William Galston’s liberalism

Kort sammanfattning av Galstons liberalism.

William Galston’s liberalism is built on two basic concepts: “expressive liberty” and “political pluralism”. In the “diversity state” which William Galston sketches as an ideal, individuals have expressive liberty, which basically is “a robust though rebuttable presumption in favour of individuals and groups leading their lives as they see fit” (2002, 3). More specifically, it is defined as:

[The] absence of constraints, imposed by some individuals on others, that make it impossible (or significantly more difficult) for the affected individuals to live their lives in ways that express their deepest beliefs about what gives meaning or value to life. (2002, 28)

What does this entail? One illuminating example is Galston’s stance on the case of Ohio Civil Rights Commission v. Dayton Christian Scools, Inc. The case involved a private fundamentalist school that decided not to renew the contract of a female teacher due to its religious views on gender roles, views that included the belief that mothers with small children should not work outside their homes. Galston supported the faith school and argued that to force it to rehire the teacher would hinder the religious community (that send their children to this school) to exercise its religious views in practise (1995, 532). To decide otherwise would be an infringement on expressive liberty, as this is meant to protect “the opportunity to enjoy a fit between inner and outer, belief and practise” (2002, 28). Expressive liberty thus carries over into an emphasis on freedom of association; it implies a presumption against “external interference with individual and group endeavors” (2002, 3). In the case of Dayton, this means that the sexual discrimination committed by the school does not warrant intervention by the state (to force it to rehire and compensate the woman). There must be limits on “the polity’s ability to enforce even core public commitments on subcommunities when these principles clash with religious convictions” (1995, 532).

Still, the presumption for non-intervention is “rebuttable”. Galston enumerates four kinds of reasons that may licence liberal public institutions to restrict the activities of individuals and groups:

[F]irst, to reduce coordination problems and conflict among diverse legitimate activities and to adjudicate such conflict when it cannot be avoided; second, to prevent and when necessary punish transgressions individuals may commit against one another; third, to guard the boundary separating legitimate from illegitimate variations among ways of life; and finally, to secure the conditions — including cultural and civic conditions — needed to sustain public institutions over time (2002, 3).

This might be seen as a fairly conventional list; what makes for Galston’s diversity-state is rather his conception of where the boundaries are to be drawn regarding each of these conditions. Importantly, the boundaries are to be drawn in such a way that there exist ”social space” even for illiberal groups to live as they please. Looking at the conditions above this involves both the third condition, a wide scope of the range of legitimate ways of life; and the second, a narrow conception of what is to count as “transgressions” between people. Specifically, Galston does not in general count as a transgression those illiberal practices between individuals within such groups.

This idea of social space brings us to the second key concept in Galston’s thought: political pluralism. This is the recognition of that social life comprises of multiple sources of moral authority; and that none of them — individuals, civil associations, religious communities, the state — ought to be dominant in all spheres of life and on all occasions (2005, 1-2) Liberal public institutions should not be “plenipotentiary”: there exist no carte blanche for intervention in the internal life of groups or the workings of all the intermediate bodies and associations that make up civil society.

Expressive liberty and political pluralism together provide a case for giving great priority to freedom of association whenever this clashes with other values. Galston’s liberalism thus implies a “systematic deference to associational claims”. The state “bears a burden of proof whenever it seeks to intervene” (2002, 9).

Not to take this burden of proof seriously, and thus regard the state as plenipotentiary, Galston in his latest book calls “civic totalism” (2005, 24–28). Totalism is the rejection of political pluralism: it is the demand that the liberal principles guiding the political institutions must also “ramify through the rest of its citizens’ lives” (2005, 28). Hence the intermediate associations and communities in between the individual citizen and the state — in short, civil society — must be organized along these principles. Galston, however, rejects this notion that “the inner structure and principles of every sphere must mirror those of basic political of basic political institutions” (2005, 3). One recurrent example is that religious communities may fill its positions of authority along gender-based norms. While such norms would be forbidden in public and business life, the state must not interfere with such communities. The public principle (in this case gender-equality) might be both liberal in content and democratically chosen, and yet liberal-democratic societies should not impose it.

“We often use the phrase “liberal democracy,” but we don’t always think about it very carefully. The noun points to a particular structure of politics in which decisions are made, directly or indirectly, by the people as a whole, and more broadly, to an understanding of politics in which all legitimate power flows from the people. The adjective points to a particular understanding of the scope of politics, in which the domain of legitimate political decision-making is seen as inherently limited (2005, 1).

In reminding about this notion of the limited scope of politics, Galston emphasise that liberalism’s principal value is that of toleration. A notion that, “rightly understood”, Galston says, “means the principled refusal to use coercive state power to impose one’s views on others” (2005, 4).

These are the general features of Galston’s liberalism. To support them theoretically he now invokes the notion of value pluralism. This is “the account of the moral world offered by Isaiah Berlin” (2002, 4). As Galston notes, the closing pages of Berlin’s ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, in which Berlin propounded the idea of value pluralism, sparked a lively interest in this idea amongst political and moral philosophers. Let us now turn directly to those passages in Berlin, and then to one of those philosophers, Bernard Williams, before returning to Galston and the way he makes use of these ideas.

Referenser

William Galston (1995), ‘Two Concepts of Liberalism’, Ethics, Vol. 105, No. 3, pp. 516–534.

William Galston (2002), Liberal Pluralism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

William Galston (2005), The Practise of Liberal Pluralism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Isaiah Berlin och det liberala dilemmat gällande utbildning

Som vissa av bloggens läsare vet så skriver jag för tillfället på en uppsats angående ett liberalt dilemma angående utbildning. Dilemmat formuleras bra av Eamonn Callan:

[S]ome people want to deny their own children particular educational opportunities or experiences that are widely regarded as necessary to the good of every individual child. They want this not out of malice toward their children but because they sincerely subscribe to an understanding of what counts as a good human life that is repugnant to the cultural mainstream. That understanding entails a conception of education that seems deeply harmful to children from the perspective of the mainstream. What is at stake here is [. . .] a collision between parental choice and the basic interests (as the larger society defines those interests) of individual children. If parental choice is thwarted in such cases, we have what seems to many people a violation of freedom of conscience. If parental choice is accommodated, children are denied at least part of the education to which many people will think them morally entitled. (2006, 262)

Min uppsats går ut på att undersöka Isaiah Berlins politiska tänkande med detta liberala dilemma i åtanke.

Callan argumenterar i den aktuella artikeln mot William Galston, som angående det kända fallet Wisconsin v. Yoder argumenterar för föräldrars rätt att undandra sina barn från utbildning som strider mot deras (föräldarnas) övertygelser. Utifrån Galstons version av liberalism är detta rätt och rimligt. Intressant är att Galston grundar sin liberalism filosofiskt i Berlins idéer om värdepluralism och har därmed skapat en ”liberal pluralism” i Berlins efterföljd. I min uppsats försöker jag utröna vad Berlin skulle kunna tänkas säga om detta dilemma. Endast vid ett fåtal tillfällen skriver Berlin direkt om utbildning. Men dessa stycken (citerade nedan) är klart i motsättning till Galston. De har en upplysningsliberal ton som knappast är förenlig med Galstons ackommoderande linje gentemot föräldrar som av exempelvis religiösa skäl vill undanhålla sina barn från viss typ av kunskap eller framställandet av vissa livsstilar som de finner anstötliga. Min förhoppning med uppsatsen är dock inte att blott peka ut dessa stycken, utan även att argumentera att att de följer utifrån en logik inom Berlins övergripande antaganden och normativa ståndpunkter. I min uppsats hoppas jag kunna förklara detta, och genom att göra jämförelser till några av Galstons kritiker inom den samtida politiska teorin (främst Callan och George Crowder), visa att Berlins liberalism och värdepluralism innebär att det är giltigt att fastslå individuell autonomi och kritiskt tänkande som legitima mål för skolan, även när dessa mål krockar med föräldrarnas övertygelser, värdet av kulturell tillhörighet, osv.

