact has seen substantial success and growth in the West since its inception; (3) the benefits of modern sociocultural norms outweigh their harms, and such norms are preferable to traditionalist and other hierarchical alternatives.

    Now, I don't know what points DCD will be advancing. I'm not even sure to what extent he identifies as an NRx (though I know that he's a reactionary of some kind). I'll spell out what appear to be the unifying commitments of NRx (across its three branches of "techno-commercialism", "traditionalism", and "ethno-racial separatism"), and leave it to DCD to specify his views in his posts and redress any misunderstandings of NRx reflected in this OP. There are, it seems, three beliefs that are basic to NRX: (1) authoritarian/hierarchical forms of sociopolitical organization are preferable to democratic/egalitarian ones; (2) broadly leftist movements--e.g. egalitarianism, multiculturalism, and feminism--have had disastrous consequences for the Western world and should be abandoned (these negative consequences are at least sometimes framed by neo-reactionaries as products of friction between leftist movements and "human nature"); (3) human racial categories are biologically valid and track important differences between the abilities and characteristics of racial groups.

    I argue that there are excellent reasons to reject all three fundamental beliefs of NRx. But it would be foolish to attempt to provide each of these reasons in one post (moreover, I'm pressed for time). So I'll keep things fairly limited here. First, I'm going to explain what (I think) neo-reactionaries must do to make a convincing case. Second, I'll provide sketches of two simple but very powerful (and largely empirical) arguments in favor of democracy, following the work of Thomas Christiano and Dennis P. Quinn/John T. Woolley.

    In light of the evident prosperity and stability of Western liberal democracies, most would think that NRx claims strain credulity. Generally speaking, such governments are the best in the international scene at delivering the "goods" to their citizens: domestic peace (as we shall see), stability, civil and political liberties, and prosperity (see Fukuyama's bit here: http://tvo.org/video...lashing-visions). This places a considerable argumentative burden on neo-reactionaries. At minimum, neo-reactionaries who argue that we should supplant democracy have to give excellent reasons to think the following: (1) a practicable authoritarian/hierarchical alternative to democracy is or will be open to the Western world (or, more narrowly (and at least), some particular Western country, should it be that neo-reactionaries are only interested in part of the Western world); (2) the preferred authoritarian/hierarchical alternative to democracy will be all-things-considered better than the extant democracy (or democracies) in question and all other practicable alternatives to this extant democracy (including other kinds of democracy); (3) the benefits of the authoritarian/hierarchical alternative must be shown to be sufficiently great so as to justify the costs of whatever form of political change is endorsed by neo-reactionaries (and, once these transition costs are accounted for, the authoritarian/hierarchical alternative must remain preferable to all other practicable alternatives, on condition that the costs of the latter are also established). I'm open to disagreement about whether the burden that neo-reactionaries face is this extensive. But it is difficult to see how they can avoid the demand to satisfy the three given conditions if they want to persuade rational persons.

    On to the two brief arguments for democracy. The first is provided by Thomas Christiano in his 2011 paper, "An Instrumental Argument for a Human Right to Democracy" (which he argues provides the "case" for liberal democracy that Rawls, in the Law of the Peoples quote above, claimed would be definitive). As the title of Christiano's piece suggests, it has a much more ambitious goal than I do: it seeks to establish that there is a human right to democracy. I think that Christiano is probably right, but I have no interest in defending a human right to democracy here. Rather, I want to show that Christiano's work goes a long way in demonstrating that (egalitarian) democracy is superior to competing forms of sociopolitical organization. For according to Christiano, and the wealth of empirical studies that he cites, "[at least (I repress this qualification after this point)] minimally egalitarian democracy is a normally reliable method by which the least controversial of human rights are protected and . . . societies whose institutions are not minimally egalitarian are normally unreliable in this respect" (2011: p. 147). A minimally egalitarian democracy is "a democracy that has a formal or informal constitutional structure which ensures that persons are able to participate as equals in the collective decision making of their political society" (Christiano 2011: p. 146). Here is Christiano's precise specification of the nature of minimally egalitarian democracy: "(1) Persons have formally equal votes that are effective in the aggregate in determining who is in power, the normal result of which is a high level of participation of the populace in the electoral process. (2) Persons have equal opportunities to run for office, to determine the agenda of decision making, and to influence the processes of deliberation. Individuals are free to organize political parties and interest group associations without legal impediment or fear of serious violence, and they are free to abandon their previous political associations. They have freedom of expression at least regarding political matters. In such a society, there is normally robust competition among parties and a variety of political parties that have a significant presence in the legislature. (3) Such a society also acts in accordance with the rule of law and supports an independent judiciary that acts as a check on executive power. This cluster of rights can be characterized simply as a right to participate as an equal in the collective decision making of one’s political society, which I refer to as a right to democracy" (2011: p. 146).

