Sunday, May 9, 2021

Habermas, the UAE thing, and the utility of culture jamming.

Habermas' refusal is spot on. Awards are perfect times for "refusal to participate" protests. But we ought not take refusal as a hard and fast rule. Buy Nothing Day is a piece of culture jamming that works by refusal. Culture jamming also weaponizes participation, as in applying for grants or conference presentations or publication in journals that would likely work to different aims of their governing bodies.

When Habermas refused the UAE prize, he increased awareness of the human rights issues far beyond the scope of what the prize money would have been able to do. The Utilitarian approves. Using -- and refusing -- awards to affect the conversation around issues is important, and one ideally suited to Utilitarian analysis. In the case of grants by libertarian groups, many scholars opt not to apply, seeking not to align themselves with groups who seem to favor market forces and capital over improving the common welfare. But I argue this is short-sighted. Scholars ought seek these awards out with vigor, putting the funding to its best possible use. Refusal to be considered for these funds won't stop the Koch brothers or other neoliberal groups from administering the funds. We, as ethicists, should seek to be considered for two main reasons.

The first is that the funds are going to be awarded. If candidates limit themselves only to those of one viewpoint, that viewpoint is amplified, taking up more of the stage than is reflective of its place in the discourse.

Secondly, we ought to be mindful of how we dismiss the concerns of those with whom we disagree. By finding the starting point of what we both value -- despite differences in how we express or achieve that value -- we keep our own analysis relevant and more substantial. The conversation overall is richer.

Utilitarian scholars in particular have an obligation to seek out and pursue funding opportunities, conference participation, and journal publication which they might initially reject as less than like-minded. If the governors reject our scholarship, let them do it openly, looking at the best we have to offer, that which comes from a place of utility's mandate to value us all equally and to seek the best outcomes for everyone, even those with whom we disagree.

We are all made better for it.