Family Values

by Harry on December 1, 2014

family values

Its been a long time coming, but we, at least, feel it’s been worth the wait. My book with Adam Swift, Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships, was published earlier this Fall. The book originated in conversations we started having many years ago when I was living in the UK, and we found not only that we were both planning to write books about the place of the family in liberal egalitarian theory, but had similar enough views, and different enough habits of mind, that a book written together would be better than either of us would write separately. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

The family is hotly contested ideological terrain. Some defend the traditional two-parent heterosexual family while others welcome its demise. Opinions vary about how much control parents should have over their children’s upbringing. Family Values provides a major new theoretical account of the morality and politics of the family, telling us why the family is valuable, who has the right to parent, and what rights parents should—and should not—have over their children.

Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift argue that parent-child relationships produce the “familial relationship goods” that people need to flourish. Children’s healthy development depends on intimate relationships with authoritative adults, while the distinctive joys and challenges of parenting are part of a fulfilling life for adults. Yet the relationships that make these goods possible have little to do with biology, and do not require the extensive rights that parents currently enjoy. Challenging some of our most commonly held beliefs about the family, Brighouse and Swift explain why a child’s interest in autonomy severely limits parents’ right to shape their children’s values, and why parents have no fundamental right to confer wealth or advantage on their children.

Family Values reaffirms the vital importance of the family as a social institution while challenging its role in the reproduction of social inequality and carefully balancing the interests of parents and children.

You can read more about it, too, at the p. 99 test.

A good number of the ideas have been tested at some point or another on Crooked Timber, and we’re grateful to commentators for taking us to task. In fact we’ve been lucky in having been able to publish, and get feedback on, some of our ideas along the way – among the many reasons it’s taken us a while is that our ideas have evolved in response to the feedback we have gotten (this is my way of saying that the book is not a simple repackaging of the best-known papers we’ve published on the subject, but a wholesale rethinking with substantially different arguments and, in some cases, conclusions).

Since the book is about the family, I thought I’d share two of my children’s reactions when I first brought a copy of the book home. My 8 year old (boy) said “Oh you wrote a book, that’s interesting. Its a bit strange having that huge dead chicken on the cover, though”. The eldest (girl, whose friends were still frequenting the house in great numbers when the first copy turned up, just before she left for college) was less excited. “My friends are really impressed that you’ve written a book. But I’m not really. I mean, it’s just part of your job, isn’t it? It’s just what you’re supposed to do. I mean….its not like you taught a third grader to read, or something like that“.

{ 91 comments }

1

Lynne 12.01.14 at 2:12 pm

I love your children’s comments. When one of my books came out neither of my sons was impressed with the cover. Not great, since it was a children’s book and the cover was supposedly designed to appeal to boys. (I didn’t care for the cover either).

I agree with the point on page 99, that it is good for parents to have interests independent from being parents. One reason I wanted to have a second child was that I thought if I had an only child I might focus too much on him. With two I figured I’d be driven to take time for myself. :) I was raised by two working parents, which was unusual at the time, and sometimes I resented my mother working, but when I look back on the space it gave me, emotional, physical, intellectual, not to have her always there, I am glad.

It goes without saying that other people might parent only children just fine, it was something I was concerned about in myself.

The book sounds like an interesting read—is it available as an e-book?

2

Russell Arben Fox 12.01.14 at 2:25 pm

Looks wonderful, Harry! I look forward to reading this, and no doubt arguing with it much along the way.

3

Watson Ladd 12.01.14 at 3:45 pm

One wonders what values a child of ten can reasonably claim to have, and why shaping such values is limited. What unusual right, exactly, is a parent exercising by watching “To Kill a Mockingbird” and not “Birth of a Nation” with a child? Or, to flip it around, “Doctor Zhivago” and not whatever Soviet agitprop one could mention. Is refusing to celebrate Hannukah with a child immoral? I’d argue that the influence a parent has on the values of their child is limited, and the way such influence is usually exercised unobjectionable.

As for elite schooling, not having read the book I’m curious to see how far this goes. Would sending one’s student to Stuyvesant be immoral? Hiring a tutor when they are in danger of failing a class? Moving to a better neighborhood when the schools in the old one worsen? Harrison Bergeron is an overused comparison. But when it comes to saying “you shouldn’t take advantage of opportunities to learn, because others don’t have them” I fail to see the difference.

4

William Timberman 12.01.14 at 4:08 pm

Watson Ladd fails to see the difference. He thinks that this is a clever rhetorical device.

Oy.

5

js. 12.01.14 at 4:08 pm

That’s an amazing cover! Did Princeton pick that or did you?

6

Bloix 12.01.14 at 4:11 pm

Belated Happy Publication Day! As you’re apparently too modest to mention the publisher, I’ll say that it’s Princeton University Press, which is featuring it on its home page, http://press.princeton.edu/

I hope the use of Freedom from Want as the cover illustration isn’t entirely ironic.

7

b9n10nt 12.01.14 at 4:27 pm

@ Watson Ladd #3:

Maybe what you shouldn’t do is seek opportunities for your child that you also do not wish to extend to others. Perhaps the analogy is as with taxes, you can ethically pay the minimum tax while taking actions to increase the overall tax rate and still not be a hypocrite. From the perspective of an independent observer, there is a collective action problem.

But from the inside, there’s a selfishness problem: presumably, wanting for my child is natural and pre-conditioned. But my experience indicates that this may be not completely true. The experience of love in the presence of “my” child is founded on seeing her as independent, not mine . And, reflecting further, wanting my daughter to make it into the upper class, to achieve status and privilege, is not an experience of love. Emotionally, ideologically, however-you-slice-it-ly, this desire can be seen through: the stress and hard-heartedness of this desire is there to be felt and known.

One thing the drive for trans generational wealth, privilege, and status isn’t about is love for the individual you identify as “my child”. You can’t know if that is what they want for themselves alone, nor if that’s what is required f

8

b9n10nt 12.01.14 at 4:27 pm

…for a good society.

9

Rakesh 12.01.14 at 4:36 pm

This seems like a great read. Our kids are 10 and 6, so my question is in advance, so to speak.
How has your view of parenting been informed by findings such as Susan-Jayne Blackmore’s about the adolescent brain?
http://edge.org/conversation/sarah_jayne_blakemore
She seems to show that the process of autonomous decision-making can easily be over-ridden by peer pressure and the desire to belong. Wouldn’t the attempt to foster autonomous decision-making involve some encroachments on the desires of adolescents?
Or would you question Blakemore’s findings about the adolescent brain?

I also read your response to James Heckman’s policy proposals about pre-school (Giving Kids a Fair Chance, Boston Review Book). I can’t quite remember whether you thought it would violate poor parents’ autonomy to have enrollment in a pre-school as a condition of their assistance (or perhaps as part of their probation). I don’t think think you thought such would ultimately be a violation of parents’ autonomy?? But will have to double-check.

