Tuesday, 12 July 2016

85. because you need education. Political essay 5. The law of peoples.

I talk about Rawls' 'Veil of Ignorance' often when speaking about human rights and norms, and how we as a society are pretty shit at equality.

So I thought I'd speak a bit about Rawls here, and crucially, some of the flaws in his concept of 'The Law of Peoples.'

Unlike the 'Veil of Ignorance,' 'The Law of Peoples' actually sets out to talk about how enforcing rights in the world should work.
It's a big question, so I'm going to skip over indulging in that right now and save it for the essay bellow.
But what I will say is this;
A decent standard of universal rights is of paramount importance.
Couple this an emphasis of inclusivity and you have a good, basic standard of equality.

If you'd like to read more on my view of equality, then I suggest reading Rawls 'A Theory of Justice.'
I'll use Wikipedia to sum it up here for those who don't want to;

The "veil of ignorance", along with the original position, is a method of determining the morality of a certain issue (e.g., slavery) based upon the following thought experiment: parties to the original position know nothing about the particular abilities, tastes, and positions individuals will have within a social order. When such parties are selecting the principles for distribution of rights, positions, and resources in the society in which they will live, the veil of ignorance prevents them from knowing who will receive a given distribution of rights, positions, and resources in that society. For example, for a proposed society in which 50% of the population is kept in slavery, it follows that on entering the new society there is a 50% likelihood that the participant would be a slave. The idea is that parties subject to the veil of ignorance will make choices based upon moral considerations, since they will not be able to make choices based on self- or class-interest.
As John Rawls put it, "no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like."[1] The idea of the thought experiment is to render obsolete those personal considerations that are morally irrelevant to the justice or injustice of principles meant to allocate the benefits of social cooperation. The veil of ignorance is part of a long tradition of thinking in terms of a social contract. The writings of Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson offer examples of this tradition.

So why is this relevant now?
Well, put simply, if one were to make decisions, with concepts of Freedom (positive and negative), Equality and Rights in mind, from behind this veil, then intolerance and racial hatred should not exist.

Decent morality is not compatible with prejudice.
Equality is not compatible with prejudice.
Freedom is no compatible with prejudice.
Rights are not compatible with prejudice.

Decent morality is not compatible with wilful ignorance.
Equality is not compatible with

wilful ignorance.Freedom is no compatible with wilful ignorance.
Rights are not compatible with
wilful ignorance.

As we have concluded thus far, the Leave camp and UKIP mimic extreme right wing movements, and show Fascist tendencies.
This intolerant behavior is not compatible with Freedom and Equality.
If one were to approach the subject of impartially that the Veil of Ignorance grants, then it simply would not be acceptable.

The problem we face is that currently people don't behave/ think/ vote this way.
It's high time they did.

To what extent does Rawls’ proposal for a ‘Law of Peoples’ amount to a defence of basic human rights?

   In The Law of Peoples' John Rawls approaches the problematic issues of liberty and justice on a larger scale. Building on concepts formulated in previous works, Rawls attempts to establish a realistic conceptual standpoint in which Liberal democratic societies should approach various 'other' societies within the international community. The Law of peoples is inevitably a multifaceted and complex conceptual entity, and in following with his previous work, concerns itself somewhat with the issue of human rights. Indeed, it is this aspect of the 'law of peoples' that has caused conflict. Whilst in previous works Rawls has argued in favour for extensive protection of rights for liberal people, it is not the same case in 'The Law of Peoples.' Rawls puts forward a substantially weaker set of 'urgent' human rights, which he conceives as not only fundamental and necessary, but also; and somewhat importantly, reasonably acceptable to all societies, liberal or not.
   Rawls suggests that the 'Law of peoples' is an adequate concept for dealing with peoples, and indeed some suggest that in this regard the 'law of peoples' can seen as a concept that defends basic, or rather, urgent, human rights. However, there have been numerous criticisms of the law of peoples. Some argue that these 'urgent' rights are simply not demanding enough, as they are in fact less demanding than the already widely accepted universal declaration of human rights. Other go further in their criticisms, not just focusing on the lack of general rights, but also the lack of commitment to specific aspects of rights, such as the distinction between subsistence and adequacy.

