Archives for Mar,2017

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Mar 23

HAVING TO BE WHAT WE CANNOT BE

My research project Other People’s Struggles is concerned with the participation of non-beneficiaries – or ‘adherents’, as I term them – in social movements. One of its central questions is whether it has got harder for adherents to participate, or whether it has always been problematic, in certain kinds of struggle, for non-beneficiaries to participate in the same way as beneficiaries. Part of a possible answer concerns changing attitudes on the part of the beneficiaries. Perhaps there are certain ways in which they no longer wish to be helped in their struggles. But change may also have occurred among the adherents themselves.

My explanation of adherence rests on the part played by conscience and ‘disjoint norms of service’ – i.e. expectations that ‘some people’ ought to help ‘others’ – as a motivation. So the question becomes whether these norms and motivations have changed over time.  Conscience is a very peculiar motive which has not been given the attention it deserves, notably because explanations tend to start and finish with rationally self-interested actors. It has its own history and genealogy. So it is a plausible hypothesis that it has changed.

In this chapter, I make some conjectures, informed by the theory and case studies of Other People’s Struggles, about how the norms and motivations have changed over time.   The main proposal is that  the contemporary dilemma is characterised by three elements in tension: (1) an undiminished expectation that ‘we’ ought to side with ‘others’ in their struggles; (2) diminished ‘privilege’; and (3) new requirements for ‘self-actualisation’.  These produce the dilemma that the contemporary adherent ‘has to be what she cannot be’.

JEAN-BAPTISTE-CAMILLE COROT (1796–1875), LE BOIS DE L’HERMITE, OU LES BORDS DU LAC TRASIMÈNE (THE HERMIT’S WOODS, OR THE BANKS OF LAKE TRASIMÈNE) CLICHÉ-VERRE (SALTED PAPER PRINT) (1858).

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Mar 22

ADHERENCE AND AMBIVALENCE

One of the cases I examine in Other People’s Struggles, my research project on the participation of outsiders in social movements – or ‘adherents’ as I term them –  concerns Victorian socialists and their disagreements over how far a middle or upper-class socialist needed to alter they way he or she lived in order to be a good socialist. This is a dimension of early British socialism that, so far as I am aware, no one has systematically examined. My cases included Edward Carpenter, William Morris, the Webbs, Belfort Bax and Bernard Shaw. I thought of including oscar wilde, author of The Soul of Man under Socialism, but in the end I thought his position was too idiosyncratic, and not really ‘serious’ or committed enough to qualify. So I left him out.

However, since finishing the case study, and moving on to consider how the problems of ‘outsider’ involvement have been addressed more recently, I have thought again about Wilde. His refusal to take the various ways out of the dilemma that other Victorian socialists took now seems to me a much more interesting, and more contemporary, response. So I’ve written something about it here, which serves as one useful conclusion to the research project, not least because it reinforces one of my main findings: that the dilemmas of adherence change, but also remain the same.

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Mar 08

SOLIDARITY IN GLOBAL JUSTICE

This case study from my research project on Other People’s Struggles concerns solidarity in the global justice movement, and especially the alter-globalisation movement. The wider project concerns how ‘outsiders’ in a social movement – those who are not motivated by standing to benefit if the movement achieves its goal – participate. How do they achieve solidarity with those who do stand to benefit? The Global Justice Movement is an interesting case because the beneficiaries and the campaigners are quite widely separated. Many of those who campaign for global justice are not themselves made insecure by globalisation (sometimes quite the reverse, in fact). And yet their senses of solidarity with the global poor are deeply felt and important to them. Does this solidarity consist in shared perspectives, or ‘framings’ of global justice? Or does the struggle itself provide the solidarity?

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Mar 06

BECOMING- WORK

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