Posts Tagged ‘social category theory’

Modern Politics

June 8, 2018

For the last 40 years, in the English speaking world, we have been told that “free markets” and putting business first would bring us liberty, opportunity and prosperity.

It hasn’t done that, and can’t do that. All it does is bring liberty, opportunity and prosperity for the wealthy. Ordinary people’s prosperity is a cost and should be cut. Any attempt by people to get the State to help others in misfortune is a cost and to be opposed. Every virtue which does not generate a profit for the established powers, is a cost to be eliminated. Wealth buys politics, laws, regulations and so on. “Getting the government off people’s backs” has been used as an excuse to regulate ordinary people, give corporations more power and wreck the environment. There is no longer any hope. Wages (for ordinary people) do not increase like they used to. Social mobility is dead. Education is declining. and so on.

Given the failure of the so called free market neoliberal project, the only way that its benefactors can get people to vote for them, is through fake news, and stirring up nationalism and hatred. If you hate your opponents, then you can’t co-operate with them and you won’t learn from them, and you won’t team up against those oppressing you. You will vote for the people oppressing you because of your loyalty to something else, and you won’t get any real information….

There are some who think this is an aberration of the market or the state, but the problem is that a capitalist market nearly always seems to generate the same structures. The people who succeed and accumulate wealth and leave it to their offspring, eventually create a class society and succeed in buying the government – so the rich have a dominating say, and have (in a vaguely electoral political structure) to lie to people and deceive them to keep their support. In a free market there are no values other than profit, so its hard to object to this, or get your objections heard.

There was a time in the 60s and 70s (and still in some parts of Europe) when workers were organised and collaborative and there was a market which was regulated favourably for the people, and business sometimes had to compete against State owned companies and so found it hard to found unofficial cartels. The system was not perfect by any means, but most of us did not seem to have the problems we have now. There is also no doubt that if we had been aware of looming ecological catastrophe and climate change with the same kind of organisation, that attempts to deal with the problem would have proceeded much more rapidly than in an era of corporate dominance and belief in ‘free markets’. Everyone would have been better off. The truth is that humans are a cooperative and competitive species, they do not like hierarchies of the type capitalism generates, and they like organising together to carry out projects.

Conclusion: Some free market is good, lots of free market is bad and unfree. We need a balance. No one should be able to make vast profits destroying our future and that involves restraining ‘the market’.

The dominant political and economic forces in the Anglo-capitalist world generate destruction, and their political tactics involve distorting the truth to stop people from doing anything about it.

They aren’t the only destructive people on the planet of course, but they are the ones we can do something about.

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Commercial in Confidence

April 12, 2018

Commercial in-confidence is when a government makes an agreement with a private company either to outsource work which could be done by the government or sells off public property to a commercial concern, and at least some details of the contract are not to be revealed to tax payers.

Usually commercial in-confidence is used to hide details the public might object to such as: exit fees the government might have to pay if the work is not done on time; agreements that freight has to pay extra charges if it is landed in another port; tax and royalty concessions; changes of a road’s route so the toll charges can make more money; or simply paying more than is necessary to friends and donors. Yes this all refers to real cases…

In terms of social category theory the government identifies with the private sector and judges them with a friendly eye and aims to support them, while it sees tax payers as a hostile other who are ignorant.

Let’s be clear. If Taxpayers’ money is involved then commercial in-confidence should not exist after the contract is signed. It is our money, and we should know how it is being spent and what we are giving away. If companies don’t want to participate under these conditions, then that is their business and we probably don’t want them to participate.

Commercial in-confidence is simply a cover for commercial incompetence.

So far privatisation has failed, and it is largely because of these confidences, and sometimes because public servants do a better job.

Minorities rule….

April 12, 2018

The interesting thing about Australian Coalition Government’s policy which has been revealed by the so called “Monash group” (which is pro-coal), is that policy appears to be dictated by the fear of not offending five non-cabinet MPs.

This means our climate and energy policies, in a lower house of 150 people, is being decided by less than 10% of the members (I’m adding extra people to their cause out of generosity). This is not remotely democracy in action – this is rule by the miniscule; the fleas controlling the dog.

