Posts Tagged ‘social category theory’

What do neo-Nazis want?

August 20, 2017

Is it possible to get what neo-nazis want from the right wing commentariat who are supporting them? A few things, perhaps.

1) Nazis want to be categorised as heroic victims, fighting a justified fight. Consequently the ‘alt-left’ must have attacked them unprovoked. Even if the neo-nazis were carrying semi-automatic weapons, metal poles and the like and threatening to use them, and the opposition were not. Even if they announced they wanted to kill people in advance of the march. Even if they kill and maim non Nazis, it is the fault of the others, or it is fake news. Nazi Violence is good, non nazi violence is bad. [The category ‘alt-left’ is useful to them as it implies that opposition to Nazis is itself a form of extremism and has little in common with mainstream US values.]

2) They want to portray their commitment to threatening others for the sin of existing, or speaking, to be justified by appeals to ‘free speech’ or Tradition, so as to weaken opposition.

3) If they do anything that others call bad, then they want to persuade people that those categorized as ‘others’ were equally bad if not worse, or the events were fake news. Indeed they really want to argue the others were worse and the neos defended themselves.

4) They want to categorise anyone who opposes them as corrupt and deserving to be threatened. Good and evil are white and black. So they want everything to be seen in terms of binary opposition. All members of a social category they despise are automatically evil, no matter how many counter examples they might know.

5) They want ‘threatening’ people to despise, otherwise they have no energy. They also want their opposition to attack everyone affiliated with them, even if that affiliation is fragile – as that provokes ingroup loyalty.

6) They want to be seen as defending American Tradition against corruption, but they are only interested in defending the authoritarian parts of that tradition, such as slavery, white supremacy, male supremacy and so on. However, they can also want to argue, that the American State is corrupt because it has supported the violence they would approve of, if they did it themselves.

7) They want to portray all forces within the State as corrupt, except for those on their side (white and black again). Nazis want to be seen as struggling to take the State back for the people. But they do not want to challenge real power until they get that control and they attempt to gain control by intimidating non-Nazis and preventing resistance – ‘heroically’ of course.

8) They do not want to blame unequal wealth, or corporate power, for the problems of the US, as that might be too much confrontation. They want to blame people they categorise as Jews, Blacks, Mexicans and intellectuals, who don’t have that much power and who may not resist too much. They want to see despised people as a disease.

9) All you have to do to be good is to be categorised as ‘white’ however that is defined and not support ‘non-whites’. They want that category to have wide application and automatically give people privilege to declare others evil and attack them.

10) No matter how fractured, they want the opposition to Nazism to be portrayed as monolithic, coordinated and corrupt.

11) One reason they flourish, is because they are going along with general Republican motifs. Everything above has been part of the Pro-Republican media campaigns for years. But this cannot be said, as orthodox Republicans who denounce them are also the enemy. They want to make this a Republican vs Democrat thing, to get ordinary Republicans to ally with them, but its not.

12) There probably are people who support some positions espoused by neo-nazis but who are not neo-nazis and will eventually become repelled by the whole worship of blood and violence. It is a strategic mistake, not to recognise this possibility, and to drive these people into further alliance with Nazis. This is difficult.

13) They want Jewish people and Black people fighting over who is most threatened. After all, that weakens the opposition.

14) They don’t want to be ignored. But they will heroically smash things up until they are not ignored. So don’t bother ignoring them.

Types of Difference

August 9, 2017

When discussing difference, it is important to have an idea about the different kinds of difference.

Let me distinguish several types. This is not an exhaustive discussion

a) Categorical difference.
You can insert every relevant item into one or other category. The things inserted in each separate category have little in common.
However, there is usually always a level at which everything has something in common, and something that differs… so this is harder than it looks. For example, horses and rats both have four legs, teeth, two eyes, two ears, tails, give birth to live young, and so on, and yet we all usually agree about which category any particular specimen will go into. Horses and sharks may also have things in common… although the similarities may well be less striking, but you can probably think of similarities if you try hard enough.

b) Binary categorical difference
Not only are the things supposedly easy to insert into categories but they are also classed as ‘opposites’. Usually, but not always, men and women are inserted into such categories. In our culture men are supposed to be aggressive as opposed to passive, not be obsessed with appearance, be non-maternal and so on. Some forms of feminism accept categorical difference, or even binary difference, and argue that women have particular abilities and understandings which have been ignored or condemned by the patriarchy. Given the enforcement of categories this is likely to be correct at the moment, even if not ultimately true.

