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Politics and the Social Contract: J. J. Rousseau and Karl Marx

Politics and the Social Contract: J. J. Rousseau and Karl Marx

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Politics and the Social Contract: J. J. Rousseau and Karl Marx

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  1. Politics and the Social Contract: J. J. Rousseau and Karl Marx Clark Wolf Iowa State University jwcwolf@iastate.edu

  2. Argument for Analysis Fairness requires that people should own the products of their own labor. But if you hire me to produce goods, then my labor produces goods that belong to you. So it’s unfair for you to hire me to produce goods.

  3. Argument for Analysis Fairness requires that people should own the products of their own labor. But ownership of labor also means that we should have the right and the ability to ‘alienate’ or sell our labor to others whenever we regard it as advantageous to do so. When I sell you my labor, you are the owner of the labor, so you should also be the owner of the product made through that labor.

  4. Argument for Analysis Hobbes believed that people in the state of nature would be selfish and violent. But he believed this only because the people he saw around him were selfish and violent. The people around him weren’t in a state of nature– they were corrupted by exposure to modern society. In a real state of nature, people would not acquire the passions that lead to selfishness and violence, and they would have a natural disposition to be compassionate toward others. But while people in a state of nature are compassionate, people who have grown up in modern society and who are then turned out into the state of nature really may behave selfishly and violently. Hobbes mistake was to imagine what people as he knew them would do in the absence of state coercion. He should have gone further, to imagine how people would be essentially different if they grew up in circumstances of freedom.

  5. NOTICE: • Those who would like to re-take midterm or Quiz may do so on Friday between 12:00 and 3:00. Catt Hall 407. • If you can’t make it then, see me! • Anyone may re-take these exams. The new grade will not replace the old, but will be taken into account in your final grade for the course. • FINAL EXAM: 11 December 12:00-2:00 • No Surprises • Study session:

  6. Argument for Analysis Since people have fundamentally equal rights and abilities, radically unequal distribution of wealth and goods is fundamentally unjust. But where political institutions protect rights to private property, radical inequalities are sure to arise. Since the right to property leads to injustice, property rights are unjust.

  7. Argument for Analysis If property rights can arise without the violation of anyone’s rights, then property rights are permissible. If property rights are required for implementation of Natural Law, then property rights are required by justice. But the protection of property rights leads to radical inequalities. It follows that radical inequalities are sometimes consistent with justice.

  8. Argument for Analysis Locke argues that we can gain property in land by “mixing our labor” with it, as long as we don’t appropriate more than we can use without waste, and as long as we leave “enough and as good” for others. But Locke’s theory can’t justify existing property rights: the world is finite, and the human population of the earth is large. At this point, there is no land left to appropriate. So previous appropriation cannot have left “enough and as good” in the common, so it must have violated the ‘enough and as good’ requirement. So on Locke’s view, existing property rights in land are illegitimate.

  9. Argument for Analysis 1) Locke specifies that legitimate appropriation must leave ‘enough and as good’ for others. 2) At present there is no land left in a common. 3) previous appropriation did not leave “enough and as good” in the common. 4)Previous appropriation was unjustified. 5) on Locke’s view, existing property rights in land are illegitimate.

  10. Argument for Analysis The political theories of Hobbes and Locke are irrelevant. Hobbes and Locke both describe civil government as arising from a pre-social state of nature, where society is unorganized and has no strucuture. But people have never lived in such a state, so we can’t learn anything about real societies by looking at such an artificial construct.

  11. 1) Hobbes and Locke both describe civil government as arising from a pre-social state of nature, where society is unorganized and has no structure. 3) But people have never lived in such a state, so 4) we can’t learn anything about real societies by looking at such an artificial construct. 5) [IP] If we can’t learn anything about real societies from the works of a political theorist, then that theorist’s work is irrelevant. 6) The political theories of Hobbes and Locke are irrelevant. Two kinds of answer: • People really are (or have been) in a ‘state of nature.’ • Conceiving of political institutions on the model of a contract can still inform us about their essential properties.

