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View Full Version : Do the philosophical roots of the New Left hamper the enactment of environmental policy?


Bloggingheads
12-07-2009, 04:59 AM

Baltimoron
12-07-2009, 08:20 AM
A very ambitious diavlog...and another reason why this ridiculous time limit policy should go.

Props for tackling woo. But, it's not enough to analyze the scientific roots of global warming or hunger, without analyzing the social scientific problems of vested interests, rent-seeking, patents, and a whole host of other documented theories. hamandcheese (sic?) mentions the "tragedy of the commons", but there just wasn't enough time to get into a good discussion of that topic.

There needs to be a "Part 2" where both of you debate carbon taxes vs. cap and corruption (oooppps!), patents, and "tragedy of the commons".

If Ann Althouse or Michael Goldfarb can have 60 minutes, you two need 90!

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-07-2009, 10:24 AM
A very ambitious diavlog...and another reason why this ridiculous time limit policy should go.

Props for tackling woo. But, it's not enough to analyze the scientific roots of global warming or hunger, without analyzing the social scientific problems of vested interests, rent-seeking, patents, and a whole host of other documented theories. hamandcheese (sic?) mentions the "tragedy of the commons", but there just wasn't enough time to get into a good discussion of that topic.

There needs to be a "Part 2" where both of you debate carbon taxes vs. cap and corruption (oooppps!), patents, and "tragedy of the commons".

If Ann Althouse or Michael Goldfarb can have 60 minutes, you two need 90!

Thanks for the endorsement, Baltimoron. In fact, Sam and I spent awhile on the phone after we stopped recording debating the issue further--so there's definitely material for another DV.

bjkeefe
12-07-2009, 10:25 AM
... is here (http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/24388).

osmium
12-07-2009, 06:07 PM
Hamandcheese reveals his sympathies to the juicebox mafia at 7:45. (http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/24388?in=07:39&out=07:45)

osmium
12-07-2009, 06:10 PM
But seriously, excellent job examining an anti-science conspiracy theory of the far left.

osmium
12-07-2009, 06:35 PM
I enjoyed this a lot. You guys are really good.

To push back lightly at something around the 20:00 mark: There is more to "postmodernism" than relativity between the life of a human and a life of a tree. Obviously I think that is cracked. But some of what is considered postmodernism amounts to, for example, explaining the way the world becomes self-referential when communication becomes very rapid and very global. I.e. simulation, fake authenticity, etc. I think those things have worth and should be thought about. Not everything called postmodernism is nuts--the word is too big, encompasses too many ideas.

The test I use is: is something both 1) called postmodern and 2) an ideology. If so, I call it bad. So, like, the relativism you bring up ... I would agree that's both postmodern and stupid. But don't tar every 'postmodern' thought just because of that.

hamandcheese
12-07-2009, 07:53 PM
I completely agree with you, Osmium. While what we were talking about certainly is under the postmoderm umbrella I don't at all think that it defines postmodern thought, especially when "postmodern philosophy" has contributed a lot to my own thinking. To be more specific, it would be part of the post-structuralist vein, that, though potentially useful, is ironically too easily molded to any conclusion -- including tree ethics, if not plain nihilism.

But not all of the postmodern influence is nihlisitic. I didn't mention Eco-Feminism, for example. An eco-feminist would assert something like: "The capitalist dominion over nature is a form of chauvinism. Its trenchedness is the result of a historically male dominated culture and its political institutions. Mans rape of the environment is no less Man's rape of the environment." Etc. Etc. Invariably they also incorporate Freud or Lacan and start calling smoke stacks an unconcious case of phallo-centricism. Really.

The Freudian influence on the new left is also postmodern, and is a direct result of the work of Herbert Marcuse, particularly his "Eros and Civilization". In it Marcuse ammended Freuds argument that Civilization is inherently and necessarily repressive to say that, not civilization, but Capitalism and it's legion are the repressors. This was in fact the intellectual foundation of the counterculture, and the ancestor to the later arguments against "mass produced society" and the technocracy.

So your quite right about postmodernism coming in very many kinds. But I defend my use of the term on the grounds that the postmodern influence on environmentalism has really been from every corner of postmodernity.

Baltimoron
12-07-2009, 08:54 PM
...There is more to "postmodernism" than relativity between the life of a human and a life of a tree. Obviously I think that is cracked. But some of what is considered postmodernism amounts to, for example, explaining the way the world becomes self-referential when communication becomes very rapid and very global. I.e. simulation, fake authenticity, etc. I think those things have worth and should be thought about. Not everything called postmodernism is nuts--the word is too big, encompasses too many ideas.

Actually, my introduction to postmodern literature came through Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy in a postmodern Lit seminar. I'm not sure of how the Venn diagrams work - new novel, Freudian et al - but my first and enduring association with "postmodern" because of Robbe-Grillet is a painstaking empirical approach. How many banana trees? That spot on the wall? Honestly, I thought "postmodern" was another word for "pain in the ass"! The rest of this ideological baggage never convinced me that postmodern was as big a problem as its critics said it was.

Ocean
12-07-2009, 09:14 PM
I wish I could say something meaningful about this diavlog, but I'm still trying to process the first ten seconds: hamandcheese is a high school student...


I'm ready for retirement.

bjkeefe
12-07-2009, 10:24 PM
I wish I could say something meaningful about this diavlog, but I'm still trying to process the first ten seconds: hamandcheese is a high school student...


