Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Greed is a moral issue that can be easily absorbed into the system

roger Says: September 28th, 2008 at 10:27 pm

The problem I have with evil is the problem I have with greed. When I read denunciations of the Wall Street bankers as greedy, I find it extremely annoying. Any random poor person could be as greedy. I, a random poor person, am greedy in my own way.

The point is that they had scope for their greed, and that scope was in the system. Instead of greed, one has to concentrate on power. Having the power that arises from rentseeking wealth, they used it - not because they were morally debauched, but because their position in the system encouraged that use. They used it to buy protection - which actually is kinda cheap. It means bribing politicians, it means funding think tanks and economic departments (vide George Masons) to produce a crop of propagandists, and it all worked rather well, and is continuing to work rather well.

Greed is a moral issue that can be easily absorbed into the system - McCain, Bush and whoever wants to can pick up that word and make an easy denunciation of the plutocrats. But it isn’t so easy to pick up that word if one is denouncing the power of that wealth, its non-productive origin and use, and the fact that it skews the system to entrench the wealthiest. That is just not something McCain, et al. - or the Dems, for the most part - can say. The Pinocchio Theory

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The narrow self-interested maximizing behavior of Homo oeconomicus can be transcended

A Note on Evil from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro Now, I left out a couple of phrases in the citation above; the entire sentence actually reads:

“Owing to its universality, this mode of thinking demonstrates a character of the human race at large and all at once; owing to its disinteredness, a moral character of humanity, at least in its predisposition, a character which not only permits people to hope for progress toward the better, but is already itself progress in so far as its capacity is sufficient for the present.”

The two key terms here are universality and disinterestedness. Kant is not merely praising enthusiasm and fervor. He is almost oppressively aware that enthusiasm and fervor guarantee nothing, and that they have propelled many of the worst happenings and the worst movements in human history — something that is all the more evident today, after the horrors of the twentieth century. Nothing that is narrowly drawn, chauvanistic, nationalistic, etc., can stand as evidence for a predisposition towards betterment...

In the grander scheme of things, this means that we must reject, on Kantian grounds, all ideologies that declare that humanity is incapable of betterment because human beings are inherently limited and imperfect (such is the tenor of the anti-”utopian” rejections of anything that goes beyond the limits of contemporary predatory capitalism), and all ideologies that declare that the narrow self-interested maximizing behavior of Homo oeconomicus cannot ever be transcended, as well as all ideologies that limit the prospects of emancipation to any particular group, nation, religion, etc.

And in the narrow, tawdry limits of contemporary US politics — to move from great things to small — this is why the boundless cynicism of the Republican Party must be rejected as evil. The Democrats may well be playing games with our hopes for betterment, hypocritically encouraging those hopes only the better to betray them, etc., etc.; but at least they represent a world in which such hopes stil exist. This entry was posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 12:26 pm and is filed under Politics, Theory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All unnecessary interference with the freedom of man's growth is or can be harmful

The business of the State, so long as it continues to be a necessary element in human life and growth, is to provide all possible facilities for co-operative action, to remove obstacles, to prevent all really harmful waste and friction, - a certain; amount of waste and friction is necessary and useful to all natural action, - and, removing avoidable injustice, to secure for every individual a just and equal chance of self-development and satisfaction to the extent of his powers and in the line of his nature. So far the aim in modem socialism is right and good.

But all unnecessary interference with the freedom of man's growth is or can be harmful. Even co-operative action is injurious if, instead of seeking the good of all compatibly with the necessities of individual growth, - and without individual growth there can be no real and permanent good of all, - it immolates the individual to a communal egoism and prevents so much free room and initiative as is necessary for the flowering of a more perfectly developed humanity. So long as humanity is not full-grown, so long as it needs to grow and is capable of a greater perfectibility, there can be no static good of all independent of the growth of the individuals composing the all. All collectivist ideals which seek unduly to subordinate the individual, really envisage a static condition whether it be a present status or one it soon hopes to establish, after which all attempt at serious change would be regarded as an offence of impatient individualism against the peace, just routine and security of the happily established communal order. Always it is the individual who progresses and compels the rest to progress; the instinct of the collectivity is to stand still in its established order. Progress, growth, realisation of wider being, give his greatest sense of happiness to the individual; status, secure ease, to the collectivity. And so it must be as long as the latter is more a physical and economic entity than a self-conscious collective soul.

It is therefore quite improbable that in the present conditions of the race a healthy unity of mankind can be brought about by State machinery, whether it be by a grouping of powerful and organised States enjoying carefully regulated and legalised relations with each other or by the substitution of a single World- State for the present half chaotic half ordered comity of nations, - be the form of that World-State a single Empire like the Roman or a federated unity. Such an external or administrative unity may be intended in the near future of mankind in order to accustom the race to the idea of a common life, to its habit, to its possibility; but it cannot be really healthy, durable or beneficial over all the true line of human destiny unless some- thing be developed, more profound, internal and real. Other- wise the experience of the ancient world will be repeated on a larger scale and in other circumstances. The experiment will break down and give place to a new reconstructive age of con- fusion and anarchy. Perhaps this experience also is necessary for mankind; yet it ought to be possible for us now to avoid it by subordinating mechanical means to our true development through a moralised and even a spiritualised humanity united in its inner soul and not only in its outward life and body. Page-284 Home Location: Home > E-Library > Works Of Sri Aurobindo > English > Social And Political Thought Volume-15 > The Inadequacy Of The State Idea

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Decline of greatness in humanity