How does it come about? Firstly because those 5 people have the support of the Murdoch Empire and the Minerals Council of Australia, which have helped make resistance to the idea of climate change, a hallmark and definer of conservative politics. Indeed they supress discussion of climate change to make everything about an ‘economics’ that is concerned with the profit of established corporations. Mass protests against climate change just don’t get reported, while tiny protests against the left do. Even those radical conservatives like One Nation who think international corporations are destroying local customs and culture, and need to be checked, support fossil fuel companies who are as international and destructive as they come. Any right winger who breaks on this issue will be misinterpreted, seen as a traitor, seen as losing nerve, and punished. Any right winger with principles, fears they will lose selection.

This is polarized information group dynamics in action, and stopping discussion. These groups can be created for this purpose, and are reinforcing it. The 5 people become exemplary examples of a right wing ‘us’ group – while possibly moderate people like the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull become outsiders, who have to continually demonstrate their group loyalty, by not steering too far away from the extreme, and by refusing to challenge that extreme. In this situation the so called ‘centre’ suffers – even when the official ‘left’ move further rightwards to capture its shifting point, and even if ‘the people’ show their commitment to renewables by plopping them on every available rooftop.

The dedication of the far right is reinforced because they stick with the Murdoch Empire and do not see contrary evidence, or have it explained away for them well enough. They are hung up on being just and fair (so if anyone is doing less to mitigate climate change than them, they can always argue it is just for them to support even less action) and they suffer the Dunning Kruger effect, were they do not realise their ignorance in the field and subsequently cannot recognize competence in the field – and they reinforce their ignorance out of group loyalty and the sense of persecution which comes from being wrong.

And so it goes. It could be combatted by strong leadership which stood up for principles and argued against them for the good of the country. But we are probably not going to get that. All we can hope for is that the people themselves get on with the business of lowering carbon emissions, reducing their pollution, getting their workplaces to reduce emissions, protesting against government sell outs to corporations and doing anything else they can no matter how small. While voting Labor and Green is useful, it will not be enough either, because they continually move to the right, to keep on side with the powers that be.

It is up to us to do we what we need to do to survive, and to take government back should we want.

More Government?

January 22, 2018

In my work I often come across people writing something like:

There’s a category of people, often found mollycoddled inside government institutions such as universities, for whom “more government” is the answer to absolutely every problem.

This annoys me.

For one, in my entire and pretty lengthy life, I have never met anyone who thinks the answer to anything is “more government”. Never. It is a completely false accusation.

There are, however, a large number of people who object to giving all governmental power to the corporate sector (as is the usual results of actions by those who supposedly support ‘small government’), and there are those who think that ‘the people’ should be able to participate in their own government and challenge corporate dominance.

As you might expect both positions are easily misrepresented by people who work for the dominant powers who heavily fund think tanks and now permeate the university system. We might even say, by those cosseted by capitalism, for thinking ‘righteously’. They can pretend that wanting to be able to challenge corporate dominance, is a call for more government, knowing that hardly anyone will protest in favour of more government, once it is framed that way. This is also fundamentally dishonest.

The real questions are: do you want input into the government, do you want to participate in government, or do you want to leave it to the corporately sponsored and paid for elites? Do you want to keep wondering why government decisions always seem to benefit that class, or do you want to do something about it?

Capitalism appears to inherently intertwine itself into the State, resulting in more liberty for corporations, and more oppressive government for everyone else, unless it is challenged. At least I do not know of a historical circumstance in which this is not true. The fact that other systems can be even worse, does not disprove this.

We need to challenge these glib pro-corporate memes which try and construct corporate interests and peoples interests as always the same and always coinciding only with corporate interests, and replace them with ones that reflect reality.

U.S. Dictatorship

January 13, 2018

Can the USA become Fascist?

A lot depends on what you mean by fascism. After all Hitler and Mussolini’s ideas were significantly different from each other, and yet had significant resemblance to Stalin’s. If you mean a militaristic and nationalist state of the kind found in Germany and Italy in the 1930s, then yes its possible if the US keeps increasing military spending, militarizing its police, supporting arms manufacturers, threatening other States, or expelling inferior people who are not “real Americans”. If you mean a state which unifies and includes the established corporate sector, then yes its probable (if that is not already standard practice). If you mean a State in which it is respectable and beneficial to be a self proclaimed neo-Nazi, then yes. If you mean a state which sacrifices its people to fantasy, then we already have that. Fascism requires people have a flexible attitude to reality and truth; truth is what the party says it is.

