Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Ham shanks, Sherman tanks and Jodrell Bank

One of the interesting things about joining something like Crooked Timber is that you find out that people whose judgement you take seriously, rate the ideas of people who you consider to be hilarious. One such is Amitai Etzioni who (as well as having a name which looks like the Scrabble hand from hell) is a political philosopher who achieved some minor fame a couple of years ago when he got a namecheck from Tony Blair on Desert Island Discs. Thinking about it, I may have him confused with the MOR band (and 13-point word score) Ezio, but the fact remains that Etzioni's "communitarian" philosophy was big with the Blair crowd in the early days of the Third Way. (That's the Blairite Third Way, btw, not the fascist movement of the same name, and astute readers will perceive here a man battling for his life against the forces of digression).

I seem to remember from university days that "communitarianism" as set out in Mulhall and Swift's textbook "Liberals and Communitarians", was sort of a last gasp of the academic soft left at preserving a space for a normal welfare state from the attacks of Nozickian libertarians on one flank and the Scruton-Taylor-MacIntyre axis of conservatism on the other. It was sort of appealing to me then in a faut de mieux kind of way. But I was always suspicious of it, not least because I happened to grow up in one of the small idealised in-and-out-of-each-others'-doors "communities" that the communitarian theorists went on about, and thus knew that it was bloody horrible. Communitarianism always had a nasty authoritarian streak (lots of people would consider Macintyre and Taylor to be communitarians) and in Etzioni, that illiberality seems to reach a point of equilibrium.

Which is not to say he's an actual authoritarian; that's not true. But he's in favour of "civil liberties" which roughly translates as a staunch defender of the freedom to live an utterly conventional life. Someone who appears to regard the warnings against the stifling effect on liberty of social stigma in Mill's "On Liberty" as an instruction manual. Basically, if you think of a headmaster's lecture on how he's not angry, but very disappointed, at the way in which some unruly elements have chosen to take advantage of his good nature and spoil it for everyone? Etzioni has turned that into a political philosophy. He's certainly not evil, just extremely irritating, and far, far too keen on telling other people what they ought to be doing. A perfect model for the Reverend Blair, then.

Here's a prize extract. It's about sex education, and communitarian parents' rights (very nearly duties) to opt their kids out of it if it's too near the knucle, so to speak. Specifically, it's a ringing condemnation of some program or other that teaches children about masturbation. I must confess that I came near to swallowing my dentures when I heard that the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States recommends telling kids in middle school that "told �a few boys engage in a very dangerous and sometimes fatal form of masturbation that involves limiting their air supply.�, but the context seems to make it clear that Etzioni regards the whole topic of masturbation as a hot-button issue, and thinks that it is entirely acceptable and normal enforcement of community standards of decency to convince impressionable young people that there is something icky and sinful about touching their own hairy parts.

In search of any information about why anyone might consider the case pro or con masturbation to be a political issue, I followed the provided link to the "communitarian position paper on Education for Interpersonal Relations, Family Life and Intimacy". This means sex, by the way, for anyone who wasn't paying attention. The "position paper" is itself enough to make a cat laugh. As a piece of tap-dancing between a basically religious "sex is bad" position and the need to make it not look too churchy, it's worthy of Sammy Davis Jr. And someone really ought to be awarded a medal for the jaw-dropping conclusion that

"Children need to be taught that the use of alcohol and drugs lowers a persons ability to deal with urges in ways that are socially constructive and morally responsible. They need to learn--and above all experience--the joy of living up to their moral values and social commitment by engaging in acts such as community service, peer mentoring, sports, successful completion of taxing assignments and sharing in the household duties"

which appears to be suggesting that for the average teenager, doing the washing up if presented correctly, can be an acceptable substitute for drunken sexual intercourse. Say what you like about these communitarians, they're not scared of a difficult selling proposition.

But any road up, the point I was wanting to make is that this position paper is a massive game of bait and switch. The entire position paper is about women having children at too young an age, sexually transmitted diseases, "intimacy", "commitment" and so on and so forth at length. None of these topics are remotely relevant to the question of masturbation, with or without auto-asphyxiation. The word "masturbation" does not appear even once in the whole document. (While playing around with the Find command, I discovered that it appears five times on my C: drive, but I'm not sure where).

So, what is the communitarian position on masturbation? Any fans of Etzioni want to help me on this one?

(posted on D2D rather than CT for fairly obvious reasons)

0 comments this item posted by the management 8/06/2003 09:21:00 AM

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Bitch : Lab
Aaronovitch Watch
Brad Delong
The Robert Vienneau blog

Political and philosophical heroes

Subcomandante Marcos
Will Rogers
Boris Vian
The English Svejk

RSS Feed:
This seems to matter to a lot of people

If you liked this "Daniel Davies" website, you might be interested in

"Danux", the web developer
The martial artist (and fan of extremely annoying Flash intros) from Blackburn
The Welsh political journalist
A Scouse computer programmer who collects Soviet cameras
"Danimal", the heavy metal drummer
Canada's finest recorder of radio jingles
More of the same, at the Guardian
A tailor's in Lampeter where Jimmy Carter once bought a hat
An advertising man who has written a novel about dogging (I think we sometimes get each other's email)
An award-winning facilities manager in Dubai
The son of the guitarist from the Kinks Update: he is apparently "balls-out motherfucking shit-dicked exxxstatic" to be included on a Kerrang magazine giveaway CD of Iron Maiden covers, which is nice.
"Fritz Gretel" from the Ramones film "Rock 'n' Roll High School"
The former presenter of the leading politics talk radio show on the Isle of Man, now a business change manager in the Manx government secretary's office
An aquarium curator in Sussex who keeps on scoring home runs like this (this is the first stable link I've found, but he is constantly kicking ass in acquarial terms)

If you didn't like this "Daniel Davies" website, then don't give up on the Daniel Davies industry completely!

An American "Christian Political Analyst" who has the same name as me
A student at Patrick Henry College
these two might be the same guy ...
"Scatter", the deceased Liberian gangster
A naked man stuck in a chimney in Wigan
A thug in Barrow

This blog has been going downhill since ...

August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
November 2003
December 2003
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
December 2012
February 2013
April 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
March 2014
April 2014
August 2014
October 2015
March 2023