“DISCOURSE ON THE ORIGIN AND BASIS OF INEQUALITY AMONG MEN” BY JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU

Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (French: Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes), also commonly known as the “Second Discourse“, is a work by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.Rousseau first exposes in this work his conception of a human state of nature, presented as a philosophical fiction (like by Thomas Hobbes, unlike by John Locke), and of human perfectibility, an early idea of progress. He then explains the way, according to him, people may have established civil society, which leads him to present private property as the original source and basis of all inequality.

Context

The text was written in 1754 in response to a prize competition of the Academy of Dijon answering the prompt: What is the origin of inequality among people, and is it authorized by natural law? Rousseau did not win with his treatise (as he had for the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences); a canon of Besançon by the name of François Xavier Talbert (l’abbé Talbert) did. Rousseau published the text in 1755.

Argument

Rousseau’s text is divided into four main parts: the dedication, the preface, an extended inquiry into the nature of the human being and another inquiry into the evolution of the human species within society. Also, there is an appendix that elaborates primarily on eighteenth century anthropological research throughout the text. Rousseau discusses two types of inequality: natural, or physical inequality, and ethical, or moral inequality. Natural inequality involves differences between one human’s body and that of another—it is a product of nature. Rousseau is not concerned with this type of inequality because he claims it is not the root of the inequality found in civil society. Instead, he argues moral inequality is unique to civil society and is evinced in differences in “wealth, nobility or rank, power and personal merit.” This type of inequality is established by convention. Rousseau appears to take a cynical view of civil society, where man has strayed from his “natural state” of individual independence and freedom to satisfy his individual needs and desires.

His discussion begins with an analysis of a natural man who bears, along with some developed animal species, instincts for self-preservation—a non-destructive love of self (amour de soi meme)—and a “natural repugnance” to suffering—a natural pity or compassion. Natural man acts only for his own sake and avoids conflicts with other animals (and humans). Rousseau’s natural man is more or less like any other animal, with “self-preservation being his chief and almost sole concern” and “the only goods he recognizes in the universe” being “food, a female, and sleep…” Rousseau’s man is a “savage” man. He is a loner and self-sufficient. Any battle or skirmish was only to protect himself. The natural man was in prime condition, fast, and strong, capable of caring for himself. He killed only for his own self-preservation.

Natural man’s anthropological distinction (from the animal kingdom) is based on his capacity for “perfectibility” and innate sense of his freedom. The former, although translated as “perfectibility,” has nothing to do with a drive for perfection or excellence, which might confuse it with virtue ethics. Instead, perfectibility describes how humans can learn by observing others. Since human being lacks reason, this is not a discursive reasoning, but more akin to the neurological account of mirror neurons. Human freedom does not mean the capacity to choose, which would require reason, but instead the ability to refrain from instinct. Only with such a capacity can humans acquire new habits and practices.

The most important feature of Rousseau’s natural man is that he lacks reason, in contrast to most of the Western intellectual tradition. Rousseau claims natural man does not possess reason or language (in which reason’s generation is rooted) or society—and these three things are mutually-conditioning, such that none can come into being without the others.

Rousseau’s natural man significantly differs from, and is a response to, that of Hobbes; Rousseau says as much at various points throughout his work. He thinks that Hobbes conflates human being in the state of nature with human being in civil society. Unlike Hobbes’s natural man, Rousseau’s is not motivated by fear of death because he cannot conceive of that end, thus fear of death already suggests a movement out of the state of nature. Also, this natural man, unlike Hobbes’s, is not in constant state of fear and anxiety. Rousseau’s natural man possesses a few qualities that allow him to distinguish himself from the animals over a long period of time.

The process by which natural man becomes civilized is uncertain in the Discourse, but it could have had two or three different causes. The most likely causes are environmental, such that humans came into closer proximity and began cohabitation, which in turn facilitated the development of reason and language. Equally, human “perfectibility” could explain this change in the nature of the human being. Rousseau is not really interested in explaining the development, but acknowledges its complexity.

