Thursday, May 24, 2012

Anarchy in May: Eller on the Just Society (Pt. 2)

The following is part of the Anarchy in May series which examines Christian anarchism and quotes prominent Christian anarchist thinkers. For a more detailed introduction and a table of contents, please see Anarchy in May: Brief Introduction and Contents.
Marxism is the easiest and most obvious choice for demonstrating the folly of human attempts to construct a classless society, but Eller is quick to recognize that the projects of social equity are not limited to efforts by workers to control the means of production or even by groups attempting to overthrow nation-states to acheive liberation. There are oppressed classes (real or imagined) constantly struggling to level the social playing field that have nothing to do, overtly, with political communism. According to Eller, these movements in favor of "classlessness" suffer from the same methodological flaws that Marxism does.

As an example, Eller offers an analysis of feminism:

The clear and laudable goal of the feminist movement is to create a society in which the social distinctions between male and female are reduced to adiaphora, matters of no consequence. Not only any hint of inequality but even the distinguishing marks of the two are to be minimized. A true classlessness is to transpire. Yet that classlessness cannot happen by the direct approach of playing down the distinctions; the power of the oppressing class must first be broken. No, the immediate steps must point directly away from the ultimate goal they would serve.

Thus: “Yes, the two genders should be treated without distinction.” So, from time immemorial we have had us an English language that enables us to speak by the house without dropping so much as a hint that two different genders of human beings are involved, that there even exists a distinction known as “gender.” Yet, that way hardly serves the raising of feminine class consciousness. Therefore, the rule now is to speak (with doubled pronouns and the like) so that the gender distinction is always prominent, to use gendered terminology in preference to the ungendered, to take care in specifying women at least as often as men. The feminist grammar is designed to serve gender awareness, not the classlessness of gender ignorance.

Thus: “Yes, the goal is that gender distinctions disappear.” However, on the way to that goal, feminine class distinction is necessary—to the point that one theology cannot be taken as serving human beings indiscriminately. There must now be a feminist theology in which women can have their special concept of God, their definition of salvation, their preferred reading of the gospel. Yes, just that far must the commonality of women and men be denied—for the sake of ultimate classlessness!

Thus: “Yes, we look for the day when the distinction between women and men will be seen as insignificant if not nonexistent.” Nevertheless, for the sake of the ideological solidarity necessary to get us there, we find it right to posit an absolute moral distinction between the sexes—namely, that it is men who cause wars and that, if given the chance, women would create peace.

…In undoubted sincerity, the feminists claim that their interest is not simply in liberating themselves but in liberating men as well. Yet what must be recognized is that this has been the standard revolutionary line of every class war ever mounted. However, the question is whether true classlessness ever can be achieved through one class’s gaining the power to dictate the terms of that classlessness. Even more, can it be called “liberation” for other people to take it upon themselves to liberate you according to their idea of what your liberation should be? It strikes me that “liberation” is one term the person will have to define for himself.

But if “class distinction” and “class struggle” be our chosen means, is it possible that the contradiction ever can be overcome?—that “classlessness” can ever mean anything other than “we are now all of one class, because ours is it”’ or “liberation” mean anything other than “you are no liberated, because we are in a position to tell you that you are”?

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