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Are You Millian or Durkheimian? 
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Post Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
I bet you've never been asked that before. It's another forced choice, and in this case I'd think it likely that most members of a free-thinkers' online forum would side with Mill, who was all about the sanctity of individual liberty, rather than with the late nineteenth-century sociologist Emile Durkheim, who believed in the submersion of some individual liberty in the interest of the whole society.

Here's Jonathan Haidt's quote from John Stuart Mill: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." This position rests on the Care and Fairness foundations, as Haidt points out.

Here is Haidt's own description of Durkheim's vision: "The basic social unit is not the individual, it is the hierarchically structured family, which serves as a model for other institutions. Individuals in such societies are born into strong and constraining relationships that profoundly limit their autonomy...[Durkheim] warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness), and wrote, in 1897, that 'man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above himself to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him.'"

Haidt further observes that "a Durkheimian society cannot be supported on the Care and Fairness foundations alone. You have to build on the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations as well...The American left fails to understand social conservatives and the religious right because it cannot see a Durkheimian world as anything other than a moral abomination."



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Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:57 pm
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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
DWill wrote:
I bet you've never been asked that before. It's another forced choice, and in this case I'd think it likely that most members of a free-thinkers' online forum would side with Mill, who was all about the sanctity of individual liberty, rather than with the late nineteenth-century sociologist Emile Durkheim, who believed in the submersion of some individual liberty in the interest of the whole society.


Having been a student of Sociology & Anthropology I have, in a way, been asked this question - had to write an exam paper on it. Our question was something like what is the relationship between the individual and society - kind of on the order of a chicken and egg question - totally separate, equal players, totally entwined and indivisible. Even though I have my problems with E. Durkheim and believe he made errors, between my two choices I'd have to go with Durkheim.



Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:26 pm
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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
Saffron wrote:
DWill wrote:
I bet you've never been asked that before. It's another forced choice, and in this case I'd think it likely that most members of a free-thinkers' online forum would side with Mill, who was all about the sanctity of individual liberty, rather than with the late nineteenth-century sociologist Emile Durkheim, who believed in the submersion of some individual liberty in the interest of the whole society.


Having been a student of Sociology & Anthropology I have, in a way, been asked this question - had to write an exam paper on it. Our question was something like what is the relationship between the individual and society - kind of on the order of a chicken and egg question - totally separate, equal players, totally entwined and indivisible. Even though I have my problems with E. Durkheim and believe he made errors I'd, between my two choices I'd have to go with Durkheim.

I'd like to be able to live as a Millian myself, enjoying the freedom that it entails, while living in a society that has a strong Durkheimian flavor and thus good social stability. That's having it both ways. It means that I have to accept some things that I have an intuitive reaction against, such as religion and nationalism.



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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
DWill wrote:
I'd like to be able to live as a Millian myself, enjoying the freedom that it entails, while living in a society that has a strong Durkheimian flavor and thus good social stability. That's having it both ways. It means that I have to accept some things that I have an intuitive reaction against, such as religion and nationalism.
Do we have to take the religion and nationalism? Can't we do without??? 8)



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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
can we take what we find of value in Mill and Durkheim and leave the rest.

i thought the same with the Plato, Jefferson and Hume trilemma.

i would have thought that we can give a listen to all 5 of these dudes and take what we find useful from each of them without disregarding what we find of value in the others.

the Mill and Durkheim duality seems to be another way of expressing the individual and society duality and the best course to me seems to be honour both as to deny either one is to deny part of the whole.

i'm definitely more Mill at heart but every day i deal with Durkheim.



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Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:41 pm
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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
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Do we have to take the religion and nationalism?


one nation under god :D sheesh it's a crap hand to be dealt. maybe it takes millenia to get out of some messes.



Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:46 pm
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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
There is often a false dichotomy in that people criticize individualists as if they advocate a bunch of isolated, selfish people going about their business. But no serious thinker has ever denied the importance of social institutions.



