Jim heartfield jim at
Sat Jan 22 06:38:35 PST 2000

In message <38897A9F.D8E50EF at>, Sam Pawlett <rsp at> writes

>Because causal determinism (every event has a cause and human actions
>are events) is true, I don't think we have to give up the
>idea that people (specifically the working class) make history. Even
>when every event has a cause you do not know what the ultimate picture
>will look like.

I'm not sure that this is a reasonable defence of the idea of an historical agent. If that historical agent is not itself the cause of its actions, then it is not an historical agent, just a transmission belt.

Determinism gives way to self-determination. As Hegel says, Substance becomes subject. Or as Engels put it, freedom is the leap from necessity.

The liberal's recoil from punishing crime arises from the utlimately disdainful attitude that ordinary people are not responsible for their actions.

In message <v03130304b4aea25e99ce@[]>, Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at> writes

>Feminists of most varieties, for instance, prefer social explanations to
>the idea that individual men's personal irresponsibility explains gender
>oppression; that does not mean they are justifying sexism by making
>excuses, much less encouraging rape, murder of gay men & lesbians, etc.

It seems to me that you can explain oppression in general causal terms, but when someone rapes or beats, then they are responsible for those actions - after all they are not the norm, but the exception.

>Further, there is no evidence that emphasis on personal responsibility,
>punitive approach in criminal justice, etc. make the lives of the poor any
>safer from the fellow poor who turn to crime. America incarcerates more
>people than nations of comparable economic standings do. Are Americans
>less victimized by rapists, murderers, etc. than the French, the Swedish,
>etc. do?

Utilitarian arguments are beside the point here. The point is that if you commit a crime you ought to pay for it. Alternately one can take the view that people who commit anti-social acts are not responsible for them. The latter view is much more authoritarian than the former. It leads to so-called preventative incarceration and the regulation of people on the basis of what the might do rather than anything that they have done. -- Jim heartfield

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