   Rawls specifies these urgent rights when setting down his two criteria for decent hierarchical societies; "The first part is that a decent hierarchical people's system of law, in accordance with its common good idea of justice....secures for all members of the people what have come to be called human rights....Among these human rights are the right to life (to the means of subsistence and security); to liberty (freedom from slavery, serfdom, and forced occupation, and to a sufficient measure of liberty of conscience to ensure freedom of religion and thought); to property (personal property); and to formal equality as expressed by the rules of natural justice (that is, that similar cases be treated similarly). Human rights, as such understood, cannot be rejected as peculiarly liberal or special to the western tradition. They are not politically parochial." (Rawls 1999; 6).
  Indeed, it would outwardly appear that Rawls "doctrine of human rights in [Law of Peoples] offers hope for more effective protection of human rights in all parts of the world, on the one hand by diminishing the right of states to violate human rights with impunity within their own boarders, and on the other by giving other states the right to intervene in their internal affairs if such violations continue to occur" (Macleod 2006; 138).
Many of the critics of the law of peoples support the ground on which Rawls makes his arguments and assumptions; supporting the proposition of the original position/veil of ignorance theory (Tasioulas 2005). It is with this minimal conception of 'urgent' human right where differences seem to occur.
 Indeed, on this point, Buchanan offers a scathing critique of Rawls underlying assumptions and arguments for this minimalist list of rights, arguing that it can result in;
  "a society in which there is a permanent racial, ethnic, religious, or gender underclass, hovering just above subsistence, systematically excluded from the more desirable economic positions, having grossly inferior property rights, lacking access to education and health services available to the dominant classes, unable to afford legal counsel and bereft of sophisticated due process protections available to others, would not be a society in which thus disadvantaged could comp[lain that their human rights were violated." (Buchanan 2006; 151).
    John Tasioulas' critique also looks into this problem of narrowness within the law of peoples. This is especially evident in Rawls' take on the 'right to life.' Tasioulas notes that Rawls' conception follows on from that of Shue's earlier work in what exactly 'subsistence' consists of. Shue argues that  this right secures access to "unpolluted air and water, adequate food, clothing and shelter, and a basic minimum of health care - thus enabling its holders to have what is needed for "a decent chance at a reasonably healthy and active life of more or less normal length, barring tragic intervention" (Tasioulas 2005, 16; Shue 1996, 23). Rawls' conception of what construes as the 'right to life' falls short of the pre-existing conception of what the 'right to life' is in international law; Tasioulas points out that "International lawyers standardly construe this as an entitlement to more than the means of subsistence." (Tasioulas 2005; 16). It is this commitment to a minimal conception of human rights that he argues shows the "inadequacy of a decent society on the score of welfare rights" he goes on to point out that "nothing in this definition prevents a decent society making lavish provision for the welfare of its members. But the concept of 'decency' is compatible with other, less attractive possibilities" (2005; 17). Indeed, this lack of fuller rights is again pointed out in regards to his definition of the 'freedom of conscience.' Tasioulas again argues that this conception is not sufficient; "A decent hierarchical society, on Rawls's account, must protect its members from religious persecution, but it need not grant them 'equal' freedom of religion. In particular, it is not prevented from establishing a state religion or excluding peoples from certain occupations on the ground of religious creed. Thus, the situation...sketched out would severely impair the ability of members of the minority to achieve an adequate living standards without unambiguously violating anything that Rawls would recognise as their human rights." (2005; 17).
   Indeed Tasioulas is not the only one to note that the law of peoples does not set a particularly high standard of human rights for a society of peoples to be branded 'decent.' M. Victoria Costa also argues that Rawls minimal conception of human rights is simply not enough.
   In a similar vein of argument as Tasioulas, Costa points out that Rawls 'urgent' human rights are considerably less demanding than the Universal declaration of Human rights (Costa 2006; 58). Costa acknowledges that Rawls purposely limits the scope of his conception of urgent human rights to achieve a decent level of legitimacy and tolerance of diverse cultures in an international community of peoples, however Costa argues that due to the fact that the rights represented within the universal declaration of human rights are "internationally acknowledged today, they are clearly candidates in the list of basic human rights, provided adequate political justification can be given for them" (2006; 58). In this regard, Costa see's little need for the narrow conception of rights in which Rawls commits to in the Law of peoples; "The universal declaration of human rights and the two subsequent covenants, both of which were the result of processes of international dialogue and both of which were endorsed by most countries of the world, testify to the wide acceptability of the idea of human rights. So too does the development of the current range of cooperative organizations designed to protect human rights all over the globe" (2006: 58-59).  Rawls often notes that this restricted list of rights in an effort to maintain tolerance and thus legitimacy in an international community, and Costa is not the only one who sees this as fundamentally flawed. Buchanan also argues similar point, from the basis that "there is nothing parochial about grounding human rights in basic human interests if, as seems clear enough, such interests exist" (Buchanan 2006; 159), he goes on to argue that;