  12. Argument for Analysis: Soujourner Truth,Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio, 1851: “Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman? Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full? Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them. Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.”

  13. Argument for Analysis • Either I’ll stay on campus between classes, or I’ll go home. If I go home, my roommate will distract me and I won’t get my Philosophy reading done. But if I stay on campus, I won’t have anyplace quiet to work, so I won’t be able to get my philosophy reading done. I guess I won’t get my reading done!

  14. Argument for Analysis 1) Either I’ll stay on campus between classes, or I’ll go home. 2) If I go home, my roommate will distract me and I won’t get my Philosophy reading done. 3) But if I stay on campus, I won’t have anyplace quiet to work, so I won’t be able to get my philosophy reading done. 4) I won’t get my reading done!

  15. Dilemma 1) Either C or H 2) If H then D & ~P 3) if C then ~W and ~P. 4) ~P

  16. Argument for Analysis If we arm campus police, then there will be more guns on campus because the campus police will bring them. But if we don’t arm campus police, then the criminals will bring more guns to campus. So no matter what we do, there will be more guns on campus. If there are guns on campus, it’s better that they be in the hands of the police than in the hands of the criminals. So we should arm the police.

  17. Argument for Analysis There can be no such thing as justice unless there are institutions to punish people who break their promises and contracts. Justice involves the rational requirement that people should keep their promises and abide by the contracts to which they freely agree. But unless there are public institutions that will punish people who break promises and contracts, it is not rational for people keep them. Since requirements of justice must be requirements of reason (rationality), it isn’t ‘just’ to keep contracts where there is no punishment, it’s just irrational and foolish.

  18. Argument for Analysis 1) Justice involves the rational requirement that people should keep their promises and abide by the contracts to which they freely agree. 2) But unless there are public institutions that will punish people who break promises and contracts, it is not rational for people keep them. 3) Since requirements of justice must be requirements of reason (rationality), it isn’t ‘just’ to keep contracts where there is no punishment, it’s just irrational and foolish. 4) There can be no such thing as justice unless there are institutions to punish people who break their promises and contracts

  19. Terms like ‘good’ and ‘beautiful’ essentially refer to the attitudes of the person who uses them: to say that something is beautiful is to say that one likes looking at it; to say that something is good is to say that one appproves of it. Since different people find different things beautiful and good, such terms change their meaning when they are used by different people. But reasoning requires terms that have a stable meaning: proper reasoning cannot be done with terms that have a different meaning for different speakers. Ethics is the philosophy of ‘good,’ just as aesthetics is the philosophy of ‘beauty.’ It follows that there can be no reasoning in ethics or aesthetics. Argument for Analysis

  20. 1) Ethics is the philosophy of ‘good,’ just as aesthetics is the philosophy of ‘beauty.’ 2) To say that something is beautiful is to say that one likes looking at it; to say that something is good is to say that one approves of it. 3) Since different people find different things beautiful and good, such terms change their meaning when they are used by different people. 4) Reasoning requires terms that have a stable meaning 5) Therefore, there can be no reasoning in ethics or aesthetics. Argument for Analysis

  21. ROUSSEAU 1) Is social inequality natural or artificial? [In Rousseau's work, this seems to be a question about the justification of inequality: Are vast inequalities justified by the law of nature or are they unjustifiable and horrible?] 2) What social circumstances make it possible for some people to subjugate and enslave others? 3) What features of human beings are natural, and what features are social accretions? And how can we tell? 4) When we look around the world, we see people oppressing one another and perpetrating unspeakable violence on one another. What makes people capable of such brutality? What must a person believe or desire in order to have the ability to brutalize other human beings?

  22. PROPERTY, EQUALITY, AND DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE • The Problem of Distributive Justice:How should the burdens and benefits of social organization be distributed? • Egalitarianism: These goods (and bads) should be distributed equally. People should not be treated differently unless there are good justifying reasons for unequal treatment.