I'm ready for retirement.

Heh. I was just about to post: "I wish I could have been half that articulate and a quarter that politically aware back when I was his age."

Ocean
12-07-2009, 10:38 PM
Heh. I was just about to post: "I wish I could have been half that articulate and a quarter that politically aware back when I was his age."

I was wondering if I was the only one having that reaction.

Baltimoron
12-07-2009, 11:33 PM
OTOH, the burden of all that ability rests firmly in his young shoulders for that much longer. Just kidding! As Darth Vader said, "Impressive!"

Wonderment
12-07-2009, 11:35 PM
We gave an environmental award to a 13-year-old in my town for his work on Global Warming. He came up to my shoulder. When he came back the next year to present the award to the next recipient, he was a head taller than me. He'd also met Al Gore. Now he's in 15 and in Copenhagen.

Ocean
12-07-2009, 11:40 PM
We gave an environmental award to a 13-year-old in my town for his work on Global Warming. He came up to my shoulder. When he came back the next year to present the award to the next recipient, he was a head taller than me. He'd also met Al Gore. Now he's in 15 and in Copenhagen.

I'm still thinking about retirement... as soon as I stop crying...

:)

PS: like Baltimoron said "Impressive."

jimM47
12-08-2009, 12:08 AM
Impressive conversation. A pity that the time limit cut short the solutions part of the diavlog.

During the "shallow economy" portion of the conversation, when the topics of climate change's disproportionate effect on poorer regions and of institutions came up, I couldn't help but think of this (slightly tangential) analogy drawn from the common law tort system: In American courts, where a nontrivial amount of environmental policy is still made, many tragedy-of-the-commons-type environmental questions sound in nuisance law, which asks courts to balance the social utility of a harmful activity with the damage it causes to others. One of the first questions for the court, and one that implicates nearly every aspect of the case, is the remedy to be granted: injunction (ordering the polluter to stop) or damages (ordering the polluter to pay for the harm they cause). Under the influence of law-and-economics scholars such as Ronald Coase, courts have been reluctant in many circumstances to grant injunctive relief, and where they do grant it, the grant is specifically aimed at getting the parties to negotiate a price for lifting the injunction. The theory behind this is that there may be many cases in which it is more "efficient" to produce something of value, pollute in the process, and then compensate for the damage that pollutant causes, than to simply refrain from the harmful activity entirely. This has the secondary effect of helping to balance social utilities, because the requirement of paying compensation will cause less useful polluting activities to become economically unfeasible.

It seems to me that much of current environmental thinking, especially in the international realm, has focused on finding an injunctive-like solution, which seeks to limit emissions in terms of raw number, rather than a compensatory-like solution, which would seek to limit wasteful emissions and redress the inequitable effect of fossil fuel externalities, and that this has disproportionately hurt nations like those in the Indian Ocean and other poorer nations which will necessarily feel significant economic effects of the greenhouse emissions that remain inevitable for many years to come under any system.

Baltimoron
12-08-2009, 12:14 AM
OK, we've passed the line between lauding hamandcheese and making ourselves feel irreparably - oh, gawd - OLD! Vreak out the aspirin and Sportscreme!

Baltimoron
12-08-2009, 12:21 AM
Interesting legal analysis. I believe Coase's name has come up in recent EconTalk podcasts, where Russ Roberts has recently taken up the "tragedy of the commons" issue.

jimM47
12-08-2009, 01:00 AM
Indeed. And to limit what I am saying somewhat, I take it from Russ Roberts's description of Coase that economists have a slightly more nuanced understanding of his ideas than I've seen demonstrated in court opinions. But I think there are still some valuable insights that survive into the legal realm, and which may be further applicable on an international policy level.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-08-2009, 02:33 AM
During the "shallow economy" portion of the conversation, when the topics of climate change's disproportionate effect on poorer regions and of institutions came up, I couldn't help but think of this (slightly tangential) analogy drawn from the common law tort system: In American courts, where a nontrivial amount of environmental policy is still made, many tragedy-of-the-commons-type environmental questions sound in nuisance law, which asks courts to balance the social utility of a harmful activity with the damage it causes to others. One of the first questions for the court, and one that implicates nearly every aspect of the case, is the remedy to be granted: injunction (ordering the polluter to stop) or damages (ordering the polluter to pay for the harm they cause). Under the influence of law-and-economics scholars such as Ronald Coase, courts have been reluctant in many circumstances to grant injunctive relief, and where they do grant it, the grant is specifically aimed at getting the parties to negotiate a price for lifting the injunction. The theory behind this is that there may be many cases in which it is more "efficient" to produce something of value, pollute in the process, and then compensate for the damage that pollutant causes, than to simply refrain from the harmful activity entirely. This has the secondary effect of helping to balance social utilities, because the requirement of paying compensation will cause less useful polluting activities to become economically unfeasible.

It seems to me that much of current environmental thinking, especially in the international realm, has focused on finding an injunctive-like solution, which seeks to limit emissions in terms of raw number, rather than a compensatory-like solution, which would seek to limit wasteful emissions and redress the inequitable effect of fossil fuel externalities, and that this has disproportionately hurt nations like those in the Indian Ocean and other poorer nations which will necessarily feel significant economic effects of the greenhouse emissions that remain inevitable for many years to come under any system.