It is, however, probably better to scrap the term fascism and ponder about dictatorial governance. If, by fascism you really mean a personalized dictatorship in which everyone has to say how wonderful the dictator is, and there is constant heavy likelihood of war – then the US is also pretty close to that.

Conservatives often say that dictatorship cannot happen under the Republicans because they believe in individual responsibility and free markets. However, not all well-intentioned ideas work out in practice, or are even implemented by those who espouse them. To me, it often seems that Republican politicians primarily act to increase the powers of the wealthy and the corporate sector and remove any inhibitions on those powers – this is what they mean by ‘free markets’ – and this has nothing to do with freedom or liberty. Likewise conservatives are supposed to respect traditions and procedures. However, the Republicans seem largely to respect traditions and procedures when those traditions support their ‘side’. The difference between the way they have encouraged investigation of the Clintons over relatively trivial matters and seem to be trying to shut down investigations into this President on relatively serious matters is otherwise remarkable. Dictatorship encourages ‘sides’ and ‘allegiances’, and the idea that the other side is evil. To some extent, it depends on this.

Dictatorships often start off abusing people that disagree with them, turn blind eyes when people on their side try to threaten others physically, and then try to shut opposition down (Charlottesville). If a member of the party brings bad news or agrees with the other side (even once) then they are to be exiled and punished; setting an example and warning against independent thought for the others (think of Bannon). This seems to be the current US President’s only mode of debate. Fellow Republicans appear to be falling in line.

In accordance with the idea of allegiance being truth, dictatorships do not like the idea of umpires, neutral observers or scientists, if these people do not always obey the ideology and swallow the ideological truth. This position is never clearly enunciated, because the ideology must be true and disbelievers are criminal, so umpires are always potentially ‘biased’. Lies, confusion of knowledge, accusations of lies, false theories, common-sense that is wrong, and so on are part of dictatorship. People live in fantasy and denial (climate change, ‘free markets’). The position clearly does not respect individual rights, or reality. Dictatorships also try to stack positions of authority with people who are loyal and subservient rather than competent. This is true to a great extent of many of Trump’s appointments.

The Dictator is said to be a super-genius who everyone must look up to as their savior. He is unique, beyond the law and an exemplar for everyone, no matter what his real history, because he is the best. He knows more than generals. Knows more than scientists. Knows more than specialists in any field. He instinctively knows what is right…. criticism of him suggests the critic is an evil fool who must be repudiated and stomped on. Remind you of anyone?

This pattern is entirely in keeping with what social category theory would predict, and indeed suggests it may well be deliberately engineered. So how do you make dictators?

Firstly, you remember that people are more easily persuaded by people they identify with, who claim to be on their side. You deliberately increase the negative reactions towards people from outgroups. You take over the news media and make it more extreme. You say all other disagreeing media is hopelessly biased. You persuade people that other media is attacking our group. You make it up if you have to. You get people angry. Your audience is said to be abandoned by the other media and side of politics, they are the victims. This makes your viewers less likely to use other media. You lie shamelessly. You repeat the falsehoods continually so they become part of the background. You destroy any linkages with the other side, by making lack of linkage a matter of loyalty and of distrust of others. You expand into extremism, linking people together who are hostile to your ‘enemies’. This further destroys links between moderates, and moves people to defend extremists and separate themselves further from those on the other side. You pretend that your side is fighting against power, even when its policies do nothing other than support power. Everyone who argues differently must suffer or be exiled. This helps reinforce group loyalties. You gradually keep increasing the tensions until the system breaks and a savior from your group comes along, and its does not matter that he treats the outgroups badly, because they are the villains. You say you are defending the nation and tradition, while you tear those traditions down. You help this with abuse, force and violence, making the violence more and more natural. If corruption on your side becomes visible, then you argue that the other side is equally corrupt if not worse.

These are some steps towards making a dictator. They boil down to: reinforce group identities, together with group boundaries and exclusions. Control information, and build anger against outgroups.

What do you do to prevent loony personalized Dictators?

Don’t think that because you are a nice person and well intentioned, that other people on your side cannot do bad things. Be suspicious of ingroups and outgroups, the more the boundaries seem forced.

