Law School Discussion


« Reply #130 on: July 13, 2006, 05:38:26 PM »

Herbert Marcuse has in fact explained why people accept capitalism -- they have been psychologically manipulated into wanting it. In other words, their basic "instincts" have been remoulded so as to fit in with capitalist society. The issue now is how will such people come to want to get rid of capitalism.

It is the task of the oppressed to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both. Any attempt to "soften" the power of the oppressor in deference of the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this.

But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or "sub-oppressors." The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. Their ideal is to be men; but for them, to be men is to be oppressors. This is their model of humanity. This phenomenon derives from the fact that the oppressed, at a certain moment of their existential experience, adopt an attitude of "adhesion" to the oppressor. Under these circumstances they cannot "consider" him sufficiently clearly to objectivize him -- to discover him "outside" themselves. This does not necessarily mean that the oppressed are unaware that they are downtrodden. But their perception of themselves as oppressed is impaired by their submersion in the reality of oppression. At this level, their perception of themselves as opposites of the oppressor does not yet signify engagement un a struggle to overcome the contradiction; the one pole aspires not to liberation, but to identification with its opposite pole.

In this situation the oppressed do not see the "new man" as the person to be born from the resolution of this contradiction, as oppression gives way to liberation. For them, the new man or woman themselves become oppressors. Their vision of the new man or woman is individualistic; because of their identification with the oppressor, they have no consciousness of themselves as persons or as members of an oppressed class. It is a rare peasant who, once "promoted" to overseer, does not become more of a tyrant towards his former comrades than the owner himself. This is because the context of the peasant's situation, that is, oppression, remains unchanged. In this example, the overseer, in order to make sure of his job, must be as tough as the owner -- and more so. This is because during the initial stage if their struggle the oppressed find in the oppressor their model of "manhood."

The "fear of freedom" which afflicts the oppressed, a fear which may equally well lead them to desire the role of oppressor or bind them to the role of oppressed, should be examined. The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.

It is precisely in the response of the oppressed to the violence of their oppressors that a gesture of love may be found. Consciously or unconsciously, the act of rebellion by the oppressed (an act which is always, or nearly always, as violent as the initial violence of the oppressors) can initiate love. Whereas the violence of the oppressors prevents the oppressed from being fully human, the response of the latter to this violence is grounded in the desire to pursue the right to be human. As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized. As the oppressed, fighting to be human, take away the oppressors' power to dominate and suppress, they restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression.

« Reply #131 on: July 13, 2006, 06:27:08 PM »
This may seem simplistic; it is not. Resolution of the oppressor-oppressed contradiction indeed implies the disappearance of the oppressors as a dominant class. However, the restraints imposed by the former oppressed on their oppressors, so that the latter cannot reassume their former position, do not constitute oppression. An act is oppressive only when it prevents people from being more fully human. Accordingly, these necessary restraints do not in themselves signify that yesterday's oppressed have become today's oppressors. Acts which prevent the restoration of the oppressive regime cannot be compared with those which create and maintain it, cannot be compared with those by which a few men and women deny the majority their right to be human.

But even when the contradiction is resolved authentically by a new situation established by the liberated laborers, the former oppressors do not feel liberated. On the contrary, they genuinely consider themselves to be oppressed. Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them like oppression. Formerly, they could eat, dress, wear shoes, be educated, travel, and hear Beethoven; while millions did not eat, had no clothes or shoes, neither studied nor traveled, much less listened to Beethoven. Any restriction on this way of life, in the name of the rights of the community, appears to the former oppressors as a profound violation of their individual rights -- although they had no respect for the millions who suffered and died of hunger, pain, sorrow, and despair. For the oppressors, "human beings" refers only to themselves; other people are "things." For the oppressors, there exists only one right: their right to live in peace, over against the right, not always even recognized, but simply conceded, of the oppressed to survival. And they make this concession only because the existence of the oppressed is necessary to their own existence.

This behavior, this way of understanding the world and people (which necessarily makes the oppressors resist the installation of a new regime) is explained by their experience as a dominant class. Once a situation of violence and oppression has been established, it engenders an entire way of life and behavior for those caught up in it -- oppressors and oppressed alike. Both are submerged in this situation, and both bear the marks of oppression. Analysis of existential situations of oppression reveals that their inception lay in an act of violence -- initiated by those with power. This violence, as a process, is perpetuated from generation to generation of oppressors, who become its heirs and are shaped in its climate. This climate creates in the oppressor a strongly possessive consciousness -- possessive of the world and of men and women. Apart from direct, concrete, material possession of the world and people, the oppressor consciousness could not understand itself -- could not even exist. Fromm said of this consciousness that, without such possession, "it would lose contact with the world." The oppressor consciousness tends to transform everything sorrounding it into an object of its domination. The earth, property, production, the creations of people, people themselves, time -- everything is reduced to the status of objects at its disposal.