I hadn't thought about it that way before--thanks.

kezboard
12-08-2009, 04:44 AM
I dunno. I think there's a lot more that this line of thinking has in common with nineteenth-century romanticism, which just takes the modern faith in material progress and turns it around. I mean, the fetish for the natural, for instance. It would take a postmodernist one second to look at that and say that that category is totally cultural, that there's nothing more essentially or authentically human about chewing a leaf or living off the land than there is in taking a pill or living in the city.

Granted, postmodernism is responsible for a lot of pseudo-intellectual denial of the rationally provable, but that doesn't mean that it's responsible for all of it. Similarly, I don't think that because the postmodernist would question the statement "We should make things better for the human race" that means that only postmodernists would -- the romantic environmentalist would say "Why should we make things better for humans and not trees?" but the postmodernist would probably say "What do you mean 'make things better', and what do you mean 'human race'?"

The question of what it means to make things better is probably where postmodernism does come into the things you were talking about, specifically the essay in The Nation about how the US supported the Green Revolution so people in poor countries wouldn't be pushed into communist uprisings by starvation. On the one hand, I definitely think the appropriate answer to this argument is "So what, at least they got food". On the other hand, I sort of think (without having read the essay, of course) that the writer would rather characterize it as "By giving the world's poor somewhat easier access to cheaper food, the Green Revolution helped perpetuate the system that created the conditions of exploitation that made these people poor and hungry in the first place". I'm somewhat sympathetic to this view (which I guess earns me my 'far left' card) but I understand that it's fairly impractical and really more interested in moral consistency than practical solutions.

It reminds me of this bit I read in Zizek (yeah, I know) once, where he said that George Soros was the worst person in the world because he spends the first part of his day making money off an unjust economic system and the second part of his day throwing money at people trying to fix the bad effects of that system, and at the end of the day the system is the same. Again, you kind of see the point -- at least I do. But would it be better if Soros just spent his whole day making money and then willed it all to his dog? Is what he's really saying that Zizek is the worst person in the world because he's not authentic?

I think the answer is that postmodernists are just suspicious of technocratic solutions, both because they depoliticize and dehumanize the problems (the world's poor aren't hungry because they're oppressed or because other people are exploiting them, they're hungry because they don't have them food, so let's just give them food) and because they turn systematic problems into discrete ones, which allows them to not address the underlying structures which are causing the problems -- and which the technocrats are often benefiting from.

bjkeefe
12-08-2009, 09:01 AM
[...]

As is so often the case after I read one of your posts, I can only marvel and wish that I'd said that.

bjkeefe
12-08-2009, 09:03 AM
@Ham: Do you have a link for that Nation article you discussed at the beginning of the diavlog?

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-08-2009, 01:42 PM
I think the answer is that postmodernists are just suspicious of technocratic solutions, both because they depoliticize and dehumanize the problems (the world's poor aren't hungry because they're oppressed or because other people are exploiting them, they're hungry because they don't have them food, so let's just give them food) and because they turn systematic problems into discrete ones, which allows them to not address the underlying structures which are causing the problems -- and which the technocrats are often benefiting from.

Right. And my frustration with postmodernism is:
1. I DON'T think the world's poor "are hungry because they are oppressed." I think they ARE hungry simply because they don't have food.
2. I think most problems are discrete, not systematic, and yet systematic approaches get a disproportionate level of attention in leftist thought.
3. I don't think it matters much if you benefit from solving a problem or not, so long as you solve it.

AemJeff
12-08-2009, 02:12 PM
Right. And my frustration with postmodernism is:
1. I DON'T think the world's poor "are hungry because they are oppressed." I think they ARE hungry simply because they don't have food.
2. I think most problems are discrete, not systematic, and yet systematic approaches get a disproportionate level of attention in leftist thought.
3. I don't think it matters much if you benefit from solving a problem or not, so long as you solve it.

I'm actually on the opposite side of each of your bullets:

1. Can widespread hunger within a population be viewed as cruel, unjust, and burdensome? If so, then it seems to meet at least one definition of "to oppress."

2. If you start elucidating a list of problems, I'd be willing to bet that I, or any of a number of others, could identify a systemic issue at the root of that problem. e.g. - Third World hunger and deprivation. The mere fact that there's such an obvious label that identifies a problem suffered by billions of people suggests a systemic issue, don't you think? And the systems represented by the global economy, particularly as they govern the production, transport, and distribution of food are pretty obvious candidates for blame here.

3. Corruption is always an live issue. Asserting that you're solving a problem and solving a problem are not the same thing.

Francoamerican
12-08-2009, 02:40 PM
Thank you Preppy and Hamandcheese, for your fresh and intelligent perspective on things.

A quibble, though, from someone who has been kicking around this planet a lot longer than either of you. There is no direct line of descent from the New Left of the 60s, or the counterculture, to postmodernism. The latter, as some have pointed out here, is (was?) a very diverse movement. It meant very different things to different people. The American New Left (similar in many respects to the French "soixante-huitards") was really a hangover from the old left: It was both revolutionary and anarchistic--like so many revolutionary movements since the 19th century. It believed in the power of the people and of the individual to bring about social change. In short, Maoism with a touch of Rousseau and Thoreau. Environmentalism ("back to nature") was only one aspect of its program. The hippies who thought they were reenacting Hawthorne's utopia of Brook Farm--but apparently without having read the novel to the end---can hardly be held responsible for the nonsense of some contemporary environmentalists.