    What are "the least controversial of human rights" of which Christiano writes? They are the rights not to be tortured, murdered, disappeared, or arbitrarily imprisoned by the state. One need not believe in human rights to think that it is crucial that citizens of any nation are protected from being tortured, murdered, disappeared, or arbitrarily imprisoned by their government. Indeed, it is hard to see how anyone could be reasonably opposed to such protections. It turns out that even when other relevant factors (e.g. per capita GDP, population size, the presence of NGOs, civil war, and interstate war) are controlled for, minimally egalitarian democracy emerges as one of the most important factors in explaining the strong correlation between the presence of democracy and the protection of the urgent human rights just specified: “Per capita GDP has been associated with a small effect on the lessening of human rights violations. But it seems to play a significantly smaller role than minimally egalitarian democracy, according to the multiple regression analyses. And population size seems to have little effect on human rights violations. The presence of NGOs has some effect in diminishing human rights violations, but it must be remembered that the influence of these NGOs is generally through the domestic institutions of the societies and thus most often through democratic regimes. Interstate war appears not to have as large an impact as minimally egalitarian democracy on the violation of personal integrity rights. Civil war seems to be the most important factor of all in explaining human rights violations, even greater than minimally egalitarian democracy. But, while states tend to increase repressive activity and violations of personal integrity rights under these conditions, democratic societies tend to do so much less than other kinds of states. So even under the harshest of adverse circumstances, democracies have a significant effect in reducing state violations of personal integrity rights. The most important point is that when one controls for all of these different variables in multiple regression analyses, minimally egalitarian democracy emerges as the most important variable after previous repression and civil war” (Christiano 2011: p. 152-153). Further, the egalitarian elements of minimally egalitarian democracy have the most important role in explaining why minimally egalitarian democracies do better jobs than non-democracies and partial democracies of protecting the most significant human rights: "In multivariate analyses, the most important components in explaining the democratic protection of human rights to personal integrity [rights not to be tortured, etc.] are the egalitarian variables of participation and of free and fair multiparty competition, not judicial constraints on the executive" (Christiano 2011: p. 155).

    What about hierarchical/authoritarian governments? China, one of the most economically prosperous developing nations, which has made staggering progress in lifting its population out of poverty, received the worst possible rating on the Political Terror Scale in 1989, as its government was responsible for expanding "murders" and "disappearances" (a "common part of life" in countries ranking second-to-worst on the PTS) to its country's "whole population" (Christiano 2011: p. 150n14). In general, hierarchical/authoritarian governments, e.g. hereditary monarchies and consultation hierarchies, cannot be expected to protect the most basic rights of their citizens: “There is no conceptual or metaphysical impossibility here. A decent consultation hierarchy is not impossible; it is just very unlikely. The normal operation of a consultation hierarchy is incompatible with the protection of the basic human rights involved with decency. Oman is sometimes mentioned as a regime of this sort, though its political system is closer to an absolute monarchy. Its sultan has over the last forty years been relatively light on political repression and violence and has attempted to open up some avenues for broad participation in the society. But this seems to depend on the will of the sultan; his father was an arbitrary and repressive ruler for an equally long time. And it is alone among hereditary monarchies to have such a good record” (Christiano 2011: p. 157). Thus concludes the sketch of the first argument in support democracy.

    The second pro-democracy argument appeals to the economic stability that democracy promotes. Since this post is already running a bit long, I'll just list the central findings of Dennis P. Quinn and John T. Woolley's 2001 study, "Democracy and National Economic Performance: The Preference for Stability": (1) democracies produce stable, as opposed to "high" or "low", national income growth, unlike autocracies, which are economically volatile; (2) this stability that democracies provide reflects the risk-aversion of voters, in that voters "penalize incumbents when economic volatility increases"; (3) when growth and volatility are considered together, it is found that the economic performance of democracy is "highly favorable" (p. 634).

