This problem I pointed out earlier, that political philosophy spends too much time on HOW to use state coercive power instead of asking whether that power SHOULD be used, has troubling consequences far beyond the halls of the academy. So here's a thread.
We need to start by being clear about what the state is. Governments are, at their most basic level, institutions to enable and empower some people to use coercive force, backed by threats of violence, against others. Everything else they do is just trappings on top of that.
The state is an enforced power relationship, a hierarchy that grants some authority over others, and backs that authority with force. Even if we think the state is necessary, and even if we like what it does, it's still, at its heart, a relationship of unequal power.
Democracy attempts to spread the power and flatten the disparity, so that authority is held—or at least subject to the will of—the citizens. This makes it obviously better than authoritarianism, where coercive authority is concentrated and total. But it doesn't change its nature.
Thus every time we have the state take action, even those we believe are good and just, we take advantage of that power relationship, where the powerful compel the relatively powerless to do what they want, and with the threat of violence behind their commands.
Every institution we create and support as part of that government, no matter how noble its purpose, is built upon a foundation of some people getting violent power to make others comply with their commands.
If philosophers ask only how to use state power instead of starting with—or even acknowledging—a critique of it, then we normalize relationships wherein some people get to use violence against others. Our lack of critique sends the message that there's nothing wrong with them.
But, of course there is much wrong with relationships where some get to use violence against others. Even if we think they're necessary, and can be put to good use, we still shouldn't like them, and we should see them as an aberration from the way moral people ought to act.
If philosophy just assumes the morality of a relationship of command and violence in the context of the state, then we'll be less likely to look for, or take seriously, non-state, non-violent alternatives.
People who live in an environment where such relationships of violence are considered not only acceptable, but just and cause for celebration, will start to think maybe relationships of violence are okay outside of the state context, too.
So, philosophers, please, even if you're going to ultimately come down on the side of the necessity of state power to advance justice, take a moment to examine just what that power is—and what it says about how it's okay to treat each other.

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More from @ARossP

9 Jun
My theory about this is that literary criticism is intellectually difficult, while pedantry, language policing, looking for "problematic" statements is intellectually undemanding.
The internet, and particularly social media, has convinced us that we ought to express an opinion about everything, and the removal of gatekeepers has convinced us all opinions are equally worthwhile.
As a result, fans imagine themselves literary critics, even though legit literary criticism demands a great deal of ability and knowledge, which most fans lack. So instead they express simplistic opinions based on easy, but non-interesting and non-insightful, heuristics.
Read 5 tweets
9 Jun
I just learned that my high school English teacher, Barbara Angott, died 10 years ago. This makes me sad, because I would’ve loved to have talked with her about how much of where I am today is because of what she did for me 25 years ago.
Ms. Angott was four foot something and feisty as hell. She made us read Melville’s Billy Budd for class, while the other teacher only had kids watch the movie—a move Angott made fun of and referred to as “Budd Light."
I had Ms. Angott for AP English, and the class was nothing but writing an essay one day and getting critiqued on it the next. She used a fat red Sharpie, and her editorial marks were to cross out sentences or paragraphs and scrawl “Ugh” in the margin.
Read 6 tweets
1 Jun
For people doing research and writing in @RoamResearch and working with RAs or interns for research help, here's a nifty workflow I've come up with that lets me assign research questions, and automatically integrate the findings into my outline. #roam
Step 1: Go through my outline and identify issues I'd like my intern to help with. I create a new block where the question falls in the outline, preface it with #[[Intern Research]], and then type out the question I'm looking for an answer to.
Step 2: Create a new page titled "[[Intern Research]]: [[Intern Name]]" and share it my intern. I then look through the [[Intern Research]] references for questions to assign, and add them to the intern's page as block references.
Read 7 tweets

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