Postmodernism, on the other hand, grew out of a scepticism about history and revolution. It was largely inspired by French thinkers (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard) who thought that the idea of revolution was balderdash and who were extremely (and I mean extremely) dubious about the notion of the "individual."

Don Zeko
12-08-2009, 05:24 PM
Absurd. He's clearly drinking a capri sun pack, which is functionally equivalent to a juicebox, but not the same.

Don Zeko
12-08-2009, 05:29 PM
Agreed. If this forum were to institute some kind of "absurdly precocious award" or something, i believe we'd have our winner right here.

JonIrenicus
12-08-2009, 05:31 PM
Maybe the best of these so far. And Ham is batting a thousand on his take about the strange fetish of many on the left and their greater concern about the state of nature over the state of man.

Preppy is right, you have to make your arguments from a stronger place, not from weak and brittle foundations. And many arguments made against either genetically modified foods or whatever else are just laced with concerns over what is "natural" being what is better.

As if anything modified by human hands is, by definition, inferior.

It is a weird fetish as it not only sought to knock mans special place down a notch, in some cases it seemed to want to place man BELOW nature. Again, ass backwards. It is nice to see people who have the correct priority and take some of the lefts conceptual errors to task.

Don Zeko
12-08-2009, 05:34 PM
Good point, but I think that it tends to lead you to the same place. If the damage caused is sufficiently high, then either injunction or reparation will tend to lead to the cessation of the harmful activity. The trouble is that it's not entirely clear whether the damage from AGW will be enough to lead to cessation or not.

THis, by the way, is why I like a cap-and-trade rather than a carbon tax. We have a lot more certainty about the reductions in emissions that are necessary than we do about the price elasticity of carbon emissions. I think there's a much higher risk of setting a carbon tax too low or too high than there is of setting a carbon cap at an incorrect level.

Don Zeko
12-08-2009, 05:36 PM
Agreed, although I tend to think that beating up on these hippie, New Left arguments is a bit of a weak man argument, or at least I would if I heard the same criticisms coming from someone who opposes both cap-and-trade and other measures like a carbon tax. Still, this was a very good discussion, and intracoalitional philosophical fights are both interesting and important. Thanks to nikkibong and hamandcheese.

claymisher
12-08-2009, 05:37 PM
Good point, but I think that it tends to lead you to the same place. If the damage caused is sufficiently high, then either injunction or reparation will tend to lead to the cessation of the harmful activity. The trouble is that it's not entirely clear whether the damage from AGW will be enough to lead to cessation or not.

THis, by the way, is why I like a cap-and-trade rather than a carbon tax. We have a lot more certainty about the reductions in emissions that are necessary than we do about the price elasticity of carbon emissions. I think there's a much higher risk of setting a carbon tax too low or too high than there is of setting a carbon cap at an incorrect level.

That's why I'm for both.

JonIrenicus
12-08-2009, 05:39 PM
Hamandcheese reveals his sympathies to the juicebox mafia at 7:45. (http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/24388?in=07:39&out=07:45)

It was more a display of how young he is. Anyone drinking a capri sun instantly seems like sub 20s in age. It just does not appear in the hands of older people in the same numbers, like seeing someone on a skateboard. Not a bad thing btw as he seems considerably less confused and having a better filter to reality than most people, at whatever age.

Don Zeko
12-08-2009, 05:40 PM
He did admit to being Canadian, however. Do you figure there's some kind of cultural difference between Canada and the States with regard to Capri Sun?

JonIrenicus
12-08-2009, 05:46 PM
He did admit to being Canadian, however. Do you figure there's some kind of cultural difference between Canada and the States with regard to Capri Sun?

Not at all, I see capri sun as a universal sign of something you often drink when younger, that is all. Could be different in Canada though. I drank it much more when a younger kid, then graduated to caffeine, sweet caffeine.

JonIrenicus
12-08-2009, 05:57 PM
Agreed, although I tend to think that beating up on these hippie, New Left arguments is a bit of a weak man argument, or at least I would if I heard the same criticisms coming from someone who opposes both cap-and-trade and other measures like a carbon tax. Still, this was a very good discussion, and intracoalitional philosophical fights are both interesting and important. Thanks to nikkibong and hamandcheese.

It is definitely beating up on the weak mans of the world, only problem is that you often get so many making the weaker case you do not know whether that needs to be taken to task or not. Maybe the less vocal silent majority does not agree and just stays silent, but how would we know.


I can get behind a more or less revenue neutral carbon tax idea. Everyone thinks pollution is bad and out to have a cost associated with it as it affects the living space of others (other human beings - not as concerned about the effects on the imaginary tazmanian cockroach). It is the kind of argument that has some sway with me, not the arguments of the form if we don't do this a handful of polar bears will die, maybe - or we need to reduce pollution/carbon by switching to mass transit... in Los Angeles... or bike to more places.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-08-2009, 06:51 PM
1. Can widespread hunger within a population be viewed as cruel, unjust, and burdensome? If so, then it seems to meet at least one definition of "to oppress."

2. If you start elucidating a list of problems, I'd be willing to bet that I, or any of a number of others, could identify a systemic issue at the root of that problem....