    I hope to defend multiculturalism in my next post.
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  7. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic Economic Exploitation and the Division of Labor   

    http://wondermark.com/235/
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  8. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic Economic Exploitation and the Division of Labor   

    Great posts, davidm and Hugo. I'm writing this on a school library computer, the enter button of which won't allow me to start new paragraphs (though it can do everything else, somehow). I should probably write this post at home, but I have a lot of time until my next class . . . so I'm going to write it now. I want to raise some points to problematize the proposals so far advanced. I'll start with davidm's post. You begin by writing that you're "inclined" to the view that all work is exploitative. Noting that you are merely inclined to this view, and thus might not actually defend it (as indicated by later sentences in your post), I want to nevertheless state that I don't think it is right. This importantly turns on how we define work; but supposing that a person who builds a log cabin for his own benefit does work in the building process, it doesn't seem right to suggest that he is being exploited. A further issue, which is highly context-sensitive, is that the kind of exploitation that I have in mind, if it exists, would be able to serve as a basis for an independent argument against the moral permissibility of certain economic relations (it is not yet clear what those economic relations are; obviously I have the sense that they are in some way related to the division of labor, but I'm not confident in suggesting that this sense of mine tracks the truth). If all work is exploitation, then that exploitation could not fulfill the role just specified, because too broadly applicable. Moving on, I think you're right to bring attention to asymmetries in bargaining power between employers and workers. There's a developing theory in my school's philosophy department that makes use of the concept of bargaining power to elucidate much of what's at issue; I wish I could say more but the relevant work is yet to be published. Suffice it to say that I think bargaining power is a useful locus of analysis here. Next, you're rightly skeptical of libertarian notions of voluntariness, as am I, which I tried to express at one point in the OP: "And, of course, their employment is, on the face of things, 'voluntary', since, in a strict sense . . . ." However, I'm not sure how far this can get us. As I mentioned in the OP, it doesn't seem right to say that someone offered a nice, well-paying job, whose employment options are seriously limited (he can either take that job or remain unemployed), will be a victim of exploitation if he takes that job on. Now, this probably doesn't matter much for your argument, since it appears that you are more concerned with the threat to voluntariness posed by a certain (negative) orientation to one's work, than you are with the threat to voluntariness issuing from the unpleasantness of unemployment and a lack of relevantly varied job prospects. Work is exploitative just in case one doesn't really want to do it (I'm unsure if you were intending to stipulate a necessary condition, a sufficient condition, or both). But that doesn't seem right, either. Exploitation of the kind at issue at least seems to consist in a certain sort of interpersonal relationship. One might, for instance, really love what one does; but if it turns out that one is being paid far less than other employees who are doing the same work that one is, surely it makes sense to say that one is being exploited. Let me now turn to Hugo's post. The tentative argument I propounded is similar to but importantly distinct from what I like to call Rawls' "anti-desert" argument. The trouble with Rawls' argument is that it is susceptible to one's objecting that unequal rewards might be justified on the basis that all persons are entitled to their natural assets and whatever they happen to come into ownership of (assuming certain libertarian moral constraints are not violated), regardless of whether or not they deserve their endowments and the effects of their good luck. My argument recasts the burdens of our lives in terms of force or imposition (no one consents to their endowments or life-luck, after all), such as to give the libertarian reason to think of disadvantage as a moral problem (does this manage to separate the well off from entitlement claims on their benefits, though? Hmm. Depends on how compensatory burdens shake out). But this strategy seems to fail in getting me what I'm looking for, because, as per the OP, not all instances of bad luck affecting employment prospects seem to render subsequent employment exploitative. Perhaps "voice and exit" could come in more fully to make sense of exploitation of the relevant kind. I should also indicate that, playing to the libertarian, efforts to use Rawls' argument to elucidate exploitation can be flipped, in a way. The libertarian could say that talented individuals are exploited when their superior talents, to which such individuals are legitimately entitled, are used coercively by the state to benefit others. This argument would have to be countered, or else it'll be a thorn in the side of any theory of exploitation that leans heavily on Rawls' difference principle. As an aside, it's interesting to note that one of Rawls' arguments for the claim that his two principles of justice would be chosen in the original position is susceptible to a similar sort of move. Rawls argues, against the claim that average utilitarianism with a guaranteed minimum for the worst-off representative individual would be chosen in the o.p., that his two principles of justice would be chosen from the o.p. because if a society failed (to strive) to make the worst off as well off as possible, it would lead to the political disenfranchisement of the worst off. But it's potentially no less true that a society overly concerned with the worst off might embitter the best off, thereby disenfranchising them.
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  9. PeculiarPhilosopher added a topic in Explore   

    Economic Exploitation and the Division of Labor
    I have some loose thoughts on the topic given in the title of this thread, and am hoping to get a discussion going that might clarify and expand my thoughts/hunches.

