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19: MAR 23


  • Haidt, Chapter 12, "Can't We all Disagree More Constructively?" (189-221) (32)
  • Start group writing on Political Difference

Narratives and Counter-narratives in moral/political discourse

  • Moral/Political Moral Narratives are ways of telling a coherent story about how our values fit together and allow us to "narrate" new events into the story.
  • In reference to our "layered chart", narratives are like a thread we weave among the layers.
  • Easier to see in political discourse, but also in individual moral responses to our immediate environment.
  • Example: Responses to homelessness fit into different narratives that people hold about the world.
  • In political morality then, what are some of the typical narratives?
  • Conservative/libertarians tend to see gov't failure as due to intrinsic factors. (More "good government sceptics")
  • Liberals tends to focus on narratives around harm, victims, and unfairness.
  • Conservative narratives of solidarity often about fiscal restraint,
  • Liberal narratives of solidarity often about coming together to address injustice, solve problems like climate change.
  • Can you add to this list from things you hear from current events?

Haidt, Ch 12, "Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?"

  • Evidence of polarization in American politics; changes in political culture. compromise less valued.
  • Looking for a theory of ideologies, which might be thought to drive political identity formation.
  • Two senses:
  • 1. fixing orientation (all of the "big" theories we've studied have focused on evidence of persistent traits, especially in adults.
  • 2. Fixing the specific fusion of issue-position and label acceptance. (As in narrative warm up exercise above.)
  • "right" and "left", simplifications, but basis of study and comparative to Europe in some ways, historical origins in French Assembly of 1789, basis in heritable traits - twins studies. L/R don't map wealth exclusively.
  • Old answers: people choose ideologies based on interests. blank-state theories. (Plug in Hibbing here.)
  • One more time through the modern genetic/epigenetic/phenotype explanation pattern (note what's at stake: if you misunderstand the determinism here, you'll misunderstand the whole theory):
  • 1: Genes make brains - Australian study: diff responses to new experiences: threat and fear for conservative, dopamine for liberal. (recall first draft metaphor)
  • 2: Dispositional traits lead to different experiences, which lead to "characteristic adaptations" (story about how we differentiate ourselves through our first person experience. mention feedback loops). (Lots of parents would corroborate this.) Does the story of the twins seem plausible?
  • 3: Life narratives; McAdams study using Moral Foundations Theory to analyze narratives, found MFs in stories people tell about religious experience. Thesis: different paths to religious faith. We "map" our moral foundations onto our faith commitment to some extent.
  • So, an ideology can be thought of as the political version of a narrative that fits with a personal narrative you tell about your experience. Note the complexity here. You can tailor your narrative to you.
  • Political narratives of Republicans and Democrats.
  • Haidt, Graham, and Nosek study: Liberals worse at predicting conservatives responses. Interesting point: the distortion of seeing things as a liberal makes liberals more likely to believe that conservatives really don't care about harm. But conservatives may be better at understanding (predicting) liberal responses because they use all of the foundations. (File this with Hibbing Chs. 5 and 6)
  • Muller on difference bt conservative and orthodox. Post-enlightenment conservatives: want to critique liberalism from Enlightenment premise of promoting human well being. follow conservative description of human nature. 290. - humans imperfect, need accountability, reasoning has flaws so we might do well to give weight to past experience, institutions are social facts that need to be respected, even sacralized. (Consider countries in which judges are abducted or blown up.)
  • Moral and Social Capital -- moral capital: resources that sustain a moral community (including those that promote accountability and authority.). moral capital not always straightforward good (293), also, less trusting places, like cities, can be more interesting. Social capital more about the ties we have through our social networks which maintain trust and cooperation relationships.
  • Liberals
  • blindspot: not valuing moral capital, social capital, tends to over reach, change too many things too quickly. Bertrand Russell: tension between ossification and dissolution..
  • strength: 1) regulating super-organisms (mention theory of "regulatory capture"); 2)solving soluble problems (getting the lead out - might have had big effect on well-being. note this was a bipartisan push back against a Reagan reversal of Carter's policy).
  • Libertarians. Today's political libertarian started out as a "classic liberal" prioritizing limited gov/church influence.
  • Note research suggesting how libertarians diverge from liberals and conservatives on the MFs.
  • libertarian wisdom: 1) markets are powerful -- track details -- often self-organizing, self-policing, entrepreneurial)
  • Social Conservatives
  • wisdom: understanding threats to social capital (can't help bees if you destroy the hive)
  • Putnam's research on diversity and social capital : bridging and bonding capital both decline with diversity. sometimes well intentioned efforts to promote ethnic identity and respect can exacerbate this.

"What is Ideology?" and "Is a Post-Ideological politics possible?"

  • Some philosophizing from our research study. This might be an late semester essay topic.
  • What is ideology (in terms of the theories we have discussed) and is it possible to imagine a post-ideological politics?
  • Ideology - "your ideology" - a story you tell about human nature, society, and values that gives coherence to the specific fusion of oriention, labels, and issues that are salient to you or have been salient to you by others (including media and political parties). More broadly, "ideologies" - Marxism, Capitalism, Neo-liberalism.
  • Like political parties, ideologies can be seen as valuable -- It's natural for us to have a "working theory" about human reality and values that helps us navigate this reality. (Just like value of a physical theory.)
  • But they also pose problems for us. ideologies can capture us -- Extreme case: someone who always adverts to ideology to understand things, even if it's unlikely to help. (Libertarians not very helpful in pandemics if best strategies are to impose on liberties.)
  • Ideologies involve narratives and abstract theories (ideas of human nature, economic exchange, good government). Our confirmation bias can come into play in "capture". Being captured by an ideologies is a bit like radicalization.
  • Goal: Make good use of ideology, but allow for "ideology critique" (note limits to theories, value of multiple theories). Treat ideologies as interpretive tools, not articles of faith. (Examples)
  • Political polarization and ideology --
  • Let's use this recent radio story on political polarization as a listening lesson. Can you identify distinctive features of the way polarized people recount their experiences? [1]
  • Examples of current research found on Ethics wiki page from Fall 2020 students. Ethics_Research_on_Politics,_Conflict,_and_Partisanship