This is the essence of postmodern logic--"can it be viewed as" is not the same thing as "is it." I see that hunger is one example of a larger category that some might call oppression.* But I do not see that larger category, oppression (a general and abstract term) as the CAUSE of hunger (a general and abstract term).

Instead I see, for example, cartelization and price-fixing in the South Asian sugar and wheat market as the CAUSE of food shortages, and thus hunger, in rural South Asia. [will be writing on this soon] Is cartelization a bundensome and cruel injustice? Maybe. But I don't look at the hunger that way. That is the difference between the postmodernists and me--I'm inclined to see the immediate link as the causal link and to focus on addressing that. And I think if more liberals thought that way, more liberal goals would be met.

3. Corruption is always an live issue. Asserting that you're solving a problem and solving a problem are not the same thing.

I assume you've heard that line "All squares are rectangles, but all rectangles aren't squares." Corrupt people benefit by pretending to solve problems without solving them. Duh. But the argument I was responding to above suggested that people who A. actually solve the problem AND B. benefit have done something wrong.

If you haven't faked part A., it's not clear to me that there's anything to be concerned about. Unless, as I suspect of some liberals from whom I often hear such concerns, you consider altruistic motive to be as, or more, important than beneficial outcome.

*[Sidenote: oppression to me is deliberate and only certain hunger in certain places has been imposed intentionally--other times it reflects incompetence more than ill will.]

claymisher
12-08-2009, 06:55 PM
That is the difference between the postmodernists and me--I'm inclined to see the immediate link as the causal link and to focus on addressing that. And I think if more liberals thought that way, more liberal goals would be met.

That's a hell of a shortcut.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-08-2009, 07:12 PM
A quibble, though, from someone who has been kicking around this planet a lot longer than either of you. There is no direct line of descent from the New Left of the 60s, or the counterculture, to postmodernism. The latter, as some have pointed out here, is (was?) a very diverse movement. It meant very different things to different people. The American New Left (similar in many respects to the French "soixante-huitards") was really a hangover from the old left: It was both revolutionary and anarchistic--like so many revolutionary movements since the 19th century. It believed in the power of the people and of the individual to bring about social change. In short, Maoism with a touch of Rousseau and Thoreau. Environmentalism ("back to nature") was only one aspect of its program. The hippies who thought they were reenacting Hawthorne's utopia of Brook Farm--but apparently without having read the novel to the end---can hardly be held responsible for the nonsense of some contemporary environmentalists.

Postmodernism, on the other hand, grew out of a scepticism about history and revolution. It was largely inspired by French thinkers (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard) who thought that the idea of revolution was balderdash and who were extremely (and I mean extremely) dubious about the notion of the "individual."

True. I think I tried to bring this up at some point, but there was an important gap between academic and popular '60s leftism. The academics were not into systemic revolution and more into institutional structures and how they work/can be worked. This, to me, is more in tune with what I call economic leftism. The popular '60s crowd was more in tune with what I call cultural leftism. And because the latter group essentially game to dominate the modern American left, what we have today in the policy space is the bastardized version of postmodern logic they absorbed.

As a general matter however, I also have my beef with postmodernism, because it tried to be both too specific and too broad. On the one hand, there's nothing outside the text. On the other hand, we should be questioning categories like history, literature, culture themselves. But if all we have to study is 'the text,' we need the analytic tools of those categories to study it, and if those categories themselves aren't ultimately accepted, then there does seem to be a general cycle of inconclusiveness. That is fine in academia--indeed, the greatest work of postmodernists has been to try to suss out the nature of that cycle rather than to break out of it. Fair enough. My problem is that the logic entered the policy space, for which it was so obviously not designed.

JonIrenicus
12-08-2009, 07:13 PM
That's a hell of a shortcut.

Sometimes, I really like shortcuts, especially when they get the job done.

http://www.gipsymoth.org/images/Country%20Data/800px-Panama_Canal_Gatun_Lo.jpg

AemJeff
12-08-2009, 07:41 PM
This is the essence of postmodern logic--"can it be viewed as" is not the same thing as "is it." I see that hunger is one example of a larger category that some might call oppression.* But I do not see that larger category, oppression (a general and abstract term) as the CAUSE of hunger (a general and abstract term).

Instead I see, for example, cartelization and price-fixing in the South Asian sugar and wheat market as the CAUSE of food shortages, and thus hunger, in rural South Asia. [will be writing on this soon] Is cartelization a bundensome and cruel injustice? Maybe. But I don't look at the hunger that way. That is the difference between the postmodernists and me--I'm inclined to see the immediate link as the causal link and to focus on addressing that. And I think if more liberals thought that way, more liberal goals would be met.



I assume you've heard that line "All squares are rectangles, but all rectangles aren't squares." Corrupt people benefit by pretending to solve problems without solving them. Duh. But the argument I was responding to above suggested that people who A. actually solve the problem AND B. benefit have done something wrong.

If you haven't faked part A., it's not clear to me that there's anything to be concerned about. Unless, as I suspect of some liberals from whom I often hear such concerns, you consider altruistic motive to be as, or more, important than beneficial outcome.

*[Sidenote: oppression to me is deliberate and only certain hunger in certain places has been imposed intentionally--other times it reflects incompetence more than ill will.]