   "if the goal is to be tolerant, there are many ways in which this can be achieved in the process of attempting to promulgate and institutionalize a theory of human rights that is grounded in assumptions about basic human interests or capabilities, without abandoning the whole enterprise. Tolerance can be given its due in many aspects of the institutionalized process of formulating human rights conventions and devising procedures to monitor compliance with their norms. For example, provision can be made, as it is in the current institutionalization of human rights, for ensuring that the various adjudication and compliance monitoring processes through which the content of human rights norms is specified and critically revised over time include inputs from a variety of cultural perspectives, under conditions of accurate information about what sorts of institutional arrangements are need to protect human beings basic interests" (2006; 159-160).   
  Thus it would appear that there is general consensus in the critique of Rawls's law of peoples. Firstly that there are underlying flaws and unanswered complexities that, once logically thought through, appear contradictory. These result in a minimalist, and generally pragmatic list of basic human rights (Macleod 2006). However, these flaws, once played out, reveal that it is entirely justifiable to enlarge this list of rights, and it is equally legitimate to enforce them. This is grounded upon the already, pre-existing 'consensus within the international community on human rights, embodied within already existing institutions such as the universal declaration of human rights. This is then should be the standard for which liberal peoples judge 'decent' peoples, and as such, inform their policy towards them.
   The manner in which these arguments are put forward is convincing in itself, not least because the need for pressing the issue of human rights is important. However, all these arguments are somewhat flawed in a similar, and somewhat obvious fashion. The work of David Reidy is useful in emphasising these issues. Indeed Reidy notes that "with respect to the content, nature and function, and justification of human rights, then, Rawls's position appears to be heterodox to some significant degree" (Reidy 2006;170), however, he argues that upon closer inspection. Rawls puts forward a far more robust defence of human rights that he is often given credit for. This argument is essentially broken down into two parts; misinterpreting, misreading or misunderstanding the language Rawls uses, and the current state of international law.
   To being with, that Rawls states that "Human rights set a necessary, though not sufficient, standard of decency of domestic and social intuitions" (Rawls 1999; 80). Reidy points out that it is in the section on human rights that Rawls "affairs as human rights, in the full and most fundamental sense of the term, the rights specified on articles 3-18 of the [universal declaration of human rights]. These include the central elements of due process and the rule of law.., the right to seek asylum..., the right to national identity..., and the right to freedom of movement" (Reidy 2006; 170). Indeed, Rawls's list of human rights is "rather more robust than many readers have been willing to acknowledge" (2006; 171).
   Despite this the law of peoples is certainly minimalist when compared to the universal declaration of human rights, as many liberal democratic rights are explicitly excluded. It is here where the role of pre-existing human rights entities comes into play. The most important observation that Reidy makes in this sense is that "strictly speaking, the [universal declaration of human rights] is not a legally binding document and all the parties signatory knew that when they signed." (2006; 172). This important distinction is one which Rawls makes, and which the critics have somehow failed to acknowledge. The Law of peoples on the other hand is significantly different to these pre-existing, non-binding and thus, apparitional standards. Rawls concern is with "those human rights binding on states regardless of and prior to any consent they may or may not give, human rights that must be secured for there to be anything like a morally acceptable international politics of human rights" (2006; 173).
   These points offer a convincing rebuttal to the critics of the Law of peoples in regards to the minimal list of human rights, and the legitimacy of intervention and enforcement. However there still exists the question of why liberal democracies states would not impose liberal democratic standards on 'decent non-liberal' peoples; indeed in building a universal set of human rights what would stop liberal peoples agreeing on "some general right to democratic political process, or to universal suffrage, or to non-discrimination in employment or eligibility to run for office?" (2006; 179). Again Reidy attempts to answer these criticisms. He points out that such standards, set a century ago, would exclude nations such as England and the U.S.A from a decent society of peoples, and thus loose the right of self determination and freedom from intervention (2006; 179 -180). Reidy argues that "given their own self-understanding, and with it the historical bases of their own amour proper, it would be unreasonable of liberal democratic peoples to authorize principles of international morality that permit the use of international force solely to secure the liberalization and democratization of such an apparently otherwise decent body politic" (2006; 180). In this light, the rights that would secure a state from intervention, and thus allow for self determination, are far more akin to those rights that Rawls sets out in a more 'charitable' reading of the Law of peoples.

