We still have obligations. Perhaps our generation even more so than usual, given the mess we made over the last 30 years – the first generation to leave the next worse off in centuries!
Dec. 9, 2016
by Michael Friedman, L.M.S.W.
Adjunct Associate Professor, Columbia University School of Social Work
Recently I took a philosophy mini-course called “Conscientious Citizenship,” which explored our moral obligations largely through the heroic image of Socrates, who accepted a death sentence as a matter of principle and loyalty to his nation.
Although several of us questioned Socrates’ presumed heroism, the course got me thinking about what the obligations of citizenship are; and, because I am an older, retired person (73 as I write this), it got me wondering what the obligations of older, retired people are and whether they are different from the obligations of younger people.
A strange question perhaps. It is commonplace to think about what society ought to do for old people. But this is the converse question, Kennedyesque in a way. Not what does a society owe to old people, but what do old people owe…
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Very interesting given the words coming out of Tom Watsons mouth today.
Excellent and informative piece.
A quick note on ‘entryism’, expanding on some points that got a bit lost in the middle of a recent post.
Entryism is an odd phenomenon; perhaps it’s best considered as an eccentric local custom, like buying beer in pints or listening to the Archers Omnibus. (“But it’s exactly the same thing that was on in the week! And it was supposed to be happening on those actual days!”) Entryism sounds bizarre to most people outside the far Left, but for anyone who’s spent any time in that world it’s a familiar and uncontroversial part of the landscape. A party enters a party as a way to build the party. See? Perfectly straightforward.
It may be worth differentiating between those different types of party. Party(1) is the revolutionary party in which Trotskyists and other Leninists believe: the party which will ultimately lead the struggle of the proletariat to…
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The Department for Work and Pensions has announced it is launching a campaign to clamp down on benefit fraud by stuffed toys after reports a supposedly disabled teddy bear has been seen openly working for the BBC on national television.
In an undercover operation, DWP investigators revealed the bear – which claims to have visual impairment problems – was raking in over 30 million a year working one day a year on a BBC programme called ‘Children in Need’ while it claimed to be disabled.
The investigation comes after a campaign by the Daily Mail which aimed to encourage its readers to help fight welfare crime by reporting possible cases of benefit fraud.
The newspaper revealed it had received a large number of calls to its ‘benefit cheats’ hotline after readers noticed the cheating bear working on television last night.
In an editorial, the Mail said:
“Social security should be a safety net for those in need…
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Excellent points about changing our democratic system to be more inclusive, better deliberated and as such more democratic. I love it.
Okay, I have managed to get my head around the many different forms democracy takes, I think.
Now I have to dig deeper into the deliberative theories that have taken shape since Carol Pateman (1970) raised the issue of creating a more participatory form of democracy to address those groups excluded from exerting any influence on policy decisions.
The important thing about many of the new theories surrounding deliberation is the focus on the increased involvement of as many citizens as possible, not only surrounding the voting for elite representatives, but also in making collective decisions about policies.
Encouraging more groups of diverse individuals, perhaps representatives from the different interest groups, coming together to discuss and decide on matters of policy, is said to lead to a greater understanding on many levels. In empirical research they have asked groups to vote before deliberation (and before being given the relevant information) and after deliberation. The results show that it not only brings about a change in attitudes, and greater consensus, but also generates new ways of approaching the issue that had not been known when individuals were concentrating on winning for their side. In other words, those voting are forced to hear about, and thus think more about the consequences and outcomes for people outside their particular interest group.
To counteract such problems it is important that deliberation happens, not only in the public sphere of politics, but also in the private sphere: currently politics is viewed as a taboo topic in private social discourse because it leads to disagreement, it should be encouraged, not frowned upon: as argued by Habermas – we all need to learn how to think more critically about social and political issues..
Yes, we have a vote but more often than not, we are following a herd mentality, or as in the case of working class voters who vote conservative, voting irrationally for the party focused on maintaining the status quo. By this I mean they aspire to be members of the wealthier class, they see the wealthy members of society voting conservative, so they vote conservative because they want to be like them, not realising that doing so makes it, arguably, harder for them to achieve their aspirations.
Deliberation is certainly an important part of politics already. We have deliberation currently with public consultations and policy committees. However, more and more, this deliberation is being carried out exclusively by an elite group of people who have little in common with the majority of the populace and, as members of the wealthy class, they carry their own agenda. Fearful of the tyranny of the majority, we appear to be accepting the creation, or recreation, of a tyranny of a single minority.
This highlights the current focus on protective/legal forms of democracy, winning over the more progressive, developmental forms we saw following WWII. The first is focused on the protection of private property and ensuring the more negative forms of freedom; the latter is interested not only on the instrumental values, but also on the more intrinsic values of democracy.
We need wider participation in the deliberative process to make the system more democratic and inclusive. This would, so argue deliberative democrats, lead to the populace becoming better informed about politics, about what is in their own particular interests, and improve thinking and communication skills, leading to a fairer outcome in the general elections. The wider the participation, the less likely it is that some interest groups remain excluded. So it is a mix of participatory democracy and deliberative democracy that some are arguing is the most democratic, although yet to be proved viable, in large states with a diverse population.
After comparing the different theories of deliberative – and one reflective form of – democracy, I have to assess the practicalities. If it is a more legitimate form of democracy, that realises all it’s intrinsic claims, is it ever going to be possible to achieve it? I believe my answer will rely, to some extent, on the requirement for the creation of a more equal society, in order for as full a participation as possible. It will need to take up people’s time: unlike the Greeks and Romans, we will not have a large workforce of slaves, and women, if we are to have a full version of democracy.
A worrying bill was recently passed in the UK – the lobbying bill. It was called for to stop the influence of corporate lobbying, but a sinister element in the actual bill, (I’ve yet to get my head around fully as it is extremely complicated and full of legalese), has led to many referring to it as the gagging bill: aimed at stopping small interest groups and charities from campaigning during elections. Very worrying abuse of power if that is the case – and extremely anti-democratic.
If anyone can make sense of the second part of the bill, I’d be grateful for some input..
Dissertation year! Made it through the first two years of the Masters and my proposal for the dissertation has been accepted.
I will be examining/evaluating different theories of democracy and attempting to discover whether deliberative forms of democracy can be used to increase its legitimacy in our floundering Western democracies.
I may have time to put my thoughts here, but based on the last two years workload, it is a wish that may remain unfulfilled.