Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2000 11:35:33 -0500 From: Mary Murphy&Salstrand <ericandmary-AT-earthlink.net> Subject: Re: Post-modern Politics Ben - I've been busy lately and haven't had a chance to respond. I'll try to wrap up some of your previous comments in this quick post. Let me know if I have forgotten anything. First, regarding your question on wholeness, I hope I am not a closet Hegelian. I meant it in a practical empirical way, not a totalizing one. Simplifying enormously, I feel the presence of two urges in myself, the desire for self-creation and the desire for social justice: autonomy and community. This mirrors, for me, Rorty's distinction between the two. I think most people feel these tugs within themselves. It varies, perhaps, in the weight they give to each of them. Thus, James Joyce represents in a certain way, the desire for pure autonomy and Jane Addams might represent community. I think most of us fall between James Joyce and Jane Addams, although, at some level, in a more perfect world we would like to be both. This is what I meant as wholeness. As far as autonomy is concerned, I would agree pretty much with the abstract theory that Steve posted. Here is some anecdotal history to flesh in what I mean by it. During the depression of the 30's, apparently an socil experiment was performed in Battle Creek, Michigan regarding work time. Since there wasn't enough work to go around, a shorter work week was developed. Employees only worked for 30 hours a week. They found that once this happened, a threshhold was crossed and work no longer predominated their lives. They could develop other pursuits - private and public - whether this was gardening, painting or working in the community. Autonomy for me in a practical sense means creating a society in which work (a the sense of a job which is dictated to me by others who have the power to control the means of my very livelihood) no longer predominates. It is freedom in the creative sense, where I am empowered to live the life that I want to live and no longer remain in servitude. That said, here is my own brief criticism of Rorty. I believe his formulation of liberalism as "cruelty is the worst thing we can do" is a good one from the standpoint that it points directly to the insensitivity of our current policies and practices. However, it is too vague because it can be formulated to mean anything from charity to socialism, depending on how we want to define cruelty. It is also bad because it is implicitly is directed to those persons in a position of power who can choose to be cruel or not. It is thus inherently patronizing in its application. I also think the liberalism can only occur in the context of equality and true democracy. Free speech means little when the media is wholly owned by interlocking corporations and the government is run by corporate lackneys. Therefore, I feel liberalism is empty if it does not work to create both economic equality and democracy (which we do not currently have) in this society.
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