In their unrestained eagerness to possess, the oppressors develop the conviction that it is possible for them to transform everything into objects of their purchasing power; hence their strictly materialistic concept of existence. Money is the measure of all things, and profit the primary goal. For the oppressors, what is worthwhile is to have more -- always more -- even at the cost of the oppressed having less or having nothing. For them, to be is to have and to be the class of the "haves." As beneficiares of a situation of oppression, the oppressors cannot perceive that if having is a condition of being, it is a necessary condition for all women and men. This is why their generosity is false. Humanity is a "thing," and they possess it as an exclusive right, as inherited property. To the oppressor consciousness, the humanization of the "others," of the people, appears not as the pursuit of full humanity, but as subversion.

The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege which dehumanizes others and themselves. They cannot see that, in the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessing class, they suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are; they merely have. For them, having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own "effort," with their "courage to take risks." If others do not have more, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the "generous gestures" of the dominant class. Precisely because they are "ungrateful" and "envious," the oppressed are regarded as potential enemies who must be watched.

It could not be otherwise. If the humanization of the oppressed signifies subversion, so also does their freedom; hence the necessity for constant control. And the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate "things." This tendency of the oppressor consciousness to "in-animate" everything and everyone it encounters, in its eagerness to possess, unquestionably corresponds with a tendency to sadism. Fromm maintained that,

The pleasure in complete domination over another person (or other animate creature) is the very essence of the sadistic drive. Another way of formulating the same thought is to say that the aim of sadism is to transform a man into a thing, something animate into something inanimate, since by complete and absolute control the living loses one essential quality of life -- freedom

Sadistic love is a perverted love -- a love of death, not of life. One of the characteristics of the oppressor consciousness and its necrophilic view of the world is thus sadism. As the oppressor consciousness, in order to dominate, tries to deter to search, the restlessness, and the creative power which characterize life, it kills life. More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the oppressive order through manipulation and repression. The oppressed, as objects, as "things," have no purposes except those their oppressors prescribe for them.

« Reply #132 on: July 13, 2006, 07:00:11 PM »
Those who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly. This conversion is so radical as not to allow of ambiguous behavior. To affirm this commitment but to consider oneself the proprietor of revolutionary wisdom -- which must then be given to (or imposed on) the people -- is to retain the old ways. The man or woman who proclaims devotion to the cause of liberation yet is unable to enter into communion with the people, whom he or she continues to regard as totally ignorant, is grievously self-deceived. The convert who approaches the people but feels alarm at each step they take, each doubt they express, and each suggestion they offer, and attempts to impose his "status," remains nostalgic towards his origins.

Only through comradeship with the oppressed can the converts understand their characteristic ways of living and behaving, which in diverse moments reflect the structure of domination. One of these characteristics is the above-mentioned existential duality of the oppressed, who are at the same time themselves and the oppressor whose image they have internalized. Accordingly, until they concretely "discover" their oppressor and in turn their own consciousness, they nearly always express fatalistic attitudes towards their situation. Fatalism is the guise of docility is the fruit of an historical and sociological situation, not an essential characteristic of a people's behavior. It almost always is related to the power of destiny or fate or fortune -- inevitable forces -- or to a distorted view of God. Under the sway of magic and myth, the oppressed see their suffering, the fruit of exploitation, as the will of God -- as if God were the creator of this "organized disorder."

Submerged in reality, the oppressed cannot perceive clearly the "order" which serves the interests of the oppressors whose image they have internalized. Chaffing under the restrictions of this order, they often manifest a type of horizontal violence, striking out at their own comrades for the pettiest reasons. This is the period when the niggers beat each other up. It is possible that in this behavior they are once more manifesting their duality. Because the oppressor exists within their oppressed comrades, when they attack those comrades they are indirectly attacking the oppressor as well.

On the other hand, at a certain point in their existential experience the oppressed feel an irresistible attraction towards the oppressors and their way of life. Sharing this way of life becomes an overpowering aspiration. In their alienation, the oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors, to imitate them, to follow them. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in the middle-class oppressed, who yearn to be equal to the "eminent" men and women of the upper class.