  23. PROPERTY, EQUALITY, AND DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE Rousseau: "...since inequality is practically non-existent in the SON, it derives its force and growth from the development of our faculties and the progress of the human mind, and eventually becomes stable and legitimate through the etablishment of property and laws. Moreover, it follows that moral inequality, authorized by positive right alone, is contrary to natural right whenever it is not combined in the same proportion with physical inequality" a distinction that is sufficient to determine what one should think in this regard about the sort of inequality that reigns among all civilized people, for it is obviously contrary to the law of nature, however it be defined, for a child to command an old man, for an imbecile to lead a wise man, and for a handful of people to gorge themselves on superfluities while the starving multitude lacks basic necessities."

  24. PROPERTY, EQUALITY, AND DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE • Propertarianism: (Locke) Give to each person what she or he is entitled to. People own whatever they legitimately acquire. Acquisition is either creation, original appropriation, or transfer from another legitimate owner. • What considerations support property rights (Lockean or otherwise)? The notion that people are entitled to things they've made with their own efforts is ancient, and has roots in widely divergent social traditions. It may not be "natural" in the sense that Locke thinks: the laws of Acquisition don't seem to be objective universal truths like the laws of physics or mathematics. But they may be natural in the sense that it's easy to understand how people could come to feel proprietary. Where laborers have been forced to work without gaining any entitlement to the fruits of their labor, they have often resented their situation as unjust.

  25. PROPERTY, EQUALITY, AND DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE • What considerations support egalitarianism? The notion that social institutions should treat people equally also has an ancient history, and once again the idea has sprung up in widely different societies around the world. Oddly enough, equality seems most likely to be articulated as an ideal in societies that are most flagrantly inegalitarian. • Question: Are these conceptions of justice "natural?" What would it mean for a conception of justice to be "natural?"Perhaps not in the sense Locke implies. But it may be that common properties of human beings and common features of the human condition lead people to develop notions of property and equality, and to regard these notions as a kind of ideal.

  26. PROPERTY, EQUALITY, AND DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE • PROBLEM: These two conceptions of distributive justice are not compatible. Where property rights are guarded, ineqalities will eventually arise. Over time, inequalities will become more pronounced, until eventually some are extravagantly wealthy while others are destitute. [Or so argues Rousseau. Was he wrong?] • Locke's Solution: Property rights are clearly OK (they're part of Natural Law). So if property rights generate inequalities, then some inequalities must be OK. As long as no one's rights are violated, there's no limit to the extent of justified inequalities. • Rousseau's Solution: Extreme Inequalities are pernicious, oppressive, and clearly can't be justified as part of the "Natural" order of things. If property rights are sure to generate these inequalities, then property rights must be illegitimate (un-natural).

  27. Rousseau’s Conjectural History • 1) "Natural Man" (Sprung from the ground overnight, full grown like a mushroom; expresses many of Rousseau's own prejudices and idealizations) • 2) Families stay together • 3) Villages of families (tools & huts). [There are problems already at this stage: (803).] • 4) Agriculture (property rights arrive on the scene...) (878) [Dependence introduces possibility of oppression: (878)] • 5) Notions of Right and Justice set in stone the oppression of the weak, lead them to see their oppression as part of the natural order of things. (Locke, Hobbes) • 6) Devotion to Abstractions like Natural Right and Natural Law (These are just artificial creations, says Rousseau.) • 7) Nationalism: Devotion to abstractions of group identity. (889) (Atrocities become possible.)