   It would appear the that while the Law of peoples does not explicitly set out to defend human rights, the creation of a community of decent, well ordered peoples should, in theory, lead to an international community in which the most fundamental human rights are not only respected, but built upon. While there have been valuable critical accounts of the law of peoples; the arguments made, the clarity and the minimalist list of rights, it is clear that these have been rather misleading in their interpretations. It is certainly true that the law of peoples could function with a broader list of human rights, and still function in a similar way as the universal declaration of human rights, however that is not the principle aim of the law of peoples. Simply put then, the law of peoples aims to establish an international order, in which exists a list of basic human rights that "bind all states regardless of their consent" (2006; 185). In this regard then Rawls law of peoples, while not explicitly defending human rights, offers are more convincing and enforceable system to do so than the current system. Indeed, in his conclusion Reidy even goes as far as to state that  "if we conjoin Rawls's doctrine of basic human rights with the foregoing account of the politics of human rights, we see that Rawls has set out a powerful vision of how free peoples, following their own historical path and faithful to the limits of liberal conception of international right, might arrive at a world within which (at least generically) liberal democratic rights are universally recognised and enforced as human (though not basic human) rights" (2006; 186).


  • Buchanan, Allen (2006). 'Taking the Human out of Human Rights', In Rex Martin and David A. Reidy (Ed's), Rawls's Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia? , Blackwell: Oxford.
  • Costa, M. Victoria (2005). 'Human Rights and the Global Original Position Argument in The Law of Peoples', Journal of social philosophy, 36: 1,  p. 46-6.
  • Macleod, Alistair M. (2006). 'Rawls's Narrow Doctrine of Human Rights, In Rex Martin and David A. Reidy (Ed's), Rawls's Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia? , Blackwell: Oxford.
  • Rawls, John (1986). A Theory of Justice, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  • Rawls, John (1999). The Law of Peoples with 'The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,' Harvard University Press: Massachusetts.
  • Reidy, David A. (2006). 'Political Authority and Human Rights', In Rex Martin and David A. Reidy (Ed's), Rawls's Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia? , Blackwell: Oxford.Tasioulas,
  •  John (2005). 'Global Justice Without End?', Metaphilosophy, 35:1/2.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

84. Because you need educating. Political essay 4. Positive and Negative Freedom.

Following on from my previous post about Why politics Matters...

I'm going to talk about Freedom and equality; what exactly freedom is in practice (why we need rules to be free), and then using this as a sort of basis we'll talk about ensuring freedoms and entitlement in another post.

As for this post; it is about freedom and the difficulties of defining it.

Now you may be wondering why the fuck this is important.
Well hold on for some logic here folks

Isiah Berlin came up with the concept of two types of freedom; positive and negative; freedom to and freedom from.
While his concept is flawed in aspects it does make some valid points.

Essentially, we need rules to guarantee a better quality of freedom for all.
We give up certain rights to ensure others.
For example; the right to kill everyone is given up, so we in turn are safe.

We give up certain rights ot ensure that we have a basic level of human rights for all...
Almost like the European Bill of Human rights that most of the front running Tories want to tear up... oh shit.
'How can such people possibly get to power? you may ask.

This is what happens when you put the 'remove all external restrictions about removing human rights' stick in front of the 'I'm a rich white privileged asshole' power hungry Tory.
Slight bias opinion? Maybe.
But go check out the voting patterns of all the Tory leadership candidates.
Most of them have admitted at some point or another, to removing some, if not all, of the EUBR.

And all of this is happening, because Leave is dragging us out of the EU and possibly all our other European obligations (depending on how fucked international relations are afterwards).
Regardless, they will weaken powers when and where they can.

Anyway, read this for more.

  “Contrary to what Isaiah Berlin argues, no hard and fast distinction can be drawn between negative and positive freedom.” Discuss.

     Freedom is a concept that is at the basis of a large amount of political and philosophical debate, both in the past and the present. Despite these lively debates it is difficult to pin down exactly what freedom entails. Some would argue that freedom is the ability to do whatever one desires, (freedom as 'want satisfaction'), however this does not work in reality as it is possible to inflict upon another's 'freedom.' In an attempt describe the nature of freedom, Isaiah Berlin argues there are 'Two concepts of liberty;' 'Positive' and 'Negative' forms of freedom. However, there are those who criticise such a stark distinction between these forms of freedom. Some disagree with this duel distinction of liberty, such as Gerald MacCallum, whom argues that "there is but one concept of liberty"(Gaus 2000: 98); one of a three part structure. Other critics such as Gerald F. Gaus argue that it is important "not to overstate the differences between negative and positive liberty"(Gaus 2000: 98), and that the key factor is one of choice. In light of these critiques of Berlin's 'two concepts of liberty' some would argue that there is no clear distinction between negative and positive freedom. This statement has some truth to it, as the critics of Berlin show, however, as Gaus writes "although the distinction is not quite so stark as some have thought, it seems that Berlin has made a powerful case that the different interpretations of liberty are grounded on different, indeed competing, understandings of value, reason and human nature" (Gaus 2000: 98). To understand the extent of contrast between negative and positive freedom, it is important to examine both the arguments supporting Berlin's theory and the various criticism and alternate approaches to this contested concept of freedom.

