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Nick Owen

Nick Owen

01Oct2018

WHAT ARE APPROACHES?

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. The first three posts examined motivations, orientation and ambition.  They set up the basic problem of adherence.  Constituents and adherents, I argue, have different motivations.  The constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

Precisely what the constituents and adherents seek is a matter of the orientation of the movement: that is the work the movement is engaged in.  For example, if the movement is engaged in the pursuit of interests, the constituents are working to pursue their own interests (or the interests of others of whom they are part) and the adherents pursue the interests of others.

The degree to which this creates difficulties in the movement is a matter of the ambition of the movement’s work.  More ambitious work presumes equality among the participants.  Take, for example, a movement which is engaged in defining and pursuing a new, emergent interest.  If its work is ambitious it will require the participants to participate on equal terms. It will be intolerable if some claim to have a superior grasp of what the interest is and how it should be pursued.  Less ambitious work will find such claims less objectionable.  They do not presume equality.

There are different approaches that may be taken to these problems.  I distinguish three approaches.  In disjoint approaches, the relationships are asymmetric,  Some people do things for others, who do not do these things in return.  For example, the adherents might define what is in the constituents’ interests, without allowing that the constituents define theirs.  In conjoint approaches, the relationships are more symmetric.  For example, constituents and adherents might each help to define each other’s interests.    Sometimes, however, constituents may wish to go it alone, managing without adherents altogether.  These are self-reliant approaches.  These differences are set out in the table below:

ORIENTATION  —»OUTWARDEXPRESSIVEEMPOWERMENTSOLIDARITY
DISJOINT approaches ‘Championing’‘Validating’‘Instruction’‘Unlived politics’
CONJOINT approaches ‘Allying’ ‘Crossing over’ ‘Co-learning’ ‘Prefiguration’
SELF-RELIANT approaches‘Self-representation’ ‘Self-expression’‘Self-empowerment’ ‘Self-sufficiency’

One key argument of Other People’s Struggles is that ambitious movements cannot tolerate disjoint approaches.  They have either to seek conjointness, or be self-reliant and go it alone.

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30Sep2018

WHAT IS AMBITION?

This is the third in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. The first two posts examined motivations and orientation. Constituents and adherents, I argue, have different motivations. The constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

Precisely what the constituents and adherents seek is a matter of the orientation of the movement: that is the work the movement is engaged in. For example, if the movement is engaged in the pursuit of interests, the constituents are working to pursue their own interests (or the interests of others of whom they are part) and the adherents pursue the interests of others.

The degree to which this creates difficulties in the movement is a matter of the ambition of the movement’s work. More ambitious work presumes equality among the participants. Take, for example, a movement which is engaged in defining and pursuing a new, emergent interest. If its work is ambitious it will require the participants to participate on equal terms. It will be intolerable if some claim to have a superior grasp of what the interest is and how it should be pursued. Less ambitious work will find such claims less objectionable. They do not presume equality.

These differences of ambition are set out in the table below:

ORIENTATION  —»OUTWARDEXPRESSIVEEMPOWERMENTSOLIDARITY
In work of LOW AMBITIONInterests are not defined by the persons whose interests they are, but by others.

Interests are already-formed (‘crystallized’).
Identity claim is based on similarity.

Claims are petitions from below. Tolerance and respect are sought for the new identity.
Activists learn already-existing capabilities they do not possess (and others do).

Activists acquire such capabilities through instruction (as pupils).
Activists keep politics and life apart until the goal is achieved.

Activists embrace only the same goal.
In work of HIGH AMBITIONInterests are defined by the persons whose interests they are.

Interests are emergent.
Identity claim is based on distinctness.

Claims are demands from equality. Recognition and esteem are sought for the new identity.
Activists discover, develop and assess capabilities they already possess.

Activists acquire such capabilities through interactive discussion between teachers and taught.
Activists live their politics now.

Activists seek to share everything with everyone (e.g. feeling the same way)

In the final post of this series, I will consider the approaches that may be taken to these problems.

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29Sep2018

WHAT IS ORIENTATION?

I use the concept of orientation in my book Other People’s Struggles.  It refers to the nature of the work that a social movement undertakes.  In (1) the outward orientation, external goals or interests are defined and pursued. But social movements also do other things besides pursue interests in the outside world beyond the movement.  I therefore propose three other orientations: (2) the expressive orientation, in which the work is the definition and expression of identities (experiences, needs and desires); (3) the empowerment orientation, in which the work is the production of empowered activists (persons with new or developed capabilities); and (4) the solidarity orientation, in which the work is the building a cohesive movement.

 [···]

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28Sep2018

WHAT ARE MOTIVATIONS?

