Ahistorical ideals

"[A] possible approach is to define an 'ideal' apart from historical considerations and seek its implementation regardless of the situation at hand. In [this] case, what should exist is thought to be obvious from the ideal itself. The 'idealist' does not welcome reminders of the actual experience of mankind, full as it is of evidence of the limitations of human beings, or of the restrictions imposed by existing circumstances... To adapt the ideal to a historical situation is to subvert it. It is historical circumstances that should be adapted to the ideal. To have some sort of respect for historically evolved patters of life is misguided, the idealist contends." -- Claes Ryn, A Common Human Ground, p. 88

For instance, one could take an abstraction like "equality" and decide that it means all people should have equal access to all goods. Then one could decide it is obvious from this ideal that private property must be abolished. As a result, ignoring the vast historical evidence showing that attempts to abolish private property result in disaster, one can decide to promote communism.

And if you point this out to a communist, their likely rejoinder is to claim that all of those countless historical examples "weren't really communism."

Or one could take an abstraction like a "non-aggression principle," and decide it is obvious from this ideal that stateless societies is what should exist. Then, ignoring the vast historical evidence showing that stateless societies function less well than societies with states, one could embrace anarchism.

And if you point this out to an anarchist, their likely rejoinder is to claim that all of those countless historical examples "weren't really anarchy," since people were fighting to create a new state. There is no sense noting that, well, this is what actually happens when you eliminate the state: history is "an obstacle to achieving the ideal," and they are only concerned with what anarchy is like in their fantasy of anarchy.

No comments:

Post a Comment