What is important is that with primitive social existence (preceding civil society), humans gain a “love of well-being” (“amour propre”) and most of the rest of Rousseau’s account is based on this. Rousseau’s critique of civil society is primarily based on psychological features of civil man, with amour propre pushing individuals to compare themselves with others, to gain a sense of self corresponding to this, and to dissolve natural man’s natural pity.

The beginning of part two dramatically imagines some lone errant soul planting the stakes that first establish private property: “The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society”. But Rousseau then clarifies that this moment was presaged by a series of environmental and rational conditions that made it possible. For Rousseau, even the concept of private property required a series of other concepts in order to be formed.

More at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_on_Inequality

Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (French: Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes), also commonly known as the “Second Discourse”, is a work by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG
Share This Item

New film follows only bank charged after financial crisis (pbs.org)


A new documentary, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” tells the story of Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a small, family-run bank in New York City. Abacus was the only bank ­­in the U.S. to face criminal charges after the 2008 financial crisis. The film is scheduled to air later this year on the PBS program FRONTLINE. NewsHour Weekend’s Saskia de Melker talked to the film’s director, Steve James.

Share This Item

THE BELOVED COMMUNITY (THEKINGCENTER.ORG)

“The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. However, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning which has captured the imagination of people of goodwill all over the world.

For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.

Dr. King’s Beloved Community was not devoid of interpersonal, group or international conflict. Instead he recognized that conflict was an inevitable part of human experience. But he believed that conflicts could be resolved peacefully and adversaries could be reconciled through a mutual, determined commitment to nonviolence. No conflict, he believed, need erupt in violence. And all conflicts in The Beloved Community should end with reconciliation of adversaries cooperating together in a spirit of friendship and goodwill.

As early as 1956, Dr. King spoke of The Beloved Community as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts. As he said in a speech at a victory rally following the announcement of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court Decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery’s busses, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

An ardent student of the teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Dr. King was much impressed with the Mahatma’s befriending of his adversaries, most of whom professed profound admiration for Gandhi’s courage and intellect. Dr. King believed that the age-old tradition of hating one’s opponents was not only immoral, but bad strategy which perpetuated the cycle of revenge and retaliation. Only nonviolence, he believed, had the power to break the cycle of retributive violence and create lasting peace through reconciliation.

In a 1957 speech, Birth of A New Nation, Dr. King said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” A year later, in his first book Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King reiterated the importance of nonviolence in attaining The Beloved Community. In other words, our ultimate goal is integration, which is genuine inter-group and inter-personal living. Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the Beloved Community.

In his 1959 Sermon on Gandhi, Dr. King elaborated on the after-effects of choosing nonviolence over violence: “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, so that when the battle’s over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.” In the same sermon, he contrasted violent versus nonviolent resistance to oppression. “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”

The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love. Dr. King distinguished between three kinds of love:  eros, “a sort of aesthetic or romantic love”; philia, “affection between friends” and agape, which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” He said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”

In his 1963 sermon, Loving Your Enemies, published in his book, Strength to Love, Dr. King addressed the role of unconditional love in struggling for the beloved Community. ‘With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”

One expression of agape love in Dr. King’s Beloved Community is justice, not for any one oppressed group, but for all people. As Dr. King often said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He felt that justice could not be parceled out to individuals or groups, but was the birthright of every human being in the Beloved Community. I have fought too long hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concerns,” he said. “Justice is indivisible.”

In a July 13, 1966 article in Christian Century Magazine, Dr. King affirmed the ultimate goal inherent in the quest for the Beloved Community: “I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think that end of that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community”

In keeping with Dr. King’s teachings, The King Center embraces the conviction that the Beloved Community can be achieved through an unshakable commitment to nonviolence. We urge you to study Dr. King’s six principles and six steps of nonviolence, and make them a way life in your personal relationships, as well as a method for resolving social, economic and political conflicts, reconciling adversaries and advancing social change in your community, nation and world.

