Status differentiation in a socialist society

MAY 2022 Forums General discussion Status differentiation in a socialist society

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  • #225623
    robbo203
    Participant

    Have a look at this article firstly

    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2020.0440

    The article is a very interesting and possibly quite important contribution to how we present the case for socialism. I have always maintained that in a socialist society as in any other form of human society, there will be a system of status differentiation. By definition, that entails a form of social hierarchy. You cannot conceivably differentiate between individuals along status lines without talking in terms of some having lower or higher status than others.

    The key thing here is the criterion you use to differentiate between individuals along status lines. In capitalism, this is essentially based on the accumulation and conspicuous display of material wealth. In socialism that is simply not possible. Free access to goods and services negates that possibility. The only way you can acquire the esteem and respect of your fellows is through what you contribute to society not what you take out of it

    This further strengthens the case for socialism and helps to refute the “lazy person” or “freeloader” argument used against socialism. It demonstrates that the motivation to work in a socialist society is much richer and more multi-dimensional than people might imagine – the desire to gain the esteem of your fellows being an additional motive.

    People might baulk at the idea of a social hierarchy in socialism but actually, I don’t see any problem with the idea per se. What they possibly object to is the suggestion that some people might come to dominate others in a socialist society. But this is not the case at all. Given the fact that we are talking about a society characterised by free access to wealth and the voluntary production of wealth, there is no leverage any individual or group could exercise over any others.

    A status hierarchy is NOT the same thing as a dominance hierarchy though it is sometimes difficult to see the difference because these two things tend to go hand in hand. They need to be analytically distinguished. As this article notes : “Across species, social hierarchies are often governed by dominance relations. In humans, where there are multiple culturally valued axes of distinction, social hierarchies can take a variety of forms and need not rest on dominance relations. ”

    #225627
    LBird
    Participant

    robbo203 wrote: “The only way you can acquire the esteem and respect of your fellows…” [my bold]

    Perhaps this would be better phrased as ‘can be given‘, because that emphasises that the ‘active subject’ is the community, not an individual.

    That is, the decision on what counts as ‘esteemable’ and ‘repectable’ is a social decision, not one that an individual can determine for themself, and impose on the passive majority.

    In effect, ‘esteem and respect’ are democratically elected, not chosen by an individual.

    #225630
    robbo203
    Participant

    In effect, ‘esteem and respect’ are democratically elected, not chosen by an individual.

    Democracy requires the practical involvement of empirical individuals making choices. Otherwise, the term is meaningless

    #225636
    LBird
    Participant

    robbo203 wrote: “Democracy requires the practical involvement of empirical individuals making choices. Otherwise, the term is meaningless

    Yes, ‘individuals‘, collectively, not an ‘individual’, alone.

    #225637
    Wez
    Participant

    Society is not made up of individuals – individuals are made by society.

    #225640
    robbo203
    Participant

    Yes, ‘individuals‘, collectively, not an ‘individual’, alone.

    Of course. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a democracy, would it? But the collectivity of individuals is obviously comprised of a number of singular individuals in the sense of empirical human beings who participate in, and make possible, democratic decision-making. There is no such thing as a society without individuals in this sense any more than you can have individuals without society

    #225642
    Wez
    Participant

    My point is that an ‘individual’ is a social construct. Everything we think we are and even the language and ideas we use is a product of social history. A human individual is impossible without society – I always find that rather dialectically liberating.

    #225643
    robbo203
    Participant

    A human individual is impossible without society – I always find that rather dialectically liberating.

    Yes, and the converse is equally true. Society is equally impossible without human individuals

    But anyway – all this is moving slightly away from the topic under discussion: status differentiation in a socialist society

    #225646
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    “In effect, ‘esteem and respect’ are democratically elected, not chosen by an individual.”

    If esteem has to be democratically elected, where does that fit in to self esteeem?

    Even looking at public esteem, Alan Shearer probably wouldn’t have esteem and respect in many parts of the world, he certainly wouldn’t be elected to any universal place of esteem and he’s not going to get many votes in Sunderland, but he definited would in my neck of the world.

    The idea that esteem would be electorally earned by a democratic world wide majority is as preposterous as a your single monolithic view of science.

    Some people will view Joe Hutton as a musical genius (me included, you should lookk him up) others will find the Northumbrian pipes annoying.

    I personally think the Beatles were the most over rated musical group of all time, but I am comfortable that others swoon at evey note of “Maxwells’ Silver Hammer”, despite that, in my view, it is a titivated umpah band song.

    I think L Bird struggles with the concept of diversity and divergency. Socialism (to my mind) is about the liberation from uniformity and Homogeneity of capitalism. I personally don’t want a McDonaldisation of society.

    #225648
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Because of what is probably self-alienation we have many becoming fans and adulating various “star” figures such as show-biz and sporting personalities, transferring their success into “our” own and apparently sharing in their talent as our “own”.

    Such status and esteem may well not be given.

    BJ demonstrates how tribalism has an influence under capitalism regards football. Would that persist? (As an aside I notice over the years that football club managers have gained the same type of adoration as the actual players but the head coach who frequently are in partnership with certain managers and are appointed along with the manager rarely gets a mention)

    #225653
    LBird
    Participant

    Bijou Drains wrote: “I think L Bird struggles with the concept of diversity and divergency. Socialism (to my mind) is about the liberation from uniformity and Homogeneity of capitalism. I personally don’t want a McDonaldisation of society.

