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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 2 TT08

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 2 TT08
Start Date 28th Apr 2008 4:30pm
End Date 28th Apr 2008 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Rae Langton (MIT): 'Esteem in the Economy of Sexual Oppression' to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street, Oxford - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


What role can the manifestation of esteem play in the solution of social and political problems? Some philosophers are optimistic. By analogy with Adam Smith's 'invisible hand', Philip Pettit and Geoffrey Brennan identify an 'intangible hand' whose force works for the common good, without aid of planning or intention. They argue that the unorchestrated rewards and punishments in this 'economy of esteem' help to solve a number of social ills, provided certain conditions are met: conditions of normativity, publicity, low-cost disapproval, and low cost compliance. I argue that, when it comes to problems about sexual oppression, the 'economy of esteem' is unlikely to help, and likely to hinder, for reasons that are partly structural. Feminists famously claim that 'the personal is political', and this has implications for the prospects of an economy of esteem. When political problems occur in the domain of the personal, they are unlikely to satisfy the condition of publicity.Pornography provides an illustration: widely considered a matter of personal sexual mores, consumed mostly in private; but declared by some feminists to be political, helping to enact and perpetuate the subordination of women. I conclude that the prospects for an 'economy of esteem' are less than rosy; and that the role of esteem in relatively private contexts, and in the formation of group identities, demands more attention.

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