Clay has a point (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=141932#poststop), I think. You're defining issues out of existence in seemingly arbitrary ways. I think "cartelization and price-fixing in the South Asian sugar and wheat market" may not be deliberately oppressive, but it is directly oppressive. If it represents a specific form of oppression, then I don't see how you can argue that it doesn't conform to the general definition, too. I understand your sidenote, but I don't fully agree; and even to the extent I do agree, I don't think it makes a difference.

It's fine, by the way, to assert that some arbitrary action is an "actual" solution to something; but much of the time, above a certain level of complexity, that's really pretty tendentious. Likewise the assertion of accrued benefit can be pretty controversial. In the absence of standards of absolute measurement, I think you have to weigh the details and the side issues to frame supportable value judgments.

JonIrenicus
12-08-2009, 09:53 PM
Agreed, although I tend to think that beating up on these hippie, New Left arguments is a bit of a weak man argument, or at least I would if I heard the same criticisms coming from someone who opposes both cap-and-trade and other measures like a carbon tax. Still, this was a very good discussion, and intracoalitional philosophical fights are both interesting and important. Thanks to nikkibong and hamandcheese.

I think there should be a debate between proponents of cap and trade vs a carbon tax.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l43JHQ5cqY

Don Zeko
12-08-2009, 10:07 PM
I agree! Well, I guess I super-duper-agree, because there really ought to be two arguments: whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade are preferable in an ideal or semi-ideal political system, and whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade would be preferable in the real world. Bloggingheads, get on this.

AemJeff
12-08-2009, 10:25 PM
I agree! Well, I guess I super-duper-agree, because there really ought to be two arguments: whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade are preferable in an ideal or semi-ideal political system, and whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade would be preferable in the real world. Bloggingheads, get on this.

Agreed, as well; though the premise that there's been a lack of debate on this seems pretty overwrought.

Don Zeko
12-08-2009, 10:35 PM
I took Jon to mean that there ought to be such a debate on bloggingheads, not that there ought to be a "debate" in the "national conversation about race" sense.

hamandcheese
12-08-2009, 11:22 PM
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090921
This is the issue with the rediculous "Food Democracy" slogans.

ex,
*Five leading figures of this country's food movement reflect on how food democracy can be achieved, here and now.
*School lunch reform is the best way to teach democratic values.
*People are beginning to understand the connection between our stomachs and our common destiny.

The one I mentioned directly was at
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090921/patel_et_al

Revelvant quote:
"At best, however, the first Green Revolution was an ambiguous success. As John Perkins writes in his magisterial Geopolitics and the Green Revolution, it was instigated by the US government not out of a direct concern for the well-being of the world's hungry but from a worry that a hungry urban poor might take to the streets and demand left-wing changes in the Global South."

I read The Nation now and then and usually enjoy the different perspectives. And the above quote could easily be completely accurate. Nevertheless, it striked me as being both desperate and irrelevant to any point the article was trying to make.

hamandcheese
12-09-2009, 12:01 AM
"By giving the world's poor somewhat easier access to cheaper food, the Green Revolution helped perpetuate the system that created the conditions of exploitation that made these people poor and hungry in the first place". I'm somewhat sympathetic to this view...

Yet that so called "condition of exploitation" was Indian Fabianism, not the laissez faire or das kapital. This is what I just don't get about this critique. The description of 'giving the poor just enough to keeped them lulled in their perpetual poverty' sounds, to me, less like a liberal economy and more like Venezeula.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Per_capita_GDP_of_South_Asian_economies_%26_S Korea_%281950-1995%29.png
Which counties seem the more repressed to you?

It reminds me of this bit I read in Zizek

That reminds me of my own pertinent Zizek anecdote, which further reminds me of why I like him so much. In a speech he gave to a hall full of marxists and socialists, besides lambasting them for their often nostaliga based political beliefs (aimed especially at the Chavistas in the room), he criticized the false dichotomy of incrementalism vs. dramatic social upheaval with the analogy of cow castration:

It doesn't matter much whether you cut the scrotum little by little or at one fell swoop, so long as one day the cow looks down and says "holy shit! where have my balls gone?" That is basically my stance as well.

kezboard
12-09-2009, 12:57 AM
Yet that so called "condition of exploitation" was Indian Fabianism, not the laissez faire or das kapital. This is what I just don't get about this critique. The description of 'giving the poor just enough to keeped them lulled in their perpetual poverty' sounds, to me, less like a liberal economy and more like Venezeula.

I wasn't really suggesting "the capitalist system" when I said the word "system", I was just suggesting whatever system it was that the US wanted to keep in place and make sure wasn't overthrown by Communists. The idea that the elites are keeping the population's desires/needs satisfied by throwing them little carrots so that they can tolerate the big stick can be applied to basically any situation and (in my opinion) is really just a cynical way of looking at social contracts, just or not. You could certainly say it about Venezuela. I was thinking about the eastern bloc during the 70s and 80s, where the social contract was essentially "We'll provide you with employment, housing, a certain amount of consumer goods, and relative social stability as long as you can deal with bureaucratic hassle, corruption, shortages, and you don't openly criticize the ridiculous old men who are running your country." You could characterize the US social contract as "We'll provide you with the opportunity to make a lot of money as long as you don't mind working all the damn time and having nothing to fall back on if it doesn't work out so well and you're not rich to begin with." Both of these characterizations are a gross oversimplification and don't have a lot to do with the way people actually navigate/navigated society, which is also what I think about the impression I got from the Nation article.