Eamonn Callans hållning är följande:

I claim that Galston underestimates considerations within his own theory that might tell against deference to parental choice. In particular, he overlooks the extent to which restricting parental choice may be necessary to the expressive liberty of children because of the internal connection between their liberty and the avoidance of servility in their education. Here again Yoder is revealing. I show that considerations of children’s prospective interest in liberty make a reasonable case for regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in Yoder as morally unfortunate. (2006, 263)

Ett av de två centrala stycket i Berlin som jag tänkte ta upp ligger i linje med detta, specifikt det Callan kallar för ”considerations of children’s prospective interest in liberty”. Vid ett tillfälle då Berlin ska förklara hur man kan resonera utifrån hans utgångspunkter gällande frihet, oundvikligheten i moraliska konflikter, osv, så tar han som exempel frågan om att införa ett offentligt och enhetligt utbildningssystem. Detta finner Berlin önskvärt, och han säger sig resonera på följande sätt:

If I were told that this must severely curtail the liberty of parents who claim the right not to be interfered with in this matter — that it was an elementary right to be allowed to choose the type of education to be given to one’s child, to determine the intellectual, religious, social, economic conditions in which the child is to be brought up — I should not be ready to dismiss this outright. But I should maintain that when (as in this case) values genuinely clash, choices must be made. In this case the clash arises between the need to preserve the existing liberty of some parents to determine the type of education they seek for their children; the need to promote other social purposes; and, finally, the need to create conditions in which those who lack them will be provided with opportunities to exercise those rights (freedom to choose) which they legally possess, but cannot, without such opportunities, put to use. (2002, 46)

Jag tänkte koppla detta till Joel Feinbergs kända idé, utvecklad i respons till Yoder, om ”the child’s right to an open future”. Det finns likheter, även om Berlin inte kan ses som en rättighetsteoretiker av Feinbergs släkte. Men en rätt till en ”öppen framtid” tycks återfinnas även i det andra stycket av vikt som jag har hittat. Jag vill argumentera att samma skäl som gör att Berlin att förespråkar långtgående tolerans överlag, samma skäl gör det rimligt med starkt begränsade möjligheter för föräldrar att medvetet begränsa sina barns utbildning och förmåga till egna livsval. Läs nu följande stycken, ur ett långt brev till George Kennan (publicerat i volymen Liberty):

What horrifies one about Soviet or Nazi practise is not merely the suffering and the cruelty, since although that is bad enough, it is something which history has produced too often, and to ignore its apparent inevitability is perhaps real Utopianism – no; what turns one inside out, and is indescribable, is the spectacle of one set of persons who so tamper and ‘get at’ others that the others do their will without knowing what they are doing; and in this lose their status as free human beings, indeed as human beings at all.

Certainly we do not detest this kind of destruction of liberty merely because it denies liberty of action; there is a far greater horror in depriving men of the very capacity for freedom – that is the real sin against the Holy Ghost.
[. . . ]
If pushed to the extreme, this doctrine would, of course, do away with all education, since when we send children to school or influence them in other ways without obtaining their approval for what we are doing, are we not ’tampering’ with them, ’moulding’ them like pieces of clay with no purpose of their own? Our answer has to be that certainly all ’moulding’ is evil, and that if human beings at birth had the power of choice and the means of understanding the world, it would be criminal; since they have not, we temporarily enslave them, for fear that, otherwise, they will suffer worse misfortunes from nature and from men, and this ’temporary enslavement’ is a necessary evil until such time as they are able to choose for themselves – the ’enslavement’ having as its purpose not an inculcation of obedience but its contrary, the development of power of free judgement and choice; still, evil it remains even if necessary. (2002, 339–42)

Vad jag vill hämta ur detta är naturligtvis att den liberala friheten att göra egna livsval också har tydliga implikationer gällande utbildning. Vad jag vill bygga på är tanken att liberalismen innefattar —måste innefatta, trots att den historiskt varit ovillig till det — både en teori om vilka faktiska preferenser som ska tolereras men också en idé om processen genom vilken preferenserna skapas. (Kanske jag här överdriver detta tomrum i liberal teori. Åtminstone enligt Brian Barry, s. 200) Människor föds inte med färdiga preferenser och inte heller med ”the power of choice and the means of understanding the world”. Det är pga detta som skola och utbildning inte kan behandlas som vilken annan samhällsinstitution som helst. Notera att diskussionen här blott är en del i en större debatt. Nämligen den mellan ”autonomi-liberaler” och ”tolerans-liberaler”. Och notera, som David Thunder, att “this toleration-autonomy debate is not merely a ‘family dispute’ about some fine points of liberal theory”.

On the contrary, the outcome of this dispute has dramatic implications for societies where deep religious and cultural differences are either well-entrenched (say, the U.S.) or growing at a fast rate (say, France or Germany). If we adopt a tolerationist stance, social groups and social infrastructures (e.g. schools, hospitals, businesses) devoted to tradition-based ways of life involving, say, arranged marriages, intellectual submission to religious authority, some form of patriarchal social structure, and the limited exposure of members to “alternative ways of life,” may be permitted to exist and reproduce themselves, albeit against the backdrop of a liberal juridical and economic order that includes freedom of association. If, on the other hand, we adopt a pro-autonomy stance, the State and its agents may be authorized to control, either through legal rules or educational policies or both, the internal practices of associations—and presumably, of families—to ensure that their members develop an adequate capacity for personal autonomy, albeit in a prudent and even-handed manner. (Thunder 2009, 155)

Bland dessa ”sociala infrastrukturer” vill jag alltså hävda att skolsystemet har en sådan funktion att den generella debatten mellan tolerans och autonomi inte är rakt av överförbar. Givet en mångfald av preferenser kan vi i övriga fall välkomna en mångfald inom en given social infrastruktur, för en sådan mångfald gör det möjligt för medborgarna att leva sina liv efter eget huvud och känsla för mening. Fortfarande är det så att autonomi-liberalen kan påminna om de fall inom dessa infrastrukturer och sammanslutningar där individer far illa eller hindras från att lämna, och vi kan i sådana fall diskutera legitimiteten i statlig intervention för att upprätthålla vissa liberala värden och individuella rättigheter. Här har vi då tolerans/autonomi-debatten i sin generella form.

