Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Logical endpoints

In the interests of writing a coherent article, as versus a transcript of everything that goes through my head when thinking through one, I ended up not fully addressing David Brooks's "logical endpoint" argument in my piece about his op-ed. While the "logical endpoint" of all bigotries is violence, it's true that that of anti-Semitism is genocide (what with the Holocaust), while that of anti-black racism is enslavement (what with slavery), and that of sexism, the subjugation of women. In this sense, anti-Semitism is different in that, at its most extreme, it's about wanting everyone of the group in question dead.

But "logical endpoint" arguments are only of limited use. While they get at something (and here's where I get fuzzy) about the psychological underpinnings of different bigotries, they don't tell us anything, for instance, about how much violence any particular group is actually dealing with at any given time. And dwelling on worst-case-scenario anti-Semitism has the inevitable effect of leading people to dismiss instances that fall short of Hitlerian.


David Schraub said...

Homophobia often takes on an "impurity" bent to it that (at its "logical end" -- and I agree that isn't a super-helpful way of thinking -- would lead to extermination. And of course, "racialized" discourses have often taken this tenor as well (as in the Rwandan genocide). In any event, I think that supports what you're saying, which is that oppression is multifaceted and does not always manifest simply in terms of a prefigured "worst case" scenario, so it's better to take things as they are.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Oh, agreed that other bigotries logical ends may also be extermination. Certainly anything where genocide was involved, and any bigotry that Nazis channeled to that purpose would count. Apart from Nazism, I'd say homophobia's logical end is/was forcing gay people to marry opposite-sex partners, but "logical end" requires highlighting the worst case ever.