The Politics of Procrustes: Contradictions of Enforced Equality

The Politics of Procrustes: Contradictions of Enforced Equality

The Politics of Procrustes: Contradictions of Enforced Equality

The Politics of Procrustes: Contradictions of Enforced Equality

Excerpt

Philosophers today never compose useful articles, organise conventions, honour the gods, comfort the afflicted, arbitrate in civil disputes, counsel the young (or anyone else), or give any thought in what they write to considerations of the public good. Aelius Aristides. Oration on the Four

The present book could be submitted in evidence to support a plea of 'Not Guilty' against at least the first and last of these perennial charges. For its several chapters both examine and assail presuppositions and implications of two master notions in the contemporary climate of opinion, two notions which in their main connections and ramifications have a claim to be called -- borrowing one of the finest phrases of The German Ideology --'the illusion of the epoch' (Marx andEngels 1846, p.51). Equality (and it is usually equality without prefix or suffix) seems to be accepted almost everywhere as self-evidently and without qualification good. Of course sincere devotion to any ideal of equality is by no means universal. But lip service is very widely both expected and given; open dissidents are made to feel outsiders and reactionaries.

Socialism too is in the same way respectable and required. Certainly it is not and never was true that 'we are all socialists now', if that is to be construed as involving a conscious and articulate commitment. But everywhere the dominant assumptions appear to be socialist assumptions: that the collectively controlled and collectively owned is legitimate, that whatever is public must be public spirited and in the public interest; whereas the privately controlled and privately owned is selfish, unruly and always fundamentally illegitimate. Public service employment, as it is so often flatteringly described, is seen as somehow inherently . . .

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