Men är skolan en institution om alla andra? Vad bör den liberala friheten innebära här? Isaiah Berlin citerar John Stuart Mill: “The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way”. Och skriver:

If this is so, is compulsion ever justified? Mill had no doubt that it was. Since justice demands that all individuals be entitled to a minimum of freedom, all other individuals were of necessity to be restrained, if need be by force, from depriving anyone of it. (2002, 174)

Tänk att individerna x och y väljer fritt att inrätta sitt liv på så sätt att de går med i en sekt och lever efter vissa värderingar. De besitter ”the power of choice and the means of understanding the world” och de utövar nu sin rätt att ”pursuing our own good in our own way”. Men vad händer om x och y får barn? Ska deras frihet innebära att de och deras sekt tillåts sörja för barnens skolgång på ett sådant sätt att dessa barn inte vet något om yttervärlden, inte något om andra sätt att leva, eller blir intalade att andra sätt att leva leder till helvetet. Eller vore detta ett sätt att beskära dessa barns frihet, vilket isåfall innbär att föräldrarna rätteligen borde bli ”restrained, if need be by force” från att undandra barnen från en allsidig öppen utbildning? Detta är således alldeles oberoende om det sätt att leva som sekten utövar anses legitimt och rätt av staten att tolerera. Jag tror att Berlins utgångspunkter måste leda till en sådan slutsats. För notera kraftfulla i att den vision om människans fria val hade som konsekvens att i teorin ”do away with all education”. Den enda legitima form av utbildning är i liberala ögon den som har ”as its purpose not an inculcation of obedience but its contrary, the development of power of free judgement and choice”. Denna sociala infrastruktur skulle annars helt sakna existensberättigande.  Strider sådan utbildning mot föräldrarnas önskan måste liberalen sätta ner foten, precis som i fall där vuxna sinsemellan kränker varandras frihet.

Går det att finna stöd för detta hos Isaiah Berlin. En teoretiker som skrivit om Berlin ifråga om utbildning är Neil Burtonwood. Men han håller med Galston. I en passage som jag förmodligen kommer kritisera i min uppsats skriver han:

In supporting separate schools for the children of non-liberal cultural minorities liberals should be able to recognise the gains that will be made in terms of cultural congruence and a sense of belonging but they will also have to accept that this entails a loss of individual autonomy. This is only problematic if autonomy is granted absolute status as some kind of foundational human value. As Berlin observes, the reality is a trade-off between human values. There comes a point where we have to make a choice, and for Berlin the genuine liberal does not require that individuals choose autonomy. (Burtonwood 2000, 282)

Är inte detta stycke förvirrat? Individer är visserligen inte är tvingade att ”välja” autonomi, men har de rätt att undandra denna möjlighet för sina barn? Det är ju detta hela frågan handlar om. Man är fri att inträda i en sekt och därmed kanske inordna sig i ett icke-liberalt levnadssätt, kanske även avsäga sig framtida möjligheter till autonoma val. Liberaler kan inte, precis som Burtonwood säger, tvinga människor att ”välja” autonomi. Det finns andra värden: ”cultural belonging”, osv. Men vem ska göra avvägningen mellan dessa värden? Det är det som är frågan. Den som är kritisk mot denna typ av skolor behöver inte vara det pga en idé om att ett autonomt liv är det enda goda (vilket Burtonwood säger: ”this is only problematic if. . .”). Att kräva ”en öppen framtid” innebär inte att autonomi görs till det enda legitima sättet att leva.

Ja, det var några korta punkter om vad min uppsats handlar om. Synpunkter tas tacksamt emot. Som brukligt när man skriver uppsats så har jag varit ute och seglat på de vida haven, läst vitt och brett, innan jag lyckats smalna av ordentligt. Ett tag lämnade jag Berlin helt och ägnade mig åt samtida teoretiker, men nu, för att få en striktare ram, har jag återgått till Berlin.

Nu har jag bara 2,5 vecka kvar att skriva. Måste därför släppa lite på perfektionismen och börja hulka upp text på allvar. Usch. Publicerar kanske några stycken här på bloggen allt eftersom. Ni får gärna ge mig ett handtag genom kritik och frågor kring upplevda glapp i tankegångarna.

Referenser

Berlin, Isaiah (2002), Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Burtonwood, Neil (2002), ’Must Liberal Support for Separate Schools Be Subject to a Condition of Individual Autonomy?’, British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 269-284.

Callan, Eamonn (2006), ’Galston’s Dilemmas and Wisconsin v. Yoder’, Theory and Research in Education, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 261–273.

Thunder, David (2009), ’Why Value Pluralism Does Not Support the State’s Enforcement of Liberal Autonomy: A Response to Crowder’, Political Theory, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 154–160.

Herodotos om inkomstdeklarationen

Under konung Amasis skall Egypten hava varit högst lyckosamt både beträffande det, som floden giver åt jorden, och det, som jorden giver åt människorna. I landet skall då hava funnits inalles tjugo tusen bebodda städer. Det är Amasis, som stiftade den lagen bland egypterna, att varje egypter årligen skulle inför föreståndaren i sitt distrikt uppgiva varav han levde. Den, som ej gjorde detta och ej uppgav ett ärligt yrke, straffades med döden. Atenaren Solon hämtade denna lag från Egypten och gav den åt atenarna. Måtte dessa alltid ha den kvar, då det är en förträfflig lag!

Herodotos från Halikarnassos, Historia, i översättning av Claes Lindskog, P. A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, Stockholm, 1920, s. 180.

The Economist om Labour och BNP

Artikel i The Economist: ”When grown men cry: Why the BNP vote is growing”.

Labour’s vote in Barking [. . .] has declined sharply, from around 65% in 1997 to around 50% in 2005 as the BNP vote has increased. In 2006 the BNP won a score of council seats. And in the European elections last year, for the first time, the party gained two MEPs (one of them Mr Griffin), attracting 6.2% of the popular vote across the country.

[. . .]

Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, says Labour “is completely split about what to do about the threat of the BNP”. In fact all liberal parties find it hard to “put across an offer that goes some way to recognising the aspirations and feelings of those who vote BNP”. But if they don’t engage with the people who support the BNP out of a sense of powerlessness, the party will advance. If it wins control of the council or a parliamentary seat, it will be time, Mr Travers concludes, “to press the panic button”.

Relaterade inlägg: 1,2.

Per Bauhn om burkaförbud

Intet nytt, ändå så uppfriskande.

All politik som ska vila på frihetlig grund måste skilja mellan vad man ogillar och vad man vill förbjuda, mellan att ta avstånd från människors bruk av sin frihet och att ta ifrån dem själva friheten.

Ett samhälle baserat på alla medborgares lika rätt till frihet är förvisso inte ett samhälle där allt är tillåtet. Den som tvingar kvinnor att bära slöja, eller som brukar våld mot sin dotter eller syster för att man ogillar hennes val av pojkvän, eller som hotar författare och journalister för att de utmanar religiösa tabun, kan och bör straffas. Men här berättigas ett ingrepp i förövarens frihet av själva frihetsprincipen. Det är för att försvara allas rätt till frihet som man låser in den som tyranniserar sin omgivning.

Att den som tvingar någon att bära burka ska straffas innebär däremot inte att den som väljer att bära burka ska straffas.

[. . .]

Att man har rätt att bära burka på gator och torg ska emellertid inte tolkas som en rätt att också göra det på arbetsplatsen, vad än svensk diskrimineringslagstiftning vill göra gällande. Alla rum är inte offentliga rum, och arbetsplatsen är inte primärt en arena för utövande av religiös eller politisk övertygelse (om det inte är en religiös eller politisk arbetsplats, förstås). Lika lite som de troende har en rätt att predika i mitt vardagsrum, lika lite har de en rätt att kräva av en arbetsgivare att hon ska anställa en man som vägrar att ta henne i hand med hänvisning till sin religion. Att vi respekterar andras frihet att utöva sin religion upphäver ju inte vår egen frihet att slippa ha något med deras religionsutövning att göra.

Mer om det brittiska valet

Här kommer några lästips och en uppdatering om debatten på Crooked Timber.