Imagine your response if the other side behaved the way your side is behaving, and see if you are consistent. (ie what would your response be if the Russians had helped Clinton win, if they had had contact with high up people in her electoral campaign, if people in Campaign headquarters had lied about those contacts, and if Democrats where trying to shut the inquiry down claiming it was a harmful witch hunt). This helps restore perspectives and spread ‘evil’ around, rather than concentrate it.

Make sure powerful people obey the law and get punished equally to poorer people, and don’t have special exemptions for them – especially if they are identified with your side.

If powerful people look like they have committed treason or other crimes then it must be investigated, no matter how inconvenient it may be for your side’s victory.

Support traditional checks and balances, and traditional procedures – especially if they seem inconvenient.

Make sure you don’t strip away rights from ordinary people. (And recognize that rights always involve an inhibition of other people’s rights to take away those rights. For example, a right of private property depends against stopping the rights of others to take that property away, or paying a portion of that property to guarantee the rest of it. So rights are always in conflict, especially with previous privilege.)

Make sure you don’t help a powerful class of people get more powerful.
Do not support increases in military spending, especially if the threat is vague.

Do not support the expansion of weaponry sales elsewhere, as that just encourages instability and increases the likelihood of war.

Support candidates who actually listen to the other side, because not listening to any one else is a mark of dictatorial attitudes.

Don’t support people who argue by abuse or threat.

Support people who listen to science rather than ideology – they are more in tune with reality, and used to letting ideology go.

Recognise that Dictatorship, and ‘cult of personality’ is a particular form of intensive group loyalty and unquestioning allegiance. It usually comes together with scapegoating, intolerance and militarism. It seems well suited to large scale societies and requires vigilance to avoid.

Virtue is not easy. Organize, before you get organized.

Never think it cannot happen simply because of the virtue of your side of politics, and then it is far less likely to occur.

Capitalism vs Feudalism

October 5, 2017

Capitalism and Feudalism are not the same, but it is useful to make a comparison between them focusing on power and privilege – however much free market apologists do not want to talk about these issues.

In feudalism we basically have the following set up – a largely hereditary class system composed of:

  • 1) Aristocracy, Lords etc. with command of land, law and violence.
  • 2) Crafts people, restricting knowledge of their ‘mysteries’, organised in guilds. Some travel, some are stationary.
  • 3) Merchants and traders who convey goods between cities. Monetary wealth starts to concentrate here. Some cities manage to establish a degree of independence.
  • 4) Church: control of communications, more esoteric non-craft based knowledge, cosmology, salvation.
  • 5) The peasantry, largely bound to a Lord and an estate. Peasants are dependent on the Lords for their livelihood.
  • There is also division by gender. Aristocratic women have more power, privilege and opportunity than peasant women, but they can still lead a relatively constrained life, being bargaining chips for their fathers for alliances. There is some upwards mobility (the idea that people can move up from their parents’ position in life). Historians dispute how much, but there are examples of people being recognised for combat virtues, mercantile abilities and intellectual virtues and moving up the class system to a degree.

    The Church and the Lords have an uneasy truce, but in general the Church promotes the ideas that the Lords have the necessary inherent virtues to rule, and are put there by God, and revolt is bad.

    There is little resembling the present day state. Lords are tied together by ties of oath and kinship. The king is the supreme lord, but he only has a small administration and his own loyal troops. As Shakespeare said “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. A quick study of British feudal history will show kings being killed or displaced or disciplined with regularity. It was only with the end of the Wars of the Roses that we get the start of something approximating a modern State. Henry VIII takes over the church and builds a new aristocracy loyal to him through redistribution of its wealth. Elizabeth continues the trend with a secret police and more admin, but even she is so poor that she has to regularly travel the country with her court living on the beneficence of fellow aristocrats. Merchants get more and more control over the wealth. In the middle of the next century a mercantile and largely popular revolution kills Charles I, and sets up an independent government. The Merchants and Presbyterians crush the more democratic elements. Eventually the kings come back, but they are subordinate to Parliament and mercantile wealth for funding – James I and the Stuarts are thrown out. Capitalism develops.

