Of Rights

 

“The concept of rights is not inherently biased against socialist ideals and aspirations.  This does not, in itself, decide the feasibility or desirability of socialism, but it may serve to keep open the lines of communication between theorists of Right and Left and enable socialist philosophers to make a clearer distinction between the capitalist conception of rights and the concept of rights itself.  Socialists may be reasonably ambivalent about the former, but they have no grounds for hostility to the latter.”

Tom Campbell, The Left and Rights: A Conceptual Analysis of the Idea of Socialist Rights, 1983

 

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Comments (13)

  1. RRoe

    Wow. I am not sure I understand this quote … it seems to me there are no god given rights … all rights strike me as arbitary, a political decision of one form or another.

    July 31, 2017
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    2. rallen2

      There is, in my opinion, no God, ergo, there are no God-given rights, as you said. Human beings give themselves the rights they possess and enjoy. I do not believe that rights are arbitrary, because rights correspond to human needs, and human needs are not whimsical or capricious. Because human beings have needs, we have created rights as a means to protect human life, and to ensure our needs will be supplied. Because human beings suffer, we have established rights in order to minimize human suffering. Rights are generated through political decision-making processes, or through a political revolution.

      August 01, 2017
      1. RRoe

        I think I am going to steal this for a FB post … well said ..

        August 01, 2017
      2. RRoe

        The rights are arbitary to the extent that it is judgement required to say what is a want and how much the collective is required to contribute to the want versus the individual. It is also very much dependent on the culture on where the need ends and the “luxuries” begin. Does the person need steak and potatoes, or just potatoes.

        August 01, 2017
        1. rallen2

          You wrote: “The rights are arbitary to the extent that it is judgement required to say what is a want and how much the collective is required to contribute to the want versus the individual.” Judgement does not have to be seen as arbitrary, especially if judgement is educated. Also, in socialism, judgement as to human needs, and judgement as to the production of goods and the provision of services will be decided by democratic processes, because such decisions are political considerations, not an arbitrary determination, but a public verdict based on a process of debate and resolved by arbitration procedures. You wrote: “It is also very much dependent on the culture on where the need ends and the “luxuries” begin.” Human needs change over time. Today’s needs were yesterday’s luxuries. Needs are also largely determined by our constructed world. I need a car because of how we have constructed the city I live in. I need an education because I do not live in a peasant economy, but in a modern industrial and technological economy. I need household appliances, because I spend a lot of my active hours working for a livelihood. I need money, because money is the means by which I acquire the goods and services I need. You asked: “Does the person need steak and potatoes, or just potatoes?” I’m very sure that the citizens of a democratic and socialist republic would know and decide that individual human beings need both steak and potatoes, and a lot of other foods. Variety in our diets is good for us.

          August 02, 2017
          1. RRoe

            What keeps socialist democracies for voting for more money and stuff than can be provided … what keeps them from busting the bank? (Similar to what is happening to the U.S. on the federal budget … huge debt.)

            August 02, 2017
            1. rallen2

              You ask: “What keeps socialist democracies for voting for more money and stuff than can be provided?” I do not accept the assumption that the educated and informed citizens of a prosperous democratic and socialist republic would “vote for more money or stuff than can be provided”. More money? That would require more taxes. If citizens want more money, then citizens would vote for less taxes. More stuff? That would require more labor. Educated and free citizens would vote for more leisure and less environmentally-destructive and health-damaging consumption. Consumerism is a pathological condition cause by our being over-worked. Added to that, we are prompted to consume by “shop til you drop” propaganda that threatens us with mass unemployment if we do not consume more. We consume in order to keep our jobs, so that we have the money we need to consume more. We consume because of the ubiquity of commercial advertising, encouraging us to buy this, buy that, and buy more in order to find happiness. Without so much advertising, because profiteering capitalism will have been transcended, there will be less pathological consumerism. A human nature under the rule of capitalism, ruled by the laws and logic of capitalism and scarcity, will no longer be dominant under the rule of socialism, a political economy ruled by the laws and logic of cooperation and mutualism, and abundant prosperity. You ask: “What keeps them from busting the bank?” The bankers are busting the banks these days, and corrupt politicians allow bankers these risks because of campaign contributions. All of this is because of profiteering capitalism. Take away the capitalism, and you take away the profit motive, which encourages corruption. You added: “Similar to what is happening to the U.S. on the federal budget … huge debt.” If a huge federal debt is a problem now, under statism and capitalism, then why does not this fact condemn the current status quo? If capitalism and socialism have the same problem – i.e., too much federal debt – then why does this problem doom socialism, but not capitalism? And, why assume socialism will transplant the problems of the status quo to its different contextual conditions? Socialism will change so much, even if not everything.