Filosofen Julian Baggini var en av undertecknarna till det offentliga brev som en rad Labour-politiker och självständiga vänsterliberaler skrev  för några dagar sedan och som proklamerade Lib Dems som ”the progressive party”. Baggini skrev på twitter i samband med publikationen: ”Will I regret signing that?”. Nu har han skrivit en artikel — ”A vote for the Lib Dems could check the Tories” — om hur han resonerar. Bland annat förklarar han sin syn på hur han resonerar i val generellt, en syn som jag för övrigt delar:

Politics in general, and elections in particular, are not about supporting a long and detailed list of personal desiderata, but getting behind one of a handful of loose groupings, the one you think is going to be not as bad as the others. The choice you have to make at any particular election has to take into account the precise conditions of the time. I’ve never been tribal in politics and in different elections have voted for at least six different parties, including all the main ones.

Kenan Malik, ”What realignment in politics means”:

It is tempting to imagine, as the surge of support for the Liberal Democrats shows little sign of abating, that we are witnessing a fundamental shift in British politics, of the sort that took place in the early decades of the twentieth century or in the 1980s. A century ago, the Liberal Party, dominant for much of the nineteenth century, imploded and came eventually to be replaced in Britain’s two-party system by the Labour Party. In the eighties, Margaret Thatcher crushed the old Labour Party, from the rubble of which New Labour emerged.

On the surface, a similar form of realignment is taking place today. May 6 could mark the end of two-party politics and the arrival of the Liberal Democrats as a major player in a future dominated by hung parliaments and coalition governments. Yet, if realignment it is, it is of a different kind than that which took place in the past. Those two great reshapings of the twentieth century political landscape were expressions of significant ideological changes. The first saw the emergence of social democracy and the creation of the welfare state as an institution central both to British political life and to the nation’s self-image. The second marked the erosion of the ”postwar settlement”, the rise of neo-liberal economics, the disintegration of the left, and the growth of a more atomised society.

[. . .]

The end of tribal politics, in the sense of a blind attachment to a political party simply because of a historical tradition, is to be welcomed. But the detachment of parties from their moral and ideological anchors carries with it a two fold-danger. First, it opens the door to the politics of identity. From the BNP to the Christian Party to nationalists of various stripes, we can already see the emergence of such movements. And, second, as political parties replace their moral core with stuff of pragmatism, any hung parliament may become a forum not for political debate, but for struggles over special interests. The hope is for democratic renewal. Pork-barrel politics could be the reality.

D.J. Taylor, som skrivit en biografi över Orwell, har skrivit en artikel om det politiska språket: ”A campaign that Orwell would recognize”.

It is an axiom, that when a modern politician, or a modern politician’s amanuensis, sits down to address the people who are going to vote, the first casualty will be not truth, or even logic, but language.

[. . .]

Here are four specimens of English prose taken from a Liberal Democrat election newsletter that fell through the door in the third week in April:

”After coming to power ending seventeen years of disastrous Tory rule, things went well for a short time.”

”Thanks to Labour’s recession, ordinary hard-working families have already suffered cuts to vital services and tax rises.”

”A&E departments at hospitals are also picking up the pieces of binge-drinking to the detriment of others who need help.”

”But within years, Blair and Brown had taken our country to an illegal war.”

[. . .]

The net result of these concealments and evasions, a kind of terrible linguistic uncertainty common to all parties and political utterances, is not simply a desperate laziness of expression and an absence of striking phrases – all the heavy artillery that language uses – but a creeping awareness on the reader’s part that what he or she reads is merely a series of bleating noises. In ”Politics and the English Language”, Orwell concluded that political language ”is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.

Diskussionen på Crooked Timber, som jag tidigare refererat, fortsätter också. Den är fascinerande, och kommer bli väldigt relevant i Sverige också. Särskilt relevant givetvis för socialdemokraterna. Hur ska man lyckas behålla sina kärnväljare och samtidigt locka till sig storstadsvänstern? Ibland misstänker jag att det bästa för Sverige i stort vore om (s) höll kvar vid sin väljarbas (och inte överger landsbygden) och sedan, vid regeringsbildning, jämkar ihop sig med partierna som samlar bostadsrättsvänstern. Det finns för- och nackdelar, men scenariot med hundratusentals missnöjda folkhemssossar som känner sig övergivna är inte lockande. Om det blir för mycket genus, mångfald och kosmopolitisk moralism —oavsett dessa idéers förtjänster— så knuffar man folk i famnen på Sd. Jag tror det kan bli farligt om (s) blir alltför medelklassigt progressivt, och egentligen också om det blir alltför marknadsliberalt. Den politiska krönika om ”bigotgate” som jag länkade till i slutet av mitt förra inlägg, den avslutas på följande sätt:

I’m rather reminded of a passage from a Tony Blair conference speech that both set out New Labour’s credo, and captured its essential pathology. ”The character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition,” he said. ”Unforgiving of frailty. No respecter of past reputations. It has no custom and practice. It is replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change.” That doesn’t describe Gillian Duffy, nor millions and millions of other people. And in this awful episode, here are the wages of that ever-festering disconnection.

(Det är i den här kontexten jag tror att man ska förstå idéströmningen red toryism: en kritik av både old labour samt de gemensamma dragen hos Thatcher/New Labour. ”The current political consensus is left-liberal in culture and right-liberal in economics. And this is precisely the wrong place to be”. Men vad nästa för Labour?)

Nu över till Crooked Timber:

I recently spent 18 months in England, and during that time I had the good fortune to spend quite a bit of time amongst the foreign casual worker community – mostly Japanese people working in restaurants part time while they studied English, but also other Australians and some Europeans – and I have to say they move in a world which the ordinary white, middle-class educated Briton neither understands nor comprehends. If the British left (or right, for that matter) saw the way British people behave towards the foreign worker community, and how hard it is to get any kind of a good break without really strong community and family ties, they would be considerably less interested in talking about “fair play” in British history and a lot more interested in calling ordinary Brits bigoted. They’d also be considerably less sympathetic to Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” dog-whistling, and decidedly more critical of the immigration debate than they currently are. [CT #124]

Well, if people hadn’t been encouraged for decades to consider themselves to be the ‘clients’ of a welfare bureaucracy, simultaneously helpless and entitled to whatever the state deigned to give, they might feel less betrayed when that state appeared to be giving ‘their’ benefits to ‘others’ for no identifiable reason beyond spite and disdain.

Well-meaning [I charitably assume] politicians and bureaucrats have created a culture in which working-class communities can do nothing except feel resentment, because they have been stripped of agency while being repeatedly told that their relative poverty is the fault of bad people elsewhere. And being ordinary people, they are more inclined to identify ‘badness’ with visible difference and mutual incomprehensibility than with ‘class position’. [CT #126]

A fancy theory, [#126], which would work better if it didn’t fly in the face of any kind of cultural history of British racism (or, for that matter, the racism of the organised workers’ movement the world over until the 60s). [CT #127]

I think it’s important to note, in order to understand the full picture, that racism, and a particular kind of casual, unthinking racism, permeates every level of British society, not just (though it is evident there too) that of a Rochdale council estate.

To give you an example; on the night of this incident, I went drinking with a couple of friends of mine, who I’ve known my entire life. Young, middle-class twenty-somethings embarking on a career. I’d never really had occasion to talk to them about politics before, but the incident sparked a conversation about immigration and voting. One of my friends, a female primary-school teacher, revealed that she had voted for the BNP at the last election, for no clear reason that I could ascertain, except that she didn’t see them as racist. Which caused my other friend, a male aerospace engineer, to start explaining why he thought the BNP’s ‘voluntary repatriation’ programme is a good idea.

