Force and Resistance

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2 Responses

  1. This comes down again to the difference a focus on rules and values. Words are always value laden: we use terms that support in rhetoric the role we wish to imagine we’re playing in society at any given time. The police use the terminology of force, even when the force is later found to be inappropriate. Others will use the term ‘violence’ regardless of context. More than anything its important that people who use force have a moral understanding of its role as violence. At the same time, those who imagine an ideal of themselves under ideal circumstances as ‘free’ should pay more attention to whether or not that’s even possible.

    One of the limitations of liberalism as theory, rather than as documented behavior, is the focus on imagining ourselves as individuals in relation to rules rather than on how we actually constitute ourselves as communities based on obligation. Obligations are foundational -not rules- because they’re always conflicting but not mutually exclusive. You have obligations to family, to friends, to spouse as opposed to parents, to the community, as represented by government and not.

    Liberalism spends too much time trying to resolve contradictions that can’t be resolved and trying to imagine boxes with hard walls where in daily life those walls are permeable membranes of various density. Laws are hard walls, in society and language, placed at approximate points for concrete purposes. They’re vulgar oversimplifications: blunt instruments. We shouldn’t imagine blunt instruments as ideal or ourselves as no more than the servants of blunt instruments any more than we should imagine ourselves as blunt instruments.

    As to violence and coercion if you ignore the terminology of resistance, that can lead to the situation where you might consider legal action against an aggressive seducer who preys on weak-willed women. And if you mandate that resistance be the measure than what do you say to a woman who was criminally blackmailed into unwanted sexual activity?

    You can’t mandate maturity, but you can foster it, and specialization does the opposite, As words and ideas have rhetorical direction, a preference for methodological individualism has moved us towards political individualism as much as water moves downhill, and political individualists are specialists in nothing but themselves.

  2. Just to add: why would man the rule maker/follower ever create a fictional character like the Joker? And why would his “gleeful nihilism” as you describe it here be seen as in any way compelling? The answer would have to have something to do with the unresolved tensions among our various desires and obligations, which laws less do less to resolve than paper over.

    I’m only writing all this because my background is with ideas as understood in literature not analytic philosophy, and law as dealt with by the ACLU not the academy; by which logic Rawls and Cohen are seen less as opposed than as related in their academic interest in rationalism and rules rather than experience. Both, seen from outside their little worlds are a bit silly.