10

Rakesh 12.01.14 at 4:43 pm

Wouldn’t a libertarian argue that if no harm was done to a concrete other in the accumulation of wealth and no harm is done to a concrete other in the passing on of wealth, then there can be no good convincing legal argument to expropriate what would would have been inherited wealth. I look forward to seeing how you respond to arguments against inheritance taxes.

11

Harold 12.01.14 at 4:53 pm

We just had our Thanksgiving dinner. I keep thinking of how that grandmother slaved over that 25lb turkey, notwithstanding her arthritis and high blood pressure. She lifts it as though it were a feather. There hardly seems room for it on the table.

12

Chris Bertram 12.01.14 at 4:56 pm

Really looking forward to reading this, meanwhile, check your email!

13

Brett Bellmore 12.01.14 at 5:28 pm

“and why parents have no fundamental right to confer wealth or advantage on their children.”

Wouldn’t the question be, rather, what right anybody else had to stop them from doing this?

14

Pat 12.01.14 at 5:32 pm

@William Timberman @4:

More than that, he’s failed to notice Stuyvesant is a public school. (Not to be too mean, but that’s something precisely zero local parents would have missed, nor anyone who’s even marginally interested in the process by which kids get admitted to schools in New York City, New York State, or I’m guessing in the fifteen closest states. Gun to my head… I’m guessing college-aged commenter from the interior west who learned the name “Stuyvesant” from the Internet.)

15

phosphorious 12.01.14 at 5:45 pm

Your daughter was quite restrained. She COULD have pointed out that, after all, you didn’t even write the book by yourself. . . . !

16

Watson Ladd 12.01.14 at 5:55 pm

Stuy is public. But isn’t avaliable to all: admission is by an examination. This seems to raise similar issues to private schools

17

J. Parnell Thomas 12.01.14 at 5:55 pm

Those aren’t real names. No way.

18

b9n10nt 12.01.14 at 6:11 pm

Rakesh, BB re: libertarian philosophy,

The individual ownership of property is socially constructed. We can not know that it is naturally or metaphysically prior to the laws and customs that establish or delineate it. If the community has a right to print money and create laws governing its use, such a right would certainly include the right of creating inheritance taxes or banning uses including certain private uses.

We really don’t know how real “individual” and “society” are as essential, objectively defined realities. We do know that the notion of private property generally, and the notion of private financial wealth more specifically, are not universals of human communities and thus are constructs of some communities.

This is not to deny the potential desirability of such constructs (to say the least). It is just to say, where we may desire to strategically abandon such concepts, we are not to our knowledge in denial of or antagonizing Nature or some God.

The fundamental libertarian/conservative conceit of “it’s mine because Reality” is an assertion without evidence.

19

Trader Joe 12.01.14 at 6:28 pm

With only the OP and the p.99 exerpt to go on, it would seem that choosing to home school would walk a fine line between “bestowing ones wealth upon children to gain advantage” and utilizing “famillial goods” for the enrichment of the family unit.

While there are of course exceptions, most dedicated home schooling families, while not typically wealthy are comfortably above the median income and as such have the ability to devote the resources of the parent to the project of educating their children (often in collaboration with similarly minded parents). Home schooling isn’t something the less affluent can easily pursue despite good evidence about the effectiveness.

I’m curious how the book handles this – I’m very hard pressed to deny a parent the right to self-educate their children, particularly when they are normally still paying taxes to public coffers for the education their kids aren’t using (a few places have vouchers, but not many).

20

Rakesh 12.01.14 at 7:27 pm

Accept your point at #18, but I think the libertarian would simply say that we should not socially construct property in such a way that it (or wealth in property) can be taken away from someone who gained it without injury to a concrete other and wishes to bestow it upon persons again without injury to concrete others. Innocents cannot be sacrificed to the mirage of social justice.

21

Matt 12.01.14 at 7:36 pm

Like others I am most interested in the schooling question. I see that Adam Swift wrote a whole book on it and I should probably just read that. But this is a blog, and I don’t have the book. So: is the against-educational-advantages argument just one case of the general case against inequality? Is inequality in education, like inequality in housing, health care, or clothing, something that should be diminished because inequality in general should be diminished?

Or is there something specific to education about this argument? If households have equal income, but some allocate income to private education and some allocate it to more lavish vacations, is the allocation to education over vacation pernicious in a special way?

22

William Timberman 12.01.14 at 7:38 pm

The problem comes when you try to define innocent to include Andrew Carnegie, or Jamie Dimon. That libertarians either can’t see this, or pretend that doesn’t matter, is pretty much the definition of what’s wrong with them and their ideology.

23

Harold 12.01.14 at 7:40 pm

The education of children is a public good for the community. The Finnish government pays mothers who choose to stay home and educate their children — at least this is true for early childhood education. Comprehensive public schooling in Finland is only compulsory for ages 7-16, as I understand it. There is no tracking and there are no high stakes tests. College admission is by a matriculation exam, which may be retaken, and which emphasize literacy in several languages, including the “mother” tongue, whatever that might be.

24

harry b 12.01.14 at 7:53 pm

I guess we each wrote whole books about it… I think education is special, because it is both about the development of human capital which has profound effects on life chances (in a modern technological society with unequal outcomes; obviously much less in a society with much less unequal outcomes, or one in which positions are allocated directly by birth or other kinds of mechanism) and, as people have indicated, about the transmission and creation of values dear to the hearts of parents. Health care (and more so perhaps public health) influences the development of human capital in the young, obviously but, except at the margins, not the transmission and creation of values (see The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down for a complicated case).

Specifically on vacations: lavish vacations by the beach don’t confer long term competitive advantage (so don’t directly harm others) in the way that lavish spending on (effective) education does. Lavish vacations at the British Museum might — and lavish spending supporting a kid’s internship in Manhattan does (and probably without the collateral benefit of actually building human capital which contributes to the productive capacity of society that effective education has).

I chose the picture for the cover, Swift acquiesed and Princeton did the design around it, and gave us approval. We don’t have a party line about the significance of the picture but, no, it’s not ironic — those 4 pictures represent one of the best moments in American politics; the closest we’ve come to emulating social democracy (not close, but…), and yet evokes a sense of the value of the family that we develop in the book. I LOVE the cover myself, and have had that picture in mind as the cover for a number of years! Both the kids’ comments made me happy.

I’ll be back later, and respond somewhat to other questions!

25

Matt 12.01.14 at 7:54 pm

@20: I would say that if we should not socially construct property in such a way that it can be redistributed from those with much to those with little, we must avoid socially constructing it in such a way that it can be differentially accumulated into tiny and enormous holdings. If a CEO is to be paid 300 times as much as a rank-and-file worker, and does not wish to face redistribution, he must demonstrate concretely that he does 300 times as much work.

