Why Do Westerners Hate Authoritarianism? - Page 2 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#14805533
This thread encouraged me to read some political philosophy.

Here's an excerpt from The Origin of Inequality Among Men. I do not necessarily agree with it, but it's hilarious:

Rousseau wrote:The savage and the civilised man differ so much in the bottom of their hearts and in their inclinations, that what constitutes the supreme happiness of one would reduce the other to despair. The former breathes only peace and liberty; he desires only to live and be free from labour; even the ataraxia of the Stoic falls far short of his profound indifference to every other object. Civilised man, on the other hand, is always moving, sweating, toiling and racking his brains to find still more laborious occupations: he goes on in drudgery to his last moment, and even seeks death to put himself in a position to live, or renounces life to acquire immortality. He pays his court to men in power, whom he hates, and to the wealthy, whom he despises; he stops at nothing to have the honour of serving them; he is not ashamed to value himself on his own meanness and their protection; and, proud of his slavery, he speaks with disdain of those, who have not the honour of sharing it. What a sight would the perplexing and envied labours of a European minister of State present to the eyes of a Caribbean! How many cruel deaths would not this indolent savage prefer to the horrors of such a life, which is seldom even sweetened by the pleasure of doing good! But, for him to see into the motives of all this solicitude, the words power and reputation, would have to bear some meaning in his mind; he would have to know that there are men who set a value on the opinion of the rest of the world; who can be made happy and satisfied with themselves rather on the testimony of other people than on their own. In reality, the source of all these differences is, that the savage lives within himself, while social man lives constantly outside himself, and only knows how to live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the consciousness of his own existence merely from the judgment of others concerning him.
#14805534
Setting aside his idealisation of the 'noble savage' (who in reality is usually more savage than noble), Rousseau pretty much nailed it. :lol:
#14805563
Not a fan of social contract theory. Both Locke and Rousseau dance around the issue of the consent of the individual. Clearly individuals are not free to leave or form another social contract whenever they want. I don't think modern theorists have resolved the issue, they just made the term consent more nebulous. Utilitarianism is more useful as a concept.
#14805594
I always took it as a sort of fundamental assumption to social contract theory, one which no one liked to talk about, that you just don't have a choice. The social contract is imposed on you without consent much like your being born in the first place.
#14805600
Not a fan of social contract theory. Both Locke and Rousseau dance around the issue of the consent of the individual. Clearly individuals are not free to leave or form another social contract whenever they want. I don't think modern theorists have resolved the issue, they just made the term consent more nebulous. Utilitarianism is more useful as a concept.

"I made him an offer he couldn't refuse." - Don Vito Corleone.

Baddabing-baddaboom! :smokin:
#14805731
mikema63 wrote:I always took it as a sort of fundamental assumption to social contract theory, one which no one liked to talk about, that you just don't have a choice. The social contract is imposed on you without consent much like your being born in the first place.


Not really. At least in both Locke and Rousseau the social contract requires the consent of the every individual, otherwise he is not bound by it. This issue is discussed, but not properly addressed if you ask me. You could say the purpose of the exercise is to design a social contract which everyone willingly consents to given the alternative, which is the state of nature.

In the state of nature, man is assumed to be free and equal:

Locke wrote:TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.

A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection


Rousseau wrote:THE most ancient of all societies, and the only one that is natural, is the family: and even so the children remain attached to the father only so long as they need him for their preservation. As soon as this need ceases, the natural bond is dissolved. The children, released from the obedience they owed to the father, and the father, released from the care he owed his children, return equally to independence. If they remain united, they continue so no longer naturally, but voluntarily; and the family itself is then maintained only by convention.

This common liberty results from the nature of man. His first law is to provide for his own preservation, his first cares are those which he owes to himself; and, as soon as he reaches years of discretion, he is the sole judge of the proper means of preserving himself, and consequently becomes his own master.


For Locke, man gives up natural liberty in order to preserve life, civil liberty and estate.

Locke wrote:IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and controul of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.


Rousseau obviously thinks the state of nature is pretty cool, so he comes up with something else.

