This long and thoughtful article is highly recommended. There is an interesting introduction – a nicely condensed look at evolutionary psychology – which I think blows up Rousseau’s “state of nature/innocence of man/blank slate” argument in favor of Hobbes’ “nature red in tooth and claw” view. This is deftly applied to the implied question in its title: Social justice as social leverage.
That could have been “Utopian Scheming as a Dominance Strategy.” Utopia depends on the blank slate model of human cognition.
I’ve picked one paragraph in order to relate it to quotes from Raymond Aron, Milton Friedman, and Robert Heinlein:
But social justice as status-and-social-leverage is driven towards blank-slate claims. For the less constrained by underlying structures—such as innate human cognitive traits—the grander the imagined social justice future can be. So the more rhetorically dominant its claims can be. The more motivating its aspirations can be.
The more control must be given to a centralized arbiter of truth.
The key element here is the blank-slate Rousseauian – “humans are innately good and it is civilization that is destructive” assumption, vs the Hobbesian – “humans are innately self-centered, because in raw nature lives are nasty, brutish, and short.” Rousseau is often contrasted as an optimist with Hobbes cast as pessimist. I don’t understand why Rousseau is considered an optimist, since return to “state of nature” would be a mass extinction event for humans. Then again, that implicates mainstream Green thinking.
If Rousseau is right, the future depends entirely on how that blank slate human mind is conditioned. It is not difficult to see how proponents of Critical Race Theory and Transgender Activists insist their ideas be taught in K-12. And it is easy to see why they want this kept secret from parents.
A fundamental transformation of culture requires new language, suppression of speech, and erasure of opponents. A recent example is the attempt by the Ontario College of Psychologists to compel his attendance at a re-education camp. The threat for non-compliance is suspension of his license as a clinical psychologist.
Consequences that flow from the Rousseau/Hobbes debate over human nature underlie the following:
“The [classical] liberal believes in the permanence of humanity’s imperfection, he resigns himself to a regime in which the good will be the result of numberless actions, and never the object of a conscious choice. Finally, he subscribes to the pessimism that sees in politics the art of creating the conditions in which the vices of men will contribute to the good of society.”
Hat tip Powerline
Aron, a PhD in the philosophy of history, was a historian, journalist, philosopher, and political scientist. A stellar example of French intellectualism for much of the twentieth century.
You can detect Adam Smith in “in which the good will be the result of numberless actions.”
Which gives us a segue to economist Milton Friedman, who echoed Aron’s sentiment:
“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”
We are not blank slates, or we would by now have only good men to elect in the goodthink utopia in which we would already live.
Granted, the Hobbes/Rousseau debate is not strictly binary. Of course we learn things from our culture and experiences, and we use those things to inform a spectrum of political opinion. Underlying that spectrum though, is a basic binary choice. Robert Heinlein:
Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”
In closing, I’ll give another nod to Heinlein describing the consequences of the hive mind necessary to any Utopia, where freedom of thought cannot be allowed:
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”