In reality there is no such CEO. There are limits to human variation. The difference in 100 meter dash times between Usain Bolt and the average freshman athlete is less than 2x. The difference between an extraordinarily productive software developer and an average one is perhaps 10x — and this is considered extraordinary. There is no field of work where the concretely measurable product of work varies 20-fold between average and exceptional workers, much less reflects the 300-fold gap between CEOs and workers in the same enterprise.

26

Brett Bellmore 12.01.14 at 8:09 pm

I would say that the largest part of “ownership” is control over the disposition or use of something. So if you socially construct ownership so that the nominal owner cannot use or transfer it in such a basic way as to benefit their family, what you’ve done is socially constructed it into becoming the effective property of whoever does get to make those decisions. That makes them pretty darned wealthy, and you’d better expect them to act like it.

In any event, this is angels on the head of a pin stuff, the drive to benefit one’s own family is so basic, pre-civilization, and almost certainly hardwired, that anybody who sets out to set it aside is at war with human nature.

27

Matt 12.01.14 at 8:17 pm

In any event, this is angels on the head of a pin stuff, the drive to exterminate one’s enemies is so basic, pre-civilization, and almost certainly hardwired, that anybody who sets out to set it aside is at war with human nature.

In any event, this is angels on the head of a pin stuff, the drive to enslave human beings is so basic, pre-civilization, and almost certainly hardwired, that anybody who sets out to set it aside is at war with human nature.

In any event, this is angels on the head of a pin stuff, the drive to have sexual relations with women at the age of puberty is so basic, pre-civilization, and almost certainly hardwired, that anybody who sets out to set it aside is at war with human nature.

Repeat as necessary.

28

William Timberman 12.01.14 at 8:22 pm

As penance for my potential thread derailment above, maybe I should add something more directly relevant to the OP. The page 99 test alludes to something about child-rearing that’s concerned me for a long time, although admittedly now that I’m a grandfather that concern has gotten a lot more abstract.

I think that the intensity of parents’ focus on their child’s welfare can sometimes lead to horrors comparable to those attributed in some circles to neglect — and yes, it does seem to me that there actually is such a thing as a judiciously benign neglect. When I was a kid in the early Fifties, sharing the territory of a post-war American Levittown with hordes of others more or less like myself, we were left largely to our own devices after school, and for the entire day when school wasn’t in session. We were expected home for lunch and for dinner, more or less, but that was pretty much it. Flash forward to the Nineties, and friends of mine, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, governed essentially every waking moment of their kid’s day, from getting him into the proper school, to arranging play dates with their friends’ kids, to choosing summer camps, helping him with his homework, coaching baseball, basketball and soccer, and so forth.

I understand why they did this, of course, and I also understand some of what had changed in society in the intervening 40 years, but I do still wonder a) if this was entirely healthy, b) how the effect on him should be measured against the consequences of my own upbringing (the age differences makes this impossible for me to do directly), and c) if the Harry and the commenters here see this as having as big a potentially negative effect on social outcomes as I do.

29

Trader Joe 12.01.14 at 8:25 pm

Matt @20
“There is no field of work where the concretely measurable product of work varies 20-fold between average and exceptional workers”

While I agree with your broader point, this is a vast overstatement as I think it omits value creation and qualitative differences that reflect skill rather than time.

A good author gets published an average one doesn’t – they both spend the same time on their writing.

A good doctor heals his patient and an average one leaves him sick – they may both spend the same time in training and on the floor.

A good teacher helps his students learn and prosper in life, an average one does not yet they both teach the same 1 hour class.

A good trader can turn $1000 into $1100 an average one will turn it into zero.

I don’t disagree with your point on relative pay – it would rarely equate to 300:1 but different skills will produce different outcomes with the same labor input…skill can produce value or no one would ever specialize in anything.

30

Matt 12.01.14 at 9:02 pm

I would be very surprised at a 20-fold difference in the proportion of patients healed between average and exceptional doctors. If there is such a wide gap, please provide a citation.

The difference in commercial success of published authors is precisely the kind of metric I want to avoid in judging allocation of income. Also, I would include only published authors in author income comparisons, just as I would exclude people-who-aspire-to-be-doctors from comparisons among practicing doctors. The income difference between a mid-list author and Stephen King or J.K. Rowling is staggering. It can’t be predicted beforehand by machines or humans. The income difference between a top selling author and an average one might as well be explained by lottery as by any prior discernible talent. I don’t think allocation by lottery is exactly unjust, but “X drew the winning ticket fair and square” doesn’t carry the same moral implication against redistribution as “X earned that fortune fair and square.”

Judging teachers is a hard case in itself. I have very little idea how to quantify teachers based on how their students learn and prosper in life, and suspect that any quantitative approach will be as broken as judging teachers by their students’ standardized test scores. But again, I very much doubt there is a teacher-attributable difference of 20x or even 10x between the average and the best. If one high school teacher’s students have income of $30,000 in adulthood and another’s have $300,000, I would be very surprised if the difference were more correlated with the between-teacher difference in one school district as opposed to the between-district composition of the student body.

31

b9n10nt 12.01.14 at 10:23 pm

@20. Re: Innocents

So, individual/familial economic units (IFEU, and the acronym will be heavily sited below) are mos authentically acquisitive when they are in a pioneering/settlement mode. In those moments, their property gain is least socially embedded, least affecting -for good or ill- those not involved in the gain. But was the plow, arrow, and blade an individual’s dream, manifested by an autarkic combination of cognition and effort?

If a cognitive system asserts that IFEUs precede state, that is a plausible argument. But if the question is rather, Does an IFEU precede community? And could the state in the past be a formalizing structure growing organically out of the community, maybe even in a polarity-creating manner that defines the family? This is my line of intuiting the genesis of social institutions. Messy.

Anyway, and if state relates to community as the family in law relates to an authentic IFEU, then we see no moral drama (seeing “innocents”) in the state relating to the family in law. And then we want both the state and the family in law to be grounded in authentic IFEU/communities.

But maybe this is nonsense?

What I’m hung up with is…Harry’s family ethics would acknowledge a strong role for the state in creating the very world that the IFEU competes in, but the state itself is estranged from the community…and that’s the source of IFEU reform.

That’s all very schematic…but the social vision I’m projecting on to Family Values is most readily distinguished as reformed by state but implicitly also by social custom. Raising a child whom you know and love for a healthy, individuated relationship to society does not require a mind-set of “it’s my child for my IFEUs benefit” to the exclusion of “let’s have the best society possible for my IFEUs benefit”. Still, having more socially-minded family units would entail some significant reforms of customas well as law. So what do you imagine an agenda would be for that? Because an egalitarian state atop a thriving community would require social institutions that dissolve rather than strengthen the parochialisms of say contemporary religions. And you need community to create community.