    I don't have a strong stance on the relationship between economic exploitation (hereafter, "exploitation") and the division of labor. I'm very much ambivalent, and only have a faint sense that there's some important connection between the two. To be clear, I don't intend "exploitation" to be taken in the Marxian sense of the term. Where I use "exploitation", I have in mind the at minimum morally problematic use of someone (by another) as a means to some end(s), made possible by the used person's vulnerabilities. (Any suggestions on how to change this definition so that it better captures the spirit of the word "exploitation" are welcome; what I've offered is just a starting point for the discussion, to get the ball rolling, so to speak.)

    I'll now attempt to spell out the source of my ambivalence. Libertarians and "Chicago School" types (among others) make the plausible claim that it never (or rarely) makes sense to say that legal employment relations in Western liberal democracies are exploitative, for two main reasons: such relations are voluntary and mutually beneficial. I take this to be the fundamental problem for all theories of exploitation that apply to the legal-political context just specified. I don't think that any such theory can be credible without answering to this problem. Let me fill in the details of this difficulty.

    The view that we'd all be worse off in the absence of the social cooperation characteristic of Western liberal democracies (broadly construed), of which divided labor is a part, is fairly uncontroversial. Not everyone believes this, especially some of those working in the anarchist tradition. But I'm yet to be convinced by arguments against the relative goodness of this kind of social cooperation, mainly because they rely on a privileging of a certain conception of autonomy (usually defined such that it requires freedom from wage labor) that strikes me as unbalanced (in relation to more convincing construals of "the good"). So for the time being I'll take it for granted that the social cooperation that I have in mind makes us all better off than we'd otherwise be. It follows from this assumption that even those with "bad" jobs are, in gaining access to the goods of social cooperation through their jobs, better off than they'd be if the system of social cooperation that they engage in didn't exist. And, of course, their employment is, on the face of things, "voluntary", since, in a strict sense, it was open to them to not take their jobs and remain unemployed (and it remains open to them to quit and exit the labor force permanently). Benefiting someone in this way hardly seems to qualify as exploitation. Thus concludes my sketch of the libertarian rejoinder to complaints about exploitation.

    I'm not satisfied with this counter that libertarians offer. But I also don't find my response to it successful, either. In attempting to show where the libertarian goes wrong, my instinct is to first suggest that the relevant counterfactual comparison with the actual world, to determine whether any given employment relation is exploitative, isn't with a world in which the larger social cooperation scheme that employment relations are embedded in doesn't exist. It might be that we should compare how any particular employment relation is in the actual world with how it would be in a world in which the division of labor was such that the burdens associated with the worst jobs didn't fall entirely to specific people, while others are entirely free from such work (at least in an employment context), as is the case in the actual world. Why might this be a more apt counterfactual comparison for current purposes? Consider that each of us is forced into the world, and given a particular genetic and social endowment not of our choosing, which plays a substantial role in shaping our life prospects. Beyond this, brute luck has, at minimum, a non-trivial role in the determination of life outcomes. Suppose that someone, let's call him Bob, is unfortunate enough to be dealt a substandard initial endowment and is then afflicted with the effects of bad brute luck. These inauspicious circumstances leave Bob with only the most unsavory options for unskilled employment. We might say that his "back is against the wall", since his only (legal) options are taking some bad job or suffering the worse fate of unemployment. Should Bob take on some job, I have the sense that that would be an instance of exploitation. For it's only because he has been involuntarily plagued by bad circumstances thrust upon him that he's willing to take on the job at all. And in accepting this job, he and others like him are relieving the professional class of the burdens of, e.g., cleaning toilets and floors, receiving experimental medical treatments so that medicine might advance, and so on. That is to say, it is only because there are people like Bob that the professional class can enjoy work that isn't almost entirely degrading, unpleasant, and thankless. So Bob and his ilk have vulnerabilities in virtue of which they can be and are used by others as means for those others' gains. (Does it matter that these vulnerabilities are impositions? To some uncertain extent, I think so -- but as we'll see, this view has some troubles.)

