How can this be justified?

Kelley kelley@interpactinc.com
Mon, 01 Oct 2001 16:06:37 -0400


11:07 AM 10/1/01 -0700, John Hall wrote:
> >
> > >Not really.  It was Kant, who came later, that did that.  It
> > has since
> > >been incorporated into Supreme Court Jurisprudence.
> >
> >
> > See
> >
> > James Madison's explications behind his reasons for constructing the
> > _entire_ system of the government the way he did.
>
>Or see his opposition to allowing foreign trade in all ports, rather
>than particular ones.  Letting people do what they want and getting rich
>has been seen as a problem from Plato through Madison and Jefferson and
>on up to Lincoln.

i know how this is related, but you're making some big hops around the 
hopscotch board there pardner.  i quoted Smith's solution to the problem 
that he saw at the time, an answer he conceived in the 1750s: in 
government, the focus on the means, on the mechanics of government, on 
developing scientific algorithms (he thought) would work as checks and 
balances on competing factions that sought their respective ends in the 
political forum. He was rejecting what Jeff was rejecting, though he never 
used the word ideology. However, The Wealth of Nations was a diatribe 
against mercantalists' ideologies, as i'm sure you know. [1]


>It even pays to be careful about the words.  When Lincoln said "Free
>Labor" he didn't mean what the Libertarians mean when they use the
>phrase.

are you calling me a libertarian?  ya smilin' when ya say that? :)


>See Democracy's Discontent: American in Search of a Public Philosophy
>('98 Sandel).



:) I actually know the guy. This whole strain of thought was central to my 
work in grad school at the Center for the Study of Citizenship. We hosted 
folks like Sandel, Alan Wolfe, Harry Boyte etc., etc. to speak to these 
topics. Some of my research, subsequently, had much to do with the issues 
in the context of "new social movements" such as responses to plant 
closings and a fight against the attempts by the state to site a 
radioactive waste dump in same economically depressed communities. I asked: 
in what ways are communities attempting to struggle against the colonizing 
forces of both the market and the state by drawing on the resources they 
find in civil society?

If you cite Sandel, then surely you should see exactly what I'm getting at. 
There were certainly competing strains of political and civic thought over 
two centuries ago, but one became what Robert Bellah et al call our "first 
language of individualism" (utilitarian and expressive individualism; 
Jeff's views are aligned) and "republican and biblical individualism" which 
is our second, less dominant (and often sneered at) "second language of 
individualism".  People like Sandel, Bellah, Wolfe, Etzioni, etc are trying 
to figure out how to reinvigorate communitarian associational life, much 
admired by Smith in A Theory of Moral Sentiments. For Smith, the market 
could only work well if people pursued self interest _in_ the market. But 
that kind of moral logic (yes, I think individualism and the logic of the 
market are moral logics) needed to be tempered by the rather different 
moral logics which Smith called "sentiments" and "sympathies" cultivated in 
civil society.

Communitarian thinkers such as Sandel see the first language of 
individualism, associated with the discourses of market calculation and 
state power, as colonizing (and sapping) our capacity for sustained 
discussion on the meaning of the good life and how we ought to live our 
collective lives together.  The latter are better articulated in terms of 
the second language of individualism: civic and biblical individualism.

"American cultural traditions define personality, achievement, and the 
purpose of human life in ways that leave the individual suspended in 
glorious, but terrifying isolation. These are limitations of our culture, 
of the categories and ways of thinking we have inherited, not limitations 
of individuals. ... Whether chiefly concerned with private or public life, 
Americans are often deeply involved in caring for others. ... Yet, when we 
use the moral discourse we share, what we call the first language of 
individualism, we have difficulty articulating the richness of our 
commitments. In the language we use, our lives sound more isolated and 
arbitrary than they actually are." (adapted from Robert Bellah et, Habits 
of the Heart, p 6, 20)

Where Bellah et al are worried about moral relativism and excessive 
individualism, Alan Wolfe revisits their research and argues that it ain't 
so bleak in _One Nation, After All_.


kelley



[1] yes, the founders were deeply afraid of the influence of factionalism 
and worried that our republic would falter. one work around was to consign 
morality and concern about the good life to the home (in the care of women) 
and in the associational life of civil society. Men would return from the 
fatiques of factionalism to  have their brows soothed by the wives who 
would exert their moralizing influence.  yadda. refs if ya want 'em. i'm 
going to catch a power nap! :)

Robert Bellah: http://hirr.hartsem.edu/Bellah/

Alan Wolfe: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/w/wolfe-nation.html (first 
chapter)
http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/08/reviews/980308.08staplet.html (review)