Rousseau wrote:I SUPPOSE men to have reached the point at which the obstacles in the way of their preservation in the state of nature show their power of resistance to be greater than the resources at the disposal of each individual for his maintenance in that state. That primitive condition can then subsist no longer; and the human race would perish unless it changed its manner of existence.


I think there are 2 arguments here: First, civilized man is not capable anymore of living a primitive life. Second, uncivilized man does not have the power to defend his way of life.

Now in contrast to Locke Rousseau adds another benefit that comes with the social contract, namely "moral liberty": The liberty to act in accordance to self-imposed law.

Which, among other things, deserves further explanation, but I'm done for today.

Edit: I must add I haven't read Hobbes (the founder of the social contract theory). In his view, to my knowledge, the state of nature means "war of all against all", consequently every sovereign authority is legitimate (correct me if I'm wrong here).
#14805751
it is very simple, I have big stick if you don't do as I say i hit you. Now you might have a big stick too, but I have ten big guys with sticks that will help me...whats that? You cannot round up 10 guys with sticks...well then go do what I tell you to do and stop being uppity. Now I will treat you only as well as your ability to organize enough angry guys with sticks....
#14805786
I am not sure that westerners hate authoritarianism.

I think they tell themselves a myth where they hate it, and they believe it because it makes them feel good.

In reality, many western governments have openly supported (and still support) authoritarian governments such as Saudi Arabia. Also, many western governments act authoritarian towards certain groups within their own countries. The most obvious example is the judicial impunity enjoyed by police officers when killing minorities.
#14805867
It's the dream of every underdog - to topple the current authority so they can become their own authority. History shows us that, with few exceptions, those who manage to become their own authority immediately seek to expand it and become no better than the authority they toppled.
You have to see through all the libertarian rhetoric to their real motives. Is it to live free, or to impose their own will instead? We've seen far more the latter than the former.

And, with training and education, people ARE capable of living a primitive life. But Potemkin and Oxymoron are both right. For all our high sounding polemics, apologetics, and rationalizations, in practice the social contract all comes down to might makes right. The primitive man has no choice unless he lives beneath the notice of "the state". And the civil man has no choice either, lest he lose his liberties, properties, or his life.
#14805905
I think the point is there are flaws to any system of government:
Authoritarianism/Meritocracy/Technocracy: Removing (perhaps unnecessary) political freedoms from the common people may have merits, but placing power in the hands of so few allows for individual character flaws (such as desire for more power) to appear in general administration, and taking away personal rights is one step away from taking political rights (the two are highly interconnected)
Democracy/Republic: Prevents power from consolidating into the hands of the few but is susceptible to mob rule and bad decisions from poorly elected and desperate masses (Such as the election of the Trump). Also, in theory, people could vote against rights for minorities (Like Republicans are trying to do with LGBTQ, atheists, racial minorities, etc.)
Libertarianism/Anarchy: It is difficult for authority to get much done, especially in highly decentralized governments. They may be very ineffective in attacking problems that need central leadership (like climate change). Furthermore, although human rights abuse could never be legalized, the government would be in no position to prevent discrimination in society.

In the end, a combination of the first and the last may be the way to go, with a little bit of the second. An meritocracy may allow for a centralized and well enough qualified system to run a nation effectively, and organized the economy, justice etc. , while a weak government would prevent social rights abuse. Democracy, would keep the masses happy and give them some representation, but would not be a key part (i.e. the people may elect advisors who give suggestions but have no real power)
#14805987
Citizen J wrote:It's the dream of every underdog - to topple the current authority so they can become their own authority. History shows us that, with few exceptions, those who manage to become their own authority immediately seek to expand it and become no better than the authority they toppled.
You have to see through all the libertarian rhetoric to their real motives. Is it to live free, or to impose their own will instead? We've seen far more the latter than the former.

And, with training and education, people ARE capable of living a primitive life. But Potemkin and Oxymoron are both right. For all our high sounding polemics, apologetics, and rationalizations, in practice the social contract all comes down to might makes right. The primitive man has no choice unless he lives beneath the notice of "the state". And the civil man has no choice either, lest he lose his liberties, properties, or his life.


I think this is missing the point in many ways.

The question social contract theorists want to answer is: What makes authority legitimate? What constitutes right?

