What is politics? | Personal & Political


“I would sit in class and listen to the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers and policy makers — people who had never needed and would most likely never need welfare — earnestly advocate the dismantling of the welfare state, and I would shake and shake and shake with something I couldn’t name.”

Professor Parham’s question in class reminded me of this article, which I had wanted to share earlier and I believe fits well with the whole idea of questioning “politics.” The political is powerfully personal here, showing that the political arena is impersonal only to those who have the luxury of experiencing it as such. I also think it speaks well to many of the ideas questions/raised today, especially the un-supportability of the “social liberal/fiscal conservative” label.

What do you guys think?

One comment

  1. I think the story is well-told and appreciable and I like what she is saying about questioning the perceived relationship between identity and objectivity. But I think find the argument to be weak in that it is setting up a straw men and not considering multiple perspectives.

    The criticism of the idea of objectivity only makes sense in this instance where the representation of objectivity is upper-middle class middle/high school students living in bubbles – kids that are not just unaware of the economic realities of poverty, but honestly are not even aware of economic realities period. To attempt to devalue objectivity in regards to welfare policies or anything else just because of a (fictional?) story about some wealthy middle/high school on a debate team that don’t understand the personal narrative of this girl and her mother….The author doesn’t really have a good attack on objectivity other than this from my reading.

    I think there is strength in the assertion that it is very problematic to assume that for instance because your a woman, you can’t be objective about gender issues or any other relationship between identity and policy. But to address this we first have to recognize the value of objectivity, which the author seems to question. Then we need to recognize no one is capable of being 100% objective and we all struggles with biases, but we should all be striving for to be objective when considering economic policies that effect millions of people. I don’t think the author hits either of those points.

    Finally, I think her perspective is narrow. I’ll just play Devil’s Advocate here because I think both sides of the argument have issues – she states the anger at people trying to dismantle a welfare state, who will never have to experience the need to use welfare. But she does not consider what motivations and reasons they have (higher taxes for instance) that she is not experiencing. Then you get to a situation in which both people live in bubbles from each other with zero understanding of the other’s life and are both acting purely in their own self-interest. I hardly see solutions arising from that.

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