    What's wrong with the counterargument that I've just presented? For one thing, it is absurd to suggest that the involuntary limiting of one's employment prospects entails that one is always the victim of exploitation when one takes on a job. Is a business man who wants a $100k salaried job exploited because bad luck has it that he can only find that job in Chicago when he wants to have it in New York? Of course not. Are all workers being exploited unless they enjoy the labor market of a perfectly competitive economy? I doubt it. Moreover, where does the blame lie for exploitation of the sort that I've claimed affects Bob? All kinds of people benefit from not having to do the sort of work that Bob does because people like Bob handle it. But surely they aren't all responsible for labor being divided in the way that it is. For that reason it would be strange to suggest that all those benefiting from the plight of people with bad jobs are exploiting such people. Perhaps there is something wrong about their complicity in this system. But it doesn't seem right to say that they're all exploiters.

    Thoughts on this are welcome. I promise I won't remove this post .
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  10. PeculiarPhilosopher added a topic in Read   

    Philosophy of History: Book Recommendations
    Can anyone recommend to me books on the philosophy of history, or books that present particular philosophies of history?
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  11. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic Philosophy: its influence or influences   

    There are some philosophers who have the same view. Brian Leiter (a limited sort of example, since he sees value in a lot of philosophy) believes that moral philosophy, at least normative ethics (not sure about metaethics), is basically a crock of shit that doesn't change anyone's behavior. I'm not sure how true this is. I doubt that the average person has the necessary sort of exposure to philosophical modes of thinking to be substantially impacted by them, though it seems that virtually everyone is at least affected by more primitive philosophical notions that filter down to them from the larger culture. It is quite possible, though, that most people's lives are indirectly shaped by philosophy via policy. I imagine that Rawls and others have substantively influenced policy development in a number of countries. Evidence of this wide reach is found in the fact that Lee Kuan Yew, a politician in Singapore, apparently subscribes to "luck egalitarianism", a view that I think originated in Ronald Dworkin's response to Rawls' ToJ.

    On a personal note, I have for the longest time struggled to find analytic (not sure if continental is any better) metaphysics useful or interesting in any way. I think this sense of analytic metaphysics' uselessness is one shared by Leiter.

    We'd have to make certain specifications and so on to really tackle the problem, but in at least a few respects, I think it's an open question whether philosophy is an inefficacious shit-crock .
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  12. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic Digital Philosophy   



    I've said before that the FW debate is relevant to ethics (not as sure about metaethics, though).

    That aside, this is an interesting topic, though I doubt if I have the background knowledge needed to usefully contribute.
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  13. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic Dawkins disgraces himself again   

    To preempt an argument that some on the political right might be tempted to make:

    Some might argue that leftists--who are wont to argue that certain widespread social phenomena (e.g. misogyny) have roles in violent behavior, even if all those directly influenced by these phenomena aren't violent--who take issue with anti-Islamic sentiments are hypocrites. The difference is that misogyny, for instance, is always bad and thus can be condemned whether it induces violence or not. The same isn't true of Islam.
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  14. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic Ferguson   

    Multiculturalism: unsurprisingly, it's not actually bad: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/programs/saguaro/our-research/diversity,-equality-and-social-capital
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  15. PeculiarPhilosopher added a post in a topic Ferguson   


    Everything that you've written seems exactly right, so far as I'm aware. I'd add that a good number, though certainly not all, of so-called "neoreactionaries" are, or at least claim to be, strongly traditional Christians (it seems that they're mostly Catholics, specifically). No doubt they see themselves as mirroring the rule of the Ultimate Patriarch, in family life and--if they had their way--in political life.

    What's unfortunate is that (some) neoreactionaries are acutely aware of important problems with contemporary life that are disregarded by almost all other political groups. But their "solution" is so preposterous and morally repugnant that it hardly merits consideration. I've also noticed that their knowledge of democratic theory is virtually absent. Rarely does it transcend painfully vague, unenlightening complaints about, as you mentioned, "mob rule", as if that's sufficient to undo the democratic project (and these complaints are marred by awful, oracular prose; it appears that writing to be understood isn't part of their agenda; that would fit with their aristocratic pretensions). At their best, neoreactionary critiques of democracy merely paraphrase Burke.
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