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Classical Sociological Theorists and Pessimism

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I fool myself, sometimes, that people are rational. That they stop and think about the implications of thier decisions. I fool myself into thinking that others consider the conflicting priorities that they give themselves - or worse, impose on others.

Perhaps these conflicts are borne of socialization, of unspoken and unrealized desires and buried traumas. Perhaps the unresolved conflicts truly do speak to patterns of conflict buried in the angram of the individual and society itself.

Rationality in oneself is not a benefit in these circumstances.

Rationality presumes that not only are *you* trying to resolve these conflicts, but that *others* are as well. If they are not, it becomes horribly easy to frustrate and manipulate the forthright and rational.

I hate feeling like this. I hate having to guard against irrational actors, against those who are being dissembling in thier stated motivations.

At my most pessimistic, this appears to be most of the world.

I do not want to be right.

In a similar vein, I find myself identifying with the classical theorists of sociology. Not just because I'm a white male, but because they were living in the Enlightenment (or thereabouts). So far in the text I'm reading, they find themselves repeatedly disheartened and disappointed when humanity fails to live up to thier expectations.

And it's not that thier expectations were wrong, per se. Their models of humanity and society have a lot of good stuff - but there's also expectations and assumptions that don't ... naturally... follow.

Keynes - though he was an economist, not a sociologist - provides a good example. Keynes imagined that once people satisfied thier basic needs, they'd realize that creature comforts were luxuries. That rather than operate as if they still persisted in a scarce society, they'd realize thier wealth and aid others. That capitalism would be a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. (This is apparently a dirty little secret of economists on the order of the historical cover up of Helen Keller's fierce socialist activism).

This isn't what happened.

Instead, humans redefined luxuries as needs without batting an eye, creating a new sense of scarcity. It's this redefinition that allows USAians to talk about helping the "American poor" without considering the structural problems they perpetuate that create tiers of poor persons far, far poorer than nearly anyone in the United States.

I hope that our interconnectedness helps. That our awareness of other places, of other peoples helps destroy the sense of "tribe" and allows some redefinition of what constitutes a need and what a luxury.

But first, I need to have a café mocha, okay?

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