Dahrendorf Life Chances chapter 2.pdf - 20 Life Chances...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–10. Sign up to view the full content.

Image of page 1

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 2
Image of page 3

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 4
Image of page 5

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 6
Image of page 7

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 8
Image of page 9

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 10
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: 20 Life Chances meaning for people only insofar as it enlarges liberty. In a cer- tain sense the task of liberty is the same at all times ; it is that of the open society. Whether there was a long jump to bring it about or not, the chances of formal liberty have probably not improved. In the other respect the task of liberty may be the same as well, but its substance changes all the time; this task is to extend life chances and seek a new potential. There is no freedom without this search; liberty means that we straddle or shift eyery hurdle which stands in the way of human develop— ment. Can there be a progress of liberty then? If by such progress we understand not merely the return of Germany or Greece to the rule of law, but progressive changes in the circumstances of human life throughout the centuries, then the idea is peculiar and objectionable. Kant was understandably concerned: ‘It continues to remain strange in this: that older generations seem to conduct their painful business merely for the sake of later ones, in order to prepare for them a step from which they might raise the construction further which nature has at its intention; and that only the latest should have the good fortune to live in the structure on which a long line of their forefathers (if without intending to do so) have worked without being able to share themselves" in the happiness which they have helped prepare.’ 25 But there are things which we cannot understand. Beyond such humility, it may also be a property of the structure in question that no one will ever just live in it without contributing to its perfection. ' There may thus be a progress of liberty. There may be societies which give more space than others to the desire of men to reduce unnecessary constraints; there may be more open and more developed societies in which life chances are enhanced and extended further. And since this is so, we must never rest in our quest for advancing the frontiers of freedom. ~95st . . 2 Life Chances Dimensions of Liberty in Society talppiness is undoubtedly des1rable, but as a social value it has a cast three disadvantages. One is that it is elusive Run ey’ter happiness [says Brechtlj But do not run too hard! For all run afier happiness, Happiness mm elsewhere. T . . ache. Foundmg Fathers of the United States did not need poetic ct 1:ch11; 3:31“: therlp 0; being over-ambitious; their protestant 0 ma e t em settle for the ‘ ' ' ’ This, however is h pursuit of happiness. , ardly less elusive Sad ' ‘ . o-masoclnsm and fggexm nergoiisrgpart, people tend to pursue happiness in many nge an 1 erent ways, by ascetic d' ' ' ‘ . ISClpllIlC and h ' l indulgence, by mflatin ' ' Y gema g theu own importanc d b ' themselves to the ne 6 an 3’ deVOtmg eds of others b th h th , y e scare for truth and 6136 1slearclh for. change. John Stuart Mill seemed quite clear" y appmessrslntended leas ' I unha . . p ure, and the absence of pain; by 5' 1primes-s pain, and the privation of pleasure.2 But the rlrnp e act is that what deprives some of pleasure is a source of 50:3“? for others, and the absence of pain in the sensations of hapginpszs “notlrulle out great pain for others. The pursuit of 1s e us1ve, because it has so m ‘ . ‘ an routes t ' (162.65. soc1al and polltical generalization. Y hat It andhiis, ‘Zf course, IS not a new idea. Aristotle grappled with it of it eActi (121d that there was true happiness and the mere illusiOn red. t‘e bestof times, the practical life (for him) cannot p t uce evdggpovm, genuine happiness; this is to be found in er am act1v1t1es of the soul among which those of the philo- 22 Life Chances sophical mind, the theoretical life, are unsurpassedylm 13:1an and duration. Aristotle knew of course that phi 05:1}: 1c h pleasures were likely to be a very ind1v1dual experience,“ ' ongif he spoke of the ‘even more beautiful land august [scoTrfiiitioqj n entire peoples or political communities reach 1t .. e no on of ‘public happiness” is not meaningless (though it may meai1 something rather different, that is, a soc1al state of granlqum equilibrium, of total legitimacy); but by and large-t e pr: 5 that societies should be made happy must besusplciqlus. . us the second shortcoming of the socral use of the word app-Emst is that it smacks of decreed happiness. It IS surely no acci :11: that an official publication of a pommurnst country. ( e Czechoslovak Soviet Socialist Republic) describes an imaginary constitution such that Article 1 asonbes to. everylif pmar; being . . . an undeniable right to happiness during 1115 e , 1:13 then adds in Article 