  28. Rousseau’s Conjectural History The Psychology of Rousseau's "Natural" Human Being: 1) Two Principles of Natural Motivation: Empathy and Self Interest. 2) Hobbes was wrong to suggest that lacking an idea of goodness, human beings would be vicious. [868] (Did Hobbes really hold this view?) 3) Pity a natural disposition to virtue (869) 4) Sentience, not rationality, is source of moral concern. (870) 5) Other virtues spring from pity (870) 6) Reason can eliminate this natural source of virtue. (870) 7) Philosophical accounts of morality always get things wrong. (855) 8) Pity takes the place of Law in the SON (870)

  29. Rousseau’s Conjectural History “None are more completely enslaved than those who falsely believe themselves to be free.” -Goethe

  30. Rousseau’s Conjectural History • Question: There are many points at which some of us probably don't agree with Rousseau. If we're unconvinced by his account of "Natural Human Beings," does it follow that his account of oppression and inequality is also flawed? • Consider the reasons he gives why we should believe the account he gives: (883) 1) supposed "right of conquest" could not arise in any other way. (Referring to the notion that the wealthy are justified as Conquerors) 2) words "strong" and "weak" are equivocal, since we're naturally equal from the metaphysical/natural perspective. These then stand in for "rich" and "poor."3) The poor had nothing to loose but their liberty, and could not rationally have submitted that for any price. (As Locke's argument against Hobbes!) 4) Further, it's reasonable to believe that a thing was invented by those to whom it is useful rather than by those to whom it is harmful.

  31. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • Example 1: "Case No. 14- Isabella Read, 12 years old, Coal Bearer: "I carry about 125 pounds on my back. Have to stoop much and am frequently in water up to calves of my legs. When first went down, fell frequently asleep while waiting for coal and from heat and [fatigue]. I do not like the work, nor do the lassies, but they are made to like it. When the weather is warm, there is [difficulty] breathing and frequently the lights go out." -Great Britain Parliamentary Report, Ashley Mines Commission, 1842. • Example 2: Nike worker in micronesia, working 15 hour days, earning less than the price of a days meals.

  32. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • Question: What is exploitation? • Case 1: I find you stranded with a flat tire in the desert. Knowing that you will die of thirst without my help, I offer you my help... but only on condition that you sign a legally binding document that gives me title to your house, car, and all your worldly possessions. • Problem: Obviously my offer is unfair, but without me you would be even worse off than you are with my help. How can my act be harmful or wrong, since it results in your being better off than you would have been without my help? • Case 2: Same as case 1, except that you are stranded because I put holes in your tires before you set off. I then set off to find you, knowing that my act would cause you to be stranded so that you will need my help... and so that you will be willing to offer me most anything to get that help.

  33. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • 1) The general conception of exploitation: Exploitation occurs iff a person A harmfully utilizes a person B as a mere means for A's benefit. Exploitation is the harmful, merely instrumental use of persons for the benefit of others who utilize them. • 2) The Transhistorical conception of exploitation in the labor process: This conception is more specialized than (1). It is limited to relations within the labor process, while (1) is not. According to Marx, each type of social formation in the history of class divided societies has its own distinctive labor process: in ancient city-states, it was slavery, in the Middle ages, it was the Feudal system of serf labor, in modern capitalist society, it's wage-labor. The following conception is 'transhistorical' in that it picks out elements common to all the labor processes of the various class divided societies. These elements are 1) The labor is forced2) Part of the labor is uncompensated3) the labor produces surplus products4) the worker doesn't have control over the product.

  34. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • Surplus product is the value created by the worker which goes beyond the value embodied in his wages. According to Marx, the worker receives only compensation for his necessary labor (the amount of labor necessary to provide for his subsistence needs) and that the surplus goes to the owner.

  35. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor 3) The concept of exploitation in Capitalism: (The Wage Labor Process) Even more specialized: applies only to capitalist societies. 1) Labor is forced not through violence, but through monopoly, by which the capitalist provides the only means of production: the worker must work for the capitalist to survive. 2) Worker is paid only for part of the value he or she produces 3) there is surplus value created 4) the worker does not own the product, since the owner has legal rights over it.