Back to a separate track, another implication to challenge from a libertarian/conservative would that which says that the experience of love that happens within a family draws one into IFEU dynamics, more so that mutualistic communal ones. When I feel the strongest moments of affection and appreciation for my child, and the greatest hope for her well being, I very much feel a communal energy…in that moment, now we can be a source of community for other families (our friends’). It’s like, the pride that she won that swimming race (fictionalizing!) brings up the thought (now she can be a coach here, the very place that provided context for her success). There is as much “now we fit in” as there is “now we are winning”. The momentum to earn more for you and your kin (time to drop another IFEU;)…the experience of love is largely absent from acting within that frame. I think we are consciously and unconsciously pulled toward the more genuine experience of love than it’s stressful competitors.

Would it require a kind of swimming up stream practice to evaluate family decisions, rather than being constantly triggered by habitual impulses? Perhaps, but that does not make the state’s role in my socialist utopia doomed to stumble on nativist principles anymore than piano lessons are doomed to come up against the instinctive drive to rest ones fingers. I think we want to work toward a parent-child practice that legitimizes and strengthens the communal instinct triggered by the most warm and intimate experiences with family.

32

TM 12.01.14 at 10:50 pm

“If one high school teacher’s students have income of $30,000 in adulthood and another’s have $300,000, I would be very surprised if the difference were more correlated with the between-teacher difference in one school district as opposed to the between-district composition of the student body.”

For those who take this kind of analysis seriously (or more to the point, who take the political consequences seriously), the strongest data in that direction was reported in a contentious and now infamous paper by Chetty et al. The study attempted to quantify teacher quality and then to correlate that difference with the later earnings of the respective teachers’ students. Although this study became the basis for a California judge’s decision to strike down a whole bunch of state laws (basically ruling that students were irreparably harmed by – take this – affording due process to teachers), the actual numbers reported by Chetty et al. are anything but impressive – a few percentage points of earnings difference between students taught by supposedly excellent and supposedly poor teachers (Chetty stretched the Y-axes of all his charts by a huge factor to make the difference seem consequential, and apparently nobody called him out on it). The difference is either barely or not at all statistically significant. The paper was nevertheless published in American Economic Review.

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-measuring-impact-of-teachers
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/28/columbia-economist-chetty-et-al-are-wrong-about-vam/
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/06/13/the-statistical-error-at-the-heart-of-the-vergara-decision/

33

J Thomas 12.01.14 at 11:15 pm

#10 Rakesh

Wouldn’t a libertarian argue that if no harm was done to a concrete other in the accumulation of wealth and no harm is done to a concrete other in the passing on of wealth, then there can be no good convincing legal argument to expropriate what would would have been inherited wealth.

I would make that argument myself.

So if you accumulate wealth all by yourself, with no interaction with anybody else, on your own land that my government has no sovereignty of, without any interaction with my ecosystem and without any interaction with my economy, without putting carbon into my air, then my government has no right to interfere.

But if any one of those criteria is not true, then you might be hurting somebody and then the government must decide how much harm you do and what should be done about it.

Less than 300 years ago there was a concept called “Divine Right of Kings” which held that each king owned his nation fair and square. He owned the land and the people, and he had the right to take what he wanted from his subjects, whose property was after all bestowed by his grace.

Now some people have a concept of “Divine Right of Accumulators” which argues that if you can find a way to extract stuff from the economy then that’s proof that you deserve it and nobody should be allowed to find any way to extract it from you. This is stupider than divine right of kings, but there’s no accounting for taste.

I figure that if you succeed in business by dynamiting your competitors’ factories, that’s wrong. You don’t deserve monopoly profits by doing that. Similarly if you succeed by corrupting the legislature to pass laws that make your competitors illegal. Similarly if you bribe government purchasing agents to buy your junk.

There are so many bad ways to accumulate wealth in our current society, I think before we talk about the rights of accumulators we need to first reform the society into something without an intrusive and corrupt government, but make it a society which still manages to regulate Ponzi schemes and other sorts of fraud and economic manipulation.

After we have a society where people mostly accumulate wealth without hurting anybody, then we should consider reasons why their wealth should not be taken from them.

But only after we have a good society. Not before.

34

Harold 12.01.14 at 11:30 pm

TM is correct and I thank him for laying it on the line.

35

Harold 12.01.14 at 11:32 pm

I was referring to TM at 32. As for divine right of kings: kings were not supposed to behave like tyrants, divine or not.

36

Claude Fischer 12.02.14 at 12:57 am

On the cover: Funny: Exactly the same image as the cover on my 2011 book, “Still Connected,” Russell Sage Press. That Rockwell was linked to Americana.

37

J Thomas 12.02.14 at 2:06 am

#35 Harold

As for divine right of kings: kings were not supposed to behave like tyrants, divine or not.

I’m pretty certain about this. I may be wrong in which case I’m wrongly certain. But I’m pretty certain that it’s some other tradition you’re talking about that says kings were not supposed to behave like tyrants. Divine right said that just as God ruled his angels above, the king rules his subjects below. Satan rebelled against God and was sent to hell, rebels against the king are also rightly sent to hell. Just as The Lord is a stern father who must impose harsh discipline on his mortal creations for the good of their immortal souls, also the king. As above, so below.

And we see echoes of this today. People ask what right do Ferguson residents have to be so upset? The police chief was appointed by the elected mayor, and he hired the individual policemen. The policeman who killed somebody followed the rules, as proven by the grand jury which reviewed the evidence and agreed to have no trial. Everything was done correctly according to the rules, it was an entirely legal killing. So they have no right to object and they are wrong to make a fuss.

Divine right of something-or-other.

38

Peter T 12.02.14 at 2:46 am

J thomas: read some history. Divine Right was more or less a C17 doctrine put forward in opposition to the claims of estates or parliaments to a share in governance or, worse, to a say in the selection of the ruler. It held that anointed rulers held the throne at divine pleasure. The boundaries of what this meant did not extend to tyranny, even in absolutist states.

As for the op, I think Harry and his co-author have yet again succumbed to the vice of taking the recent western middle-class household as conceived in liberalism as some sort of universal standard. What’s missing, as bn910nt hints at 31, is conceptions of the family as an ongoing institution, building wealth, skills and attitudes over the generations (this is not to endorse BB rant – what a “family’ is is socially constituted). There’s a yawning gap between the individual and the state which is, in practice, filled by all sorts of things (families among them), which Harry’s account simply neglects. Said, of course, without reading the book.

39

Ken_L 12.02.14 at 3:00 am

“I mean, it’s just part of your job, isn’t it?”

Your daughter is wise beyond her years; sadly she explains why most academic publications see the light of day. It’s nice to see one that apparently reflects genuine enthusiasm by the authors for the issues they discuss.

