I don’t expect to be blogging a lot until I return to Portland – even aside from the I’ve-gotten-too-used-to-a-fast-connection-to-go-back-to-using-a-modem issue, and aside from the there’s-only-one-computer- and-I-get-kicked-off-it- too-often-to-get-any-writing-momentum-started issue, there’s also the it’s-kinda-fun-to-take-some- time-off-from-blogging issue to consider.
But in the meanwhile, I did want to put in a pointer to the best thing I’ve read in ages, which is a series of posts on Pedantry on “language policy.”
Part one is a chapter-by-chapter summary of a scholarly anthology book on language rights and political theory, winningly entitled Language Rights and Political Theory. If that makes your eyes glaze over, you can go ahead and skip this part (like I did at first) – but you may want to go back and reread it after parts two and three have captured your attention.
Part 2 is a discussion of linguistic diversity and language education, which spreads out into a consideration of minority language rights and the economics of second-language fluency. (Or maybe it’s a discussion of those latter items which digresses into a discussion of the former? Whatever). Anyhow, it’s fascinating.
Part three, released today, is actually a continuation of a Pedantry post I linked to back in June, discussing the difference between a collection and a collective. (Scott was at that point arguing that Palestinians and Israel are not morally equivalent, since “Palestinians” – like “Israelis” – are a collection, and collections cannot make centralized decisions, whereas “Israel” is a collective which can make (and be held responsible for) its centralized decisions).
In today’s post, Scott argues that even a single individual can be conceptualized as “a collective,” and develops his argument that collectives can sensibly be seen as morally responsible for their choices and actions. As an illustration, Scott uses this approach to justify affirmative action.
This, to me, is the most troublesome part of Scott’s discussion. I have disagreements with almost every detail of Scott’s discussion of black-white inequality in the USA. (For example, Scott puts too much weight on the economic value of skills, while seemingly ignoring the essential importance of inter-generational wealth transfers – a formulation of the problem that is, I’m sure unintentionally, more flattering to white people than we deserve.) However, although I will probably discuss Scott’s (imo) errors in a future post, nonetheless it’s important to note that my disagreements with Scott do not undermine his central argument:
(Scott’s approach here isn’t unique – I’ve read people who have more-or-less taken the same approach to justifying reparations.)
Scott also argues for “self-development” as the central goal we should be seeking in our policy choices:
Naturally, self-development is not an absolute standard which exists independently of time, place and social context; nor can all developmental efforts be treated equally. If someone wants to develop into a serial murder, they can’t assert the freedom to go around killing people in the name of self-development. Furthermore, what policies specifically enhance or block self-development are always conditioned by the historical circumstances people find themselves in. To someone who is starving, food insecurity is an enormous barrier to self-development even when they have nominal political liberties like freedom of speech. It is possible, under this scheme, to come to the conclusion that a dictatorial regime which grants none of those political rights but which is able to keep people fed may actually be the juster regime. Of course, this is not to say that a regime that offers food security and political rights isn’t juster still.
Naturally, my post here doesn’t even scratch the surface of Scott’s discussion. I’m looking forward to reading part four of this series. Meanwhile, I highly recommend y’all go check out what Scott’s writing – for my tastes, there is nothing more interesting going on in the blogoverse.