              August 07, 2017
            2. RRoe

              I agree with most of what you said … how ever you use the phrase “Educated and free citizens” …. our citizens are increasingly not educated … many believed Trump’s claims …

              August 10, 2017
            3. rallen2

              I must admit that Donald Trump’s electoral victory was shocking; it was eye-opening and mind-boggling. Although American citizens are not well educated today, that does not mean they cannot be better educated in a democratic socialist republic. Education has been adapted to our capitalist and statist form of political economy. Capitalism and statism do not need intelligent and critical thinkers. Wage slaves do not need to be critical thinkers; they only need to be obedient workers and passive consumers. Education will be transformed in a democratic socialist commonwealth. Such a commonwealth will not prosper or perform if citizens are not well informed and thoroughly educated. Today’s education system has been converted to serve the needs of capital, and the needs of the state.

              August 12, 2017
            4. RRoe

              It seems a big leap to expect those that live in America, educated to live in a capitalistic world, being able to accept and move to socialism. I wonder how such transitions occurred in Denmark, etc. Sounds like a good research topic.

              August 12, 2017
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          2. rallen2

            Robert Roe wrote: “It seems a big leap to expect those that live in America, educated to live in a capitalistic world, being able to accept and move to socialism.” If you research the history of socialist, communist, anarchist, and democratic movements in the United States, you will see that the ideas and ideals of these movements are very much American ideas and ideals. There are Henry David Thoreau, Josiah Warren, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Voltaine de Cleyre, Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Lucy Parsons, Johann Most, Jo Labadie, Luigi Galleani, Leon Czolgosz, Upton Sinclair, Ross Winn, Dorothy Day, Paul Goodman, C. Wright Mills, Helen Keller, Norman Thomas, Michael Harrington, A. Phillip Randolph, Tom Hayden, Daniel De Leon, Eugene Victor Debs, Victor L. Berger, W. E. B. Du Bois, Angela Davis, Richard Wright, Paul Robeson, Aaron Copland, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Cornel Ronald West, Bernie Sanders, etc. Americans are able to adopt left-wing ideas and ideals in spite of all the propaganda and disinformation we Americans are subjected to. Robert Roe wrote: “I wonder how such transitions occurred in Denmark, etc. Sounds like a good research topic.” I do not have an answer.

            August 13, 2017
    3. rallen2

      Tom Campbell wrote: “The concept of rights is not inherently biased against socialist ideals and aspirations.” In other words, socialist ideals and aspirations harmonize with the concept of rights. Campbell is disagreeing with those socialists who believe that rights are a bourgeois creation, and that bourgeois rights are necessary only when human beings live in a competitive society. Many socialists believe that while we live in a bourgeois society, with its bellum omnium in omnes (war of all against all), we will need bourgeois rights. Rights, according to these socialists, will be unnecessary in a cooperative society. A family does not need rights to protect family members from each other’s acquisitive ambitions. And socialists believe that a socialist society will be very much like a familial household. Many socialists believe that a society of friends, living and working together in a mutual aid society, will not need bourgeois rights. And so, Campbell is simply saying that socialist ideals and aspirations can be constituted as socialist rights.

      August 01, 2017
      1. rallen2

        Tom Campbell is saying that there is a distinction to be made between the capitalist conception of rights and the concept of rights itself. A capitalist conception of rights comes with a capitalist conception of society. A capitalist conception of society is a competitive and acquisitive conception of society, with an individualist and possessive character. Campbell is saying that we can have a concept of rights that does not assume a capitalist conceptualization of rights. Campbell is saying that socialists are perhaps justifiably uncertain about capitalist concepts of rights, but that socialists have no cause to be opposed to non-capitalist rights. Perhaps a socialist society may never become like a family, although it may approach such an ideal. Therefore, rights may still have a place in a socialist society. Perhaps a socialist society will never realize a stage in which human beings become comrades, although it may approximate such a society. Socialist rights may be necessary for as long as human society has not yet reached the level of a society of friends.

        August 01, 2017