POLS 373 Foundations of Global Politics People, Households,and the World Lecture 2, Sept. 29, 2005
People, Households and the WorldMain Points • First the authors want to show us how traditional conceptions of the so-called liberal individual lead us to think we are largely powerless to affect the world. • Second, they want to show us that the liberal understanding of individuals is only one way—and not necessarily the correct way—to define individuals and society. Indeed, the authors argue that the liberal view of the individual is fundamentally wrong.
People, Households and the WorldMain Points • Consider the famous phrase: • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
People, Households and the WorldMain Points • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” • The authorswouldn’t dispute the importance of these words, but they do dispute an unstated assumption, which is that people are not essentially born with the liberal values encapsulated in those famous words.
People, Households and the World • Speaking of liberalism … • What is a liberal?
People, Households and the World • General points about liberalism • First, meaning of the term as used by authors and in this class is distinct from popular usage in contemporary American politics. Authors are referring to the classical conception of liberalism • Liberalism is extremely broad concept • Classical liberalism is the foundation of Western society, and has been so for a very long time. It is, moreover, becoming the foundation of global society, although this is still being contested (very much today). For example, the struggle between Islam and the West, in an important respect, is a struggle between Islamic values and Liberal values
People, Households and the World • One definition of liberalism • Liberalism, to put it in the simplest terms, is respect for and recognition of individual rights, or as one scholar puts it, “It is a philosophy based on a belief in the ultimate value of individual liberty and the possibility of human progress. Liberalism speaks the language of rationality, moral autonomy, human rights, democracy, opportunity, and choice, and is founded upon a commitment to principles of liberty and equality, justified in the name of individuality and rationality. Politically this translates into support for limited government and political pluralism”
People, Households and the World • Social Individual • “People are born into their social situations, and, for the most part, every social individual develops as a result of interactions with other social individuals, especially those who are older, more authoritative, more powerful, and—usually, but not always—parents ….Ultimately we are who we are not because of our beliefs, actions, and self-ascribed ‘identities,’ but by virtue of our being embedded in webs of social relations that constitute that sense of self and those identities. The fully autonomous and atomized individual … is not a human being except in the legal sense; we become and remain human by virtue of our sociality” (pp. 20-21)
People, Households and the World • Social Individual and the Household • The social individual is important, but the fundamental unit of the society, of global politics, is … • The Household
People, Households and the WorldThe Household • As a political institution, the organization of the family not only reflects dominant relations of power in society, but also helps to maintain and reproduce those dominant relations. • To illustrate this point, consider the emergence and development of nuclear family in post-WWII America …
People, Households and the WorldThe Household • …the family represented in Leave it to Beaver
People, Households and the WorldThe Household • This particular form of a household served several important functions in American society at the time: • Helped to reinforce patriarchical dominance and authority (by idealizing a single-wage earning family, led by the husband, it left women in an economically vulnerable position) • Helped to ensure economic expansion by pumping up consumer demand for everything from houses, to cars, to tvs, to small appliances. • Helped to subsidize economic growth by providing a huge source of unpaid labor (i.e., the work of mothers and wives)
People, Households and the WorldThe Household • How does all this talk about social individual, households, and Leave it to Beaver relate to global politics? Does it? • To answer this question we need to know how we, as social individuals and members of households, fit into global politics and the world economy.
People, Households and the WorldIndividuals, Households and the World • … and to figure out where we fit in, we need to abandon the idea that we are merely individuals. Why? • Because liberalism tells us that are no more than a single actor in a vast, increasingly growing marketplace.
People, Households and the WorldLiberalism and the World • In this sense, traditional liberal theory tells us, albeit implicitly, that there’s not much point in our thinking about where we fit into a larger system or structure. Instead, it is enough to be good consumers and good voters, for, as liberals suggest, as long as we have the “freedom” to choose among products and candidates, everything else will take care of itself.
People, Households and the WorldLiberals and the World • To understand the liberal position, you need to know that liberalism assumes that society as such doesn’t exist; it is simply an aggregation of individuals and the choices they make—in other words, societies don’t make individuals, individuals make society.
People, Households and the WorldLiberals and the World • “I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. 'I have a problem, I'll get a grant.' 'I'm homeless, the government must house me.' They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbor. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.” (Prime minister Margaret Thatcher, talking to Women's Own magazine, October 3, 1987)
People, Households and the WorldWhere do we fit in? • The first step in understanding how we, as social individuals and members of households, fit into global politics and the world economy, is to become aware of how we fit into this larger context—that is, we need to understand what our roles are and how are roles have been defined (for us). And, to repeat, our roles--as households--are essential to the global economy. • Increased awareness will, the authors argue, “open up new possibilities for action and autonomy.” Indeed one of the biggest obstacles we face is simply that we do not believe we, as individuals, have the capacity or even the right to affect the world
People, Households and the WorldWhere do we fit in? • Second step is embrace our emotions, to not treat them as dangers to the political order, but as essential to political freedom. • Okay. But this sounds pretty touchy-feely to me …
People, Households and the WorldWhere do we fit in? • Why is embracing our emotions important? • Emotion is important because it is often the basis for social action and unity, and it is only through unity that significant change is possible.
People, Households and the WorldWhere do we fit in? • http://www.meetwithcindy.org/gsfp/GS05-107.mov