c) Statistical difference
This is were it is recognised that the categories are actually a bit fuzzy. For example, men are generally taller than women. However, very few people would claim that all men are taller than all women. I suspect that most, but not all, gender characteristics are like this. Consequently, the more rigidly the categories are enforced the more people may feel they do not fit in. Are tall women actually men? Are men who like children, really women? Silly yes?

d) Culturally enforced difference
In this case, what are declared to be categorical differences are made absolute and enforced, and such categories occupy places in a power system. The rich are better, hence they get education and this proves the poor are ignorant and stupid and so on. Men get encouraged in violence, women discouraged.

e) Taboo categories
These are reserved for those things/processes which do not fit socially important categories. Cloven hoof animals, transgender people and such. These things are often defined as unclean.

Psychology and language as forms of control: gender, race etc

August 9, 2017

Psychology is always ingrained in politics, because politics is about the ways that people think that the world, and its people, work.

In general psychologies will support the ruling groups – no real surprise there. Aristocratic psychologies say that members of the aristocracy possess particular virtues and innate abilities which justify their position, and that non-aristocrats generally do not have them. Capitalist psychologies explain that people are primarily selfish, competitive and accumulative, and so on. In this psychology, the wealthy are wealthy because of their abilities and virtues which are not possessed by the poor. Racist psychologies explain that the master race is inherently better at whatever is required for ruling and the other races are naturally subordinate, lazy and stupid. Patriarchal psychologies attribute all public virtues to men, and explain that women need, or want to be, controlled, and are naturally inferior or subordinate, only interested in children etc.

Evidence can easily be found to explain and support these positions. It usually is.

I suspect that most of these psychologies are actually based upon violence. Patriarchy is a good example as, statistically, men have more mass, more musculature and more leverage than women. Socially they are trained in, or have experience, applying violence, while women are discouraged or forbidden from learning. Hence women, as a whole, are subordinate to males of their class. Culture and social practice increases and reinforces the subordination. People who don’t feel they match the categories in play have to be careful, or they will suffer.

I tend to accept those depth psychologies which suggest that we all have characteristics which are defined as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ – the question becomes do we integrate them, or do we suppress our ‘opposites’. Patriarchy tends to inculcate the idea that men are either better women than women, or that the male ‘feminine’ parts (like real women) should be suppressed. Depth psychology is more in favour of awareness, integration or synthesis. I also suspect that as nature and environment tend to be identified with women, they are also suppressed as a matter of course in patriarchy. In a racist society similar forces could be at work. We could associate some of the repressed parts of our ‘selves’ with the supposedly other race.

The point is that whatever your theory of psychology, it will likely flow from your politics, and affect your politics and affect your sense of self.

Language is also political.

This should not be surprising either. Language expresses and conditions how we perceive and categorise or classify the world.

Patriarchs fight hard for the right to talk of people as ‘Man’ or ‘Mankind’ and to use the pronoun ‘he’ for the general person. This is because this classification renders the default and important person male. It implies males make history and culture, while women are entirely secondary. The language incorporates power relations. If you don’t believe it try calling a male patriarch ‘she’ and see what happens.

Logically those opposed to patriarchy, prefer to talk of ‘people’ rather than ‘men’ and humanity rather than ‘Man’, and use gender neural pronouns to talk of people as a whole. This form of classification also strikes me as more accurate.

Personally if a person asks you to use ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘hir’ or whatever to refer to them, I think it is polite to do so. It is not polite to obliterate an entire gender.

The distinction often made in the social sciences between sex and gender, is a technical distinction, not to obliterate gendering but to clarify issues and remind us that gender descriptions and requirements may vary with culture and with individuals. Gender has also used been used in linguistics and grammar for a long, long, time as some languages classify things without sex as having gender.

Naturally this distinction challenges patriarchy, because patriarchy looks pretty stupid if gender categories/classifications are not absolute, and is therefore resisted by patriarchal gender police.

In general, social categories tend to provide people with their place in society giving other people expectations about what they can expect from those people and defining how they can behave towards them.

If you want to govern large numbers of people then constructing and enforcing the categories in which they insert themselves and from which they construct their identities, is a great step towards that governance.

So if you support patriarchy it helps you if you can make sure gender categories are tight, and people define themselves in terms of gender. If you run a racist society it is helpful if you can make sure racial categories are tight and people define themselves in terms of race and so on.

Language and psychology are rarely politically neutral.