About the right of the strongest:

Rousseau wrote:Suppose for a moment that this so-called "right" exists. I maintain that the sole result is a mass of inexplicable nonsense. For, if force creates right, the effect changes with the cause: every force that is greater than the first succeeds to its right. As soon as it is possible to disobey with impunity, disobedience is legitimate; and, the strongest being always in the right, the only thing that matters is to act so as to become the strongest. But what kind of right is that which perishes when force fails? If we must obey perforce, there is no need to obey because we ought; and if we are not forced to obey, we are under no obligation to do so. Clearly, the word "right" adds nothing to force: in this connection, it means absolutely nothing.

Obey the powers that be. If this means yield to force, it is a good precept, but superfluous: I can answer for its never being violated.

..

Let us then admit that force does not create right, and that we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers.


It is funny you call it "libertarian rhetoric". I don't think Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau qualify as such. While they all agree that man is born free and equal, they come to different conclusions about what constitutes legitimate power and none of them seems libertarian. Hobbes was an advocate of enlightened absolutism ("enlightened" because the monarch's absolute power derives from the people's consent and not God, i.e. there's no divine mandate).

As for Locke:

Locke wrote: THE majority having, as has been shewed, upon men’s first uniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in them, may employ all that power in making laws for the community from time to time, and executing those laws by officers of their own appointing; and then the form of the government is a perfect democracy: or else may put the power of making laws into the hands of a few select men, and their heirs or successors; and then it is an oligarchy: or else into the hands of one man, and then it is a monarchy: if to him and his heirs, it is an hereditary monarchy: if to him only for life, but upon his death the power only of nominating a successor to return to them; an elective monarchy. And so accordingly of these the community may make compounded and mixed forms of government, as they think good. And if the legislative power be at first given by the majority to one or more persons only for their lives, or any limited time, and then the supreme power to revert to them again; when it is so reverted, the community may dispose of it again anew into what hands they please, and so constitute a new form of government: for the form of government depending upon the placing the supreme power, which is the legislative, it being impossible to conceive that an inferior power should prescribe to a superior, or any but the supreme make laws, according as the power of making laws is placed, such is the form of the common-wealth.


And Rousseau:

Rousseau wrote:These clauses [of the social contract], properly understood, may be reduced to one — the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others.

Moreover, the alienation being without reserve, the union is as perfect as it can be, and no associate has anything more to demand: for, if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.

Finally, each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.

If then we discard from the social compact what is not of its essence, we shall find that it reduces itself to the following terms:

"Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole."

At once, in place of the individual personality of each contracting party, this act of association creates a moral and collective body, composed of as many members as the assembly contains votes, and receiving from this act its unity, its common identity, its life and its will. This public person, so formed by the union of all other persons formerly took the name of city, and now takes that of Republic or body politic; it is called by its members State when passive. Sovereign when active, and Power when compared with others like itself. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of people, and severally are called citizens, as sharing in the sovereign power, and subjects, as being under the laws of the State.


Doesn't sound very libertarian to me.

I must add that they didn't consider societies subject to their imagined social contract to be weak:

Rousseau wrote:EVEN if I granted all that I have been refuting, the friends of despotism would be no better off. There will always be a great difference between subduing a multitude and ruling a society. Even if scattered individuals were successively enslaved by one man, however numerous they might be, I still see no more than a master and his slaves, and certainly not a people and its ruler; I see what may be termed an aggregation, but not an association; there is as yet neither public good nor body politic. The man in question, even if he has enslaved half the world, is still only an individual; his interest, apart from that of others, is still a purely private interest. If this same man comes to die, his empire, after him, remains scattered and without unity, as an oak falls and dissolves into a heap of ashes when the fire has consumed it.


Anyway, you can see I'm not an expert on these things, otherwise I would be able to summarize it better and would not have to resort to quotations, so I think I quit here :D .
#14806113
Rousseau misses the point - it's not that any right is derived from the use of force. It's that the most violent - or the most capable of violence - is the one who gets his way. Right or wrong becomes moot - superfluous, irrelevant in the face of superior force and a willingness to use it.
Philosophers can talk all they want about rights and contracts, but it does not change the fact that he who has the biggest stick makes the rules. It's as true now as it was when all we had was sticks.