   Berlin; whom uses liberty and freedom interchangeably, argues that the negative sense of freedom is "involved in the answer to the question 'What is the area within which the subject - a person or group of persons- is or should be left to do or to be, without interference by other persons?'"(Berlin 2002: 169). While on the other hand positive freedom is "involved in the answer to the question 'what, or who, is the source of control or interference that can determine someone to do, or be, this rather that that?'"(Berlin 2002: 169). In essence, Negative freedom is the freedom from external interference and Positive freedom is the freedom to act. Berlin acknowledges the fact these are different forms of freedom, however that "the answers to them may overlap" (Berlin 2002: 169). Negative liberty; the freedom from interference, describes the degree of interference on an individual by other individuals or institutions; "the wider the area of non-interference the wider [the individuals] freedom"(Berlin 2002: 170). Berlin points out however that there is need for some restriction on an individual's freedoms; "we must give up some of our liberty to preserve the rest" (Berlin 2002: 173). Negative liberty deals with the level of interface on freedom (for good reasons of bad), while on the other hand Positive liberty on the "the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master" (Berlin 2002: 178); the individual's ability to act in their own best interest. In addition Berlin argues that, to an extent, an individual can be "coerced for [their] own good, which [the individual] is too blind to see" (Berlin 2002: 180), as "this may, on occasion, be for [their] benefit; indeed it may enlarge the scope of [the individual's] liberty" (Berlin 2002: 180). In essence therefore positive liberty is the expansion of individual's liberty, regardless of others. It is in this characteristic that Berlin finds fault with the concept of positive liberty; "To an extent of a man's, or a people's, liberty to chose to live as he or they desire must be weighed against the claims of many other values, of which equality, or justice, or happiness, or security, or public order are perhaps the most obvious examples. For this reason, it cannot be unlimited" (Berlin 2002: 215). This is the distinction between positive and negative freedom; positive allows little room for other individual's liberty and other values. Negative liberty on the other hand is a more pluralistic 'ideal' as it recognises "the fact that human goals are many, not all of them commensurable, and in perpetual rivalry with one another" (Berlin 2002: 216). It is for these reasons that Berlin argues that not only are the two forms of freedom different, but that negative freedom is preferable to positive freedom, as it allows for a greater equality before the law for those being ruled over.

    Despite the arguments of Berlin, there are those that do not agree with this distinction between the two concepts of liberty. MacCallum states that the challenges to Berlin's view have nothing to do with a 'truer' freedom; a reference to Berlin's preference of negative freedom, but rather "that the distinction between them has never been made sufficiently clear" (MacCallum 1991: 100). He argues that the problem with this distinction is that, like in most instances, there is confusion over what exactly constitutes as 'freedom.' MacCallum suggests that only by measuring questions of 'freedom' against the conditions of freedom; the triadic formula, "taking the format x is (is not) free from y to do (not do, become, not become) z,' x ranges over agents, y ranges over such 'preventing conditions' as constraints, restrictions, interferences, and barriers and z ranges over actions or conditions of character or circumstance" (MacCallum 1991: 102), can a distinction of freedom be made. MacCallum concluded by writing that the "discussion of the freedom of agents can be fully intelligible and rationally assessed only after the specification of each term of this triadic relation has been made or at least understood...this single 'concept' of freedom puts us in a position to see the interesting and important ranges of issues separating philosophers who write about freedom in such different ways, and the ideologies that treat freedom so differently" (MacCallum 1991: 121). In the context of Berlin's 'two concepts of liberty' it is clear that MacCallum feels that it is not possible to make such a distinction between 'freedoms,' and that "the analysis and understandings of discussions of freedom should not, therefore, be expected to produce always a neat ordering of the discussion, but it will help further to delimit the alternatives of reasonable interpretation" (MacCallum 1991: 121).

   Berlin however disagrees with MacCallum, arguing that "a man struggling against his chains or a people against enslavement need not consciously aim at any definite further state. A man need not know how he will use his freedom; he just wants to remove the yoke" (Berlin cited in Gaus 2000: 95). This argument takes the focus away from the conditions and aims of an individual's freedom; the individual in question may not have any knowledge of potential freedom opportunities, and concentrates on the approach to the analysis of liberty; in doing so Berlin insists that the questions of positive liberty; 'who governs me?', and negative liberty; 'how much am I governed?' are still relevant. This further distinction has also been challenged. "Positive liberty tie[s] freedom very close to reason; a free person must be a person who acts according to reason rather than through impulse, superstition, or custom or out of ignorance. In contrast, what has been called pure negative liberty seems to understand freedom without and reference to what is rational for a person to do: it does not concern itself at all with why a person acts, only whether this act is obstructed" (Gaus 2000: 96). Drawing on the writings of John Stuart Mill, Gerald F. Gaus argues that this distinction between positive and negative liberty is flawed; there is more to 'negative' freedom than just the obstacles to choices. According to Gaus "A free act must in some sense be chosen. To act freely, one must be capable of choice, or be a chooser, and one must exercise that capacity...Free action, even in the negative sense of freedom, thus does, after all, presuppose the exercise of a capacity: the capacity for voluntary choice" (Gaus 2000: 96). Essentially this means that the concept of negative freedom cannot be fully understood by only taking into account external interference, as ultimately an individual has to make a choice before being restricted; "although negative freedom is by no means to be equated to autonomy, it does presuppose the exercise of a more modest capacity, autarchy, the capacity to choose" (Gaus 2000: 97). It in this context that the concept of negative freedom can be seen as 'self defeating', as it falls back on assumptions of the exercise of choice; as only "choosers can be denied political liberty" (Gaus 2000: 98), while at the same time criticising that same exercise in the positive conception of liberty.