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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
incisive point Dexter



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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
I want to agree with Dexter and youkrst, and I think if we do look at the U.S.A. as a success story, as we can despite our large warts, we might judge that our success has been in balancing individuality with agreement to form a collective. E pluribus unum and "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" combined well for a large part of our history. What some researchers and social critics have been saying about U.S. society of the last half century or so is that the collective has become ever weaker over time. Robert Putnam wrote that famous book in 2000, Bowling Alone. He chronicled, according to one review, "how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures– and how we may reconnect. Putnam warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities." That seems like a warning based on loss of Durkheimian social cement.

We probably can't have it both ways, fully. We have to give up something on each end to keep the compromise going.



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Mon Aug 06, 2012 7:26 am
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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
Dexter wrote:
There is often a false dichotomy in that people criticize individualists as if they advocate a bunch of isolated, selfish people going about their business. But no serious thinker has ever denied the importance of social institutions.

It's even a little weird to hear of such criticism from Americans, who are known to be among the most individualistic people in the world. I hear of groups being criticized because they're liberal, conservative, atheist, libertarian, etc., but not really on the basis of individualism. That seems to be an American common denominator.

I think of libertarians as exemplifying individualism--and I think they go way too far.



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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
youkrst wrote:
Quote:
Do we have to take the religion and nationalism?


one nation under god :D sheesh it's a crap hand to be dealt. maybe it takes millenia to get out of some messes.

But you know, youkrst, we could possibly look at this as a not exorbitant price to pay to keep the compromise going. We've always had, from the very early days of the republic, this kind of general public piety in evidence. I know that "in God we trust" wasn't added to coins until 1864, and "under God" wasn't added to the pledge until the 1950s, but before that it was still very common for God to be mentioned publicly as a figurehead. It seems okay to me. Barack Obama came out for the recognition of nonbelievers in his 2009 inaugural address, yet he ends his speeches with "God bless America" just as any politician feels he has to.



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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
Great question, especially with the Putnam question of social capital, and Durkheim's analysis of the role of ritual and loyalty and tradition and belonging in building community.

JS Mill was a great thinker, but he made his wealth selling opium to China for the East India Company, on the supposedly fine liberal principle that it was up to individual Chingas to decide if they wished to destroy their lives in smoking dens. Mill's philosophy conveniently ignored how his fine liberality was supported by the origin of the phrase "gunboat diplomacy", as the British Navy put China on the rack to defend Mill's ethical right to profit from their misery. Fine rhetoric can conceal racist results. Individualism conceals a multitude of sins.

John Stuart Mill was the biggest smack pusher in all human history, but hey, surely anything is forgivable for the patron saint of liberal individualism? As the sage Borat put it, Not.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
Is that on the level about J.S. Mill? I had no idea about his backstory.



Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:14 pm
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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
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"Born in London in 1806, son of James Mill, philosopher, economist and senior official in the East India Company. Mill led an active career as an administrator in the East India Company from which he retired only when the Company's administrative functions in India were taken over by the British government following the Mutiny of 1857. http://www.utilitarianism.com/jsmill.htm

Quote:
Mill knew all about it. He was a corresponding secretary of the East India Company, and was following it all closely. The purpose of the expansion of British power over India, as he knew, was to try to obtain a monopoly over opium so that England could somehow break into the Chinese market. They couldn’t sell goods to China because, as they complained, Chinese goods were comparable and they didn’t want British goods. So the only way to break into the Chinese market was by gunboats and to force them to become a nation of opium addicts at the point of a gun and by obtaining a monopoly of the opium trade – didn’t quite make it, American merchants got a piece of it – they could compel Chinese to become opium addicts and gain access to Chinese markets. And in fact he was writing right at the time of the Second Opium War [from 1856 to 1860], which achieved that. Britain established the world’s most extensive narco-trafficking enterprise; there’s never been anything remotely like it. Not only were they able to break into China for the first time, but also the profits from opium supported the Raj, the costs of the British Navy, and provided very significant capital which fuelled the industrial revolution in England. Mill was very aware of this. Had to be. But nevertheless his picture is that since England is an angelic power we should help the barbarians who can’t solve their own affairs. http://www.chomsky.info/talks/20060119.htm


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Post Re: Are You Millian or Durkheimian?
:lol:

phew, lucky i didn't put up a Mill poster :D

it's like finding out Pol Pot preferred a strat to a les paul. :evil:



Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:35 pm
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