Yes, it would be nice to believe that there is some inherent rights in the world. But the only thing a state (or whomever has the biggest stick) cannot take away from us is death. If it can be taken from you, is it really a right? I tend to think, 'no'. But I'm sure the opinions of others might differ on that.
#14806122
Citizen J wrote:Rousseau misses the point - it's not that any right is derived from the use of force. It's that the most violent - or the most capable of violence - is the one who gets his way. Right or wrong becomes moot - superfluous, irrelevant in the face of superior force and a willingness to use it.
Philosophers can talk all they want about rights and contracts, but it does not change the fact that he who has the biggest stick makes the rules. It's as true now as it was when all we had was sticks.

Yes, it would be nice to believe that there is some inherent rights in the world. But the only thing a state (or whomever has the biggest stick) cannot take away from us is death. If it can be taken from you, is it really a right? I tend to think, 'no'. But I'm sure the opinions of others might differ on that.


I think you are missing the point. Clearly every government can easily be toppled by the people if they desire, so the question of legitimacy is very relevant. You could argue that political philosophy is irrelevant. Well, in the great scheme of things, over 100s of years, I would agree. It's technology that drives human history, not ideas.
#14806162
Rugoz wrote:Clearly every government can easily be toppled by the people if they desire,
Is that why Assad is still in power?
It's a matter of who can apply the most violence. Once you lose the military, you lost most of your capacity for violence. It's not the people who can toppled governments, it's the military. It's the military that decides whether they will do violence against the people or stand aside and let them overrun the palace. Again, it comes down to force and the will to use it.
#14806253
Citizen J wrote:Is that why Assad is still in power?
It's a matter of who can apply the most violence. Once you lose the military, you lost most of your capacity for violence. It's not the people who can toppled governments, it's the military. It's the military that decides whether they will do violence against the people or stand aside and let them overrun the palace. Again, it comes down to force and the will to use it.


Assad is still in power because Syrians lack unity and the will to fight. The military can certainly crack down on a limited resistance, but it cannot defeat millions. Even if Syrians couldn't get their hands on AK47s in sufficient numbers (which they could), passive resistance, that is strike, can topple every modern government. Granted, it's probably not as easy today as in the 17/16th century, thought that's debatable.
#14806255
Rugoz wrote:Assad is still in power because Syrians lack unity and the will to fight.

From what I understand, he is legitimately popular. Well, at least with the people who don't want to kill him.

Anyway, I suppose that true democracy can be thought of as a luxury that is hard to attain and sustain, especially for some certain types of societies.
#14806704
Zagadka wrote:From what I understand, he is legitimately popular. Well, at least with the people who don't want to kill him.

Anyway, I suppose that true democracy can be thought of as a luxury that is hard to attain and sustain, especially for some certain types of societies.


Democracy means submitting to the majority (majority voting, by the way, is the the only anonymous, neutral, and positively responsive social choice function between two alternatives, see May's theorem). A lot of people have problems with that, either because they think the majority is unqualified, or tyrannical, or sinful, or whatever. As a utilitarian I'm not a huge fan either, but I don't know anything better. I guess every political system is hard to attain and sustain and requires a lot of brainwashing.
#14806747
I mean I don't see how the west isn't authoritarian. They don't use jackboots and batons (unless you aren't white) but it isn't like you can challenge the powers that exist.

Like the western bourgeoisie seems to have largely learned that aggressively punishing people with no chance of actually toppling them is a mistake (well sort of I guess since those antifa kids are getting threatened with 20 year sentences over the trump inauguration).
#14806749
Rugoz wrote:Democracy means submitting to the majority (majority voting, by the way, is the the only anonymous, neutral, and positively responsive social choice function between two alternatives, see May's theorem). A lot of people have problems with that, either because they think the majority is unqualified, or tyrannical, or sinful, or whatever. As a utilitarian I'm not a huge fan either, but I don't know anything better. I guess every political system is hard to attain and sustain and requires a lot of brainwashing.


I highly doubt choosing between two choices is "democracy" (See US two party system).
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