  36. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • THEORY OF ALIENATION:1) Shows how people can be used as means-- as things.2) shows why this is harmful to people. • WHAT CONSTITUTES ALIENATION OF LABOR?1) Labor is external to the worker2) labor is forced3) worker puts value into commodity4) worker's value (objectified) is no longer his own5) this value is used as a means to his continued oppression

  37. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • HOW ESTRANGED LABOR HARMS THE WORKER:1) alienates 'nature from man' (object is no longer the workers')2) 'man from himself' (put into the object)3) alienates man from man4) turns man's species-being into a being alien to him, and a means of his individual existence. • SPECIES BEING: The property that distinguishes us from other things; the thing that's special about us. According to Marx, what's special about us is our capacity for creativity and productivity: the capacity to work.

  38. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • MARX ON THE VALUE OF WORK:[135?]1145: an animal is not distinct from the activities it performs.[135*]1146: animals create only in response to need, but Humans create even when free from physical need, and truly produces only in freedom from such need. Animals produce only according to the standards of need, while human beings produce according to standards of beauty.[134*]1144: Alienated laborers are "at home" only in their animal functions, and are "not at home" when they are exercising their highest human capacities. Alienation as the "loss of self." • According to Marx, Alienation makes a person's "species life" a mere means to physical (animal) existence.

  39. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • "Let me hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, breed cattle in the evening, and criticize after dinner, just as I like, without ever becoming a hunter, fisher, herdsman, or critic." (The German Ideology)

  40. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • Marx on the DEVALUATION OF THE WORKER: "The devaluation of the worker (and the worker's misery) is in direct proportion to the power and volume of the worker's production." (1143)[133] • 1) As the worker produces more, the owner becomes richer. (Where there's a surplus of labor, impersonal working conditions, and few employers, the worker's subsistence wages don't change as s/he works harder) 2) The wealth of the owner just is the work of the worker: the worker sells work to the owner. 3) But work is the creative product of the worker; it is the worker's value. (In selling this human value to the owner, Marx believes that the worker has entered a kind of slavery contract.) 4) Through the labor process, a worker objectifies his or her human value by changing labor into a commodity.5) Except for wages, this is surplus value and is the property of the owner, not the worker.6) To the ownder, this surplus value is power. (As the owner becomes richer, s/he gains more power.)7) The owners power is used to maintain the status quo, and to find better and more efficient ways to make workers work harder (to oppress the workers). Thus the inverse relation between the value of workers and the volume of their production.) 9) Ultimately, it is the worker's own value which is the means to his and her oppression.

  41. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor • MEASURING EXPLOITATION: SURPLUS VALUE AND WAGES • SURPLUS VALUE: (value produced by the worker - value of wages paid) In a monopoly, it is most economically rational for the monopolist to pay the worker as little as he can. That is, just enough for him to subsist. Since there's no way for the worker to survive except by working for the monopolist, he will be willing to work for mere subsistence. • Rate of Marxian exploitation: • =surplus value/value of wages =(time worked-'time required to produce value of wages)/value of wages

  42. Karl Marx: Alienated Labor Questions on Marx: 1) What is the characteristic that distinguishes human beings from nonhuman animals? Compare Marx's view on this question to Aristotle's view. How is this capacity related to Marx's theory of exploitation? 2) What does Marx mean in claiming that exploited workers are alienated (i) from nature, (ii) from themselves, (iii) from one another? 3) What, in general, is Marx account of exploitation? What is the difference between the general account, and the more specific accounts of the way exploitation takes place in difference kinds of societies? 4) How, according to Marx, are workers exploited in capitalist societies?5) Compare Marx, Rousseau, and Thrasymachus on the nature of "justice," explaining similarities & differences. [Don't worry about this one!]6) Why does Marx believe that workers will be more deeply oppressed the harder they work? 9) Why does Marx believe that workers' wages will be bare subsistence wages? 10) What is the value of "work" for Marx? How is our capacity for work connected with our need for freedom? 11) Explain the elements of Marx's concept of "alienation" [estrangement] of labor.