As you might imagine, the conversation left me profoundly depressed, and I have to say that it’s convinced me that there is a strong undercurrent of racism in British society at the moment, which is largely being held in check only by a rather vague idea that voting BNP ‘isn’t the done thing’ (neither of these two were planning on voting for them). [CT #135]

No [#126], you can’t waltz in claiming that the British working class have some post-welfare state fear of immigrants taking their jobs and ignore, for example, the fact that this “they’re taking our jobs” thing is as old as the history of British racism. Christ, this anti-Polish stuff was going on 100 years ago in East London, it’s not like it’s some novel idea that poor British people came up with in response to some actual facts on the ground, or anything. [CT #136]

Christ almighty, I thought the left was supposed to be in favour of the working class; you’re coming within half an inch of saying ‘fuck the racist bastards’. [CT #138]

When I lived in London and was constantly beset by these troubles [crime], my colleagues and my British friend would say the same thing as you – they don’t recognise the Britain I saw. I think this is partly because of the earlier experience I alluded to, that there is a different Britain for foreigners coming to Britain, who don’t have family connections to support them, and also partly because the British left have a remarkable unwillingness to discuss the issue of broken Britain. Interestingly, all the British people I met who had returned to Britain from Japan immediately noticed these problems, and were either desperately trying to return to Japan, or desperately trying to find ways to justify their decision not to.

Basically, if the British left refuse to talk about Broken Britain and consciously drop class from the issues they’re willing to discuss, they cede a huge amount of cultural ground to the racist right. And given that Britons have always been focussed on race, this is a recipe for disaster. [. . .]

I lived in Finsbury Park, which is a middlingly-good suburb by London standards (the guy whose house I went to look at in West Ham thought it was “quite posh”), but its crime rate is on a par with the most dangerous suburb in Australia (where I have also lived, btw). Its crime rate is probably 10 or 100 times greater than a bad area in Japan, like Saitama. People who live in these areas notice these things and begin to wonder if maybe something is wrong. When the British left responds to these questions with ridicule or claims that “you’re just unlucky,” people start to think that maybe the British left don’t know what they’re talking about.

Unless the left can come up with some defense of their claim that Britain isn’t broken, rather than getting sniffy, then Cameron and the people to his right will seize that ground. They’re talking a language that a lot of Britons, who i suspect are in much less comfortable positions than most people posting on this blog, understand. [CT #148 & 152]

The “people up the top” of Britain are far less racist than the people down the bottom of the class structure. Cultural, political and financial elites are all impeccably liberal in their public sentiments. The top people were the ones who organized the de-nationalisation of Britain: Commonwealth immigration, EU integration and multiculturalism. What ever the virtues of these processes they do not include bottom-up populist initiative and support.

Nor do British “up the top…people” indulge in race-baiting in any systemic, systematic or even episodic way. They are well-insulated from the social costs of high immigration/cultural diversity (slum-lord tenancies, sweat-shop labour, degree-mill unis, crowded public services, pockets of serious crime, religious fundamentalism, terrorism). And they lap up the management and enjoyment of diversity’s social benefits (cheap industrial labour, meek domestic help, exotic take-out, never-ending street festivals, high retail turnover, overseas conferences) with great gusto.

That is why “up-the-top people” express surprise and indignation whenever “down-the-bottom” people ever confront them with another take on cultural diversity. They can’t imagine why any one could oppose such unalloyed joys. In fact that disjunction of social experience sounds like a classic case of the divided “class culture” that you endlessly bang on about. “People at the bottom” do not need to be “tricked into not fixing it”. They are all to grimly aware of which end of the stick they are at, which is why they belly-ache about it constantly. [CT #153]

Comments [#148, 152] sound exactly like what I heard about from the workforce when I worked in a factory in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire. Some targeted, some random violence, drunken fights at the weekend, moans about the drug dealer up the street, and so on. Not to mention the (obviously somewhat biased) police blogs.

But me, as a nice middle class highly educated person doesn’t see all that because I take care to live in nice areas and avoid dodgy parts of town. Same with the politicians, who have police guards and chauffeurs, and all too many left wing types who live in nice leafy suburbia.

Now there is an element of chance involved, for example I know one or two people for whome everything goes wrong, one thing after another, they’re just at the bad end of the bell curve of random chance. But comments [#148, 152] fit with what I have seen and talked to people about since leaving university.

The simple fact is that new labour is not and has not been a party of the left. Of the centre, yes, wishing to balance some social goods with letting the rich get richer and siphoning a bit off them, but in no way can they be said to be acting left wing, especially on this topic. [CT #163]

Politisk satir om ”bigotgate” och The Guardian. . .

Satirsajten The Daily Mash, som enligt Wikipedia har målgruppen ”procrastinating office workers”, har skrivit en artikel om ”bigotgate”. De ger en rejäl känga åt bland andra The Guardian. Men med tanke på Guardian-artiklarna i mitt förra inlägg så framstår satiren som lite off-target:

The word ‘bigot’, introduced into the English language in the late 16th Century, lost all meaning shorty after 11pm last night, it has been confirmed.

Word managers at the Oxford English Dictionary said ‘bigot’ became officially meaningless when the one millionth person on Twitter used it to describe an old lady from Rochdale who used the word ‘immigrants’.

Tom Logan, the OED’s deputy director of A to C, said: ”Meaning-wise, ‘bigot’ has been on shaky ground for quite some time and, like most bad things, it’s entirely the fault of The Guardian.

Guardian readers think anyone who doesn’t love The Wire is a bigot. They think anyone who hasn’t had an interesting experience in a two-star hotel in Ho Chi Minh City is a bigot. They think anyone who doesn’t like Greco-Javanese fusion food is a bigot.

”Meanwhile, anyone who hasn’t read a book about the right-wing media conspiracy against Hezbollah is the absolute worst kind of bigot and of course they now think I’m an appalling bigot for pointing that out.

”Bigoted woman” och den brittiska vänstern

Jag lider sedan några dagar av en förlamande förkylning. Min hjärna arbetar inte som normalt och jag har valt att inte anstränga den mer än nödvändigt; först och främst tittar jag på fotbollsklipp på youtube. Men jag dock även läst runt för att få lite koll på valrörelserna i Nederländerna och England.

Och då kom det här med Gillian Duffy lägligt. Vilket liv det blev! Mycket spännande att läsa. Intressantast är förstås diskussionen inom den moderata vänstern. The Guardian (centre-left) har många tänkvärda texter. Och på vänsterakademiska bloggen Crooked Timber skrevs ett inlägg som fick en mycket intressant kommentarstråd. Jag tänkte nu klippa och klistra främst från dessa texter och kommentarer.

Vi börjar med att ge frågan rätt proportioner. Det kan man få genom att begrunda utredningen från Institute of Fiscal Studies. Marina Hyde skriver i The Guardian:

What a testament to the media-industrial complex that one day after the Institute of Fiscal Studies report warning of the most devastating cuts since the second world war, it should discover an even bigger story. When we are a nation in rags, with a skeleton NHS feeding powdered egg to the patients who somehow survive the 10-year waiting lists, and our terminally unemployed children ask us: ”Did the news media just clear the schedules when they found about the IFS report?”, we will be able to say: ”No, but they did the next day when the prime minster was overheard slagging off a woman from Rochdale. Now sling another chair leg on the fire and shut up.”

Likväl är det fullt rimligt att det blir visst liv kring ”bigoted woman”. Inte bara för dess sensationsvärde utan för att den pekar på en väldigt central fråga, vilken kommer framgå senare i det här inlägget.