2: ‘Human soc1ety must guarantee ts right by all available means.’4 Is it hypersensmve if one Stipegle that in the end such a society will see a lot of all av a ’ ' of ha iness? . mff’lhinmtlffei‘ldfli: the ilfird and most serious-shortcomIiIng (if happiness as a social objective; it is deeply unhistoricall‘.I flair. ness is a state of mind which was as available, if not. to {in to thal and Peking Men (to avoid a dili‘icult discussron), denhn Aristotle, as it was to St Augustine, Thomas Hobbes an Joi Stuart Mill. Unless we assume a growmg or shrinking capleii: :y of men to feel happy, the general level of happiness is not e y to change much, let alone in a systematic fashion. It IS a of which remain the same whatever the conditions are to which it is directed; the thermometer of human temperament does not change (so to speak) as .we 'grnlpge {if}? the ‘axis time’ of 500 no to the echpse of modernity; fi dis (my; ‘happiness research’ is SO useless. George Easterlm s n Eg' - his article on the question of whether economic 81:: 111:3 proves the human lot)5 that between 1946 and 1955!? ere the been no significant improvement in the level of happiness 1n response the terms ' ' the relative happiness levels of United States, and no change 1n , . groups at all, tells us as little as George Gallup s finding that Dimensions quibergy in Society 23 there are ‘surprisingly’ small differences between the happiness levels of rich and of poor countries.“i Unless it is intended to giVe a semblance of factual support to the thesis that there is no such thing as progress, and that therefore we may as well leave things as they are, all that such research shows is that happiness is a useless index of human social development. We have to dig deeper and perhaps on a different lot if we want to find out where human societies are going. To be sure, liberal thought had its ahistorical aspects. Tradi- tional liberalism is as insistent on formal rules for all sorts of social games as-it is silent on the social condition of man. To the present day, great liberals have been liable to fall victim to an almost cynical advocacy of ‘movement for movement’s sake’ (to quote Hayek), or else, if they were less cynical (like Popper), to an odd combination of ahistorieal formalism and the un- founded demand for acts of moral greatness" Lionel Trilling is thus both right and involuntarily ambiguous when he states about liberalism that ‘the word happiness stands at the very centre of its thought.” For this should not be so. Of course, the defender of freedom, or liberty (and we shall not pursue con- ceiVable distinctions between the two), seeks to achieve an objective of social and political action which is designed to benefit individuals above all, and in that sense to create condi~ tiOns of possible happiness. But he recognizes also the delightful manifold of human wishes and wants and ways which forbids even a general definition of happiness; he sees the dangers of societies which are trying to create, or even guarantee, happi- ness for all and are quite likely to make more people unhappy than those which concentrate on more properly social objec- tives; and he knows of the need for men, in the uncertain condition in which they live, to try to improve themselves, to grow, rather than to settle for the pleasure which they can have here and now. The notion which we need in order to define the social and political objectives of an active liberalism is one which anchors opportunities of human growth in patterns of social structure without overlooking the desirability of personal satnfacfion.We need a genuinely social, and that means of B 24. Life Chances necessity historical, concept of what the process of human societies is about, and one which enables us to give substance both to social theories of change and to the political theory of liberty. This, too, is not exactly a new objective, and before we explore a constructive answer, two other concepts must be mentioned briefly: utility and welfare. W. L. Davidson has actually linked them with happiness in a rather telling manner: ‘Unllty, then, is Welfare, and welfare covers every conceivable element-that goes to determine and constitute man’s happiness.’9 This is an overstatement which does rather less than justice to the con- cepts of utility and welfare, though it must be said that Jeremy Bentham was strangely worried about the new term which he tried to introduce, utility. (And twenty-five years after the first publication of the Principles he had consequently turned. the ‘utility principle’ into the ‘greatest happiness or greatest felicity principle’.) But the point about ‘utility’ is that it turns attention from the individual sentiment of happiness to its causes, socral or otherwise. Whether Bentham did very well in this is another matter. He lacked the endearing blandness of earlier political economists who had talked unashamedly of ‘opulence’ as the subject of human progress; nor did he have the methodological subtlety of later economists who, like Pareto, used ‘utility’ as an appar- ently value—free concept. (One might call it ‘X’, says Pareto 1n §2I I I of his Traite’, and nobody should draw any false conclu- sions from calling it ‘utilite”; what is meant is simply what people find advantageous.) 