Thought for the day Home Contact Us

The gain of democracy is the security of the individual's life, liberty and goods from the caprices of the tyrant one or the selfish few; its evil is the decline of greatness in humanity.
Sri Aurobindo (343−Thoughts and Aphorisms)

Monday, September 8, 2008

A transnational Europe-like arrangement with a social economical policy of the scandinavian type

Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers? (Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture Series) (Hardcover) by Zygmunt Bauman (Author)
light at the end of the tunnel, June 25, 2008 By A. P. Oele (Houten Netherlands) - See all my reviews

In this book Zygmunt Bauman proves again to have a outstreched antenna for change. He also proves to be highly knowledgeable regarding the filosofical and historical aspects in his search for the ethical consequences of globalisation and consemerism. A lot of writers known for their deep insights in the human condition are quoted. It does not make for easy reading. The writer wants his conclusions to be solidly rooted in the work of present and past key experts on change. That leads to a comprehensive review of the theses on social change and makes it rewarding reading. Main conclusions are:

  • globalisation is irreversible;
  • consuming habits prevail and makes societal connections liquid and temporal;
  • the nation state is left behind and can no longer presen a setting for ethical behavior;
  • a transnational europe-like arrangement may be a model for an new framework for ethics, the more so if this ensures a social economical policy of the scandinavian type.

The last conclusion rests more on hope than on facts but is nevertheless positive enough to keep it in mind. Anyway I enjoyed meeting Bauman again in this book and recognised in him the sociologist going further than describing trends and giving warnings. Adriaan Oele. Comment Permalink [11:08 AM ]

Zygmunt Bauman is one of the most admired social thinkers of our time. Once a Marxist sociologist, he has surrendered the narrowness of both Marxism and sociology, and dares to write in language that ordinary people can understand—about problems they feel ill equipped to solve. This book is no dry treatise but is instead what Bauman calls “a report from a battlefield,” part of the struggle to find new and adequate ways of thinking about the world in which we live. Rather than searching for solutions to what are perhaps the insoluble problems of the modern world, Bauman proposes that we reframe the way we think about these problems. In an era of routine travel, where most people circulate widely, the inherited beliefs that aid our thinking about the world have become an obstacle.
Bauman seeks to liberate us from the thinking that renders us hopeless in the face of our own domineering governments and threats from unknown forces abroad. He shows us we can give up belief in a hierarchical arrangement of states and powers. He challenges members of the “knowledge class” to overcome their estrangement from the rest of society. Gracefully, provocatively, Bauman urges us to think in new ways about a newly flexible, newly challenging modern world. As Bauman notes, quoting Vaclav Havel, “hope is not a prognostication.” It is, rather, alongside courage and will, a mundane, common weapon that is too seldom used.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Man and only man can be higher or lower than an animal

Spiritual Warfare at the Leading Fringe of Cosmic Evolution
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

Our work is not political per se. For us, there can be no political solution. Rather, nothing short of a transformation of consciousness can alter the present course of history. History is not just a horizontal stream of time, being that it is composed of humans (and cultures) of differing developmental -- which is to say, vertical -- levels. I think about this all the time as it pertains to my three and a-half year old.

I well remember that eternal, magical space that I lived in when I was his age -- about the natural mysticism of childhood -- and about how he is in that identical space, despite all the historical differences. They are all obliterated in the mystery of his pure consciousness, which is being and bliss. When he's getting his way, that is. When he's not, he suddenly transmogrifies into a whining and entitled liberal. Same conscious-energy. Different result.

History, like man himself, is just a middle term linking two ahistorical realities. If we think of history as the residue of, or the tracks laid down by, the Adventure of Consciousness, what is most important for us is not its horizontal meandering but its vertical ascent. In other words, profane history is merely the "stage," so to speak, on which the army of man makes forays into the vertical and slowly colonizes it -- just as some 40,000 years ago, proto-humans slowly began colonizing the a priori space of humanness and all its various "mansions," both high and low.

To put it another way -- and this is a critical point -- the acquisition of humanness was not merely an evolutionary ascent. Rather, it simultaneously -- and necessarily -- involved opening up a space which was lower than the beasts. This is why man and only man can be higher or lower than an animal, depending upon the choices he makes. This is also why history is so surreal and subreal.

Imagine an advancing army, only moving upward and inward; as Sri Aurobindo put it, it is like "a tide or mounding flux, the leading fringe of which touches the highest degrees of a cliff or hill while the rest is still below," or "an army advancing in columns which annexes new ground, while the main body is still behind in territory overrun but too large to be effectively occupied, so that there has to be a frequent halt and partial return to the traversed areas for consolidation and advance of the hold on the occupied country and assimilation of its people."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A new free trade movement seeking to dismantle the institutions of national privilege and insisting on movement as a human right

What is needed is a new free trade movement seeking to dismantle the institutions of national privilege and insisting on movement as a human right. Only then will the better off see any reason to engage with the world outside their fortified enclaves. The philosophical inspiration for this program is late Kant in such works as The Perpetual Peace and the Anthropology. The world belongs to all human beings and each of us has a right to move in it as we wish. An injury to one person anywhere affects us all. The last and most difficult task of humanity is to construct a universal system of justice. A modified Keynesian programme for the world economy might be one step in that direction, redistributing purchasing power to the impoverished masses. Global capital will only be checked effectively when popular forces are able to mobilize freely. The internet has increased this possibility of late; but dismantling state jurisdiction over international movement is as essential for us now as the repeal of the corn laws was a century and a half ago...

The globalization of apartheid from The Memory Bank 3.0 by keith. Presentation for the first Rethinking Economies workshop ‘Unequal development: the globalization of apartheid’, Goldsmiths College London, 24th March 2006