40

Ken_L 12.02.14 at 3:06 am

” Someone who was only a parent—someone for whom “parent” was the entire content of his identity” pretty well describes my brother. It’s interesting, and possibly not coincidental, that as soon as his children were old enough, they elected to go and live in various countries about as far away from their father as it was possible to get.

41

Watson Ladd 12.02.14 at 3:41 am

@harry b: Let me see if I understand correctly. There are two steps in paying for private school, or a trip to overseas that you see as objectionable. The first is that the ability to do it was unequally distributed. The second is that it reproduces the hierarchy as above. And I think you want both of them, to get the result being immoral, to avoid the beach vacation or studying being immoral.

I’m not sure this is productive for a number of reasons. The first is that there are some ways of attaining the same result as private school which don’t involve money. My brother went to Horace Mann, I went to BCA. The same effect, namely a better education, but with different means. It seems odd to consider these morally distinct acts. I’m also unsure of the extent to which different expenditure of resources, vs different attitudes toward education explain the differences in outcomes.

The second is a more virtue ethics based argument. A parent who spends time and money on education is doing so to provide for their children, and to cultivate their minds. The sort of parent who spends money on a beach vacation is sending a rather different sort of message about what the good life is. That the life of the mind brings about earthly rewards (sometimes, and in no proportion to the quality of that life) doesn’t change its value. Cornelia did not teach her children because they would be wealthy as a result of their knowledge, but rather because it was part of caring for them.

The third argument is a political one: “Wrong life cannot be lived rightly”. To the extent that one lives in a city divided between those who have and those who do not, where some schools struggle to provide paper and others are lavishly well funded, abstaining from participating in the system isn’t a solution. Politics isn’t morality: as the person who made the argument about tax minimization upthread said, one can participate in a system one wants to change.

Fourthly, talented students should be capable of developing their talents. Many school districts shortchange G&T programs. Some high schools in the US do not teach calculus. A student in one of these districts will not be able to gain admission to several universities in the US. If their parents have the money to avoid this fate, or are lucky enough to live in a district that can provide for them, why shouldn’t they?

The last argument is also political: how we consider the family has changed in response to different configurations of labor and social life. There is no reason to elevate one particular configuration to the level of an unchanging, morally ordained unit of society.

42

harry b 12.02.14 at 3:59 am

I don’t think I ever said buying better education for your kid is immoral. Certainly I don’t think it always is. Just that the reasons not to do it, and for the government to prevent people from doing it, aren’t exactly like the reasons for objecting to inequality generally. The first problem you raise with the view I didn’t express and don’t hold is a reason to object just as strongly to the other ways of getting your kid a better education than others as to buying it. The second problem — if I understood it correctly — is something we talk about at length in the book (and I agree with what you say). The fourth problem is a reason to allow people to buy better education for their kids, to be weighed against the reasons for not allowing them to (and how to weight those reasons depends on the circumstances). I didn’t understand why the third point you made was relevant to the matter in hand.

43

geo 12.02.14 at 4:05 am

WT @28: it does seem to me that there actually is such a thing as a judiciously benign neglect

Cf. D. H. Lawrence, “The Education of the People” in Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers, Volume 1.

44

Watson Ladd 12.02.14 at 4:30 am

Sorry for misunderstanding the point from the rather limited summary of it presented in the linked blog and comments. I suppose the trip to see the British Museum is a more core example of purchasing advantage, but I’m not sure how it helps.

As for the Adorno aphorism, I think that talking about inequality in moral terms ignores the fundamentally political nature of such inequality. The Soviet Union also had an educational hierarchy, and a class system, but the ways in which these functioned and interacted was very different. Racism in the US south was inequality, and was immoral, but the solution was political, not some personal abstention from participation. Sending one’s child to a failing public school is a great statement, but running for school board can do much more.

In context it’s an argument against anarchism of a particular kind, but it’s also an argument against a particular kind of liberalism. Buying food at a coop on one’s fixed wheel bicycle is not eliminating capitalism or its wrongs! I don’t think it’s a fixable argument, or even “in scope” when one decides to write a book like this, except that it points to the limits of the approach.

45

js. 12.02.14 at 4:59 am

There’s a yawning gap between the individual and the state which is, in practice, filled by all sorts of things (families among them), which Harry’s account simply neglects. Said, of course, without reading the book.

I would like to endorse this wholeheartedly. (I’m also still curious about the cover. Not that I don’t like it—I do! But I can’t see how it can’t be at least a little ironic, or at least create a certain sort of distancing effect that isn’t so far removed from irony, at least for someone my age, who spent their late teens in the mid-late 90s. This isn’t well thought out yet though, so I’ll have to get back to you on this. But basically, it’s just that it’s so, well, old-fashioned).

46

Harold 12.02.14 at 5:46 am

It is “old fashioned” because it depicts a white man in authority and a woman doing all the work.

47

js. 12.02.14 at 5:53 am

That was my point, yes. If your ideal of the “family” is so resolutely pre-feminist (for lack of a better prefix), it seems vaguely problematic.

48

js. 12.02.14 at 6:10 am

Sorry, just to spell this out a bit more. The book is called Family Values. This is a phrase the right has been braying on about for a couple of decades (admittedly less so now). And _their_ idea of the family is exactly like this: white as snow and patriarchical as fuck. So when you have a book with this title that’s about the concept of the family and liberal egalitarianism, _and you have this cover_, it seemed like a pretty natural thought that some bit of irony was in play. Hence the bit of surprise/confusion.

49

Harold 12.02.14 at 6:41 am

Well, I certainly agree with the sentiment of the Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms. And I realize that the painting is not supposed to be realistic; the bird might just as well be made of two dimensional cardboard (like the one Bush served to the troops in Iraq) for all the weight it has in the picture. Its function is to symbolize abundance.

Still, coming so soon after actual the Thanksgiving meal, which in our house takes days to prepare, and knowing how much work it is to make that kind of a dinner, the inegalitarian nature of the depiction jumps to the fore.

50

Meredith 12.02.14 at 6:50 am

To the OP (and not the comments), I’ve been following a bunch of folks (relatives, as it happens) in 19th c., early 20th NYC, and I am struck: family do stick together (however sticky it often was). Family were more reliable (on the whole) than “the state.” I offer this as some kind of socialist.

51

Tony Lynch 12.02.14 at 7:20 am

Rakesh, how do I harm a concrete other? Jackhammer?

52

Rakesh 12.02.14 at 7:45 am

Yes that would be one way–perhaps fraud would be another. Wage theft yet another. Note: I don’t agree with the libertarian position, and want at some point to compare Raymond Plant’s critique of the libertarian case against inheritance taxes to what appears to be Brighouse and Swift’s. But too many papers to mark.

53

Matt 12.02.14 at 7:51 am

Rakesh, how do I harm a concrete other? Jackhammer?

