Moral Objectives, Rules, and the Forms of Social Change

Moral Objectives, Rules, and the Forms of Social Change

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 364
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Moral Objectives, Rules, and the Forms of Social Change
    Book Description:

    Essays by David Braybrooke take up an assortment of practical concerns that ethics brings into politics: people?s interests; needs along with preferences; work and commitment to work; participation in social life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7736-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    • [PART I: Introduction]
      (pp. 3-6)

      The basic moral objectives treated here are meeting needs, satisfaction in work, and opportunities to develop preferences and live accordingly. So far as moral objectives are thought of as objectives to be realized in individual lives, this is an exhaustive list, since under the third head there is ample room for anything else, consistent or not, to figure – happiness, authenticity, autonomy, and even mystic practices. I would not claim that it is the only exhaustive list; and I recognize that one might regard the first and second heads as redundant, since they, too, could be absorbed under the third...

      • 1 Needs and Interests
        (pp. 9-14)

        The concept of needs, and along with it the concept of what is in a person′s interest, can play a useful and distinctive part in personal life and also in public policy. To see this, however, one first needs to be persuaded that what answers to people′s interests does not reduce to what answers to their preferences. This can be done if interest is defined as at bottom – bedrock – what meets needs, adding that interest also extends upward to include the command of any resources that could be converted into provisions for needs. However, this very definition will...

      • 2 Two Conceptions of Needs in Marx′s Writings
        (pp. 15-32)

        ′Two conceptions of needs′ – it might be better to say, ′Two conceptions of besoins,′ since it is the use of ′besoins′ in the French texts that I shall be directly dealing with.¹ There is much the same range of use for the term ′Beduerfnisse′ in the German texts. The English translation ofDas Kapitalthat I have used resolves – or conceals – the extent of the range by using ′wants′ for one conception and ′needs′ for the other. Yet ′needs′ could have figured where ′wants′ does (it does in the translation of theGrundrissethat I have used)...

      • 3 Diagnosis and Remedy in Marxʹs Doctrine of Alienation
        (pp. 35-53)

        Marx was more confident than his reasoning gave him any right to be that the society to succeed capitalism would be a free one, and he did not understand that special political techniques would be required to protect freedom, even in an economy of abundance from which private property in the means of production had disappeared. But his expectation that post-revolutionary society would enlarge human freedom and dignity was not an idle one. It was supported by a highly developed (though far from perfect) line of reasoning that was confused, obscure, and inconclusive, and nevertheless deserves our respect and attention....

      • 4 The Meaning of Participation and of Demands for It
        (pp. 54-84)

        For a time, I thought I might begin with a paradox: Participating is not the same thing as having and playing a recognized role in a joint human activity; yet demanding to participate is the same thing as demanding such a role to play. Alas! The paradox all too quickly bursts out of bounds and leads to a real contradiction. It is true that when there is a special word for the recognized role (as there is, much more often than not, if the role is an established and familiar one), the existence of that word presents a substantial obstacle...

      • 5 Work: A Cultural Ideal Ever More in Jeopardy
        (pp. 85-112)

        Work is an idea that has never quite, during the coming and going of technologies and cultures, got its turn to reign as a cultural ideal. An ambivalent idea – the idea of something ambivalent, which both attracts and repels, and thus evokes an ambivalent response – it has never quite shaken off its repulsive side, the side on which it is seen as drudgery. So it has never, showing its attractive side alone, become an unqualified ideal. Moreover, it has long been an ideal in jeopardy. The advance of technology has in several ways undermined hopes of making it...

      • 6 From Economics to Aesthetics: The Rectification of Preferences
        (pp. 115-126)

        Nothing is more common as an opinion at work in the minds of social scientists, even if there is no social scientist who holds the opinion entirely consistently, than the opinion that preferences are ultimate, incorrigible, and without distinction as to deśerts. The chief source of this opinion may well be the impression, which social scientists share with other people, that preferences are not only very diverse, taking one person with another; on many subjects, on most, maybe on all, preferences remain diverse as people′s information increases, even to the current limit of expert information. Another important source lies in...

      • 7 Preferences Opposed to the Market: Grasshoppers vs Ants on Security, Inequality, and Justice
        (pp. 127-142)

        ′Vous chantiez? j′en suis fort aise. / En bien! dansez maintenant.′ That′s what the Ant said, when she refused the Grasshopper a loan to tide her over the winter. La Fontaine′s fable, however, is told from the Ant′s point of view. It expresses the scorn of the industrious possessive individualist for relatively improvident people who do not take pains to accumulate capital. Admittedly, the Grasshopper is not a good business risk; and in spite of the animus in the manner of the refusal, it is on basic market principles that the Ant refuses to make the loan.

        Would it have...

      • 8 Liberalism, Statistics, and the Presuppositions of Utilitarianism
        (pp. 145-163)

        Liberalism and utilitarianism are commonly at odds nowadays, chiefly because people commonly think that utilitarianism does not give persons and personal autonomy the respect that liberalism holds to be their due. On a historical view, however, is not there something more than a little puzzling about the existence of this conflict? Historically, liberalism and utilitarianism have been at times allies; nor was the alliance always ad hoc and peripheral. The most famous liberal of them all, John Stuart Mill, also has a claim to be as famous a utilitarian as anybody. Unless we suppose that he did not have the...

