Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Political Relevance Of Everything Being Socially Constructed

Stanley Fish has a fascinating argument in two parts that it is politically irrelevant.

FLG thinks the everything-is-socially-constructed theory is silly. Sure, there is definitely social construction. No doubt about it. But as in the Nature v. Nurture debate, neither extreme is correct. The truth lies somewhere in between. To say that there is social construction is one thing. To say that everything is a social construction is silliness.

But FLG grates at Fish's argument because it, at least as FLG reads it, is that deontological arguments aren't politically effective, only consequentialist ones are.

So what is it that you should do if you think some state of affairs is terribly wrong? Sean Pidgeon has the answer: “Pull out those rhetorical skills and argue.” He uses feminism as his example. “Feminists should not … say that patriarchy is social constructed,” as if saying so was a step toward dislodging it. Instead, “Feminists should come out and say patriarchy is wrong” and then say why by pointing to harmful, demeaning practices. Jonprof generalizes the point: “Only political action by those … thought to be non-entities will establish them as needing to be acknowledged and dealt with.”

Whether deonotological or consequentialist arguments are more effective politically is probably an empirical question, and in complete honesty in our modern world it's probably true, but FLG wishes it weren't so. But that probably goes to prove Fish's point.

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