17.9.15

THAT EVOLUTIONARY DEAD END.

I'm not impressed by the grievance mongers dressing up sloppy social science with fancy terminology like "intersectionality" and "hegemonic biases."  The good news is that the serious social scientists are coming to grips with the emergence of norms and the damage done by deconstructing them.  There's a taxonomy of norms that is useful.  Loosely, an honor culture is one in with well-defined norms, perhaps well-defined status hierarchies, with individuals achieving redress for dishonor.   Dignity culture has well-defined norms, but procedurally all individuals hold equal status, and legal institutions provide redress.   Victimization cultures, Reason's Ronald Bailey argues, overwork the legal institutions to provide redress for minor slights.  Micro-aggression, thus, is the quintessential first-world problem, in which the most egregious slights are infrequent and severely punished, thus oppression manifests itself in the small things.
A victimhood culture combines an honor culture's quickness to take offense with an overdependence on the coercive institutions that serve as a dignity culture's last resort. If Campbell, Manning, and Horwitz are right about the direction American society is taking, that's really terrible news. A victimhood culture will spawn social conflict, which in turn will produce an ever larger and more coercive government tasked with trying to suppress it.
That refers to two separate works, both being offered for peer review and comments, clarifications, or refutations in the scholarly journals.

Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning's "Microaggression and Moral Cultures" appears in Comparative Sociology.   This is what proper social science looks like.
We argue that the social conditions that promote complaints of oppression and victim-ization overlap with those that promote case-building attempts to attract third parties. When such social conditions are all present in high degrees, the result is a culture of victimhood in which individuals and groups display high sensitivity to slight, have a tendency to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties, and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance. We contrast the culture of victimhood with cultures of honor and cultures of dignity.
The rules themselves provide incentives to plead victimization, whether or not such pleading is being enabled by the intersectionality types.   The testable implications are in the paper, with careful reading, but the cross-tabs and regressions are for somebody's future research.  But where honor cultures collide with dignity cultures, the friction can go far beyond micro-aggression.
Outsiders who enter [communities governed by an honor culture] might misunderstand the local standards of provocation to their own detriment, while insiders who seek success in mainstream society might find their reaction to slights viewed as a sign of immaturity and low self-control.
The policy folly, for diversity hustlers and their cultural competency fetishes, is in going too far to excuse the bad behavior of people who have never been properly socialized, thereby enabling their continued lack of self-control.  But that's too strong an argument to draw directly from Campbell and Manning.

Steven Horwitz, an economist, provides another piece of the puzzle, by tackling the emergence of norms.
Unsupervised childhood play is how children learn the sort of informal rule-making and rule-enforcing that is so critical to a liberal society’s attempt to minimize coercion. It is a key way that children learn the skills necessary to engage in social cooperation in all kinds of social spaces within the market and, especially, outside of it. We learn how to problem solve in these ways without the need to invoke violence or some sort of external threat, which enables us as adults to cooperate peacefully in intimate groups as well as within what Hayek called the Great Society. A society that weakens children’s ability to learn these skills denies them what they need to smooth social interaction and undermines their ability to participate in what Tocqueville called “the art of association.” Losing the skills learned in unsupervised play makes coercion more likely by threatening our ability to create and sustain the rule-governed relationships that are at the core of liberal societies. If we parent or legislate in ways that make it harder for children to develop these skills, we are taking away a key piece of what makes it possible for free people to generate peaceful and productive liberal orders.
Not only that, letting your kids play with other kids helps develop the immune system and reduce the incidence of allergies. Instead, helicopter parents give way to bubble-wrapping school officials, and the victimization culture is residually inhabited by morons, in the old clinical sense of the term.

Megan McArdle expands the argument. Where there's a procedural right not to be micro-aggressed against, life becomes microaggression all the way down.
If you establish a positive right to be free from alienating comments, it's hard to restrict that right only to people who have been victimized in certain ways, or to certain degrees. It's easy to say everyone has a right not to be alienated. It's also easy to say "you should only seek social or administrative sanction for remarks that are widely known and understood to be offensive slurs." It is very, very hard to establish a rule that only some groups are entitled to be free from offense -- because the necessary corollary is that it's fine to worry the other groups with a low-level barrage of sneers, and those groups will not take this lying down. The result will be proliferation of groups claiming victim status, attempting to trump the victim status of others.
Not to mention that when sensitivity to micro-aggression accompanies euphemistic language, saying "out-of-status tourist" with a sneer becomes as much a micro-aggression as "illegal alien."

There's additional social science emerging. Start with Jonathan Haidt, in the linked piece offering a rapid response to Campbell and Manning, with the promise of a longer work expanding his thoughts to come.  He suggests we might be seeing a shift from dignity culture to victimization culture.  Since that shift is being pushed by a vanguard, I fear that the outcome will not be pretty,

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