Share This Item

Emma Goldman on dancing and revolution

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
–attributed to Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869 – May 14, 1940) was an anarchist political activist and writer. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

Born in Kovno, Russian Empire (present-day Kaunas, Lithuania) to a Jewish family, Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885. Attracted to anarchism after the Haymarket affair, Goldman became a writer and a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women’s rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. She and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, her lover and lifelong friend, planned to assassinate industrialist and financier Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed. Frick survived the attempt on his life in 1892 and Berkman was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Goldman was imprisoned several times in the years that followed, for “inciting to riot” and illegally distributing information about birth control. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth.

In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to “induce persons not to register” for the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with hundreds of others—and deported to Russia. Initially supportive of that country’s October Revolution which brought the Bolsheviks to power, Goldman reversed her opinion in the wake of the Kronstadt rebellion and denounced the Soviet Union for its violent repression of independent voices. In 1923, she published a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia. While living in England, Canada, and France, she wrote an autobiography called Living My Life. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there. She died in Toronto on May 14, 1940, aged 70.

During her life, Goldman was lionized as a free-thinking “rebel woman” by admirers, and denounced by detractors as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality. Although she distanced herself from first-wave feminism and its efforts toward women’s suffrage, she developed new ways of incorporating gender politics into anarchism. After decades of obscurity, Goldman gained iconic status by a revival of interest in her life in the 1970s, when feminist and anarchist scholars rekindled popular interest.

More at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Goldman

Share This Item

“About that $200,000 . . .” by Steve Martinot

About that $200,000 …

In my recent article, “Ideology vs. Housing” (available at http://tinyurl.com/yaygrgru), I recommended setting the “in-lieu” mitigation fee on new housing developments at the monstrous sum of $200,000. This suggestion has been received, I might say, with a bit of skepticism.

This mitigation fee, I remind, is a fee a developer would have to pay (per unit) should it decide not to fulfill its agreement to make an agreed-upon unit affordable. “Affordable,” in HUD’s technical use of that term, means that the unit rents for no more than 30% of the tenant’s income. That is what “affordability” means.

The city is attempting to fool people about this by substituting the term “Below Market Rate” (BMR) for housing, which sets rent at a percentage (defined by means of complex tables) below “market rate,” but considerably higher than 30% of income. Thus, the city toadies to developers’ priority relation to a market rather than to its own residents’ needs. Accept no substitutes!

Right now, the mitigation fee is set at $34,000. Resistance to setting a humongous mitigation fee comes in three modes. One holds that the fee should be higher (maybe $45,000) because Berkeley is a prime place to build. A second holds that “we need more housing,” so we should not chase developers away (the position I critique in “Ideology vs. Housing”). A third says that we need new developments to pay into the Housing Trust Fund so the city can build affordable housing. Of course, there’s a fourth skepticism that simply says the super-high fee is “unrealistic.”

The three serious objections are all (ho-hum) tied to developer interests. The fourth forgets that, though there may be only one reality, there are many realisms, especially in a class and racially hierarchized society.

The real issue

All these skepticisms about the $200,000 mitigation fee leave out the central political issue: responsibility. The city has a responsibility to protect its residents and constituents from being forced out of their homes and out of town. The reason there is a crisis is that thousands of people are being forced out of their homes by rent increases, and can’t find housing they can afford any more. That is the problem, and building more housing they can’t afford will not help them. We have a responsibility to protect people who belong to our city, and we have government founded on the premise that that is the way to do it (as opposed to vigilanteism or dictatorship). How to get housing that is affordable to those being displaced is the substance of that responsibility. All perspectives that begin with how the city should deal with developers (tacking a few affordable units onto their buildings) is ancillary to its fulfillment of that responsibility.

Here’s the kicker. The city has already fulfilled its market rate housing requirement under Plan Bay Area. It now has no excuse for not prioritizing its responsibility to its own residents and constituents. If it has fulfilled its responsibility to the high income people coming in from the suburbs and pushing up rent levels beyond resident affordability, it can now demand development that is 100% affordable. That would be a serious focus on its responsibility for its own residents.

That means finding developers who agree to build 100% affordable, and insist on conditions that will hold them to that, and make it hard for them to then buy their way out of their agreement. That is the meaning of the $200,000 mitigation fee.

