Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Gerfried Ambrosch: "Beware Of The Trojan Horse: A Critique Of Social Justice"

This is good.
My own main criticism of "social justice," FWIW, goes a little something like this:
   The term 'social justice' is a lot like the term 'politically correct.' The plain and literal meaning of each makes it a kind of success term: social justice would be something like the condition or property of a just society; political correctness would be something like the state or property of being right--politically. Each is, however, actually a term adopted by the (mainly illiberal) left to name its own position(s). It's rather as if I had a very controversial notion of pedagogy, but named my view something like "effective pedagogy." I could then say things like "effective pedagogy demands that lectures be eliminated." This ends up being in a kind of semantic superposition of states, meaning both (a) Genuinely effective teaching eschews lectures and (b) My particular view entails that you shouldn't lecture. This allows me to basically assert the correctness of my particular view every time I even mention its name--and if I can get you to use the term, too, it gets you to do so as well. This seems like such an unsophisticated rhetorical trick that it shouldn't work. But it does. People are really bad at identifying, characterizing, criticizing and correcting vaguely philosophical tricks and errors. Even the most transparent sophistry will fool some of the people some of the time--which, notoriously, is the best one can ever do.
   IMO the real genius of this trick is that it adds a layer of trickery / confusion to every conversation it enters into. Whatever other bad arguments one may be giving for illiberal leftism, you add one more source of bafflement by using such terminology. And sorting out two errors at once is far beyond the capacity of even most college graduates.

   So here's how this works. Say we start talking about wealth. You say: something something social justice! Now, there is no doubt that what you'll be saying will be something like: We must redistribute it! Which isn't at all clear if we use the term in accordance with its plain meaning as something like a success term--that is, as a term indicating that which is genuinely just. Used in this sense, we don't know what (social) justice demands. Leftists of the relevant stripe think it demands redistribution. Libertarians think it demands, roughly, keeping your filthy mitts off my shit. That is: basically leaving what he has earned to each.
   This kind of equivocation does something like add a loaded question to every conversation that includes it: You're not against social justice, are you? Well...I'm not against social justice in the plain, success sense--that is, I'm not against justice... But I am against the illiberal leftist conception of social justice...
   It's funny, incidentally, that the illiberal left used to embrace the term 'political correctness'--but now their orthodoxy is that there is not even any such thing as PC. To believe in political correctness is just about the most politically incorrect thing you can do. The term acquired a negative connotation...which is the inevitable result of being associated with something genuinely loony. This put the left on the "euphemism treadmill": it had to find another euphemistic/misleading term for its views. 'Social justice' is a much more tactically effective choice, since 'politically correct' was a term apparently engineered to be ironic--apparently coined by less-doctrinaire communists to poke fun at their more-doctrinaire The paleo-PCs of the late 80s-early 90s--apparently deaf to irony--thus confirming the judgment of those who originally coined the term--adopted the term to use unironically. But terms associated with bad things eventually develop accurate valences. Thus, eventually: 'social justice.' Which, unfortunately, has no ironic origin to help save us from its depredations.


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