Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sartre's Socialist Revolution Solution: Would it Really Work?

I'm not sure how the socialist revolution effectively addresses the innate hatred Sartre posits as the root cause of anti-semitism. It looks as though considerable tension exists between Sartre's idea that some people will hate others no matter what--although the hate may manifest itself differently so that groups like blacks, asians, fat people, etc. become the new scapegoat instead of Jews--and, on the other hand, the vision of a socialist utopia. How exactly is the socialist revolution supposed to defang people's hatred in a way so that the anti-Semite’s fundamental hate doesn't have ramifications for the social order? To claim that a critical mass of people will hate others and simultaneously imply that that hate won’t bring about discrimination looks like a very high hurdle to clear.

I can see a kind of Kantian solution to this problem where the anti-semite puts aside his/her feelings and inclinations, and instead treats the person hated as a rational agent with absolute dignity. But Sartre explicitly rejects that sort of answer, because it is the democrat’s answer of treating the person in question simply as a human being and denying to them their Jewishness. Additionally, if Sartre really thinks the anti-Semite, not the democrat, authentic jew or inauthentic jew, literally makes a Jew Jewish (a flawed and ridiculous view btw for the reasons Lowery nicely laid out in his earlier post), then I don't see how the socialist revolution avoids the democrat's pitfall of robbing the Jew of Jewishness, unless it also allows for antisemitism to survive. At which point, I wonder if the problem of racism has really been resolved at all.

I'm not an expert on socialism or communism, so I don't know what potential resources Sartre has to counter my critique of his view. If ya'll have any suggestions or ideas on this topic or anything else, please don't hesitate to give them.

Ending on a less critical note, I do think Sartre deserves some credit: one of his main strengths is that he recognizes and emphasizes the importance of the non-rational elements to racism, such as hatred, fear, or jealousy. At times, I think some of the other philosophers we've read have glossed over this element, or approached it as solely characteristic of interpersonal racism. In my opinion, non-rational emotions and attitudes like hate, fear, jealousy are too widespread and important a phenomenon to completely overlook when grappling with the horror of racism. From class yesterday, it sounds like Sartre does a good job of pointing out how these rabid emotions, which are mostly experienced at an individual personal level, find social expression in large groups, such as anti-semites or neo-Nazis. The socialization of the hate then only further intensifies the originating irrational emotions, and subsequently continues to entrench society-wide racism.

1 comment:

  1. One of the points I addressed during the presentation is that socialism would not require the stripping of religion as a true socialist state would not care about your religious practices. The fact of that matter is that some elements of Jewishness would be shed in the interest of social equality, but the democrat seeks to strip far more of the Jew in an attempt to entirely homogenize him. Given that distinction, one can see that the democrat's solution has a far more detrimental effect on the Jew than that of a socialist revolution.


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