It is a way of holding developers to their promise to build affordable units. In that respect, it is not an added expense because they do not have to pay the fee if they actually build affordable units.

If the large mitigation fee chases for-profit developers away, then the land can be used for non-profit development of housing that can be rented for 30% of a tenant’s income.

The urgency to provide for present city residents who are being expelled economically from the city is such that a moratorium on market rate “unaffordable” housing is necessary. This large mitigation fee would in effect be such a moratorium.

To reject the $200,000 mitigation fee because it would chase away developers is to fall prey to the idea that only for-profit developers can build the housing we need. Not only does that abandon the people being displaced, and abandon this city’s responsibility to them, it betrays the city’s responsibility to its own people by proclaiming that is has a responsibility to fulfill the profit desires of developers. Wrong responsibility.

The city’s responsibility is our responsibility. If the city represents us by acting to fulfill the profit desires of development corporations, that means we are the one’s supporting the private profitability of those corporations. We are being led down a proverbial “garden path.”

There are some serious issues we need to organize around and against in all this.

–Steve Martinot

Share This Item

The Political Revolution Now – Hon. Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator – The Peoples Summit 2017


Senator Bernie Sanders speaks about the Political Revolution now (about one hour in).

“Bernie Sanders’ speech at the People’s Summit in Chicago on Saturday will mark a “turning point” for the political revolution he inspired, according to the organizers behind the three-day activist event.” The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2…

This is a hosted re-stream. Source stream provided by The Peoples Summit.
Livestream Central for TPL2017 https://www.pplsummit.org/
Main Website https://www.thepeoplessummit.org/

Share This Item

“Bottom Up Show” Rob Kall with Greg Palast


A 70+ minute wide ranging interview with BBC, Guardian, Rolling Stone Investigative Reporter Greg Palast explores how Trump stole the election, how the process is going to be worse with Trump’s new “Election Integrity” appointee.

Check out more Rob Kall Bottom Up Show interviews at opednews.com/podcasts or on iTunes.

Bob of Occupy:

This is an interview with Greg Palast who wrote The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, an investigative reporter heads about our lame stream news variety.

In recent years our paper ballot has been eliminated and computer voting put in its place, a technology “made for” hacking. Palast talks about this but more importantly about a system of James Crow type removal from the election rolls of votes of individuals likely to vote independently of the established ranks (Think Bernie Sanders).

Part of the apathy and/or anger and frustration with electoral politics in the present day US is the reality that the “fix is in”. Understanding how this is being done under our noses is a first step to stomping on the thieving hands of the perpetrators. Knowing their games put us back in the position of securing free, open, and honest elections.

Share This Item

“Insert cuss words here!” (from Mike Zint)

Insert cuss words here! WTF are they doing. I received zero money from the city. Hell, they won’t even pay me for what they stole.

This document is amusing: it claims that $10,000 was allocated to First They Came for the Homeless in the 2017 fiscal year. (It also claims $10K was allocated to YSA for its Tiny Homes Project).

You can find it on starting on page 252 of the Berkeley Budget PDF, here:

http://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/FY%202018%20%20FY%202019%2…

Share This Item

“YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR: IF MONEY IS SPEECH, CAN DEMOCRACY WORK?” by Chris Gray

June 5, 2017 (occupy.com)

Now that a certain sort of plutocrat sits at the apex of American power surrounded by well-to-do courtiers, this might be a good time to revive an unsettling question: Does the U.S. have a political system or a political marketplace?

The Supreme Court provided its take with the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums on political activities that don’t involve direct contributions to candidates. That ruling was vindication for columnist George F. Will, who as a prominent exponent of money as speech argues that limits on campaign contributions amount to constraints on First Amendment rights and foster a kind of partisan protectionism:

“Reformers and their allies in government will always favor laws that ration the quantity and regulate the timing and content of political speech,” write Will. “Such speech is the means for peacefully changing those who run the government. Because incumbent protection is the common denominator of all such laws, they invariably are forms of what they ostensibly combat: corruption.”