(Låt mig inflika, efter att ha tittat på gårdagens debatt, att mina sympatier klart ligger hos Clegg, min magkänsla signalerar tvivel gällande Cameron, och mitt av naturen försiktiga intellekt viskar att Gordon Brown är en duktig skeppare.)

Hör man bara sekvensen med Brown så kan man ha viss sympati; även han måste ju, som han senare förklarade, ha möjlighet att ”let out steam”. Men om man ser hela videon blir intrycket ett annat; jag måste säga att jag blev helt paff (och då visste jag ju ändå om att det skulle komma!). Crooked Timber (CT) kommentar #14 och #54:

Watch the whole sequence to appreciate how mortifying this is. It’s especially bad because Brown tries to be charming at the end of the conversation, then climbs in his car and says what a disaster. This onstage/backstage disjuncture is what everyone suspects about politicians, but rarely is it confirmed with such narrative economy. [CT #14]

I showed a large group of (midwestern, admittedly) students the clip with the subtitles, and they drew in a collective sharp breath when hearing/seeing Browns bigot comment. It is his contempt that is the issue, and, as some have said, its at-odds-ness with the pleasantness of the actual encounter (and the shock that he was rattled by her). [CT #54]

Jag instämmer i detta. Notera inte minst det sistnämnda i kommentaren. Diskussionen med kvinnan avlöpte egentligen väl. En vanlig väljare. Visserligen med en svamlig harang om immigration, men denna mötte Brown (lite ofullständigt, men ändock).

Visst kan han kalla henne för bigott, men nog är det problematiskt att anamma en definition av detta begrepp som gör att många miljoner av väljarkåren faller in under det. Och det är även ganska märkligt givet Labours egen politik. Deborah Orr i The Guardian:

If it was bigoted to be concerned about Labour’s immigration policy over the last 13 years, then Labour wouldn’t be so proud of its ”new points based system” and wouldn’t have placed restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian citizens seeking work in Britain after their countries had joined the EU in 2007. [. . .]

Labour’s open door policy was as much about keeping the Confederation Of British Industry happy by depressing unskilled wages as it ever was about fighting ”bigotry”. Labour’s already well-advanced retreat on immigration is as close as Brown will ever get to admitting that his immigration policy was mainly in place to keep the minimum wage down, thus abandoning his core vote.

En kommentator på CT likställer Browns fadäs med Obamas yttrande om ”bitter people clinging to their guns”, som inte kom att påverka det förestående amerikanska valet. Skillnaden — ack vilken skillnad! — påpekas av #24: ”The difference being that Obama was talking about his opponent’s base and Brown was deriding his own”.

Skribenten till inlägget på CT, Harry Brighouse (politisk filosof, skriver ofta om utbildning och skola), trodde först inte att kvinnan i fråga alls var en livslång Labour-röstare så som hon framställts. Men efter att ha läst utskriften av hela samtalet:

Very interesting actually reading the transcript. Doing so makes me think she is an authentic Labour voter of old, after all. [. . .] And I retract my minor sympathies for him—he really should be used to dealing with views like hers enough not to complain. What a bloody shambles. [CT #27]

Att hon är en kärnväljare gör det inte bara svårare för Brown kan ta sig ur knipan. Det pekar också på ett grundläggande problem. En kommentator länkar till ett inlägg som Paul Krugman (vänster-liberal, eller vad man nu ska kalla honom) skrev häromdagen. Samma situation i USA: progressiva slits mellan två impulser.

I know that when I look at today’s Mexicans and Central Americans, they seem to me fundamentally the same as my grandparents seeking a better life in America.

On the other side, however, open immigration can’t coexist with a strong social safety net; if you’re going to assure health care and a decent income to everyone, you can’t make that offer global.

So Democrats have mixed feelings about immigration; in fact, it’s an agonizing issue.

Det är denna moraliska konflikt som är så spännande att följa, i England, USA, och i Sverige. (Jag skrev i höstas ett inlägg delvis relaterat till detta: om identitetspolitik och kritiken från ”old-style social democrats” som Brian Barry och Richard Rorty).

Här kommer en radda intressanta kommentarer från Crooked Timber (jag hoppas de inte misstycker/märker):

“Shut up and vote Labour, you bigoted plebs” is a great strategy for social cohesion and electoral success. [CT #5]

Embracing bigoted plebs is not a particularly viable one either. [CT #7]

If Duffy was mistaken about the effect of immigration, then Brown should have good-naturedly corrected her on that. I would expect a campaigning PM to have a statistic or two memorized for just such an event. Instead, he merely viewed his exposure to someone he disagreed with as a failure of campaign management. And by failing to correct her, he more than half implied that Duffy was right but that it was inexpedient for him to admit as much. [CT #8]

For a lefty blog, I’m surprised at the callousness on show here. Inflationary wage pressures have been kept in check not by restraint at the top of the private sector (“intensely relaxed”, everyone?) or a squeeze across the public sector (seen lately what GPs are paid?) but by supply-side measures at the bottom of the labour market. My own views on the matter regardless, it’s a legitimate issue. It can’t be left to the BNP. Who, by the way, are actual bigots. [CT #17]

Don’t make me watch the video again—please—but I could swear the part about immmigration wasn’t about wages but rather about whether the immigrants were living lives of luxury on the dole, thus explaining why pensions are taxed and why our grandchildren will still be paying for this deficit.  [CT #25]

Perhaps the difference is less marked in the UK, but in America, it should be a particular strength of the left/liberals that we are supposed to be the open-minded, rational ones capable of discussing issues with people who disagree with us. The American right cannot tolerate dissent or discussion—disagreement is heresy, pure & simple.

But we sacrifice that advantage when ordinary folks with, for instance, racist prejudices are The Other whom we mock (“plebs,” rednecks, whatever) and treat as loons to be perfunctorily smiled at immediately prior to escaping their presence and laughing at them. [CT #30]

[W]hile other working class communities may still have some residual class consciousness, the British working and lower middle class only have race consciousness, which is manipulated on a daily basis by the tabloid scum.  [CT #50]

One of the nasty bits about American politics is that the little guy on whose behalf “liberals” are fighting for is often a really unpleasant, small, and mean-minded fellow. A lot of my family are like this. I hear their tales of woe, the sorry state of their finances, their poor health, big business moving in on the left and right and no jobs in sight . . . and then they’ll say something mean and bigoted about Blacks or Asians or gays (those aren’t their preferred terms) and what sympathies I have collapse.

Do I have contempt for these plebes behind their backs? You bet. It is precisely because of their nature that they are so susceptible to right-wing propaganda which in turn makes it so hard to get anything constructive done in the U.S. [CT #61]

The sad thing is, though, all these concerns in England are so much to do with that great unspoken phenomenon of British life, class, and the natural party to redress these concerns, the Labour Party, explicitly rejected that debate and ceded the whole territory – the debate about broken Britain, about disappearing jobs and the declining standard of living – to the right-wing fringe.