   Despite these criticisms of Berlin's 'two concepts of liberty' it "seems that [he] has made out a powerful case that the different interpretations of liberty are grounded on different, indeed competing, understandings of value, reason, and human nature" (Gaus 2000: 98). It is with this idea of competing human nature in mind that Maria Dimova-Cookson argues a "new scheme of the relation between positive and negative freedom that is based both on a retrieval of T. H. Green's theory of freedom and some further reconstructions of his theory"  (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 508). The problem she identifies with the 'two concepts' is that the distinctions between the two have been difficult to maintain, and as such has lead to increasing criticism. It is argued that freedom can be split into a political sphere; negative and positive freedom, and a personal sphere; juristic and 'true' freedom, and although the two are similar there are key differences between the two. In the personal sphere juristic freedom is "the power to act according to preference" (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 513), whilst 'true' freedom is found in the "pursuit of self-perfection, in the pursuit of something that the individual believes to be truly good and that will bring [them] permanent satisfaction" (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 513). In essence, doing what you want one the one side, and doing what you should on the other; ordinary action and moral action; "While the pursuit of the moral good implies the intention to good for the others, the pursuit of the ordinary good does not imply such an intention" (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 513). It is clear in this context the Berlin prefers the ordinary/juristic freedom, whilst Green the moral/'true' freedom. Dimova-Cookson on the other hand argues that while there is a clear distinction between the two, "one's moral good translates to another's ordinary good" (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 516), It is this difference in perspective that she argues is the key distinction between Negative and Positive freedom in the political sphere as well; "In the case of positive freedom, the agent exercises his freedom in his 'capacity' as a producer of moral goods; in the case of negative freedom, the agent is a 'recipient' of such goods. As there necessarily two sides to each moral interaction - productive and recipient counterparts - political freedom has its two aspects - positive and negative" (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 524).

  It would seem that Berlin's 'two concepts of liberty' are inherently flawed. The many critics of the concepts of Positive and Negative freedom have pointed out its various shortcomings; The lack of specific terms regarding  the extent of freedom as seen through the use of the triadic analysis formula, and the idea that all negative liberty is self defeating based on the assumption of choice in all forms of freedom. Despite this it would seem the Berlin's distinction between the two has merit, and when explored in more depth through the personal and political spheres it would seem that the "same social circumstances that make the exercise of positive freedom imperative...make the demand for negative freedom legitimate" (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 528). This may not be the distinction at the heart of Berlin's argument in 'two concepts of liberty,' but it would seem that while both concepts of liberty are intertwined, the "defence of positive freedom, can strengthen the grounds for defending negative freedom" (Dimova-Cookson 2003: 528). As such a clear distinction can be made between the two; a distinction of perspective.


·         Berlin, Isaiah (2002). Liberty. New York: Oxford University Press.

·         Dimova-Cookson, Maria (2003). 'A new scheme of positive and negative freedom: reconstructing T. H. Green on Freedom', Political Theory, 31: 508, pp. 508 - 532.

·         Gaus, Gerald F (2000). Political Concepts and Political Theories. Oxford: West View Press.

·         MacCallum, Gerald C (1991). 'Negative and Positive Freedom,' in D Miller (ed.), Liberty. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 100 - 122.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

83. Because you need educating. Political essay 3. Why politics matters.

So you may be asking yourself, 'why are you still talking about this shit? There is nothing you can do now.'

I've got some news for you,
so pay attention.

1. There is still plenty we can do; legally the referendum isn't binding. Due to the acute nature of the win it actually means about 70% of the population didn't vote for Brexit.

2. In the case of a snap election, people need to know the facts... because they sure as fuck didn't know them before!
They also need to be shown that promises from Leave were broken, or rather, never had the intention of being delivered, or just simply could not be delivered.
To quote IDS 'we never made commitments, just promises that were possibilities.'
Go fuck yourself.

