Radicalism: A Philosophical Study

AutorMcLaughlin, Paul, 1974-
PealkiriRadicalism : a philosophical study / Paul McLaughlin
IlmunudNew York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2012
ViideMcLaughlin, Paul 2012. Radicalism: a philosophical study. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

In everyday social and political discourse, the words "radical" and "radicalism" conjure up a number of images - attractive to some, repulsive to others: these are images of heroism and villainy, of hope and fear. Such associations depend, perhaps, on political outlook and cultural context. (McLaughlin 2012: 8)
At this point I am inclined to read this analysis in terms of what might radicalism be in dystopic fiction. This is a very narrow perspective, to be sure, but as I am badly versed in analytical philosophy it might be a useful one (especially for my own "research"). Thus, on the outset, I find the demarcation between finding radicalism attractive or repulsive to be line that separates the ideological leaders from the "awaken" protagonists (Winston searches for the counter-resistance and Montag plots to plant books in the firemen's houses). One is hopeful that the repressive system might somehow be broken through; the other fears insurrection and searches for culprits.
In certain contexts, these terms [radicalism and extremism] are taken to be practically synonymous. These seemingly synonymous terms are exonymic: that is to say, radicalism and extremism are ascribed to others - those from whom we would wish to dissociate ourselves culturally or politically, whether we are willing to understand their views or, as in usual, not. (McLaughlin 2012: 9)
Ah! What a useful term! It goes well with the notion that many (if not most) -isms are ascribed to others (them, "those dirty -ists").
The positive connotations of "radicalism" are perhaps more prominent and more difficult to pin down. But one seemingly positive association of radicalism is with progress (or progressivism): with, that is, the endeavor to achieve 'change for the better' in society and other domains - practically, for example, with respect to the development of freedom, and theoretically, for example, with respect to the development of reason. In this positive sense, the term "radicalism" is endonymic: that is to say, it is ascribed by "progressives", for example, to themselves - as well as to those with whom they identify in some way (the 'like-minded'). (McLaughlin 2012: 10)
Thus, for my purposes, identifying radicals with dystopic protagonists is justified (at least in the sense of this positive connotation).
Radical ends are often regarded as 'utopian', such that radicalism is identified with "utopianism" - in a pejorative sense of that word. As we have seen, this suggests something about the impossibility of a social vision and the dangerousness of the attempts to realize it. however, while there may be such forms of utopianism, neither condition is necessary for the application of the term. (McLaughlin 2012: 22)
These terms should be incorporated into my analysis of dystopic fiction as well, to discuss the impossibility and dangerousness of trying to overcome the repressive system; or at least the seeming nature of such a quest. The fact remains that in none of the three dystopias I am analysing do the protagonists succeed in this. It becomes impossible due to it's inherent dangers.
...philosophy and rhetoric could be said to differ with respect to their goals: 'widsom' (or some contribution to our overall body of knowledge) in the case of philosophy; 'persuasion' (or general discursive efficacy) in the case of rhetoric. Indeed, in so far as rhetoric does not aim at 'wisdom', we might deny that it is a theoretical 'discipline' at all. (McLaughlin 2012: 27)
I noticed this distinction in Foucault's The Hermeneutics of the Subject, but failed to invest it with any import. Now, if I may be metaphorical, search for wisdom is what Montag is after, and "effective discurse" is what Beatty teases Montag with (effective here in the sense that he manages to confuse Montag to the point of eruption).
...political radicalism is motivated (or necessarily motivated) by a sense of socio-political disorder or injustice: by the sense that there is something fundamentally unsound or wrong with our socio-political arrangements. (McLaughlin 2012: 30)
This wording described dystopic worlds perfectly.
...five general matters: our subject matter; the content of this subject matter; the approach that we will adopt to this content; the material that we examine in order to comprehend (something of) this content; and the goals that we aim to achieve... (McLaughlin 2012: 40)
Clear-headed, as always. That is, much clearer than the instructions we were given in the "study methods" course.
The basic elements of Rothbard's [2006] libertarian theory are rpesented very clearly. In positive terms, he states that 'The central core of the libertarian creed ... is to establish the absolute right to private property of every man' (47). This right can be divided into three: into the right of self-ownership ('to ownership of [one's own body'), the right of material ownership (ownership of 'the material resources [one] has found and transformed'), and the right of gift and exchange (ownership of said material resources) (85). In negative terms, Rothbard states that libertarianism is based on the 'non-agression axiom', which stipulates that nobody 'may aggress agianst the person or property of anyone else', that is, use or threaten the use of physical ciolence agianst these (27). (McLaughlin 2012: 122-123)
Self-ownership is a neat addition to my collection of self- notions.
As we saw, postmoderns regard humanistic allusions to 'human nature' as misguided and dangerous. Indeed, they regard allusions to the 'human subject' or even the 'self' as similarly misguided, if not so dangerous. They claim (Norman 2004: 75) that such allusions confer 'an illusory unity on what is really just a bundle of drives, or a "site" for the interplay of forces generated by social or psychological or linguistic structures.' However, it remains difficult, as Norman argues, to make much sense of particular (usually obscure) expressions of these criticisms or, in general, to get away from 'the idea of the human subject, defined by a unitary consciousness' (82). In any case, and more improtantly, allusions to 'human nature' are allegedly misguided for the simple reason that no such thing can be said to exist. They are dangerous because they establish an exclusive standard for membership of humanity (the only or most morally considerably feature of the natural world). Thus, in the name of some non-existent 'nature', various disempowered and minority groups - including women, non-Europeans, and homosexuals - are denied any or full considerability as proper possessors of 'human nature'. (McLaughlin 2012: 195-196)
Here I can see analogies with my other readings. Firstly, the phrase "site for the interplay of forces" reminds me Foucault's "body as the nexus of power". Secondly, on allusions to human nature being dangerous is very clearly expressed by Schmitt (The Concept of Political, 1996: 54): "denying the enemy the quality of being human and declaring him to be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can thereby be driven to the most exreme inhumanity."


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