I think that the libertarian would specify a concrete other so as to avoid dealing with externalities. For example, burning coal generates fine particulate matter that increases the risk of fatal heart attacks and asthma attacks when inhaled. The power plant owner gets the profits and everyone who breathes air gets part of the health burden. This would seem to be a serious problem for power plant owners specifically and the atomized-individual libertarian model of society in general. But not if you define the problem away!

It’s usually impossible to say if any concrete individual suffered a fatal heart attack from a nearby power plant’s air pollution. The effect only shows up in epidemiology. Ta-da. Abuse of the environmental commons, and a host of other thorny problems, are simply defined away when you only recognize injustices that have a concrete victim.

54

Rakesh 12.02.14 at 7:58 am

But Matt the presence of externalities could be used to justify a tax on transactions, not necessarily an inheritance tax. So I am wondering what Brighouse and Swift’s argument is.

55

Dave Heasman 12.02.14 at 9:22 am

Sorry to go a bit off-topic but this –

Matt @20
“There is no field of work where the concretely measurable product of work varies 20-fold between average and exceptional workers”

wasn’t the case a while ago. Programming computers in a language like COBOL, some people were 30 to 50 times as productive as others. The pay differentials weren’t as extreme, which was good for me in 1972 but bad for me in 1977.

56

J Thomas 12.02.14 at 9:59 am

#55 Dave Heasman

“There is no field of work where the concretely measurable product of work varies 20-fold between average and exceptional workers”

wasn’t the case a while ago. Programming computers in a language like COBOL, some people were 30 to 50 times as productive as others. The pay differentials weren’t as extreme, which was good for me in 1972 but bad for me in 1977.

In the other extreme, an average airliner pilot delivers his passengers to the next airport on time. One who suffers a failure that he cannot correct in seconds gets them all killed (and himself) and loses an expensive plane. A tremendous difference between the average performance and the worst.

It could be argued that the average psychiatrist has no effect at all, while the best do a whole lot of good and the worst do a whole lot of bad. But it could also be argued that no psychaitrists have any effect and the good and bad ones are just the tails of a random distribution of results.

In general it could be argued that if the best at a particular job are 30 times as effective as normal, then the normal worker is no better than 3% efficient and we basicly don’t know what we’re doing.

57

J Thomas 12.02.14 at 10:26 am

#38 Peter T

J thomas: read some history. Divine Right was more or less a C17 doctrine put forward in opposition to the claims of estates or parliaments to a share in governance or, worse, to a say in the selection of the ruler. It held that anointed rulers held the throne at divine pleasure. The boundaries of what this meant did not extend to tyranny, even in absolutist states.

Peter T, your interpretation is a possible one, though overly rigid and silly.

The reason this doctrine got a lot of attention in the seventeenth century was that this was the first time it was seriously questioned. Traditionally in europe it was argued that kings could only be challenged by other kings through force of arms, or by the Pope. Peasant uprisings were considered wrong almost by definition.

Greek tyrants were not kings but people who took over essentially the rights of kings without being in fact kings. They were essentially illegitimate kings. The european concept of a tyrannical king was a 17th century thing, created to oppose the traditional idea of divine right. Traditionally if a king did wrong it was between him and his God, or as it were his Pope. His subjects were not supposed to take matters into their own hands according to their own judgement.

But this is only my interpretation. Others have the right to disagree. It’s a question of what things meant to other people, not the sort of historical fact that we could use scholarship to determine the one right answer.

58

Brett Bellmore 12.02.14 at 10:33 am

“I think that the libertarian would specify a concrete other so as to avoid dealing with externalities. “

I think the libertarian would specify a concrete harm, so as to avoid dealing with *psychic* externalities such as envy and spite. Suffering because you’ve inhaled a toxin? Yeah, we care about that. Suffering because your neighbor has an in ground swimming pool, and you don’t?

THAT we don’t care about.

59

Peter T 12.02.14 at 11:45 am

“It’s a question of what things meant to other people, not the sort of historical fact that we could use scholarship to determine the one right answer.”

We could, you know, read the pamphlets, speeches, letters, books, newspapers and sermons through which people at the time debated these concepts.

60

J Thomas 12.02.14 at 12:42 pm

#59 Peter T

“It’s a question of what things meant to other people, not the sort of historical fact that we could use scholarship to determine the one right answer.”

We could, you know, read the pamphlets, speeches, letters, books, newspapers and sermons through which people at the time debated these concepts.

Yes, we could do that for the 17th century debates.

My claim is that before that time divine right was undisputed, not that it had not been invented. So we can’t expect a big debate about it in say 1300, where the king says he has divine right and various of his nobles and peasants argue with him about it and they publish pamphlets arguing the points and the newspapers report the debates. ;-)

You might find some written sermons, where priests argue that kings do or don’t in general have divine right. I think Aquinas had something to say about it.

Maybe you could argue that the concept which was universally undisputed which was functionally the same as divine right did not have the name “divine right” and so it doesn’t count. Or you could argue that they didn’t believe it because they didn’t talk about it much . Or something.

Meanwhile there is an ongoing debate about what conservatives think about racism, based partly on what they write. I think there’s considerable room for interpretation there, despite the large volume of writing that could be studied.

61

Adam Swift 12.02.14 at 12:52 pm

js @48

As Harry said @24, there’s no party line on how to read the cover, but I’d be surprised if he were denying any ironic aspect. It’s important to our conception of family values that they can be realized in families with single parents, same-sex parents, adoptive parents and, yes, even non-white parents. So while there’s something important and good going on in that picture, my acquiescence to his suggestion assumed more than a little irony too.

62

Zamfir 12.02.14 at 2:00 pm

J Thomas, medieval kings didn’t have anything like the absolutist rights claimed (and sometimes enjoyed) by their later successors. Medieval kings were primus inter pares in a complex feudal system, their position constantly challenged by other feudal lords. A king was a very important duke, but how much the other dukes (or even lower lords) would listen depended on the details of the moment

The position of kings grew a lot stronger with the gradual evolution towards modern statehood. The state has is own armies, it relies less and less on the family-realms of the nobility for its power. Instead, noblemen derive their position of power from their position within the state.

And while the newer classes start to rival the nobility for position within the states, they have nothing like the power base of the old nobility, who used to have their own armies and used to rule their territories as near sovereigns. So the state it is, only challenged by other states, and the question is how separate the state can be from the king. That’s when people start to claim absolutist powers for the king, they’re saying that the new unchallenged position of 16th, 17th century states is by rights the unchallenged private position of kings. Leviathan, you know.

63

harry b 12.02.14 at 2:07 pm

Its so hard to write about irony without being ironic. When people straighfacedly (as it were) ask you if you are being ironic, what do you say? The irony in the cover is multi-layered, along with the irony of the title. The phrase, and the picture, are both associated with a quite conservative traditional conception of the family. The book elaborates a justification of the family as an institution, which justification helps us understand what the family should be like — what rights parents should have with respect to the children they raise, and what children have a right to from parents. As Adam says, it turns out that the values that justify the family can be realised in a wide range of kinds of family, far beyond the traditional family. In other words, the people who use “family values” in the way that js describes in his post have gotten things quite seriously wrong. But actual family values are really, really important, and that is why everyone should have access to them, in adulthood as well as childhood; this thought, in turn, justifies a great deal of egalitarian redistribution.

