The Principle of Equal Worth

11 March 2010

Thursday


Yesterday in Periodization and Progress I noted that, “describing stages of social development can be taken as establishing a hierarchy of societies, attaching a higher value to those at the top of the hierarchy while assigning a lower value to those at the bottom of the hierarchy. ”

It has occurred to me that we now apply to cultures, societies, nation-states, and civilizations the principle of equal worth that has produced democracy in its modern form. While it is a noble ideal that asserts that souls are of equal worth, and which they extrapolates this principle to collections of souls, holding that all social wholes are of equal worth, this also prevents us from recognizing the distinct contributions of different peoples.

Recently in Diversity and Pluralism I wrote, “…we are supposed to believe that in the most advanced societies that honor diversity and practice democratic pluralism that all … social constructs of distinct kinds of individuals are either illusory or have been abolished. There is, it seems, only one kind of person in the contemporary industrialized nation-state.” Recognition of the equal worth of all social wholes, like the equal worth of all individual human beings, means that there is only one kind of social whole, only one kind of political entity.

Many times, in this forum and elsewhere, I have written about the nation-state and the privileged position that it holds in contemporary political thought. In view of the above, the ideal of the equality of all social wholes, and single category of all social wholes that can be derived from this ideal (that this is only one kind of political entity), explains, after a fashion, the idée fixe of the nation-state.

Is a noble ideal tarnished or flattered by an imperfect realization in fact? The world, as it is in fact, does not exemplify the principle of equal worth of social wholes. Moreover, the world doesn’t even attempt to put the principle in to practice. Is it then a mockery, in an essentially anarchic international system, to pretend that all social wholes are of equal worth? Or does it remain noble to assert this equality in the face of a world that does not embody it?

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