1" However, Bentham made his point: By utility is meant that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness (all tips in the present case comes to the same thing) or (what comes again to the same thing) to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, ewl or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered; if that party be the community in general, then the happiness of the community; if a particular individual, then the happiness of that indlvrdual.11 .34. i a , g Dimensions osz'bergy in Society 25 Leaving the shortcomings of happiness on one side for the moment (which is admittedly diflicult), one can see the advan» tage of the idea of utility. It is ascribed to ‘objects’. It can therefore be measured, which Bentham proceeds to do in rather amusing ways.12 It can also be compared, and thus increased. Utility is a concept which allows progress, as John Stuart Mill insisted when he formulated the moral precept that the greatest happiness principle in the utilitarian sense must be extended not only to all mankind, but ‘so far as the nature of things admits, to the whole sentient creation’.” Yet there is something strangely arbitrary about the relation between the properties of objects and the feelings of men. Hanging in mid-air like the gardens of Semiramis we find objects which give pleasure and others which do not, and a prescription to grow more beautiful flowers while getting rid of all weeds. But what about rights, for example? (And Mill had much to say about them when he wrote On Libergy.) Are they to be thought of as objects giving pleasure? What about class relations? Are they objects responsible for ‘mischief, pain, evil or unhappiness’? The utilitarian approach leaves out the dimension of social structure, of human opportunities and boundaries as they are provided by the norms and sanctions of society. Utilitarians talk about society in a naively voluntaristic way; their morality thus never reaches the dimensions of the political and the social, and by implication it fails to provide a yardstick for measuring progress in historical reality. Compari- sons of utilitarian happiness are painquy superficial and uninformative. This is where Pareto’s version of utility, later developed by Pigou and others into the modern concept of welfare, is a considerable step forward. We are, of course, using the term here in its economic sense, as defined for example by Herbert Giersch: Welfare is the epitome of objectives which are in fact sought or which should be realized. The precise definition of these objectives and their relative significance in terms of sets of objectives is co- terminous wiih setting up a function to be maximized. For this we 26 L993 Chances use . . . the expression ‘welfare function’. A complete welfare func— tion is also a value standard which permits the judgment whether and to what extent a factual or possible situation is ‘better’ than another and constitutes ‘progress’ in relation to the total cluster of goals. One is concerned with no more and no less than a practically applicable definition of what we mean when we use the word ‘progress’.14 The last sentence may explain why we have quoted Giersch rather than, say, Pigou, or even Dahl and Lindbiom. Maximiz- ing the welfare function is indeed a definition of progress which is at the same time social and capable of precise assessment, even measurement. For most practical purposes, Welfare is surely a rather persuasive definition of what the social process is about. But practical purposes are not theoretical purposes; and stating this is more than an abstract quibble. The fundamental weakness of the concept of welfare lies in its very strength: it is an empirical rather than an analytical concept,and it is therefore incapable of being used as either an element of the social theory of change or one of the political theory of freedom. The Welfare function tells us at the most whether socio-economic and socio- political processes live up to their own potential, and thus allow comparison with other known conditions, earlier in time or elsewhere in space, but it fails to provide a yardstick for assessing the potential of social processes itself. Put in the crudest terms, it tells us how far others are from American conditions of life, but it cannot conceivably tell us how desirable American condi— tions are. In a crucial sense, welfare is always a descriptive notion, however complex a syndrome of social indicators is used to measure it; what we need, though, is a theoretical instrument for assessing varying empirical welfare functions. I can only hint here at the two arguments which justify this conclusion. The first has to do with the ordinal-cardinal dilemma of welfare functions, that is, with the fact that in order to make qualitative comparisons possible, assumptions about relative weight have to be built into the function. It sounds reasonable enough to list, With Dahl and Lindblom, ‘seven basic i E s; r. g g - 3 E Dimensions