These concerns are natural fodder for right-wing lies, and the British, being so awfully race sensitive, are easily misled by anti-immigrant populism and scapegoating. And the Tories want to talk about these issues but have to avoid the discussion of class for obvious reasons, so they can’t counter the lies either. [CT #62]

As a longtime observer of British politics from afar, I sometimes get the feeling that Labour is largely kept afloat electorally by the continuing sense that it is the “natural party” of the working class. If that sense, which has had less and less to do with political reality since Labour became New Labour, were ever to collapse, the Labour Party might go down with it. Or am I wrong about this? [CT #65]

One assumes that the Labour inner circle know how much their politics is unpopular with their working class base, but I think they’re so disconnected from the “bigots” they claim to represent that they might actually miss it… [CT #66]

Mrs Duffy’s seems more the generational prejudice of those born in the immediate aftermath of WW2 . . . [...] My dad’s the same age. He says the same things, with the caveat that from experience he thinks Polish tradespeople are hard workers. He can say things that make me cringe, and he’s the classic life-long Labour voter who’s talked about voting BNP but has stayed at home instead. I think he understands on a rational level that the only thing separating him from the second-generation Asian teenagers in the town centre is time and skin colour, but he’ll never stop spouting tabloid bullshit about immigrants at the pub. [CT #67]

Well as a matter of fact “the absolute winning formula of the labour party” from the early-through-mid 20thC was to promote populist national statism. If this involves occasionally sharing a bed with “the BNP and the Daily Mail” then we will just have to be brave about that. [CT #73]

And how would you suggest this powerful new leftist movement go about explaining to the British middle class that all their booming recreational activities of the last 15 years have to go out the window because the foreign workers who made them happen are all being shipped home in boxes? [CT #76]

Gosh, [#73] seems to be coming out as a national socialist ….. [CT #78]

A reporter a while back said that the most likely explanation for stupid things on campaign was sheer exhaustion. Many days start at 5 AM, and run through 1-2 AM; people get really, deeply tired. [CT #99]

Kan tillägga att jag anser att #62 rymmer en viktig insikt, samt tror att #65 är korrekt. Och angående Browns beteende mer specifikt instämmer jag med #8 och #30.

Nu tänkte jag avsluta detta mitt mycket välstrukturerade inlägg. Det får ske genom att rekommendera en text av The Guardians politiske reporter John Harris, som väl beskriver Labours djupgående problem. (Jag tar mig åter friheten att citera frikostigt.)

I’ve just spent half an hour on the phone to various Labour party people, and here is the not-exactly-revelatory upshot: ”bigotgate” – if you want to call it that – is beyond grim.

[. . .]

The incident perfectly captures a plotline that I’ve observed time and again, not least as we’ve been travelling around the country during the campaign: millions of people who are confused, unsettled, and often ragingly angry, faced with a political class that affects to feel their pain, but too often holds them in borderline contempt. What with the rise in support for the BNP – and that great chasm that divides too much of the country from richer corners of the capital – the metropolitan media is part of the same problem. It tends to portray them as latter-day Alf Garnetts, nostalgic for a world long gone, and fired up by the kind of prejudices that have no place in London W1 or W11.

In fact, as Gillian Duffy proves, their concerns are a mixture of right and left-ish stuff, much of it traceable to the fact that as Britain has gone through convulsive change after convulsive change, nobody in power has ever bothered giving them much of an explanation. They base their ire on neighbourhoods that have been radically altered, a state that often seems to operate according to its own distant logic, and the absence of the kind of collectivist politics they feel Labour has left behind as it chases the votes of people in supposedly affluent marginals.

Of late, I’ve talked to them time and again. In South Shields: the builder whose hourly rate had come down by £3 an hour once the construction trade turned to recently arrived Poles. In Blackpool: Delwyn and Sylvia, who stuck to a Daily Mail-esque line on crime and immigration, but fretted about how people manage to live on the minimum wage.

Duffy, let’s not forget, lives in Rochdale, another place far from the Middle English milieu at which so much of our politics is aimed. She doesn’t understand why her pension is taxed, and says she isn’t eligible for pension credits, but also thinks the welfare state is a soft touch. She wonders where ”all these eastern Europeans” are coming from. And she laments the demise of student grants, and the fate of her grandchildren: ”What will they have to pay to get into university?” There are millions of people like this: without their support, to put it bluntly, Labour is screwed.

[. . .]

And somewhere within Labour’s collective psyche, there will a creeping awareness of how they arguably ended up here: by mortgaging their future on a mixture of contorted electoral arithmetic, and secondhand free-marketry, and so forgetting their own people that their own prime minister met an pretty average Labour voter, heard her concerns, and came away seething.

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Den ytliga liberala människosynen — och det totalitära alternativet.

Artikeln ‘The Silence in Russian Culture’ publicerades i Foreign Affairs 1957. Isaiah Berlin beskriver där bland annat den intellektuella bakgrunden till den sovjetiska totalitarianismen.

Over a century ago Russian critics denounced European civilization for its lack of understanding. It seemed to them characteristic of the morally desiccated, limited thinkers of the West to maintain that human activities were not all necessarily interconnected with each other – that what a man did as a writer was one thing and what he did as a citizen was another; that a man might be a good chemist and yet maltreat his family or cheat at cards; that a man might compose profound music and yet hold stupid or immoral political views that were no business of the critics or of the public.

This notion of life, according to Russians of almost all shades of opinion, was artificial and shallow and flew to pieces before the deeper insight of the all-embracing view, according to which the life of individuals and the life of their institutions was one and indivisible. Every faculty and element in the individual were in a state of constant interplay; a man could not be one thing as a painter and another as a citizen, honest as a mathematician and false as a husband; it was impossible to draw frontiers between any aspects of human activity, above all between public and private life.

Any attempt to insulate this or that area from the invasion of outside forces was held to be founded upon the radical fallacy of thinking that the true function and purpose of a human being does not penetrate every one of his acts and relationships – or worse still, that men had, as men, no specific function or purpose at all.

It followed that whatever most fully embodies this ultimate total human purpose – the State, according to the Hegelians; an elite of scientists, artists and managers, according to the followers of Saint-Simon or Comte; the Church, according to those who leaned towards ecclesiastical authority; an elected body of persons embodying the popular or national will, according to democrats or nationalists; the class designated by ”history” to free itself and all mankind, according to Socialists and Communists – this central body had a right to invade everything. The very notion of the inviolability of persons, or of areas of life, as an ultimate principle was nothing but an effort to limit, to narrow, to conceal, to shut out the light, to preserve privilege, to protect some portion of ourselves from the universal truth – and therefore the central source of error, weakness and vice.

Isaiah Berlin, ‘The Silence in Russian Culture‘, Foreign Affairs,  Vol. 36, No. 1 (Okt. 1957) , s. 4-5.

Presstödsfrågan

Här kommer några rader om frågan om presstödet. Jag ska genast säga att min grundinställning är att det ska avskaffas. Men jag ska nu resonera lite kring följande åsikt: ”Att reglera presstöd efter innehåll innebär censur”. Detta var rubriken på en intervju i DN.

Det finns två generella saker i den politiska debatten som jag har svårt för. Det ena är när debattörer bara blåser på och struntar i att göra mer finstilta distinktioner. Det andra är överdrifter som urvattnar begreppen eller förvrider perspektiven. Den aktuella rubriken tycktes spontant som ett exempel på dessa saker.

Hur som helst, det finns naturligtvis ett rimligt resonemang bakom. Pär-Arne Jigenius, tidigare pressombudsman, säger till DN:

Det här är det pris man får betala om man ska upprätthålla systemet med presstöd. Den statliga myndighet som distribuerar stödet måste göra det helt neutralt. Nämnden har ingen rätt att beakta om en tidning som söker presstöd är höger- eller vänsterextrem. [. . .] De som reagerar häftigt hamnar i positionen att avveckla presstödet. Men det farligaste man kan göra nu är att hävda att politikerna ska modifiera stödet så att vissa politiska riktningar inte ska kunna få stöd.

