Sunday, May 9, 2010

Engagement, Negotiation, Accommodation

Don’t ask, “Should indigenous citizens have entitlements unavailable to others?” as though it were a matter of principle. Marxists challenge inheritance, free marketeers challenge safety nets. Theorists apply principles to matters of entitlement, and that’s a problem.
I don’t object to the application of principle, I don’t deny the authenticity and cogency of a rational conclusion, but the reality that I insist that we deal with first, is the reality that rational principled conclusions are nested within meaning systems which are in turn nested in adaptive historically emergent cultures, of which we have not one but a plurality side by side. These tend to have incommensurate logics, since rationality and principle are not fixed parts of the universe, but tools for solving problems differently framed in different cultures.

I don’t embrace relativism or any other sort of denial of one’s own meaning system. I enjoy the thrust and parry of principled discourse, but it’s a game, like Monopoly, radically separate from cosmopolitan reality.

Given our circumstances, where do we go from here? So I’m on about adaptation to circumstances given that we have inherited both a mess of adaptive arrangements and some serious differences in values and attitudes, serious differences in meaning systems, serious differences about the nature of reality and the good life.

My concern is “Given those differences, how can we generate appropriate procedures to maximise social equilibrium and prosperity? To maximise the compliance and self-restraint necessary to survival we need to foreground these procedural questions.

I think that turning our forums into polarised ideological battle-grounds is part of the problem. We need to find ways ahead [adaptation, hyphenation] that honour and accommodate difference as far as possible given constantly changing circumstances. We need to change our forums into arenas for engagement of difference, arenas of negotiation and accommodation.

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