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Forum nameGeneral Discussion
Topic subjectMy wife works in education research
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=4&topic_id=13117009&mesg_id=13399744
13399744, My wife works in education research
Posted by Walleye, Mon Aug-17-20 12:16 PM
... she does quantitative research, which means we don't typically have a lot to talk about when it comes to the in-the-weeds of each others' jobs. Which is fine. A job's just a part of our life, not the whole thing. And I'm good hearing about the broadstrokes of a project she's proud of even if I don't understand the math.

But one thing we can talk about a lot is the way in which we created a lot of impressive-in-theory institutions in the early centuries of our country but, faced with the failures (big or small) of those institutions, we're often really unwilling to return to a close examination of What We Understand as Good and How We Ought to Pursue It. Rather - the thing that we need to do is slap repair after repair after repair on the institutions themselves, forgetting that an institution or a system is just a tool to achieve an outcome, not the outcome itself.

Maybe that's not the most direct way to think about it, but that's why I wanted to hear you weigh in and, whether you want to put it the same way or not, that's sort of what I'm picking up with this really apt discussion of the distinction between Justice and our justice system.

We spent some considerable thought and effort through, say, the middle of the 20th century constructing these liberal institutions under the notion that, once established, the rules that govern them will permit them to just run passively, with the occasional tuneup. That's why I particularly liked, in the justice system example, how you focused on our affective relationship with the system - more than anything, it provides a *feeling* of fairness, strength, integrity, and ultimately - stability: we created this strong, fair, air-tight system to deliver justice and the best way for it to run is with minimal external interference. Leave the system alone and it will deliver the fair results that it was created to deliver.

But *if* those institutions and systems we created make us free, it's a passive freedom. They keep external influence away from a pure idea of Justice or Education or Democracy and as long as they can operate unfettered, those values will be delivered to us. But that doesn't account for the more pervasive threat to freedom - the ones that are founded in the interior, that seem good and true and natural to us but are in reality disordered understandings of human freedom that we read into our relationships and our labor and so pervert those outcomes as well.

In my view, fascism seeks to normalize that disordered freedom and tells us that the threats to freedom are external and not internal, that our well-tuned interior states truly understand the world: one within-groups and out-groups, one with competition so thoroughly written through it that there is no such thing as success without somebody else's failure and suffering. The world fascists create is one that we have to be afraid of, which is why we need the fascists.

Fascism is popular because it gives people, the ones it chooses at least, the thing it promises: safety, stability, the suffering of enemies who seek to unravel that safety and security. It also has an internal accounting of why those virtues may be in dwindling supply (internal foes acting on behalf of external values), which means that even though it typically rises when times are lean, it can still thrive when times are fat because then it can say that fascism is winning now but that we must be vigilant to preserve those gains because the enemy within is always present and active in trying to undermine national order.

People often cite the domestic use of colonial means of control as a sign of fascism, and I think that works really well as both a sign as a demonstration of the underlying logic of the thing signified - that the creation of an in-group requires and is buttressed by the creation of an out-group.

But I think that liberalism offers a gentler version of the same dynamic, except that instead of protecting the idea of ethnic/national, we embody that sense of belonging and define ourselves according to the institutions that must be protected. Which then invites a close relationship between liberalism and fascism because the people who want to dismantle (or even explicitly challenge) those institutions make themselves into a dangerous enemy-within who wants to challenge the source of our safety and security. Only instead of a gender or religion or ethnicity, the source is those institutions.

This doesn't make the institutions themselves bad, just our devotion to them. You can't overhaul our secondary history curriculum because it comes from History Education as an institution and so delivers the story of us. You can't abolish prisons or the police because they keep us safe. You can't abolish the military for the same reason.

I've stopped heading somewhere useful awhile ago, if I was ever heading there in the first place. Thanks for replying. I really appreciated reading your view of how our attachment to this deceptive sort of freedom grows, develops, and so becomes really tough to uproot.