Self-depreciation is another characteristic of the oppressed, which derives from their internalization of the opinion the oppressors hold of them. So often do they hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing and are incapble of learning anything -- that they are sick, lazy, and unproductive -- that in the end they become convinced of their own unfitness. They call themselves ignorant and say the "professor" is the one who has knowledge and to whom they should listen. The criteria of knowledge imposed upon them are the conventional ones. As long as the oppressed' ambiguity persists, the oppressed are reluctant to resist, and totally lack confidence in themselves. They have a diffuse, magical belief in the invulnerability and power of the oppressor. Not rarely the act of oppossing the boss provokes guilt feelings. The boss, in truth, is still "inside" you. The oppressed must see examples of the vulnerability of the oppressor so that a contrary conviction can begin to grow within them. Until this occurs, they will continue disheartened, fearful, and beaten. As long as the oppressed remain unaware of the causes of their condition, they fatalistically "accept" their exploitation.


« Reply #133 on: July 15, 2006, 03:18:47 AM »

Capitalism itself encourages competition between individuals, pitting them against each other in a rat race for power, privilege and prestige. But we must recognize the fact that such a society is incompatible with human nature. It is an "insane society,"  a "sick society."  Erich Fromm, for example, believed that humans are the only animal species whose individual members have an awareness of themselves as separate individuals, have "self consciousness." This gives us a sense of individuality and freedom, says Fromm, but at the same time a sense of aloneness. According to him, the driving force behind human behaviour is the desire to overcome this sense of aloneness, the desire to feel part of a greater whole, the desire to be liked and accepted by other human beings.

Is it human nature to be completely adaptable or are there conditions that humans couldn't adapt to because it would be contrary to their nature? Fromm comes down in favor of the second view. Humans are social animals, and we need each other not only practically so as to collectively produce the material things we need to live but also psychologically -- we need to feel part of a group, of a community. From which it follows that any society which does not satisfy this psychological need, or which actively works to prevent it being satisfied, is incompatible with human nature. Only a society based on cooperation and community is a sane society as one which properly meets the psychological needs of human beings for a sense of belonging; not just a sense of belonging but a state of actually belonging to a real community.

Capitalism is against "human nature" because it denies, and works against, this basic need. Although capitalism continually seeks to reduce us to isolated social atoms who only collide in the marketplace as buyers and sellers, the basic human need for community still expresses itself even if in distorted and perverted forms. Capitalism can try to suppress the human need for cooperation and community but will never be able to succeed.

Exactly, in capitalism a person will learn to experience himself alone, in the centre of things for whom everything else exists outside himself, separated by an invisible wall from him, assuming as self evident that other individuals experience the same.

« Reply #134 on: July 16, 2006, 03:34:27 AM »

Funny, yet so sad!

And the girl was not his! Everyone knows it!

« Reply #135 on: July 17, 2006, 10:13:24 PM »
great thread

« Reply #136 on: July 20, 2006, 10:15:32 PM »
This is a great thread.  I didn't go to law school right out of undergrad.  I went to work as a software engineer first, working for Defense contractors.  I am a minority and I found the work environment as a software engineer very subversive and unfair to me despite my working ungodly hours.  It is not fun sitting up after 13 hours of working trying to talk to a computer whose operating system is cryptic and whose documentation is clueless.  Highly frustrating.  This in a secure area called a "tank", where I was shut off from the outside world.  After 17 years of this crap, the worst of it in CA, I thought the opportunity to go to law school was a breath of fresh air.

Now that I'm in law school, it is hard work for sure, but I love it!

« Reply #137 on: July 21, 2006, 03:03:20 AM »
vroman, are you erapitt?

« Reply #138 on: July 21, 2006, 06:47:04 PM »
poppin the thread up

« Reply #139 on: July 26, 2006, 12:21:35 AM »

It was Freud who first described the marriage between sensuality and organized violence -- e.g., the law school thinking way. "Libido" refers not only to the sexual drive, but to all aggressive acts. In his dual instinct theory, Freud stated that libido and aggression come under broader biological principles Eros (love) and Thanatos (death and self-destruction). More recent psychological theorists suggest that war -- including a nation's insatiable hunger for military power and the passion for armaments -- arises from a deep-seated fear of death, a fear that is, naturally, basic to the human condition. This death fear creates the paradoxical situation where institutionalized murder (war, capital punishment, "right to bear arms," mob violence, legitimized military statism) grows out of something known as "radical pain."

According to this theory, there are three types of pain:

- Physical pain (old age, sickness, and dying);
- Emotional pain (being away from a loved one, being forced to be with people one hates); and
- Radical pain (knowledge -- or fear of knowledge -- of the intransigence of life, and one's own inevitable move towards chaos and entropy).

In other words, the lunacy of a Hitler or a Pol Pot (or even America's own militarists) grows out of an unacknowledged and unrecognized terror of the inevitable, the most inevitable fact of life. Namely, death.