A common denominator, perhaps, but not the only denominator. Like many laws that bend public policy toward private advantage, campaign-finance laws also address what reasonable people regard as a legitimate concern: whether largely unlimited spending tilts the political playing field toward outcomes that are undemocratic, and whether those outcomes exacerbate inequalities that further tilt the field, in a self-reinforcing cycle of economic inequality begetting political inequality begetting economic inequality.

Rather like the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board decision, which concluded that separate is inherently unequal, political philosophers, the Framers included, have long understood that unequal can become inherently undemocratic. The Federalist Papers – in which Madison and Hamilton promoted the proposed Constitution and explained the reasoning undergirding it – don’t address corporate campaign spending, a concept unknown in the 1780s. But they do address the problem of abusive minorities, a core objection to unlimited campaign contributions by powerful interests.

Republics, they held, are vulnerable to two types of “tyranny”: powerful minorities that defy majority will, and despotic majorities that threaten minority rights. The first problem is supposed to be the easiest to solve. Indeed, it solves itself if things work as advertised: The minority simply gets outvoted.

Majority tyranny is a trickier proposition. The Framers worried that a propertyless majority would threaten, even if democratically, the rights of the propertied minority, just as conservatives lament the majoritarian impulse that produced the progressive income tax, affirmative action and other policies they see as affronts to individual freedom. The conundrum: While we generally want the majority to rule, we also want basic rights put “beyond the reach of majorities,” as Justice Robert Jackson famously put it.

This is a good point to recall the “popular sovereignty” movement of the mid-19th century, which regarded the legality of slavery as an open question to be settled by voters – rather like, as an old joke goes, three wolves and two sheep voting on what they’ll have for dinner. Majority rule can be a capricious beast, which explains the complexity that characterizes Constitutional government.

But look what the logic of Citizens United does: It reopens the minority problem. If money is speech, and wide disparities in wealth are not just inevitable but virtuous, then some groups will always have more speech than others. One can argue that an intense minority should trump a weak or indifferent majority, but given the often dispositive role of money, are we talking about intensity of preference or intensity of dollars? And if dollars are speech that should be dispositive, why restrain even direct contributions, as Citizens United does?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia described opposition to campaign-finance then as the facile assertion that there is “too much speech.” This is a red herring. Speech itself is not the problem; the imbalance of influence is the problem. Speech and influence are two different things: You can wield a lot of influence while exercising nothing anyone would recognize as speech (outside the self-validating claim that money is speech), and you can engage in lot of speech that has little influence. Thus, a challenge to the ideal of majority rule: If money is speech is influence, the minority is not only assured of prevailing. It’s supposed to prevail.

“The notion that money is equivalent to speech is something of a mistaken analogy,” says University of California political scientist Benjamin Bishin, who has written on the impact of powerful minorities. “It strikes me that money more closely equates to volume of speech, and to the extent that money is used to drown out the views of others, then it infringes on others’ fundamental rights as well.”

We don’t need to search hard for egregious examples of loud minorities flouting majority will: The best example might be the healthcare industry’s long, successful fight against government-guaranteed access to healthcare, even as large majorities consistently back the idea. The work of scholars such as Larry BartelsMartin Gilens and Benjamin Page, among others, documents that affluent minorities routinely prevail over less-affluent majorities.

This is not the sort of democracy the Framers had in mind, but if there is no distinction between private wealth and political influence, it’s the sort we’d better get used to.

Follow the author @CgayNYC.

Share This Item

The PEOPLE’S SUMMIT 2017

https://www.thepeoplessummit.org/

The People’s Summit
June 9 – 11, 2017
McCormick Place • Chicago, IL

The People’s Summit is an annual conference in Chicago held by a group of progressive political organizations in the United States, led by National Nurses United and The People for Bernie Sanders. Other groups involved in organizing this conference include Democratic Socialists of America, Food & Water Watch, Our Revolution, People Demanding Action, People’s Action, Progressive Democrats of America. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Summit

Share This Item