3. We can stand up against prejudice and intolerance. Racism, Xenophobia and Homophobia (and all other types or prejudice) are not acceptable.
We do this and we rob the 'legitimacy' of hate crimes, violence, abuse and fascist tendencies.
Not only do people need to know that this type of behavior is right wing extremism, fascist in nature... but also, that it is actually happening. Right now.
Awareness is key.

So I will keep posting, simply because 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing' - Edmund Burke

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/edmundburk377528.html
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/edmundburk377528.html

I've seen a general complaint about 'well your only a politician for a day... go back to liking X, Y and Z and shut up.'

Go fuck yourself.

Politics matters.
Don't like politics? Tough shit.
It is probably one of the most important activities you take part in outside of eating, breathing and sleeping.
Even then it, governs some of those things too!

So, education lesson number 3.

Why politics matters.

Does Politics Matter? Why?

      Politics and the impact and influence it has is a frequently debated subject. Some political theorists

argue that Politics does not matter, stating that if everyone followed a singular ideology or set of rules of

how to live; such as a specific religion for example, Politics would cease to exist. Similarly Marxists believe

that if class differences ceased to exist, politics would be rendered useless. However other theorists argue

that Politics is an important part of human life; it is as a result of human nature's self interest and need for

cooperation that Politics exists. To make an informed decision on the weather Politics matters or not, it is

important to have a general understanding of a variety of theories of what Politics is and under what

circumstances Politics takes place.

           Adrian Leftwich is one theorist that attempts to define Politics. Leftwich draws upon the ideas of

Marxism, the rational choice model and the idea of governance to help define what Politics is. The rational

choice model suggests that everyone acts out of self interest. Politics exists as a result of agents perusing

"their interests in such a way to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs." (Leftwich, A., ‘Thinking

politically’, in Leftwich, A. (Ed). What is Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.7), and at points it

can become more beneficial to cooperate with other agents, this in relation to the rational choice model is

Politics in essence. Marxism views Politics as a result of the power of respective classes trying to

advance their position in the class divide; weather it is the rich asserting their dominance or the poor trying

to close the gap. The idea of Governance for Leftwich "refers to general patterns of interlocking systems of

governing across both public and private spheres by which the overall social, economic and political life of a

society are organized and managed." (Leftwich, A., ‘Thinking politically’, in Leftwich, A. (Ed). What is

Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.10) For Leftwich 'Governance' is not just the formal institutions of

government, but is a broader concept incorporating other institutions and agents; "I argue that politics

consists of all the activities of conflict (peaceful or not), negotiation and co-operation over the use and

distribution of resources, wherever they may be found, within or beyond formal institutions, on a global

level or within a family, involving two or more people." (Leftwich, A., ‘Thinking politically’, in Leftwich, A.

(Ed). What is Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.15). For Leftwich Politics is extensive; it is about the

process of decision making and maintain society and is not limited to the public arena of institutions, but

can reach into the private sphere of corporate and even family life. This definition sees Politics as a

fundamental part of society. Politics matters because without it decisions do not happen, society is not

maintained and "tensions would emerge between different institutional spheres and goals, thereby

severely affecting the governing of the country." (Leftwich, A., ‘Thinking politically’, in Leftwich, A. (Ed).

What is Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.12).

     Guy Peters also takes up the mantle of defining politics, suggesting that "Politics...refers fundamentally

to the relations of power and influence between states and their societies (and a more or less wide range

of interests within them), and in particular to that complex set of processes whereby governments come to

choose between a variety of collective goals for society and seek to implement them." (B. Guy Peters,

‘Politics is about governing’, in Leftwich, A. (Ed). What is Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.25).

Peters implies that Politics is about Government; it takes place in Government institutions, where they

make decision that effect the whole of society This for Peteres sets these 'public' decisions apart from

those made in the 'private' sphere of thought such as families, companies and so on. The "defining feature

of Politics" for Peters is that "it is inextricably bound up in the relations of states and their citizens or

subjects, in making and implementing public policy, and how the two parties in this relationship affect each

other in the course of doing so." (B. Guy Peters, ‘Politics is about governing’, in Leftwich, A. (Ed). What is

Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.25). Peters seems to suggest that where Government is absent,

there is no authority and no goals for society. This is why for Peters; politics is governing and governing

matters, as without it society ceases to exist. This ties into the idea that Politics is about power; "What

makes the government’s actions political … is not that they are general and public and may or do affect

everyone in society; after all, so are a manufacturer’s decisions when he fixes the prices of his products. 