This is the first in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. One of the first distinctions I make in the book concerns motivations. Existing theory, I think, muddles up goals and motivations.   It assumes that if two people share a goal, they also share the same motivation.  But that does not have to be so. 

To begin with goals.  Constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

The ‘something’ could, of course be the ‘same thing’ for both constituents and adherents.  For example, in Edwardian Britain, enfranchised men and unenfranchised women campaigned together to win the vote for women.

Men and women, in this example, shared the same goal (votes for women).  But that is not the whole of the story.  The goals, from another perspective, significantly differed.  The unenfranchised women sought something for themselves (and others of whom they were part), and the enfranchised men  sought something for others.   That difference makes it necessary to consider whether their motivations also differed.

In Other People’s Struggles I examine three types of motivation: rational self-interest, moral obligations and social norms.  In each case, I argue the typical motivations of constituents and adherents do indeed differ.

If motivated by rational self-interest, the constituents can be motivated by the collective benefit from which they will gain. But that motivation cannot apply to adherents, who will not gain from the collective benefit.  They may, however – or so some theorists suggest – gain from selective incentives: those incentives made available only to those who participate.  The so-called ‘warm glow’ you get when you help others is one example.

If motivated by moral obligations, the constituents are motivated by moral obligations owed to each other – I call these reciprocal obligations (I owe something to you, and you owe something to me)  – where adherents are motivated by non-reciprocal obligations (I owe something to you which you do not owe to me).

If motivated by social norms, constituents are typically motivated by conjoint norms of reciprocity  – norms like ‘help those who help you’ or ‘help your fellows’.  Adherents are typically motivated by disjoint norms of service: that is, norms that enjoin people to do things for others without expectation of return.

These differences of motivation are set out in the table below:

MOTIVATION  —»RATIONAL SELF-INTERESTMORAL OBLIGATIONSSOCIAL NORMS
CONSTITUENTSCollective benefits of goal accomplishment (and selective incentives).Reciprocal moral obligations to each other.Conjoint norms of reciprocity.
ADHERENTSSelective incentives.Non-reciprocal moral obligations to others.Disjoint norms of service.

In the next posts of this series, I will consider what effects these differences of motivation have on how social movements work.   The first stage is to think about how they affect the variety of work movements do, which I term differences of orientation.

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10Jul2018

OTHER PEOPLE’S STRUGGLES


IMAGE CREDIT: BUVARD PUBLICITAIRE STYLO BIC (ADJUSTED)

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18Dec2017

LOVE AMONG THE ANARCHISTS

In the archives of Wayne State University, Detroit, I have recently located the papers of John Armistead Collier (1874-1947), poet, anarchist and political activist. They were deposited there by his last wife, Phyllis Feningston (1896-1981), an American labour organizer and social worker. In 1912, long before his marriage to Phyllis, Armistead Collier was living in London, where he formed a ‘free union’ – an unlegalised marriage – with a French anarchist and suffragette, Françoise Lafitte. Their child, named François Lafitte (1913-2002) became a well-known British sociologist and professor and – ironically in view of a personal history unknown to him – chair of the British Family Planning Association. Armistead carefully preserved his letters to and from Françoise, along with an unpublished autobiography, and, late in her own life, Phyllis contacted François to tell him about his father. The papers she sent him are archived with his own in Birmingham University, where he worked until the 1980s.  There are also some of Armistead’s papers in other American archives, although, as I am discovering, they are sometimes mis-catalogued as a result of his many pseudonyms. These include the papers of his friend Upton Sinclair and Sinclair’s wives Meta Fuller and Mary Craig Kimbrough, to whom Armistead was close.

Unused by researchers until now, the papers are a valuable resource for the recovery of the unacknowledged personal. We know quite a lot about the views of advanced couples concerning ‘free love’ and ‘free unions’, because they wrote about them extensively in the radical journals of the time, such as the The Freewoman. What is hardly ever available is reliable evidence of lived practice. This matters because those who advocated ‘free love’ and ‘free unions’ believed that their ideas could only be tested and developed through lived experience.

IMAGE CREDIT: JACQUES-HENRI LARTIGUE, MA COUSINE SIMONE, CHATEAU DE ROUZAT (1913).

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03Dec2017

ARMISTEAD COLLIER AND FRANÇOISE LAFITTE

I’ve finished writing a chapter for my research project on the personal and political. It concerns the ‘free union’ of Armistead Collier and Françoise Lafitte. It’s based on two archives of letters I have recently discovered: the  first in Detroit (the papers of Phyllis Feningston, who was Armistead’s last wife) and the second in Birmingham University (the papers of the child of the ‘free union’, François Lafitte, who was Professor of Social Policy there until the 1980s, but never met his father, or even knew his identity until his last few years).