Rimligt, men jag är inte säker på om jag instämmer. Jag lutar åt Per Svenssons ståndpunkt:

Yttrandefrihet är rätten att säga också korkade saker utan att riskera att bli straffad av staten. Yttrandefrihet betyder inte att man har rätt att få betalt av staten för att säga korkade saker.

Men jag tvekar som sagt. Inte minst därför att den mycket kloke Jakob Heidbrink även han driver linjen att yttrandefriheten kräver ett åsiktsneutralt presstöd. Jag är ense med Heidbrink i den meningen att jag hellre skrotar presstödet än inrättar ett halvt godtyckligt utdelat presstöd. Men vad jag inte är ense om är den principiella poängen att ett innehållsprövat stöd med nödvändighet innebär en kränkning av yttrandefriheten.

Heidbrink skriver:

Det är [. . .] viktigt att alltid minnas vad det innebär att ha yttrandefrihet. Yttrandefrihet innebär att jag utan hot om repressalier får uttrycka åsikter som just inte anses höra den goda smaken till.

Genom hela inlägget betonar Heidbrink förtjänstfullt det viktiga med att yttrandefrihet innebär att ha rätt att säga saker som majoriteten tycker är förkastligt. Men vad jag invänder mot vad som ska räknas som en relevant repressalie:

Man bör också hålla i minnet att ett åsiktsförtryck kan ta sig olika former. Det behöver inte handla om att spärra in eller döda de som har osmakliga åsikter. Det kan också handla om att undanhålla sådana förmåner som andra får som har smakfulla åsikter.

Det här med att ”undanhålla förmåner” fick mig att tänka på den politiske teoretikern William Galston (jag läser mycket av honom just nu). I den kända artikeln ‘Two Concepts of Liberalism’ (1995) diskuterar han (i förbifarten) ett fall där ett religiöst universitet krävde att åter bli undantagna från beskattning, en förmån som gällde alla universitet men som delstaten återkallat på grund av detta universitets policy gällande etnicitet. Galston introducerar begreppet ”reverse exemption”. (Fallet gäller i och för sig  ”freedom of association”, men det är själva idén jag är ute efter och på det sätt som det innebär en kompromiss.)

Consider, for example, Bob Jones University, whose students were prohibited on religious grounds from engaging in interracial dating. In many cases of conflict between First Amendment-protected associations and compelling state interests such as ending racial segregation, the flat prohibition of conduct judged obnoxious by public principles seems hard to square with the minimum requirements of Free Exercise. But associations conducting their internal affairs in a manner contrary to core public purposes can legitimately be burdened, even if not banned outright. In such cases, a policy of what might be called ”reverse exception” — that is, the removal of all forms of otherwise applicable public encouragement and favor — may well be the most appropriate course. (Galston 1995, s. 532)

Låt mig nu resonera på ett lite abstrakt sätt om presstöd, mest för att få grepp om frågan. Tänk att mängden A innefattar alla åsikter som överhuvudtaget är möjliga att uttrycka. En given politisk gemenskap känner oftast ett behov av att förbjuda vissa av dessa åsikters yttrande, som de kanske sorterar in under begrepp som uppvigling, hets mot folkgrupp, eller likande. En liberal stat är mån om att att göra detta i så liten omfattning som möjligt, men likväl kommer den bara att tolerera en delmängd av A. Låt oss kalla den för B. I denna mängd B ryms fortfarande en hel del obehagliga, illiberala och ondsinta yttranden,  men i en liberal stat finns alltså ändå en delmängd åsikter vars yttrande är förbjudna; dessa ryms i kilen mellan A och B (vi kan kalla denna A/B). Nu tänker sig den politiska gemenskapen i fråga att den ska stödja tidningar och press, eftersom dessa bidrar till samhällsdebatten och gemenskapens politiska vigör. Den inrättar en myndighet som ska granska de ansökande tidningarna och fördela stödet enligt vissa principer. Vilka principer? Bör de hålla sig till samma grunder som den använt för att sålla fram mängden B? Men samtidigt är de måna om att B ska vara så vid som möjligt, och att den därför borde få innehålla även idéer som den bedömer kan vara skadliga om de skulle få stort genomslag, säg anti-demokratiska principer och rashat. Detta är ett dilemma. Här kommer frågan: finns det legitima grunder för att anamma en princip som sorterar ut en delmängd av B — låt oss kalla en sådan för mängd C — av yttranden som är acceptabla att ge stöd till? Och därmed skapa en kil B/C av yttranden som diskvalificerar tidningar från att få stöd trots att den politiska gemenskapen samtidigt bedömer dem som tillåtna att yttra?

(Notera att den aktuella frågan inte fångas i detta resonemang, eftersom åsiktsneutral innebär att presstödsnämnden inte får ta hänsyn ens till frågan om det faller in under B. Om jag förstått Martin Alhqvist rätt.)

Heidbrink svarar nej.

Yttrandefrihet, det är att få säga saker som andra tycker är anstötliga, vidriga, fasansfulla och ändå av staten, det allmänna, behandlas som alla andra. Det är det, inget mindre, som yttrandefrihet är.

Galston skulle nog påpeka att presstödet utgör en form av ”encouragement and favor” och att ett undanhållande av dessa är förenligt med att yttrandefriheten består. Ja, att detta kanske är den bästa kombinationen givet att de aktuella åsikterna som predikas är intoleranta och odemokratiska och bedöms utgöra ett hot mot den politiska ordningen ifall de skulle få större genomslag. (Notera att jag inte här pratar om Nationell Idag; jag har inte en aning om vad den innehåller). Galston skulle nog hävda att yttrandefriheten innebär att en mycket stor mängd yttranden, även de ”anstötliga, vidriga och fasansfulla”, tolereras av staten utan repressalier. Men också vidhålla att det är förenligt med yttrandefrihet att, givet ett existerande system av presstöd, undanhålla stöd för vissa sådana yttranden; förenligt med ”the removal of all forms of otherwise applicable public encouragement and favor”. Eller som han skrev om samma rättsfall i sin senaste bok:

Tax exemption is a privilege, not a right, and may be withdrawn when an organization’s conduct is manifestly inimical to public policy. [. . .] Note that the question was not whether [. . .] the state had the right to order a private, denominational university to abandon its internal policy, on pain of civil or criminal sanction. That step would have implicated basic rights of freedom of association and free exercise of religion that the Court has long defined and protected, and it would have called for an entirely different legal analysis. (Galston 2005, s. 183)

Presstöd är ”a privilege, not a right” och ur det perspektivet framstår det inte som självklart illegitimt att utforma det på ett sätt så att det gäller en delmängd av B. Samtidigt är den uppkomna en mängden B/C, som alltså innebär att vissa yttranden som är lagliga likväl särbehandlas av det offentliga, inte oproblematisk. Det är negativ faktor att ta med i beräkningen; kanske innebär den alltför stora problem så att stödet antingen bör vara generellt över B eller inte existera alls. Och jag är benägen att hålla med Heidbrink i hans prioritering av likabehandling i lagstiftning och maktutövning. Det jag är obenägen till är så att säga att skriva in detta i definitionen på det sätt som Heidbrink gör. För om man gör så, ja då innebär ett innehållsprövat presstöd detsamma som ”censur”. En bedömning som gör våld på den vardagliga meningen hos detta begrepp, och suddar ut signifikanta nyanser i vår politiska vokabulär.

Referenser:

William Galston (1995), ‘Two Concepts of Liberalism’, Ethics, Vol. 105, Nr 3, pp. 516–534.

William Galston (2005), The Practise of Liberal Pluralism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

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