The distinctive mark of a political action is that it can be enforced, because the government can coerce

people into obedience by the threat of physical force, and ultimately by using it." (Nicholson, P., ‘Politics

and the exercise of force’, in Leftwich, A. (Ed), What is Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.45). This

idea suggests it's not what a government does, it's how it does is it, which Nicholson believes is through the

states use of legitimate violence. This idea is modified from the work of Max Weber; "A state is a human

community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given

territory. Note that 'territory' is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the

right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the

state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the 'right' to use violence. Hence, 'politics' for us

means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or

among groups within a state." (Weber, M., "Politics as Vocation, speech" -

http://www.ne.jp/asahi/moriyuki/abukuma/weber/lecture/politics_vocation.html). Here Politics is an

activity by a society or between societies; the groups of people within a said society do not 'do' politics, but

can become involved with it. Theorists such as Leftwich would argue that the problem with this definition is

that it is a far too 'narrow' conception of Politics.

      These definitions have certain preconditions for the circumstances under which politics takes place.

Primarily they both share the idea of disagreement. This idea of disagreement stems from the theory

developed between the 16th and 18th century referred to as the 'state of nature'; the human condition

without Politics/Government. The 'state of nature' sets down some fundamental assumptions about

human nature as a whole, one of which is that human beings or human societies are not perfectible. Gerry

Stoker puts this idea into perspective; "It is equally difficult always to be sure what is in someone's best

interests, so it seems impossible to establish a society where some interests do not clash....people will

make their own judgments about what is right for themselves..." (Stoker, G., 'Why Politics Matters, making

democracy work.' Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; p.4). The idea Stoker puts forward here is that it is in a human

beings nature to look out for their own best interest, however, it is also evident that as humans we have to

learn to live with each other, which means making compromises. This is what Stoker believes Politics

is; "Politics is constructed in order to express conflicts and allow different interests to shape our

collective endeavors...Politics is about trying to get what you want yourself, or alongside others, for a

common cause." (Stoker, G., 'Why Politics Matters, making democracy work.' Palgrave Macmillan, 2006;

p.4). Some theorists state there is a difference between public or 'Big P' politics and private or 'little p'

politics, Stoker admits that there are different sites or locations for politics, however in his eyes there is no

escape for politics as a whole; "we are human, we disagree and seek different things and we need politics

not only to express but also to manage those disagreements and if possible find ways to cooperate"

(Stoker, G., 'Why Politics Matters, making democracy work.' Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; p.5), which is why

on such a basic level is why politics is needed; "Politics matters because collective decisions matter."

(Stoker, G., 'Why Politics Matters, making democracy work.' Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; p.5).

              Whilst some theorists may say that politics can be seen as irrelevant in the long run; basing their

arguments on the utopian ideas of religion and the end of class based conflict in the ideals of Marxism, it is

fair to say that these ideas are, in reality, unconvincing. Whilst  human nature exists to fulfill its own

aspirations these inevitably clash with other members of society, or indeed societies as a whole; "...from

almost everyone...what happens in the wider society makes a huge difference to their ability to get a job,

access education or receive health care. What happens in the wider society matters to us all- and that

means politics matters too, because it is through politics that we can influence what happens in that wider

world." (Stoker, G., 'Why Politics Matters, making democracy work.' Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; p.5).

Politics; it's institutions at public and private level, through uses of debate or force, exists because human

 society needs it to achieve collective goals greater than the individual. Thomas Hobbes sums up a world

without Politics in Leviathan; "in such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is

uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may

be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as

require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no

society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary,

poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (Hobbes, T., 'Leviathan' (1651). Without the guidance of cooperation, of

governance and government, an existence without collective goals for a 'greater good', human society

could not achieve anything greater than individual goals, and that selfishness would tear humanity apart.

"The moral precondition is that people need to recognize that it is normally better to conciliate differing

interests than to coerce and oppress them perpetually." (Crick, B., ‘Politics as a form of rule’, in Leftwich, A.

(Ed), What is Politics? Polity Press: Cambridge, 2008; p.70) Which, in short, is why Politics matters.


·         Andrew Heywood., 'Politics', Macmillan Press, 1997.

·         Adrian Leftwich., 'What is Politics?', Polity press, 2004.

·         Gerry Stoker., 'Why Politics Matters, making democracy work', Palgrave Macmillan, 2006

·         John Hoffman and Paul Graham., 'Introduction to Political Theory', Pearson Education Limited, 2009

·         Leo Strauss., 'What is Political Philosophy? and other studies', The free press, a corporation, 1959.

·         Max Weber., 'Politics as a vocation - speech', http://www.ne.jp/asahi/moriyuki/abukuma/weber/lecture/politics_vocation.html

·         Roger D. Masters., 'The Nature of Politics', Yale University Press, 1989.