Three human nurturing practices

06.04.2016 |

Episode #5 of the course “How world affairs work” by Ralph Pettman

 

In this lesson, you’ll learn about those analysts and practitioners who don’t think human beings have an essential naturewho think the nature of human nurturing practices is more important instead. (In reality, people are both; they’re what they’re born to be and what they learn to be. However, analysts and practitioners see world affairs as determined by either one or the other.)

Analysts and practitioners who think the nurturing process matters more focus on three specific aspects of it: materialist, mentalist, and the mixed. These cut across the three dimensions of world affairs that we talked about before.

The most significant materialist approach is the Marxist one. Marxism focuses on the way human history began with primitive communist societies. These were followed by slave-owning and then feudal societies. Today, people live in capitalist societies. In the future, they will live in technologically advanced communes. The transition from one historical stage to another is revolutionary. The whole story of humankind is a story of the struggle between those who own and manage the means of production and those who workthe slaves or serfs or wage-laborers. These are the ones who actually make a society wealthy. Only when they become conscious of the fact that they’re exploited do they revolt and society changes. Only when the wage-laborers become aware of their oppression and rise up will capitalism finally come to an end. The state will then be dismantled and world affairs will reach its final, utopian form. (There is another materialist approach: political geography. Sri Lanka is an island, for example, and as a result, it has a foreign policy very different from that of land-locked Paraguay.)

The most significant mentalist approach is the constructivist one. Constructivism focuses on the ideals, norms, and values that determine how practitioners act and how world affairs work. Constructivism doesn’t say what these ideals, norms, and values happen to be; it just says they’re basic. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, for example, said, “War is over, if you want it.” This is a constructivist slogan. If enough people really do want war to be over, then it will be. In short, there’s a self-fulfilling aspect to world affairs. It’s the opposite of the materialist view.

The mixed approach is meta-Marxist. Marx was well aware that the dominant ideas of the day are those of the ruling class, and they prevent workers from becoming aware of their exploitation. Later analysts drew attention to the way people’s minds are manipulated by television and movies. These are part of an exploitative “culture industry.” So are the Internet and social media.

In the next lesson, you’ll learn about the cultural context of world affairs today. We’ll look at the global reach of modernist rationalism.

 

Recommended book

“Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy” by Francis Fukuyama

 

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