[Marxism] Another Bard professor proffers bad advice to OWS

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 25 13:02:19 MDT 2011

Another Bard professor has chimed in with the “damning with faint 
praise” stance of Roger Berkowitz that I dealt with in a post 
titled “Bard Professors attack Occupy Wall Street“. This time it 
is Steven Mazie, a political science professor, who has a web-only 
NY Times item titled “Rawls on Wall Street“.

Like Berkowitz, Mazie frets over the hatred that the protesters 
have toward the rich:

	Despite providing a remarkable venue for what Al Gore called a 
“primal scream of democracy,” Occupy Wall Street is leveraged too 
heavily on the rhetoric of rage rather than reciprocity. Rawls 
would argue that Occupy is fully justified in its criticism of the 
political and economic structures that propagate massive 
concentrations of wealth; he saw the “basic structure” of society 
as the “primary subject of justice.” But Rawls would lament the 
tendency of the “99 percent” to misdirect their energies into 
hatred of individuals in the 1 percent. He would have them save 
their hostility for the policies and institutions that have 
permitted only the wealthiest to enjoy significant gains from the 
past two decades of economic growth.

Whenever I read this kind of sanctimonious nonsense, I feel like I 
have wandered into Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities” by 
mistake, with its images of Madame LaFarge knitting away 
furiously. Of course, when you stop and think about it, there’s 
not much difference between John Rawls and Charles Dickens. This 
kind of 19th century moralism is a lot easier to take when you are 
reading a good story like “A Christmas Tale” but when served up by 
a political science professor as advice to people who haven’t 
worked in five years or so and who have lost their homes, it is 
pretty objectionable.

John Rawls was a perfectly decent man, who despite his 
British-style Victorian-era pieties was actually an American born 
in Baltimore in 1921. In 1971 he came out with “A Theory of 
Justice” that made the case for liberalism at the very moment its 
reputation had become tarnished beyond repair after six years of 
imperialist slaughter in Vietnam. The book was typically 
“philosophical” in its abstraction-sodden prose. Four years 
earlier I decided to drop out of the graduate philosophy program 
at the New School and join the Trotskyist movement because 
philosophy in general—and ethics in particular—was so out of touch 
with what was going in the world. I had no idea who John Rawls was 
at the time but had heard more or less the same song and dance 
from Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Practical Reason”.


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