Equality of power is a lost cause


Most of us find the idea of ​​a pluralistic society, made up of diverse groups and interests treating one another as equals, a tantalizing ideal. At the same time, our postmodern world has created the ideal of cultural equality, rejecting elitist authority figures and traditional hierarchies as arbiters of cultural value. But these ideals of equality are not what they seem. In our technological civilization, cultural equality leads to bureaucratic uniformity rather than liberation from authority, and pluralism rather than promoting equality between different groups creates an endless power struggle that leads to enormous inequalities, argues Richard Stivers.

When confronted with a grim reality, we invariably prefer illusions. Cultural equality and pluralistic equality have been advocated in the West since the 18th century. Your idealization is our illusion. A deeper investigation shows that cultural equality is a necessary accompaniment to both unwanted and unrecognized technological uniformity, and that plural equality creates an endless power struggle that makes equality unattainable. The reality of equality is the opposite of our illusion.

Cultural Equality and Uniformity

A technological civilization is one in which technology is the dominant force in the organization of society. Modern technology, as Max Weber understood it over a century ago, encompasses both tangible and intangible technologies. The latter include psychological and organizational techniques such as advertising and bureaucracy (which he called a machine). Modern technology is the most efficient and powerful means of action. By replacing culture as the main organizing principle of modern societies, technology fragments culture and makes it compensatory for our loss of freedom from technology. Jacques Ellul states that in a technological civilization everything becomes an imitation of technology or a compensation for its effects, or both. Modern societies function according to a technological logic, organizing society and disorganizing culture. The only true conformance today is conformance with technology, with its rules of use and its almost complete control over it how We interact with each other and with our environment. Therefore, we can allow almost any moral attitude, any form of art, any interpretation, any view of truth, because they make no difference in the functioning of a technological system. In other words, cultural standards, the criteria by which we can evaluate a cultural product, have disappeared in our postmodern world.


In cultural equality there is neither a hierarchy of values ​​nor authorities. For some, the lack of cultural order is a sign of freedom—everything goes without authority. But that turns out to be false freedom


Cultural equality is synonymous with cultural anarchy, the absence of any authority whose legitimacy is recognized by all. Traditional cultures possessed a hierarchy of values—aesthetic and ethical—and authorities able to interpret and apply them. In this way, traditional culture offered both meaning and order. In cultural equality there is neither a hierarchy of values ​​nor authorities. For some, the lack of cultural order is a sign of freedom—everything goes without authority. But that turns out to be false freedom. This is not to romanticize culture and assume that all cultures promote values ​​that enrich life. The point is that without a shared culture there is no meaning of existence, no real freedom, because the culture offered something to fight against. Instead, today we have an ideology of cultural equality that advocates free choice of values ​​and lifestyles. But even that is an illusion of freedom, because in a technological civilization the dominant form of equality, uniformity, excludes individual differences and thus individual freedom. The unlimited choice of values ​​and lifestyles is a compensation for the loss of genuine individual freedom.

In defense of the hierarchy
By Daniel A. Bell

We can see how technology creates an equality of uniformity when we look at how non-material technology, following a set of rules and procedures in dealing with other people, denies the subjective individuality of both the user and the recipient. For example, if parents use parental effectiveness training to raise their children, they will deny the real differences between their children. Every child becomes the same object of technology. Bureaucratic rules have a similar effect: the reduction of the individual to an abstract, equal object. At the same time, human technology suppresses the individuality of its user. Depending on the technological process rather than personal experience, you are treated as equal to any other user.

Technical rules and procedures in non-material technologies reduce human qualities to quantities. Take, for example, the qualitative term “love”. The meaning of love depends on the context of its use. Love has different historical, cultural and personal meanings. Parental love in the Middle Ages is fundamentally different from today. Each context has a slightly different meaning of love. But there are now scales to measure love. The result is that love is standardized, reduced to a set of behaviors and attitudes, no matter how superficial, that can be measured, or in other words, taken out of context. We differ in the amount of love we give and receive, but love has become a unified, measurable thing.


There is no social order without cultural authority defining the relationships, responsibilities, and obligations between status groups


Intelligence tests are equally superficial and misleading. They are based on the assumption that intelligence is a uniform factor that can be measured by questions on a test. But when there are many different forms of intelligence, and when intelligence is related to spontaneous creative activity, then measuring intelligence is wrong.

Pluralism, equality and our ambivalence towards power

Pluralism in the West – the idea that there are a number of different groups and value systems that share equal value – emerged in the late 18th century. As science and technology were increasingly perceived as standards of truth and objectivity, religion and morality were increasingly viewed as subjective, personal choices. The idea of ​​a unified, objective morality began to weaken. Pluralism refers to the gradual dissolution of a unified social structure, the erosion of boundaries between status groups, both vertically and horizontally. In traditional societies, everyone had an ascribed status in terms of age, gender, family, clan, and occupation. In addition, everyone was aware of the prescribed relationships between groups, for example between men and women, old and young, hunters and farmers. A unified social structure meant that society was divided into distinct groups but unified by a moral system of complementary responsibilities and obligations.

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The Equality Puzzle
Starring Myriam François, Minna Salami, Nicky Morgan, Ella Whelan

Anthropologist Louis Dumont contrasted a traditional hierarchical society with a modern horizontal society. Hierarchical societies are characterized by the values ​​of hierarchy and holism. There is no social order without cultural authority defining the relationships, responsibilities, and obligations between status groups. Hierarchy is related to holism as follows. Some statuses are higher than others, e.g. B. old is higher than young, male is higher than female (or sometimes it’s the other way around, depending on the context). When the system works well, the status difference is small, and the performance difference is even smaller. Holism holds the hierarchy together. A sense of whole community takes precedence over individuals and softens differences in status and power. One is first a member of the community and only then old or young, male or female. Holism is also based on the principle of complementarity—each status group fulfills a necessary function that collectively constitutes a community. There is an inevitable tension between hierarchy and holism, such that differences in status and power threaten holism. Power and status can become ends in themselves at the expense of the community.

Modern horizontal societies are based on equality and individualism. Equality negates the hierarchy of authority so that individuals are freed from the mutual responsibilities of a hierarchical society. In a horizontal society, groups are formed around particular interests to advance the individual rights and needs of their members. Such groups eventually compete for access to power and resources.


Striving for equality of power only leads to inequality


The struggle for power was brilliantly dramatized by Fyodor Dostoyevsky Notes from the underground. Dostoyevsky opposes two kinds of equality: equality of power and equality of love. The world of the underground man has three levels: superior, inferior and equal. The endless competition for power precludes the possibility of equality. The individual or group whose aim is equality thereby proves that they are inferior. Competition makes everyone master (superior) or slave (inferior). The underdog is bitter and envious, while the victor enjoys a hollow victory over an underdog. An equality of power is a chimera. In his view, only equality based on love can lead to equality. Equal love is based on respect, cooperation and selfless concern for the other. Striving for equality of power only leads to inequality.

21 07 16th critical race 1st

Racism and the madness of equality
By Tommy J Curry

More recently, a variant of the master/slave logic has emerged – the celebration of the powerless. The powerless, women, minorities and the poor have become heroes. We admire their struggle to become equal. Because only power gives dignity to a group. But who can measure power except at the extremes? A group should always refrain from claiming equality because it would lose its ideological advantage. The elevation of impotence to virtue hides our envy of the powerful. Hence our deep ambivalence about power. We have made power a value that contradicts the value of equality. We are like hamsters on a wheel, chasing an equality that can never end the whirl. We eagerly embrace an illusion of equality.


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