ETA: Oh right, Zizek. He certainly is good for an anecdote, although after the fifth little tale with the philosophical/absurd punchline, you want to throw the book across the room. I was afraid someone would bring up the New Republic criticism of Zizek that came out last year, which I thought was fairly annoying, although I also think Zizek is annoying, basically because of things like the George Soros bit I mentioned.

kezboard
12-09-2009, 01:13 AM
2. I think most problems are discrete, not systematic, and yet systematic approaches get a disproportionate level of attention in leftist thought.

I sort of disagree with that, but I don't think it's not a reasonable position to take. Let's be fair, though: systematic approaches get a disproportionate level of attention in leftist academia. Mainstream leftist politics, though, not so much. And it sort of makes sense that the academics would be the ones interested in the systematic approaches, because they're more abstract and theoretical, and that's what academics do. Problems of hunger, poverty, etc. are both abstract and systematic, and it seems to me that it's more a matter of temperament which way you're more likely to see them.

3. I don't think it matters much if you benefit from solving a problem or not, so long as you solve it.

Oh, I agree. As long as it actually gets solved, and it's not just that you've moved the goalposts.

popcorn_karate
12-09-2009, 01:29 PM
the strange fetish of many on the left and their greater concern about the state of nature over the state of man.

you fall into the same mental trap as they do, distinguishing "man" from "nature". we are nature. nature is us.

whether its naive hippies or christians, people need to get over the idea that we are not natural - we are not unnaturally malevolent nor unnaturally great, good and beyond "nature".

peace, love, and prosperity

PK

osmium
12-09-2009, 02:27 PM
Actually, my introduction to postmodern literature came through Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy in a postmodern Lit seminar. I'm not sure of how the Venn diagrams work - new novel, Freudian et al - but my first and enduring association with "postmodern" because of Robbe-Grillet is a painstaking empirical approach. How many banana trees? That spot on the wall? Honestly, I thought "postmodern" was another word for "pain in the ass"! The rest of this ideological baggage never convinced me that postmodern was as big a problem as its critics said it was.

Cool, I have never heard of it, I think. Perhaps I will read it. Pain in the ass sounds like an endorsement. :)

Ray
12-09-2009, 05:55 PM
he criticized the false dichotomy of incrementalism vs. dramatic social upheaval with the analogy of cow castration:

It doesn't matter much whether you cut the scrotum little by little or at one fell swoop, so long as one day the cow looks down and says "holy shit! where have my balls gone?" That is basically my stance as well.

Hmmm. You actually can't castrate a bull that way, so if Zizek was trying to say, 'be realistic!', with this metaphor, he missed his mark.

SkepticDoc
12-09-2009, 06:10 PM
It is hard to beat Mike Rowe's story... (http://fora.tv/2008/12/12/Mike_Rowe_on_Discovery_Realization_and_Lamb_Castra tion)

This link may work better:

http://fora.tv/2008/12/12/Mike_Rowe_on_Discovery_Realization_and_Lamb_Castra tion

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-09-2009, 07:07 PM
Clay has a point (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=141932#poststop), I think. You're defining issues out of existence in seemingly arbitrary ways. I think "cartelization and price-fixing in the South Asian sugar and wheat market" may not be deliberately oppressive, but it is directly oppressive. If it represents a specific form of oppression, then I don't see how you can argue that it doesn't conform to the general definition, too. I understand your sidenote, but I don't fully agree; and even to the extent I do agree, I don't think it makes a difference.

My point is, I tend to focus on the specific and immediate cause/link rather than the broader categories within which it exists. This is my approach to life. It is philosophically the opposite of postmodernism. If you're philosophically prone to think at the level of categories, you're probably more like the postmodernists than like me. It's a values/psychology thing. BUT (and this is the point I wanted to make in the DV) I do think my way has one objective merit--it's better at addressing the specific cause/link. And since most public policy is about the specific and immediate, I wish there weren't so many categorical thinkers influenced by postmodern thought in liberal policy circles.

It's fine, by the way, to assert that some arbitrary action is an "actual" solution to something; but much of the time, above a certain level of complexity, that's really pretty tendentious.

That seems to me to suggest that no 'somethings' can ever be solved because all solutions that aren't at a categorical level are just arbitrary actions whose impacts can't be proven. You may not mean this, but most postmodern-esque policy talk seems to mean it and that's what I find so frustrating.

AemJeff
12-09-2009, 08:27 PM
My point is, I tend to focus on the specific and immediate cause/link rather than the broader categories within which it exists. This is my approach to life. It is philosophically the opposite of postmodernism. If you're philosophically prone to think at the level of categories, you're probably more like the postmodernists than like me. It's a values/psychology thing. BUT (and this is the point I wanted to make in the DV) I do think my way has one objective merit--it's better at addressing the specific cause/link. And since most public policy is about the specific and immediate, I wish there weren't so many categorical thinkers influenced by postmodern thought in liberal policy circles.



That seems to me to suggest that no 'somethings' can ever be solved because all solutions that aren't at a categorical level are just arbitrary actions whose impacts can't be proven. You may not mean this, but most postmodern-esque policy talk seems to mean it and that's what I find so frustrating.

Just two points. Categorical thinking is synonymous with abstract thinking; and I'm not sure how you avoid that with anything above a certain scale.