    Out of this history the traditional power and class structure of capitalism appears and is something like this:

  • 1) State: control of law and violence.
  • 2) Capitalists and remaining aristocrats: owners and controllers of business, wealth and land.
  • 3) Professionals: control of knowledge (science) education and entrance to the professions.
  • 4) Media, distribution of knowledge.
  • 5) Unions, representative bodies of workers. Workers are generally dependent on capitalists for their livelihood.
  • 6) Churches.
  • However over the last 40 years, since the Thatcher/Reagan neoliberal (talking about the freemarket) revolution, wealth has become the dominant source of power, purchasing, curtailing, taking over or destroying all the other bases of power. Wealth has the potential to be the ultimate source of power because it can take over anything.

    We now have a situation in which wealth controls State, law and violence though politicians and party funding; it controls knowledge through think tanks and corporatisation of universities; it largely controls media and the distribution of knowledge; and has largely destroyed or crippled unions.

    We live in a hierarchical capitalist plutocracy. This is perhaps the inevitable consequence of putting business and profit first. Business people become the only people worth talking to, or listening to, and their think tanks promote ‘free markets’ (ie the total dominance of business interests) as the only important part of society. They funded Hayek, Mises, Cato inst etc. to make a coherent justification for their unimpeded rule. We now know that the wealthy are wealthy because they “worked hard”, have “special talents”, are “innovative”, are “blessed by God or the market” etc. Revolt, or even objection, is bad.

    This is not to say that the corporate class is completely united. There are divisions which struggle against each other. For example a rough division occurs between those capitalists (and their hangers on) who have a relatively humanistic attitude to the rest of the world, think environments and people require some support or equalising of opportunity, and those who don’t, or who think all good and only good all arises through ‘the market’ or the actions of corporate capitalists.

    There are also gender divisions, relatively few women control wealth production, and the same is true of race/ethic divisions within the country. Everything I have read suggests that upwards mobility has declined over the same period. This implies that class has ossified the more free markets are valued.

    Basically in such a system, the “billionaire next door” can do whatever they like, unless they are opposed by another billionaire, and we see this happening all the time. All other controls on the power of wealth have largely evaporated. It is possible to see most right wing policies at aiming for the removal of any restrictions on wealthy individuals, or any possibility of poorer individuals curtailing the impact of these individuals on their own lives.

    It seems pretty obvious that has well as ‘totalising’ power into plutocracy and rendering it largely (if not completely) hereditary, capitalism likes to displace the costs of its activities on to others, through distribution of pollution, injury environmental destruction, subsidy and so on. So the rest of us end up subsidising their wealth. This increases profits and anyone who does not do it, is at risk in loosing investment, and of being destroyed by a less principled company….

    So one difference between capitalism and feudalism, is that there were more bases for power in feudalism and likely more freedom to exit the system, or to curtail excessive destruction of the system by one particular group. Another is that there was less material wealth. Most of the practical benefits of that wealth have arisen through better technology and medicine, whether the professional organisations could have done that in western feudal society is unknown, but it certainly started there.

    What do neo-Nazis want?

    August 20, 2017

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

    1) Nazis want to be categorised as heroic victims, fighting a justified fight. Consequently those protesting against nazism (who are classified as ‘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 do kill and maim non Nazis, it is the fault of the others, or the reporting of these events is ‘fake news’. Nazi Violence is excusable while non nazi violence is bad. [The category ‘alt-left’ is useful to neo-nazis and their sympathisers 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, as being justified by ‘free speech’ or ‘Tradition’, so as to weaken opposition to them.

    3) 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.

    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 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.

    6) They want supposedly ‘threatening’ people to despise, otherwise they have no energy. Hence they portray “whiteness” as under massive threat from 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. They also want their opposition to attack everyone affiliated with them, even if that affiliation is fragile – as that provokes ingroup loyalty.

    7) They do not want to blame unequal wealth, or corporate power, for the problems of the US, as that might be too much confrontation.

    8) All you have to do to be classified as potentially good in their eyes is to be categorised as ‘white,’ however that is defined, and not support people they classify as ‘non-whites’. They want that category to have wide application and automatically give people privilege to declare others evil and attack them.

    9) No matter how fractured, they want the opposition to Nazism to be portrayed as monolithic, coordinated and corrupt, as that then magnifies their own victimhood and strength.

    10) 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.

    11) 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.

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

    13) 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.