Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some notes on Hirst

Modern Western states are narrowly plebiscitarian "democracies" (cf. Schumpeter) wherein elites espouse roughly the same economic ideas (cf., say, Poulantzas).

Materialism -- the kind which involves having swimming pools and special shoes -- is the dominant but unsatisfying ideology (cf. Habermas on civil privatism and familial-vocational privatism. Fatalism and an orientation towards immediate gratification for low- and high-income demographics, acquisitive abstinence for the middle. Cf. food).

Social theory is attenuated. Your options are: postmodern ironism, rationalism / game theory, or a metadiscourse of concern for academic enquiry as such (wherein falls Political Sociology. The compulsory mixture of analytic and contintental styles creates a huge burden for a kid who is trying to trace connections between ideas simultaneously with interventions among authors. It does seem to force you into a historical narrative to resolve it all though). A retreat, anyway, from social generality into issue-specificity / identity-centrism.

Can we reason from existing institutions? Cf. Habermas on democratic incrementalism.

Associative democracy -- a third way between collectivist state socialism & laissez faire capitalism.

Contra utopianism:
  • Marxism's ideal of a stateless society without a complex division of labour is an unattainable "institutionlessism" which legitimated brutality as pragmatism, so.
  • Modern laissez-faire ignores issues of governance and institutions to purify markets ... its foci imaginarii is a social order sustained exclusively by production and transaction.
So far, not that far from the spirit of Keynes, Fordism and embedded liberalism. Why did this break down? Cf. Streeck.

Prevailing forms of governance are difficult to apply to de facto social conditions. One of associative democracy's strengths is to generate standards, not just coordinate action (cf. of course communicative reason vs. steering media).

The prevalent methods of governance are:
(1) hierarchy and imperative
(2) exchange and contract
(3) bargaining and deliberation

Central planning suffers where product mixes change rapidly and there is an emphasis on customization. We see a drive towards decentralisation, devolution and complex, multi-centred methods of monitoring product quality and productive performance.

The collapse of state socialism is connected with central planning's failure to address the increasing complexity and localization of social action. The audit explosion originated in the imperative first to protect then to replace administrative coordination of action.

Modern capitalism diverges from perfect competition inasmuch as it is characterised by large corporations, complex division of labour. Cf. "natural monopolies," monopolistic and oligopolistic competition & Habermas's "great concerns."

Weakly regulated markets are not always prosperous and efficient (let alone substantively egalitarian). With the marketization of labour, certain costs of social stabilisation are transferred to the state in the form of income maintenance, retraining etc. Typically the state has also been obliged to set up a powerful bureaucracy to counteract the very incentive structure created in these activities, policing illegitimate use of benefits and politely coercing the unemployed into seizing undesired opportunities. Streeck argues that the costs proliferate even into the category of biological reproduction, as "flexible" and uncertain work disincentivises child birth in key demographics. The structure of familial-vocational privatism coexists with a new ideology combining achievement orientation in the vocational dimension with fatalism in the familial.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chantal Mouffe on citizenship

"Modern citizenship was formulated in a way that played a crucial role in the emergence of modern democracy. But it has become an obstacle to making it wider and more pluralistic." Postmodern citizenship: acknowledging the particular, the heterogeneous and the multiple.

What is it to be a citizen in a pluralistic society? How can individual and political liberty be reconciled? How many different communities can be accommodated in the political community? What conception of social justice will regulate their claims?

Liberal view of citizen as bearer of rights is inadequate.

Communitarians (Sandal) vs. liberals (Rawls) debate: "civic republican" idea of citizenship.

Civic activity, public spiritness and political participation in a community of equals: since the C19th, seen by liberalism as pre-modern or dangerous ("common good" implies totalitarianism: cf. Hayek). The "liberties of the moderns" require the renunciation of the "liberties of the ancients" (cf. Constant, & Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty). Indeed some civic republicanists do want to renounce pluralism in the name of a substantive idea of the common good -- v. dangerous obv.

Skinner: synthesises individual & political liberty. Idea of a common good is a necessary condition for the enjoyment of individual liberty. Cf. Habermas.

"The defence of pluralism, the emergence of the individual, the separation of church and state, and the development of civil society, are all crucial elements of modern democracy. They require that we distinguish today between the domain of the private and the domain of the public, the realm of morality and the realm of politics. As a consequence, the common good cannot be conceived of in a way that implies the acceptance of one single substantive idea of the good life in all fields of society. It must be understood to refer exclusively to to the shared political ends of a democratic political community, i.e. the principles of freedom and equality for all. Citizenship concerns the way those principles are embodied in different institutions and practices, the way the political community is constructed."

Common good never actualised. Always debate over exact nature of citizenship.

Hurd's citizenship: voluntary acts of moral responsibility; privatised conception of citizenship that whisks away the notion of political community.

Democratic citizenship could provide the organising principle of a new politics of the left.

Feminist critique: Pateman. Generality and homogeneity of public sphere based on exclusion of women.

Transformation of public/private distinction so as not to relegate all plurality, all difference to the private?

New rights being claimed by women or ethnic minorities cannot be universalised? Expressions of specific needs which should be granted only to particular communities? (Cf. rule of law, decisionism).

Citizenship and social justice

Rawls' distributive justice. Defence of individual liberty, commitment to equality. Does not necessitate private property in the means of production (unlike Hayek and Nozick?). Citizenship as capacity to form, pursue & revise conceptions of the good (cf. autonomy). No place for community: precludes conceptions of the good life in which it is necessary to join with others beyond contract.

Walzer (Spheres of Justice) idea of justice. Egalitarian ideal not "simple equality" but "complex equality" -- diff. social goods distributed in accordance with a variety of criteria reflecting diversity of these goods and their social meanings. Different spheres of justice & different distributive principles: free exchange and need.

Democratic and pluralistic citizenship

Reverse-engineer concept of citizenship from democratic demands found in a variety of movements.

Democratic rights.

Welfare benefits shifted from assistance to the rights of citizenship.

E.g.: universal grants.

"A pluralistic and democratic citizenship is not concerned with indivudal questions of morality but with our obligations as fellow members of a political community"