In the book we don”t go as far as Martin Luther, who thought you couldn’t be a good father unless you changed your children’s diapers, but I, at least, think that if you don’t you are missing out on something really important; in fact, I’d say (again, this isn’t the book, and Adam should be saddled with it) that if you don’t do a lot of hands-on day-to-day caring for your children you (and they) are missing out on a lot that is valuable — and therefore traditional gender roles result in men and children missing out on very valuable experiences. If you google “Strong Gender Egalitarianism” you’ll see the argument to that effect I make with Erik Wright.

For me the cover was 64.354% ironic, the remainder non-ironic. Don’t really want to discuss irony any further, as discussing it just seems too ironic (or something).

Many of the questions people have brought up are addressed in the book! But I’ll come back and make brief replies later today if I get a chance, and tomorrow if today doesn’t work out!

64

TM 12.02.14 at 2:30 pm

From what I have read in the comments, am I right to assume that your concept of family is the nuclear family, even though that may include same sex parents?

65

TM 12.02.14 at 2:38 pm

BB 58: “I think the libertarian would specify a concrete harm, so as to avoid dealing with *psychic* externalities such as envy and spite. Suffering because you’ve inhaled a toxin? Yeah, we care about that. Suffering because your neighbor has an in ground swimming pool, and you don’t?”

I think it’s the other way round. Libertarians care a lot about the “right” to fence in your property and prevent others from accessing it. They argue for example that beach property owners have the right to prevent others from accessing the beach. This is a real example of “psychic” externalities – a tort that doesn’t involve any actual harm done (and also of course the owner didn’t create or improve the beach, they just want to be able to exclude others from it).

As to real externalities like toxic pollution, libertarians have nothing to offer but a bit of rhetoric. Mostly they don’t actually care but when they pretend to care, they may concede the problem but oppose doing anything about it. Because in a libertarian framework, there is simply nothing that can be done. Contract negotiations can’t remedy air pollution.

66

Salem 12.02.14 at 2:42 pm

“Traditionally in europe it was argued that kings could only be challenged by other kings through force of arms, or by the Pope.”

“My claim is that before that time divine right was undisputed, not that it had not been invented. So we can’t expect a big debate about it in say 1300, where the king says he has divine right and various of his nobles and peasants argue with him about it and they publish pamphlets arguing the points and the newspapers report the debates. ;-)”

Yes, who indeed can imagine a big debate in the 13th century about the rights and powers of, let’s say, the English crown, what are its legitimate powers of taxation, whether it is bound by traditional laws and customs, and so on, complete with open letters to the Pope, other churchmen, and other European authorities trying to win them over to their side. Surely such a thing is too fantastical to imagine.

Or who could imagine a king in, let’s say, 1399, being deposed for tyranny. There certainly wouldn’t have been a big debate in Parliament about it, with speeches and proclamations we could read today.

67

Bloix 12.02.14 at 3:22 pm

Perhaps instead of ironic (at #6) I should have said snarky. Obviously there’s no non-naïve way to take the image straight. There is a distance between our understanding and the painter’s intention, which is one definition of irony. But our distance from his intended meaning doesn’t necessarily imply ridicule, and that’s what I meant by saying that I hoped the use of the picture wasn’t entirely ironic.

68

js. 12.02.14 at 3:55 pm

As somewhat of a fan of irony myself (or so I like to think), I would like to sincerely apologize for having prompted harry b to write @63. A less complicated thank you to Adam Swift for his response @61.

69

djw 12.02.14 at 4:05 pm

Looking forward to digging into this; congratulations.

70

Ogden Wernstrom 12.02.14 at 5:17 pm

Within a family, one contributes according to one’s abilities and one receives according to one’s needs.

I think that the family is a socialist organization. Apparently, right-wing reactionaries can not admit that they support small-scale socialism. Or they should be anti-family – in part because hard work is not fully rewarded or appreciated, as Harry B’s daughter demonstrates:

I mean, [writing the book is] just part of your job, isn’t it? It’s just what you’re supposed to do.

71

Brett Bellmore 12.02.14 at 5:34 pm

I can certainly admit it: Socialism can work on a very small scale. Families, certainly, voluntary cooperatives sometimes. Always organizations where the people have something in common beyond just happening to be in a particular area.

On a larger scale, socialism is hopeless, to the extent it can survive at all, it is only because it tolerates non-socialism doing the things that it can’t do. And on a smaller scale it survives above a very primative level only because it is imbedded in a non-socialist society.

72

Harold 12.02.14 at 6:29 pm

The King was bound by God’s laws, the question was, who could depose him if he broke them. That the lower orders could not was a foregone conclusion; the question was what rights did the nobles have in this regard. Salem (@68) reminds us that Richard II was deposed by the nobility for tyranny in 1399.

The Middle Ages was fraught, almost from the outset, with unresolved controversies over whether and how far the Pope’s power extended over secular rulers (see Investiture Conflict). The popes had always claimed (and still do, as far as I can tell) that their power overrode that of kings and emperors, and that they could release subjects from the obligation to obey civil laws if the secular rulers’ transgressions warranted it.

During the Middle Ages incompetent popes themselves could theoretically be deposed by a Council of Cardinals and Bishops (Conciliarism).

The sixteenth century Wars of Religion underscored the need for a centralized national authority to prevent civil chaos. Jean Bodin (1530–1596) formulated the concept of Divine Right of Kings (although the king was still supposed to rule with the help of a council of nobles and advisers and to be answerable to God’s laws).

A parallel rationalizing process was occurring in the churches. Starting with the “Humanist” Pope Nicolas V in the late 15th c., and especially, during the subsequent Counter-Reformation, the Papacy also began to claim that its “Divine Right” superseded the right of the Councils to depose them.

Political “Contract” theories of government, tending to limit the power of kings if not to outright republicanism, started appearing contemporaneously with “Divine Right” theories (and also, coming for a time from both Protestant and Catholic radicals, with treatises on when rulers could legitimately be assassinated – see wikipedia entry on Monarchomachs). Various solutions have been tried, but none of these questions have ever really been resolved.

http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/westn/absolutism.html

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Harold 12.02.14 at 9:26 pm

“Family values” of socialism or “communitarianism” in the serving of meals?: http://animesecrets.org/an-insiders-look-at-japan-gochisousama-deshita/

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J Thomas 12.03.14 at 1:33 am

Zamfir, Salem, and Harold, I very much suspect that you all are right and I am wrong.

