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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

GOOD READ

In an email, Professor David Auerbach sends me a link to this clarifying and valuable essay on the subject of norms.  It is worth reading.

My post has, as I hoped, provoked a stimulating discussion.  Let me expand on one point that I think was not at all clear in the original post.

My discomfort does not arise from the hypocrisy of those who piously profess a commitment to the rule of law all the while undermining and violating it.  As Jesus did not say but might have [see Matthew 23:27, for example], the hypocrites we always have with us.  I was troubled by the thought that the norms themselves are ideological rationalizations and mystifications of the exploitative structure of capitalism, and hence have no independent status.  Although it is, alas, much too early for such thoughts, we need to think through what the norms of a socialist society would be, grounded in a collective, non-exploitative economic order.

In the meantime, I am enormously relieved that the California Democratic Party has survived the jungle primary and has a serious chance of contributing six, seven, or more flipped seats to the 23 we need in order to take control of the House.

Sufficient unto the day.

4 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

The unwritten and/or tacit norms of any society cannot be planned or decreed by any legislative body, even the most democratic and participatory one.

Unwritten and/or tacit norms arise in the daily interaction of people with one another, and they often have little to do with the official laws and discourses about how people are supposed to behave. There are few areas where human creativity is more in evidence than the way common people invent and think up ways of beating and getting around any system, even the most rational and just systems, and I imagine that in a future socialist society, the unwritten and/or tacit norms will evidence that creativity.

A collective, non-exploitive economic order may well be just that, an economic order, and people will most probably continue trying to get their own selfish way in their personal relationships and even in their dealings with others in the economic sphere. Still, a collective, non-exploitive economic order would be a big step forward for humanity.

Ed Barreras said...

I think the linked essay is mostly spot-on. For example, the author disapprovingly quotes Levitsky and Zilblatt who write: “if they retake the Senate in 2018, there is talk of denying President Trump the opportunity to fill any Supreme Court vacancy. This is a dangerous spiral.” Um, no. The current occupant of the White House will be allowed a SCOTUS pick over my dead body. The Gorsuch precedent is now governing.

In general I agree with the idea that norms are only as good as the ends they serve. When John Kerry made it a point of not accusing George W. Bush of telling “lies” in the 2004 campaign, instead using the gentler “falsehoods,” he was adhering to a rule of politesse that many people found highly suspicious. Everyone knows that the American political system allows for only a narrow range of debate, and Kerry’s reluctance to use evidently inflammatory L-word looked like tacit attempt to maintain those parameters. Still, I wouldn’t say that those kind of etiquette norms are necesessarliy bad; they probably do serve a purpose. But what’s most important is the shared ideology among the participants in the debate.

Also, I think the problem we face arises from the fact that the norms governing presidential conduct really should be codified into written-down, clearly-stated law. This hasn’t been a huge problem before because we’ve never had such a vile and rapacious personality occupying that office. This is why we can’t have nice things.

howard b said...

Ed, what do you think of the mindful resistance newsletter?
Plus, I do think someone should have one upped Trump a long time ago to stymie his so called charisma

Ed Barreras said...

I hadn’t seen the mindful resistance newsletter until now but it looks like something that can be very helpful. I recently became a fan of Robert Wright after reading his takedown of Sam Harris in Wired.