      • 9 Justice and Injustice in Business
        (pp. 164-204)

        Business is a sphere in which questions of justice press for attention as urgently as anywhere, in all likelihood, and more variously. Important injustices can occur in sports (Who gets to play? Who is judged the winner?), the arts (Who gets attention? Who gets praised?), even in science (What lines of research are encouraged? Who is credited with the discovery?); but the injustices are not so various there. They are not even, I think, so various in politics or in family life, the only spheres that rival business in variety of applications for justice. Philosophers have as much to learn...

      • 10 Making Justice Practical
        (pp. 205-219)

        No doubt present social discontents do not arise solely because of the absence of a consensus upon social justice; nor would arriving at such a consensus cure all the discontents. Whatever we do about justice, it is going to be uncomfortable to adjust to shortages of energy. There is, however, a sort of unrest that is continually manifested in union demands for higher wages, continually rising, without limit in principle, and that blocks any serious attempt to control inflation by the sort of policy recommended by economists who recognize the political aspects of inflation, namely, an incomes policy. This sort...

      • 11 The Common Good
        (pp. 220-228)
        Arthur P. Monahan

        More can be made of the notion of the Common Good than ethical theorists in the twentieth century usually allow, more (somewhat oddly) than some current theorists demand, preferring to leave definition to participative procedures in changing contexts, more indeed than natural law doctrine before its eclipse in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries troubled to make explicit. Worked out with due amplification, the notion does not just accommodate the goods in which people have a common interest; it indicates how the pursuit of such goods can avoid setting people at odds, and the indication is more promising than anything utilitarianism...

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 231-232)

      This part of the book and the part to follow will, I trust, be seen to fit together quite nicely. Part II shows how rules come to bear throughout social life, generating persistent demands in ethics and establishing persistent features of social practices. Part III moves on to consider how these features change (and, along with them, the demands of ethics) with changes in rules.

      How do these two parts fall in with the first part of the book? It could not be claimed that there is an argument arising in Part I that leads compellingly to the subjects of...

    • 12 No Rules without Virtues; No Virtues without Rules
      (pp. 233-248)

      The double-branched thesis in my title puts on a bold front, and it is meant to be bold enough to arrest attention. I shall actually treat the thesis very cautiously. The title, bold though it may be, is not just ambiguous, it is (to borrow a term from French philosophy) polysemic to a degree that embraces more possibilities than I have counted, certainly more than in a very selective sampling I shall treat. Among these possibilities is a very easy way of making the thesis come true, in both branches: It is to say both rules and virtues have a...

    • 13 How Do I Presuppose Thee? Let Me Count the Ways: The Relation of Regularities to Rules in Social Science
      (pp. 249-266)

      In these times of stress and tribulation, would we not do well to turn to the spirit of peace in Holy Scripture and take what comfort we can in what we find there? It is laid down in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 ′when men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall have no pity′¹ That is a rule, indeed, perhaps more than...

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 269-271)

      Rules demand close attention in studies of current social structure. To describe a standing social institution is to describe a system, more or less consistent, more or less comprehensive, more or less precise, of rules. Some people might find it unnatural to do this: How can a university, they say, be a system of rules? It is, of course, not just a system of rules; it is a system of rules instantiated in a geographic site, in a population, and given the population in a specific distribution of skills, ambitions, and expectations. Nevertheless, rules accompany all of these things: They...

    • 14 Marxism and Technical Change: Nicely Told, but Not the Full Contradictory Story
      (pp. 272-281)

      In a penetrating and provocative discussion, John Elster′sMaking Sense of Marxsharply recasts one by one the chief questions in theproblématicquebequeathed us by Marx – philosophical anthropology, economic theory, the polemic against capitalism, the theory of social change, analysis of the class struggle, the theory of the state, the doctrine of ideology, the vision of Communism, revolutionary exhortations, and accounts of past history. It is a work unified both by affinities (not always affinities amounting to perfect harmony) in Marx′s own thinking about these themes and by the apparatus that Elster persistently brings to taking Marx′s thinking...

    • 15 Refinements of Culture in Large-Scale History
      (pp. 282-310)

      The mere curiosity men feel about large-scale changes in history, like changes in culture, may not justify professional historians′ giving attention to such changes, except to demolish other people′s attempts to describe them. ′Culture′ may be too grandiose and polymorphous a concept for a historian to handle responsibly. If the concept could be used for one age and region, it is true, it could (given comparably adequate evidence) be applied to the same region in another age, and hence in effect be used to describe a change in culture. But perhaps the concept cannot be used at all. I assume...

    • 16 Scale, Combination, Opposition: A Rethinking of Incrementalism
      (pp. 311-330)

      At the end of chapter 8 ofThe Prince, Machiavelli says,

      Cruelty can be described as well used ... when it is performed all at once, for reasons of self-preservation, and when the acts are not repeated after that, but rather are turned as much as possible to the advantage of the subjects. Cruelty is badly used, when it is infrequent at first, but increases with time instead of diminishing ... When a prince takes a new state, he should calculate the sum of all the injuries he will have to do, and do them all at once, so as...

    • 17 Policy Formation with Issue Processing and Transformation of Issues
      (pp. 331-348)

      Adopting a certain model for policy formation, one may impute to a stable region of the political system an issue machine, that is, the analogue of a computer, with a program in place for processing issues. The ′computer′ will consist of a network of agencies or stations, public or private. The program will call upon them (perhaps repeatedly) in a certain sequence and (giving effect to their reactions) round by round process issues of a given sort in much the same way, with much the same results.¹

      One way of conceiving of the issues going through the machine is to...

  8. Bibliography, 1955–1997
    (pp. 349-358)
  9. Index
    (pp. 359-364)