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Rachael - Social justice
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Social justice
Poll #1954232
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 11

What does "social justice" mean to you?

View Answers
Caring about global poverty, slavery, third world debt, etc
7 (87.5%)
Caring about privilege, the patriarchy, the kyriarchy, etc
1 (12.5%)

I ask because when I listed it among my LJ interests several years ago I'd only ever heard it used to mean the former, but now I'm increasingly hearing it used (online) to mean the latter - particularly, caring about the latter in an aggressive and intolerant way which I don't want to identify myself with.

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emperor From: emperor Date: January 29th, 2014 01:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Some of both, and also how this country is run in terms of opportunity, taxation, public services, and so on.
atreic From: atreic Date: January 29th, 2014 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know it's a cop out, but I think they are all part of the same tangle. Social justice means making a fairer society. That means trying to get rid of poverty, slavery, debt, etc, and trying to get rid of systamatic biases and unfairnesses as talked about in the privilege debates
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: January 29th, 2014 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
@ Woodpijn. Good question. I'd not really thought about it.

@atreic. Yeah, that's similar to what I was thinking.

In my head, the first is still the "original" meaning, but the second is used a lot more commonly, but I don't know if that's actually right.

FWIW, my personal experience of the second is positive, I see it used to mean "the sort of atheist who doesn't accidentally say anti-Islam and anti-feminist things all the time" or "the sort of feminist who doesn't accidentally trample over race issues or trans issues". But I'm not at all sure if that experience is representative, or it just happens to have seen it used by people I respect, and not by people who are being obnoxious.
mirabehn From: mirabehn Date: January 29th, 2014 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
This!
livredor From: livredor Date: January 29th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with this. People who care about racism and sexism are trying to contribute to addressing injustice and making the world a better place. I do acknowledge that there is an internet subculture which is quite often referred to as "social justice" which can sometimes be aggressive and is almost exclusively focused on bigotry and discrimination rather than more global issues.
pw201 From: pw201 Date: January 29th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think it's quite the same thing, having witnessed the reaction of people who are focussed on identity politics issues to people wanting to talk about economic or class issues (the former accuse the latter of "de-railing", naturally, another word which could have been added to the list for the second poll option). There is a bit of a division between the old and new left here, I think.

There was an interesting comment thread on Slate Star Codex where someone wanted to not feel like they were being a git (as many opponents of the causes Internet SJ people care about are gits) but was leery of Internet SJ. I think that Nancy gives good advice: "Keep cultivating your understanding of what’s wrong with SJ– it’s anti-utilitarianism. Scope sensitivity is discouraged, and so is concern about effects. It might be deontology on steriods." ("Scope sensitivity" is the opposite of scope insensitivity or scope neglect).



Edited at 2014-01-29 07:35 pm (UTC)
senji From: senji Date: January 29th, 2014 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
They is and isn't the same thing. And I could probably slice the pie down some other angle into two "halves" and still produce people who only identified with one half of the other half.

The way woodpijn has divided it in the poll reads like the second option is a superset of the first option; but I think as one often hers it used it's "their global poverty, their slavery, their third world debt" vs "my privilege, my patriarchy, my kyriarchy†", and that them vs me dichotomy is what makes the latter seem so bad.

So please count me as a tick for both boxes, but using my definitions (like everyone else)

† I hate this word.
woodpijn From: woodpijn Date: January 29th, 2014 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
That thread was one of the places I heard the newer sense recently, which prompted this post.
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: February 3rd, 2014 12:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's really interesting, because I feel like I'm half-in both rationalist and SJ communities, but also agree with lots of outsider's common criticisms against each.

SJ– it’s anti-utilitarianism. Scope sensitivity is discouraged, and so is concern about effects.

FWIW, my personal impression is that there's a core of SJ ideas which are really good and I fully subscribe to (eg. I think the notion of religion privilege or white privilege is a good one, even if I think the language used may not be that most useful for expressing the concepts). But people fall into a tendency to say "you MUST believe this and I refuse to explain" for some good reasons (because human rights are more useful to pretend to be universal and innate even if they're not, and because however desirable it's not practical to explain everything from scratch to everyone encountering it for the first time who is really dismissive of it, and because people are personally hurt by people refusing to grant them basic respect), but then that necessary tendency becomes a desirable one.

But I'm not sure if that touches what you mean by "scope sensitivity is discouraged", I'm not quite sure what you mean by that?

And also, I don't know how much my experience is representative: I am still missing good arguments in favour of SJ ideas; but also ignoring large problems because I see them in terms of the underlying ideas, but I can't do that forever.
pw201 From: pw201 Date: February 3rd, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
The scope sensitivity thing is a quote. I'm not sure what Nancy meant, because scope sensitivity looks like a subset of concern about effects to me. I guess it's a particularly numerical sort of concern, though, so maybe she meant that SJ people aren't going to be very receptive to talk about how efficient something is or whether it's even worthwhile worrying about a small instance of something.

It reminded me of this exciting bit of drama on ciphergoth's journal way back when, where there are some social justice people expected that everyone should just defer to them because privilege and "you know who else criticised the Hebrew Bible?", which I thought exhibited the sort of thing Nancy was on about: it's very unlikely that any of ciphergoth's readers were going to shoot anyone as a result of reading his posting. They certainly didn't like having their assumptions challenged, though.

