One of the things that has always bothered me about Rawlsian liberalism is its emphasis on consensus. The Rawlsians want a state which ‘all reasonable people can accept’ or which ‘no reasonable person can reject’. To accomplish this consensus, Rawlsians have to hollow out the good until it contains only uncontroversial values. Controversial principles are not, by definition, accepted by all reasonable people. The Rawlsians therefore have a tendency to depoliticise the controversial. This results in a political theory which is committed to conflict avoidance. Families that avoid conflict tend to have conflict blow up in their faces, and the same is true for states.
But beyond this, Rawlsian liberalism produces a state which is based on lowest common denominators. This is where Plato comes in.
Surprised by common reverence for Plato. Alexandrians like Eratosthenes made superb progress. But what did Plato say that was actually right? And didn’t he mislead generations of theologians & philosophers into thinking you could find truth by making stuff up in an armchair?
Have you seen those charts that try to sort media outlets by political orientation? They have bothered me for years. They tend to use a single left/right scale, and they tend to position the centrist media as if it were “balanced” or “unbiased”. When of course the reality is that the centrist press has its own position, one which is distinct from both the left and the right. So I’ve been thinking–can I make a chart that fixes this? Can we chart political orientation in a useful way?
For some years now there’s been some people who have written pieces encouraging folks to engage in “self-care” and other people who have picked at this concept from the left. The pro self-care pieces tend to give people practical life advice for dealing with the stress and anxiety of modern life. The anti self-care pieces point out that self-care puts the burden of coping with the failures of modern capitalism on the individual. We experience higher incidences of stress and mental illness because our economic system leaves us in precarious positions. We fear being outcompeted for an ever scarcer number of good, professional class jobs. This pushes us into an arms race to polish our resumes. The more we try to look good, the more everyone else feels they must try to look good. So anti self-care pieces frame the practice as a luxury open only to those who are already reasonably secure–it doesn’t address the fundamental structural causes of precarity and it doesn’t rescue people from those forces.
These are the usual arguments surrounding self-care. But today I want to make a different argument–I want to claim that self-care is itself a celebration of a behaviour ancient political theorists rightly associated with slavery.
On the left, we care a lot about equality. But we really, really don’t agree on what that means. Some of us want everyone to be an aristocrat. Some of us want everyone to be a peasant. Some of us want everyone to be a worker. Some of us want everyone to be middle class. Some of us want everyone to spend some time doing all of these things. We don’t talk about this difference very much, but it seems kind of important, because these proposals are not at all the same thing.