    And I think that BD struggles with the concept of democratic production!

    Socialism (to Marx’s and my mind) is about democratic production. If BD regards ‘democracy’ as ‘MacDonaldisation’, then that says more about his ideological outlook regarding the potential of the masses.

    Democracy implies ‘diversity and divergency’ – it’s supposed to be only conservatives who detest ‘democracy’ as producing ‘uniformity’ and mediocrity.

    The longer I read posts written by contributors to this site, the more I realise that ‘democracy’ is seen as a threat, not a solution, by many, if not all. The problem seems to be that ‘individualism’ is valued here much more highly than ‘democratic production’, which was Marx’s fundamental political and philosophical concern.

    Which is fair enough – a concern with individualism – but the party should more open about this focus, and its differences with Marx’s fundamental concerns (note BD’s continued return to the question about the ‘self’ – ‘self esteem’, the determination of ‘matter’ by an individual’s own kick, for eg.)

    It’d make political discussion much more worthwhile, easy, and indeed comradely.

    #225655
    robbo203
    Participant

    The point about status or esteem is that it tends to reflect the values and concerns of the society in question. A skilled hunter or forager in a hunter-gatherer band would be esteemed precisely for the skills she or he brings to bear for the benefit of the band itself.

    It would be the same in socialism, I think. The distribution of esteem or status would tend to adapt itself to reflect the concerns and the needs of society. As I say, this is a very effective counterargument to those who say socialism will be undermined by freeloading. The need to feel esteemed by our fellows is a very important human need (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) and you are unlikely to gain the respect of your fellows by freeloading. Quite the opposite.

    I see this process of adaption as organic and as the expression of evolving culture. You don’t need to formalise it in the guise of a democratic vote. This absurd bourgeois obsession with quantifying everything, – counting heads – apart from being totally impractical, completely misses the point. Society’s dominant values which will arise quite naturally out of the interactions of individuals are already in a sense the expression of the outlook of the majority of those individuals

    #225659
    LBird
    Participant

    robbo203 wrote: “The point about status or esteem is that it tends to reflect the values and concerns of the society in question.”

    I entirely agree, robbo.

    So, how does ‘society’ determine its ‘values and concerns’, if not democratically?

    robbo203 wrote: “This absurd bourgeois obsession with quantifying everything, – counting heads – apart from being totally impractical, completely misses the point.

    If you regard ‘democracy’ as a ‘bourgeois obsession’, I think any study of capitalist society (and many earlier ones) would disprove your claim. Indeed, ‘democracy’ is a revolutionary obsession. As to your ‘point’, you’ll have to expand.

    robbo203 wrote: “Society’s dominant values which will arise quite naturally out of the interactions of individuals…“.

    But how, robbo? This political claim makes humanity passive and ‘nature’ the active subject. That is, that ‘individuals’ ‘naturally’ (ie. without political input) produce (non-political and non-ideological) ‘values’. That is, non-social values.

    Once again, the focus from a contributor is upon ‘individuals’, not society (and its production, politics, ideologies and cultures).

    And if ‘values’ emerge ‘naturally’, how can we change them? We are the conscious active subject, not ‘nature’. We are consciously active nature – any ‘nature’ not produced by us is, to quote Marx, a nothing for us.

    #225660
    robbo203
    Participant

    LBird

    You are misrepresenting what I said. I did not say democracy was a bourgeois obsession. What I was referring to was the bourgeois obsession with quantifying everything (with the emphasis on everything)- in this context counting heads and determining the weight of public opinion on every subject under the sun. That’s just ridiculous – totally impractical and uncalled for.

    As a socialist of course, I hold that democracy is a key aspect of a socialist society – far more so than is possible under capitalism. Nevertheless, the fact remains that for a huge amount of what will go on in a socialist society formal democratic decision-making will simply not be required. To keep it simple, society is not going to vote on what I eat for breakfast or what clothes I put on when I get up in the morning, is it?

    Lastly in response to my point “Society’s dominant values which will arise quite naturally out of the interactions of individuals…“ you say “But how, robbo? This political claim makes humanity passive and ‘nature’ the active subject.” Rubbish.

    The opposite is the case. I am actually investing human beings with agency. That is precisely why I referred to the interactions of individuals. There is no such thing as society without individuals and there is no such thing as individuals without society. The relationship between them is a dialectical one.

    This is very different from either a holistic perspective or an individualistic perspective as well you know

    #225676
    Matthew Culbert
    Keymaster

    I think we are closer to Marx than LB gives us credit for.
    He overeggs his pudding, as always, and says, “The longer I read posts written by contributors to this site, the more I realise that ‘democracy’ is seen as a threat, not a solution, by many, if not all. The problem seems to be that ‘individualism’ is valued here much more highly than ‘democratic production’, which was Marx’s fundamental political and philosophical concern.”

    Absolute bilge. We don’t have or ascribe to,’higher’ or ‘lower’ values as he imputes.

    “For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

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