Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Young - Five Faces of Oppression.

The concept of social group in fundamental to understand oppression as Young sees it: a social group is a group into which one is born and does not freely enter into, one whose traditions and history serve to define one's existence and experiences. Though one can attempt to divorce oneself from such a group, one's history as part of a member of such a group cannot be removed, nor can its one's experiences as colored by group membership. Young defines oppression as an inability of a group to cultivate and express itself, and further subdivides this into five categories which can be used as factors which can serve to identify cases of oppression: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. Exploitation is a state in which a specific group is utilized for gain without adequate compensation; here it is useful to consider Marx: the wage-laborer produces a surplus, which only exists because the wages she is being paid do not match the value of the labor which she produces. Marginalization stands in relation to exploitation inasmuch as this state is one in which individuals are not even allowed to be exploited: they are relegated to marginal jobs or unemployed, and therefore are more dependent on state aid. Powerlessness, the third marker of oppression, is intertwined with exploitation and marginalization inasmuch as power is related to acceptance in the wider society and the ability to act independently. Cultural Imperialism stands as an active factor which encourages marginalization and powerlessness, as it is the process which involves the imposition of other cultural values over a group's set of values. Normative processes ensure that those who do not adhere to the majority culture's values are turned into others, and often stigmatized for their very values. Violence, the final face of oppression, is also the most obvious face; violence is encouraged by the processes of cultural imperialism and marginalization and is exacerbated by powerlessness. The process of selecting one set of values over another and turning those who adhere to alternate practices into Others, the majority culture creates animosity, which cannot be abated due to marginalization which often accompanies these processes. Each definition is interrelated with the others, but not all are necessary for a group to be oppressed. Inasmuch as this is the case, I prefer such a definition as it allows for a broad spectrum of groups to be defined as oppressed: women, minorities, the LGBT community, etc. Women, members of the LGBT community, and minorities all must face the possibility of violence (depending where they are) though to different extents and for different reasons; that they must even consider violence as a possibility at all, simply because of who they are, I think, suggests that there is something to be said in identifying them as such. But, they are also exploited, albeit in different fashions and to different extents, they face the normatizing attempts of a majority culture, they are marginalized in many ways, and they (in specific and different ways) lack power. Women are exploited in the workplace more than ordinary workers, due to a lack of pay equality, minorities are marginalized into jobs which tend to be more exploitative, members of the LGBT community can sometimes fear dismissal if they are found out. There are so many facets to oppression and so many different incarnations that it is useful to have such a broad definition, both to allow different groups to be united under the same umbrella term and also to allow a comparison between groups.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Birth of Tragedy Sections 7-15

Euripides and Socrates stand as the figures most responsible for the death of tragedy; in the eyes of Nietzsche, they stand paeans for an overly rationalizing impulse, one which would prefer to see everything in terms of logical relation, and thus would prefer to stamp out any perceived lack of clarity or discord in reasoning. This is directly in contrast to the Dionysian urge, which stands somewhat as a principle of unreason (or at least as a principle in opposition to the ideals individuation and differentiation which are important principles in the methods utilized by Socrates and Euripides). In the case of Euripides, the hostility to the Dionysian is expressed in the excessive explication which occurs in his prologues and with his excessive rationalization of the events of the stage, which included the utilization of a more naturalistic style of writing and a decreased role for the chorus. Beyond leading to New Attic comedy, the death of tragedy also represented a different trend: the pursuit of one method, the logical, as a driving impulse, one which stands somewhat as the beginning of European thought in history. As he suggests on page 97, whereas the former Greek was marked by a "practical pessimism", the Socratic Greek was a "theoretical optomist who, with his faith that the nature of things can be fathomed, ascribes to knowledge and insight the power of panacea, whild understanding the error of evil par excellence."

While this new dichotomy is clearly understood, it is difficult to determine how exactly the Socratic urge is to be understood in relation to the former categories of the Apollinian and Dionysian. Certainly, Nietzsche considers it somewhat Apollinian, but he also tends to treat the Apollinian with more respect than the Socratic. Considering his earlier description of the aspects of the Apollinian, as well as his descriptions of the rationalizing effects of the Socratic, it seems possible that he considered the Socratic to be a derivative and weaker form of the Apollinian, one which is so deluded about the nature of appearance that it cannot allow itself to confront the Dionysian and, indeed, itself, in any meaningful way. This is likely why he treats it more harshly than the Dionysian: whereas the Socratic must destroy all unreason, rationalize all that does not stand in logical relation, the Apollinian managed to reach a sort of detente with the Dionysian, to allow it to exist and even engage with it in a meaningful way. Tragedy stands as the epitome of this ability, and the tragedy of Euripides destroys this relation, banishing the Dionysian and its effects.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Birth of Tragedy Sections 1-6

It seems as if the greatest concern for the reader must be to consider how literally Nietzsche is speaking in this section. He appears to be speaking largely figuratively, but he also is engaging in a critique of the idea of the Greeks as the inherently rational and enlightened culture which stands as one of the origins of European thought. He is using the example of Dionysus and Apollo to illustrate his conception of the divide which emerges naturally, one which stands as his own analogue to the representation/will distinction which is central to the philosophy of Schopenhauer. His aim, however, is to bring the insights of Schopenhauer to the realm of the Greeks and, in doing so, to engage in a critique of the popular conception of Greek culture in the same stroke. In this short selection, it still seems unclear from whence the Apollonian/Dionysian distinction emerges; he seems to presume it as a distinction which emerges from existence itself, but it is still unclear why this is the case. His self-criticism in the preface seems to suggest that he was also unsatisfied with the lack of clarity of the writing in his work. It is interesting that his writing became clearer as he moved towards the aphorism as a primary means of writing.