I am still missing good arguments in favour of SJ ideas; but also ignoring large problems because I see them in terms of the underlying ideas, but I can't do that forever.

I'd be interested to see you elaborate on that. I'm in favour of SJ causes on basically utilitarian grounds but I don't think their proponents argue very well.

Edited at 2014-02-03 07:50 pm (UTC)
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: February 11th, 2014 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
The scope sensitivity thing is a quote. I'm not sure what Nancy meant

Fair enough, that seems like a good interpretation. I thought it was worth asking because I saw the original quote and thought I could sort of see what it meant, enough to be very interested, but wasn't sure enough to start arguing about it in an already heated thread.

It reminded me of this exciting bit of drama on ciphergoth's journal way back when

Yeah, that seems like a good example of rationalist-vs-SJ thought. It's useful to have a fairly archetypal test case.

I'm in favour of SJ causes on basically utilitarian grounds but I don't think their proponents argue very well.

In which case, that's basically what I would say: I'm not sure I can actually add anything else that wouldn't obscure the issue more than it helps.

...continued...
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: February 11th, 2014 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
The example on ciphergoth's journal seems to be one where I think both sides have a correct point, but argue in a way the other one can't get.

It's like someone's example of how punching up not punching down depends on what you're criticising someone for, not just who they are. If you rant against Margaret Thatcher's or Gordon Brown's policies or personal morals, that's fair game. But if you say "they shouldn't be allowed out in public, just look at them", then even if *you* don't mean to, you're incidentally harming everyone else who isn't good looking, by perpetuating the idea that being good looking is a necessary prerequisite to being a worthwhile human being. And if you belong to a group marginalised some proportion of the time (eg. rationalist, jewish), you learn to punch up as much as possible in order to make yourself heard at all, but eventually you inevitably-but-unfortunatately end up hitting another marginalised group somewhere where it hurts.

I think, whether or not you think a culture that *pretends* the original Torah is the ultimate moral guide is ok, HonoreDB's post is a good explanation of why you can't allow yourself to think that's actually true. And if you're making a point why religion shouldn't get a free pass to be immune from criticism, it's a good, necessary, point to make, and one I agree with. And "Moses is evil" is possibly overly-emotive (not clear whether he's worse than any other leader of the time), but a reasonable one to make the point emphatic.

But then it sits around being a slightly-misleading loaded gun, and gets quoted separately to the original context...

And I think the people who objected on ciphergoth's journal were also right, that people casually saying "X Jewish thing is evil" even if it's true is something that can cause a lot of harm, because some people seize on it as an excuse to justify hating jewish people generally. (Ditto Islam, even more so at the moment.) I think that's a valid point, that there can be things which are true and useful to say, but can inadvertently cause a lot of harm, and it's better to have a policy of saying the same thing in a less harmful way when possible.

But also, people saying that, for various reasons, often tend to express it in ways which aren't very clear or comprehensible to someone not already familiar with the ideas, including being loud and ranty.

I think that's an example of point which SJ-type people are correct about, and which many other people (eg. rationalists) haven't absorbed as a community yet. But I also agree that many people make those points without being able to explain them, and bring them up when they're NOT relevant out of reflex. I think ciphergoth's journal was somewhere between -- most people reading it would understand that ciphergoth was making an intellectual argument, not calling for a pogram, but if I had the energy, I would have avoided putting it in a way open to misinterpretation.

And there's often no clear dividing line between "rejecting an argument because someone is rude and incoeherent" and "seeing someone's argument even when they expressed it incoherently because it's very personal for them". I think rationalists tend too much to ignore the second (except when it's something personal to many rationalists), and SJ too much to ignore the first (except when it's someone they don't like), when ideally you'd have both, but they're somewhat incompatible.

But I'm not sure: I feel like I'm walking a fine line of understanding two different points of view, that you and other people reading this probably agree with in general, but that I'm also saying something potentially very controversial, and don't want to seem to be attacking either point of view, or implying that the virtues and flaws I see in each community are present in the same people or not.
ptc24 From: ptc24 Date: January 29th, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think there was once an old sense of the phrase; there's a book I've got that uses the phrase "strong sense of social justice" and I don't think they mean what the term has now become.

It's possible we need a new term for the old sense of the term so that we can talk about it sensibly again.
pw201 From: pw201 Date: January 29th, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
You asked on LJ, so I ticked the Internet social justice one, but it also means the other one in other contexts.
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: January 30th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
ROFL! That's probably the most useful answer :)
ilanin From: ilanin Date: January 29th, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that actually it's become somewhat like "fascism" or "democracy" as a concept, in which it doesn't actually mean anything other than to encapsulate or praise some concepts that the speaker thinks is good (I'm fairly certain I don't have to refer you to Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language for a discussion of this tendency, but in case anybody else is unaware, here it is, and the section labelled "meaningless words" is the relevant bit.
cathedral_life From: cathedral_life Date: February 3rd, 2014 01:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think they're separable. I think only a weak analysis of global poverty and slavery would seek to explain them in purely economic terms without exploring patriarchal issues concerning land ownership and use. Third world debt certainly needs to be considered from the legacy of colonialism and the racism that fed into that (and, likely, still feeds it).
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