To your second point: what I conclude is just that solving problems has an unavoidable political component. Things aren't so much arbitrary as they are matters of consensus. (Which isn't to say we should blithely accept the value of consensus solutions; just that that's the process by which such judgments are inevitably going to assigned.)

JonIrenicus
12-09-2009, 10:22 PM
you fall into the same mental trap as they do, distinguishing "man" from "nature". we are nature. nature is us.

whether its naive hippies or christians, people need to get over the idea that we are not natural - we are not unnaturally malevolent nor unnaturally great, good and beyond "nature".

peace, love, and prosperity

PK

In a way, I actually agree with that already. I don't think man made should be automatically placed into a separate category from the natural. A damn from a beaver is a result of nature just as a damn of man is. I do not think mankind is supernatural.

The problem arises when people place special negative meanings on human actions as opposed to everything else. (i.e. intolerable that cockroach X goes extinct due to mans expansion into some region as opposed to some other predator migrating to the region and out competing and sending it to oblivion.) There the same result is only BAD when a result of the actions of man. They are the ones who think man is separate and apart from nature, special (in the case of many environmentalists - specially EVIL and blight ridden). Though the counter is that man has free will, the capacity to over rule his nature to be more benign than his origins demand. Even if I agreed with that though on some level, we should still give weight to our own interests.

When I make the case for caring about the state of man more than the state of nature, I am not saying we are separate from nature, just that our concerns that relate to us directly should not take a back seat to preserve some non human natural order. That that is wholly natural, and ought to be given the same if not greater weight than competing concerns.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-10-2009, 01:31 AM
Just two points. Categorical thinking is synonymous with abstract thinking; and I'm not sure how you avoid that with anything above a certain scale.

Yes, but I think that scale starts pretty far up. Like say with such policy issues as abortion rights, I accept that abstract and categorical thinking will play a role in the process. But the kind of leftist thought I am railing against brings it to bear at every tier of the scale ladder. I'm rejecting that approach.

To your second point: what I conclude is just that solving problems has an unavoidable political component. Things aren't so much arbitrary as they are matters of consensus. (Which isn't to say we should blithely accept the value of consensus solutions; just that that's the process by which such judgments are inevitably going to assigned.)

I understand what you're saying but my concern is that in policymaking circles, time is limited. In a half hour discussion on some particular policy point, the post-modern thinkers in the room spend most of their talking minutes pointing out 'the nature of things' in the way you have just done without giving expression to any non-abstract, discrete, specific policy. So if you suggest a policy to them, they say, 'the nature of this policy, its underlying abstractions, are X, Y and Z." And you say, "hmm, thats interesting and maybe correct, but it doesn't tell me if you vote yay or nay on the policy."

Kez said earlier that this was characteristic just of liberal academe, not liberal policymakers. Sam responded best in the DV when he said the problem is that liberal academe which thinks in this not-conducive-to-policy-making-way has actually managed to impart its vocabulary and frame of reference to policymakers.

kezboard
12-10-2009, 05:55 AM
Do you think Zizek's ever seen a bull being castrated? Do they have a lot of bulls in Slovenia? One would assume so, being all Alpine and mountainous and everything.

rfrobison
12-12-2009, 04:04 AM
Awesome, guys.

Unit
12-13-2009, 07:14 PM
Hamandcheese is impressive for being just in high-school.

Don Zeko
12-14-2009, 02:01 AM
No; let's not be patronizing. Hamandcheese is impressive, and we are all doubly impressed because he is in High School.

AemJeff
12-14-2009, 11:53 AM
No; let's not be patronizing. Hamandcheese is impressive, and we are all doubly impressed because he is in High School.

Well said. He deserves to be judged on his merits. He's been at least as competent in this arena as any of us who have tried it.

Unit
12-15-2009, 12:56 AM
No; let's not be patronizing. Hamandcheese is impressive, and we are all doubly impressed because he is in High School.

I'm missing something. Was I patronizing?

Don Zeko
12-15-2009, 11:29 AM
Maybe I was misreading you, but I read your comment as saying that Hamandcheese was impressive in the diavlog because you wouldn't expect his level of fluency from a high school student, with the implication that he wouldn't be particularly impressive if he were older, and is simply benefitting from the fact that you were evaluating him on a curve.

Unit
12-15-2009, 08:10 PM
Maybe I was misreading you, but I read your comment as saying that Hamandcheese was impressive in the diavlog because you wouldn't expect his level of fluency from a high school student, with the implication that he wouldn't be particularly impressive if he were older, and is simply benefitting from the fact that you were evaluating him on a curve.

Nope, I'm just genuinely impressed. I was not that well-spoken in high-school.

Flaw
12-20-2009, 10:16 PM
HAMANDCHEESE; interesting guy.

I hope you do well.

JonIrenicus
12-20-2009, 11:18 PM
Nope, I'm just genuinely impressed. I was not that well-spoken in high-school.

He's just smart + mildly extroverted with his ideas. (pretty god damn rare)


Heavy on the first, light on the latter, you get a brooding introvert. Lighter on the first, heavier on the latter, you get a Sean Hannity.

PreppyMcPrepperson
12-21-2009, 10:49 AM
HAMANDCHEESE; interesting guy.

I hope you do well.

Seriously. I was bowled over talking to him. I interview teens for admission to my alma mater (http://brown.edu/) and I don't think I've had a kid who spoke like that in three rounds of interviews I've done.