Waylaid Dialectic

July 29, 2010

And you sir are a very boring man

Filed under: Theory — terence @ 11:55 am
Tags: , ,

Before, as I was walking around the building where I’m housed (after a couple of hours of reading I needed a break) I had a eureka moment. Unfortunately it had nothing to do with my PhD, but anyhow.

It seems to me that there’s a Wallace Line of sorts between liberal and radical left wing thought. This being that, to a liberal, at some certain level human nature is fixed (or at least bounded). This mightn’t be the rational self interested actor of Econ 101, but rather, perhaps, a more complicated type – one which has some propensity to altruism, a sense of fairness, and is responsive to norms – but nevertheless in some key ways liberals don’t see human nature as changing in any systematic way in any meaningful time frame. People on the radical left, however, often do see such scope for change. For classical Marxists, at least as I understand them, material and political structures drive human nature and if these change, humans will change, perhaps from self interest to solidarity and shared concern. On the other hand for post-structuralists, the key constraint on human nature is discourse: we’re confined by socially produced knowings and meanings, and if these might be changed, then so might humans.

So there you have it my (quite possibly not original) exciting thought and hopefully helpful typology for the day.

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2 Comments

  1. Yep, interesting post Terence. I’ve come up with a similar explanation in various conversations with people on “why I am not an anarchist”, which I guess places me on the ‘liberal’ side of your dividing line. My suspicion is that even if you took away all the oppressive and inequitable power structures that existed, people would still have a fundamental nasty streak.

    Comment by Simon — July 31, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  2. Thanks Simon – and sorry for my delayed reply. For some reason this comment didn’t generate an email to me.

    My suspicion is that even if you took away all the oppressive and inequitable power structures that existed, people would still have a fundamental nasty streak.

    My thoughts exactly.

    Comment by terence — August 5, 2010 @ 9:06 am


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