I don’t want to make the effort to study the question and confirm this suspicion, but I am no longer ready to argue that my claim was right, and I think it was probably wrong.

Thank you for informing me about this.

Back to the point I wanted to make, a lot of libertarians appear to believe in the Divine Right of accumulators, with the idea that if you manage to accumulate stuff from the economy, it is *yours* and nobody should have the right to take it from you.

75

Brett Bellmore 12.03.14 at 10:20 am

Eh, it’s better than the left’s Divine Right of looters.

76

J Thomas 12.03.14 at 10:40 am

#76 BB

Eh, it’s better than the left’s Divine Right of looters.

It IS a divine right of looters. Although people who manage to make their fortunes by providing useful products or services in the face of free competition are also accepted among the looters.

77

Brett Bellmore 12.03.14 at 11:17 am

You don’t seem to feel any need to distinguish between actual looters, and people who made their money by doing something productive. That’s a bit of a problem from my perspective.

78

J Thomas 12.03.14 at 11:52 am

#77 BB

You don’t seem to feel any need to distinguish between actual looters, and people who made their money by doing something productive. That’s a bit of a problem from my perspective.

Show me how you distinguish between people who made their money doing something productive, versus people who made their money by metaphorically looting it. Then I’ll tell you how much I agree with your method to tell them apart.

79

engels 12.03.14 at 2:32 pm

Congratulations!

My favourite kid’s comment on a book was GA Cohen’s kids on Jonathan Glover’s ‘What Sort of People Should There Be’ (according to Cohen): “That’s easy, they should be like us!”

80

harry b 12.03.14 at 3:29 pm

Aha — I think the correct quote is “That’s div [as in, that’s a divi question — I haven’t heard anyone use that word for 2 decades at least, my step-sister used to use it]], they should be like that”. Yes, its a great comment, maybe the publisher should ask her permission to use it on the back cover when they reprint it!

81

LFC 12.03.14 at 4:35 pm

Re medieval kings and all that:

I realize things usu. have to be done in broad brush strokes in a blog comment thread, and while I more-or-less agree with Zamfir @62 as a broad-brush account, there are v. significant nat’l variations: e.g. the monarch’s position in late-medieval/early-modern France is different from that in late-medieval/early-modern England.

Without getting into the specific theory of “divine right,” it’s certainly the case that French kings (I think English too, for that matter) claimed their authority derived from God long before the 16th century. That does not of course mean that in practice they were “absolute” monarchs (which they usu. weren’t), though e.g. Philip the Fair (r.1285-1314, if I recall the dates correctly) did succeed in defending his authority to tax the clergy etc against the claims/wishes of the Pope, and was otherwise a centralizing ruler.

A classic on the medieval political theory of monarchy (have not read more than pieces of it) is Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies (1957). Long and somewhat daunting. If you don’t want to bother with all the theory and want a very short, readable account of what was actually happening — with the caveats that (a) it’s basically limited to England and France, (b) is a few decades old, and (c) is not nec. right about everything (e.g., dates the inception of something akin to sovereign statehood too early) — Strayer’s On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State is still worth reading.

82

TM 12.03.14 at 6:05 pm

BB 75, such a gross piece of troll. A shame there’s still people willing to feed.

83

Harold 12.04.14 at 1:21 am

In addition to France, Venice, Florence, and Sicily also at various times claimed the right to select and control the clergy. This was what upset Pope Nicolas. It was odd because before becoming pope he was quite liberal and had even written racy novels.

84

djw 12.04.14 at 2:10 pm

Harry, do you think the chapter on the transmission of values could be productively read on its own, or are the arguments too tied to the rest of the book to extricate? It’s a topic I’d love to tackle more directly in my multiculturalism class.

85

harry b 12.04.14 at 2:19 pm

I think it could be sensibly read alone — or maybe in combination with parts of the chapter on adults (my guess is you’d need about half the material in the chapter on adults). Everything is written in a way that should be pretty accessible. Also, if you like, I have a short piece on religious schooling I could pdf and send you (which I think accompanies the transmission chapter pretty well, but you could always not use!).

86

dax 12.05.14 at 1:23 pm

It’s ironic that Adam Swift’s parents sent him to a comprehensive because it was a comprehensive even though they could have well afforded a public school, and here Adam (with Harry) turns around and criticises passing on parental values to children; when it’s his parental values which he is espousing.

87

dax 12.05.14 at 1:26 pm

That last sentence might read better as “…when it’s his parents’ values which he is espousing.”

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harry b 12.05.14 at 1:44 pm

Actually that’s a misreading of the book — it turns out (conveniently, you might think) that our theory is pretty permissive about parents shaping their children’s values — much more so than about them conferring advantage.

Anyway, he can speak for himself, but I think that his school went comprehensive only at the very end of the time he was there. My parents were opposed to grammar schools, but I attended one for 4 years — then spent the rest of my time in the least well-regarded comprehensive school in the LEA my dad became CEO of. I do share a lot of my dad’s values, but in many cases it is because I have brought him round.

89

dax 12.05.14 at 2:35 pm

“Actually that’s a misreading of the book”

Quite possible I haven’t read it.

“it turns out (conveniently, you might think) that our theory is pretty permissive about parents shaping their children’s values”

Certain “bourgeois” values are thought to confer economic advantage. Hard work, the ability to sacrifice, etc. The ability to transmit values is thus one way to pass on economic privilege. Again, I haven’t read the book, but I thought Adam would say that passing on economic privilege is wrong. Would you be able to render this part consistent (for someone who will not be reading the book!)?

90

Adam Swift 12.07.14 at 12:31 pm

dax

Harry’s right, I went to a grammar school which ‘went comprehensive’ only while I was doing A levels.

We don’t suggest that passing on economic privilege within families is wrong per se. It depends on how it happens. We offer a theory about which kinds of parent-child interaction can and cannot be justified by appeal to the value of the family. Some of the interactions that can be justified that way will indeed result in the conferral of advantage, and, as you say, some of that conferral will come through the transmission of values. There’s a difference between the kind of advantage-conferral that results from the parent-child interactions needed to produce ‘familial relationship goods’ and those resulting from other mechanisms such as choosing an elite private school.

Sorry it’s more complicated than it looks. If you want to know more without reading the book, there’s a 20-minute podcast version here: http://philosophybites.com/2014/10/adam-swift-on-parental-partiality.html.

[Sorry if that doesn’t appear as a link, I’m not good at this.]

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engels 12.07.14 at 11:50 pm

Possibly an alternative policy response to the Daxian dilemma:

‘Tristram Hunt, England’s shadow education minister, also called last month for character to be taught in schools, saying that its development “should not be left to chance”.’

‘To support the drive, Character Scotland is launching the Character Development Network – an online portal giving teachers access to resources and activities. These include a “character tree”, where children will be asked to attach leaves with their names on to strengths written on the branches.’

https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6420245

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