Monday, March 28, 2016

Jonathan Haidt and Emory

I missed this summary of a sociology paper the first time around, but Haidt reprints it. Victimhood Culture Explains What's Happening At Emory. I have a nephew studying at Emory (on loan from Tufts) and I'm guessing this controversy is a topic of conversation among many, but isn't changing the day-to-day lives of folks much. 

The article places the events at Emory in context of an overall culture change from culture of honor to culture of dignity to culture of victimhood. Haidt clearly agrees with most or all of it and tries to extract the best of it for easier consumption.  It took me longer than seven minutes, though. I commented there, and will overlap with that only partially here.  A few thoughts:

77 colleges is more than I expected.

The definition of culture of honor that Campbell and Manning use is different than what I usually think, but I take their point.  My own definition of a culture of honor would be something closer to a mix between their honor and dignity cultures.  My first contrast with Honor Culture is to Shame Culture, which is older and I believe, more primitive. The sociologists don't seem to treat to that at all, or see it as some relative of Honor Culture.  So be it.  I don't prefer their terms, but I think the ideas are sound.

The cause of victimhood culture that they mention strikes me as plausible: an increase in college officials whose jobs are predicated on delivering social justice is going to create an increase in victims appealing to them.  Makes sense. But I don't take that as definitive - there are other nominations, as I and others note in the comments.

I think this is not just college, this is the future.


james said...

I see a limitation.

They describe a process in which as a culture becomes more "egalitarian" (Camazotz) the pull against minor deviations becomes stronger and stronger, and the resources demanded to correct badthink grow and grow. Sooner or later you have to run out of resources before you reach your asymptote. Since none of our systems (universities, business, or even the government) exist in isolation, something from outside will intervene to break them.

We still do have an honor culture here, don't we? Black street culture is highly sensitive to insults, which are avenged personally or with the aid of one's immediate tribe. Some things are not done. I remember the troubles a friend of ours had trying to help one woman learn to manage the household money better. She resisted using coupons: it was undignified.

So I wonder what happens when the precious snowflakes cross swords with the disrespected.

Trimegistus said...

We should all be not just alarmed but terrified that a significant number of supposedly educated young people -- and university administrators! -- think it is ever appropriate to call advocating a political candidate "hate speech."

We know how that ends. The only question is how many deaths are they going to cause.

Sam L. said...

I see this as one-downsmanship--I am more oppressed and more of a victim than you, so I take precedence. Fascism comes in disguise.

Grim said...

We still do have an honor culture here, don't we? Black street culture...

Not just that one! Emory is in Atlanta, and I assure you that the snowflakes won't be able to venture very far at all without rubbing up against some several. Within the Perimeter, there is the one you name plus several different immigrant communities. Go just any distance beyond I-285's belt, and you'll quickly run into more traditional Southern cultures. Go north and you'll be in Appalachia in an hour. Go any other direction, and you'll be in Moonlight & Magnolia country.

So this is a sub-culture, but it's a sub-culture that's becoming dominant through elite promotion of elites from institutions like Emory to institutions like the Federal Government or Wall Street or international corporations like Apple or Google. It's why we see Hillary Clinton, competing to be the most powerful person in the world, complaining to the judges that she's being unfairly treated by Bernie Sanders (possibly the least harsh opponent she's ever known). Even at that level, somehow, being seen as a victim is supposed to be an advertisement for you.

One assumes Vladimir Putin will see something different in the quality.

RichardJohnson said...

In looking at my life I see that there were a number of occasions where I was in what I considered to be a bad situation and thought at the time I could do nothing about it. In retrospect, there were often things that I could have done to more quickly get out of bad situations. What was holding me back was often the feeling that there was nothing I could do about it. Had I asked myself more often, what can I do about it, instead of feeling powerless, I could have done better.

Conclusion: cultivating being a victim is ultimately self-defeating, as it engenders feelings of powerlessness.