quiberty in Society 27 ends of social action’: freedom, rationality, democracy, subjec- t1ve equality, security, progress, appropriate inclusion.15 But what if new ends are suddenly discovered, say because of the external diseconomies of the old ones? Here, explicit value judgments are necessary, and it is hard to disagree with Lionel Robbins when he says: ‘I would be the last to deny the import- ance of the distinction between purely scientific economic analysis and normative prescription. But for me, at any rate Welfare Economics has always seemed a very draughty half: way house.’16 The house is equally draughty, and equally half- way, if we look at the other dilemma, that of subjective and objective criteria of welfare. Naturally, welfare economists want to measure the attainment of the objectives of social action as defined by them. In order to do so, they either have to aSSume that certain items expressed by objectives indices are intact desired, or they have to turn these into indices of per- ceived satisfaction, or they have to mix both (as do the once social indicators and most recent attempts to improve them). Either way, however, they remain tied to an existing condition of things, immanent to the system of social organization for which they are invented, liable to be overtaken by new develop- ments, and thus descriptive and empirical rather than analytical and theoretical. There is more to be said about the important concept of welfare and the social indicators used to measure it, but it is t1me .to take stock. Our argument so far has been mainly negative. The search for a concept which defines objectives of the social process in such a way that it can be built into social theories of change as well as the political theory of liberty has not so far been unduly successful. The greatest happiness of the greatest number may have something to do with a free society, but it leaves us with an elusive, individual and ahistorical cen- cept. Maximizing the welfare function may be highly desirable but it merely describes what can be done given the assumptions: and possibilities of an existing social structure. We are looking for a concept which is social in the sense of avoiding reliance on individual perception or, worse still, decreeing what it should 28 Life Chances be, which is structural in the sense of tying the desired end not merely to random ‘objects’ but to patterns of social organiza- tion, which in consequence of being social and structural is historical, and which is theoretical in the sense of transcending in principle any one given society and its known potential. I shall argue that the concept of life chances can serve this purpose. ‘Life chances’ is in the first instance a word, and one With rather pleasant connotations. Politicians like to claim that they are improving people’s life chances; and by putting the word ‘life’ and the word ‘chance’ together in this way, they suggest that something is going to be done that matters to people, and that opens doors. Life chances are, as it were, the opposite of death traps. Social scientists too tend to use the term loosely. Take T. B. Bottomore, for example, who states that studies have shown ‘how strong and pervasive is the influence on individual life chances of the entrenched distinctions of social class’ ;1“' or, similarly, F. Hirsch, who describes the concept of equal opportunity as ‘not much less question-begging when applied to education than when applied to life chances in general’.18 Life chances in both cases are, in a somewhat vague sense, the sum total of opportunities ofi’ered to the individual by his society, or by a more specific position occupied in society. I The element of generalized opportunity is probably crucial. Half-way between the word and the concept is Max Weber’s use of the notion of chance. I say the notion of chance, because while Weber in fact uses the word ‘Iife chances’, this for him has specific and in our centext, irrelevant connotations. He speaks of ‘the competition of different human types for life chances’, and means something like this: ‘We shall call “selection” the (latent) struggle for existence of human individuals or types for life chances or chances of survival which takes place without any meaningful intention of conflict: “social selection” insofar as the chances of living people in life, “biological selection” iHSofar as the chances of survival of genes are concerned.’” ‘Life’ is an emphatic Word here, nearer to survival than to the fullness of human opportunities. But in many other places, Weber speaks of social chances in ways which are highly rel- Dimerm'am quiberyy in Society 29 evant to our discussion: ‘economic chances’, such as ‘market chances”, ‘chances of acquisition’, ‘price chances’, ‘supply chances’, but also ‘social chances’, such as the ‘typical chance offered by class position’, and indeed ‘future chances’ including those of rebirth and religious justification.20 Max Weber never included chances, let alone life chances, in his catalogue of ‘...
View Full Document

  • Spring '15
  • Dr. Samson Tse

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern