Friday, February 17, 2017

Paternal Responsibility and Class Privilege

In one of her recent videos presenting her unique and thought-provoking ideas on where we are in history, Alison Tieman made one statement I thought was seriously off, which provided a good occasion for putting down some thoughts I'd had for a while about the relation between gender and class. I won't claim they're original -- to a large extent they're probably just a rewording of things I've read in Marxist texts. But that was long enough ago that I no longer remember with certainty which texts they were. Anyway, here's what I posted in the comments under the video:

Your characterization of the "left" position -- as completely socializing the support of women -- is inaccurate. The mainstream left combines the worst of both: men are denied access to their children while still having to pay for them. That's exactly what's brought so many men into the MHRM [men's human rights movement]. The radical., i.e., fringe left -- revolutionary socialists -- is for completely socializing the support of children. But that's not taking from men as a group except insofar as we less often elect to take personal responsibility for them -- in which case it's our own free choice.

The bourgeois-feminist position isn't "inconsistent" or "halfway" -- it corresponds perfectly to the class standpoint it reflects. Capitalists may no longer see any need for intact heterosexual families in the working class, but they absolutely won't give up on the principle of paternal responsibility. To do so -- especially given that women earn less on average on account of taking time out of the paid labor force to raise children -- would by default shift the discourse toward the idea of collective responsibility for the young through the political process, where democracy would create pressures for progressive taxation to pay for it in an equitable fashion. By contrast, as long as children remain their parents' private responsibility, capitalists must pay for workers' children only to the extent they're compelled to through the private bargaining process with mostly unorganized individual employees. Hence, even the most liberal bourgeois ideologues will fiercely resist any abandonment of the concept of paternal responsibility -- to permit that would threaten the very foundations of hereditary class privilege.

Good to see you acknowledging the classical Marxist formula -- "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" -- as individualizing and nondiscriminatory. It's what some of us still believe in. And for those who don't know, it's worth pointing out that the author of the most brilliant punking of postmodernism ever, Alan Sokal, is neither conservative nor libertarian, but rather a self-described "old-fashioned rational leftist," a phrase I loved as soon as heard it.

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