Since Françoise and Armistead spent much of their short relationship apart, while she returned to France to persuade her family to accept him, and he to America to earn money, their correspondence is a frank and revealing account of the attractions and difficulties of the ‘free union’, and especially how it came to mean slightly different things for men and for women.

Other parts of my research project concern the way that the personal is, consciously or unconsciously, kept separate from the political. The personal is, to use the term from the project, unacknowledged by the political, and vice versa.  What is interesting about Armistead and Françoise’s relationship is that, far from wanting the political and the personal to be kept apart, they wanted their politics – anarchist, liberationist, perhaps feminist – to define their relationship. They wanted to live their politics. So their relationship is an excellent case for examining what happens to personal relationships when every aspect of them – sharing time, sharing space, socialising, everyday conversations, domestic arrangements, sex, every interaction indeed – is sensitized and weighed for its political significance. For Françoise and Armistead, perhaps, the personal and the political were over-acknowledged.

This is characteristic of periods – like the years immediately before the First World War, and also the 1970s (which also provides case studies for the project) – when both personal relationships and gender politics are fluid and disturbed.

IMAGE CREDIT: JACQUES-HENRI LARTIGUE, BOUBOUTTE AND LOUIS (1910) (DETAIL).

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02Dec2017

CHARLES MASTERMAN

charles masterman (1873-1927) was a New Liberal radical intellectual and politician who served in the Asquith Government, as junior minister to Herbert Gladstone and Winston Churchill at the Home Office, and Financial Secretary under Lloyd George at the Treasury, before joining the Cabinet in 1914. He is perhaps best known for his New Liberal writings, which included The Heart of the Empire (1901) and The Condition of England (1909). I have been researching him as part of my research project on the personal in politics. He was at the Home Office when violent methods were adopted by the Women’s Social and Political Union. I have explored here how the government response – arrests and forcible feeding – created a serious but unacknowledged disruption in the friendships and intimate personal relationships of Masterman and his fellow New Liberals.

But Masterman was also involved in another personal question: campaigns for purity among boys and young men. He engaged with this in three distinct ways. The first was as a government minister, in developing New Liberal policies on juvenile deliquency, policing, welfare, and urban overcrowding. Secondly, as a practising High Churchman and Christian Socialist, Masterman was also much involved in church schemes for youth purity, addressing the Anglican Church Congress on the subject in 1910. Finally, he was also involved personally, as a guide to boys and young men, first as a social worker with boys in the slums of south London, and later as an organiser of annual camps for schoolboys at Bembridge, a progressive boarding school on the Isle of Wight founded and run by his friend and political ally, the Liberal MP and educator, J. Howard Whitehouse. [···]

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01Dec2017

THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC

I’ve been studying the campaign for the so-called white slave legislation of 1912 as part of my research into why, at the time of the movement for women’s suffrage, men and women could work together on some causes, but not on others.   The ‘White Slave’ legislation – formally titled the Criminal Law Amendment Act (1912) – was a much-rejected private bill which was unexpectedly taken up by the Liberal Government when there was a sudden swell of public support for it.  Its primary target was the supposed trafficking of English women and girls to foreign brothels.  This was, it was alleged, a growing problem which was proving hard to police. The ‘White Slave’ legislation also tightened the laws concerning prostitution by making it easier to prosecute and punish procurers, ‘bullies’ and pimps. [···]

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01Dec2017

MEN AND EDWARDIAN PURITY CAMPAIGNS

Part of my project on men in feminism considers when men and women can work together on political campaigns, and when they can’t. edwardian purity campaigns provide an interesting case study, because they offer examples of both.  Purity campaigning was concerned, among other things, with male sexual behaviour, and the problems it created, such as prostitution, sexually transmitted disease, fornication (sex outside marriage), indecent publications, public immorality, the feebleness of the police and the courts in handling cases of sexual violence and exploitation. Shortly before the First World War, some militant women suffragists made denunication of men’s sexual irresponsibility part of their campaign for the vote. ‘Votes for women’ and ‘chastity for men’ became linked demands.

It’s intriguing therefore that, alongside the women’s campaigns, there were also men’s campaigns for chastity; and more intriguing still that the men’s and women’s campaigns hardly ever mentioned each other. Why did movements of men and women, aimed ostensibly at the same goal of male chastity, feel obliged to work apart?  And why, in contrast, did men and women manage to work together on other campaigns, such as the agitation in 1912 to induce Parliament and Government to pass a new bill concerning sexual offences? [···]

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