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Fr. 734

October 30, 2016

Haslanger comes to this conclusion, i.e. affective persuasion (though the term is not hers), by contrasting methods of tackling ideology as explicit presupposition and as implicit structure.

Well, I think that there’s two ways of showing people. One way of showing people is arguing with them, giving them evidence and facts and such like that. But people are very invested, and understandably, in coordinating with each other. We need to coordinate with each other, but in order to coordinate with each other we have to have practices that become routine so that we don’t have to think every time we want to interact with someone how to coordinate with them.


What happens is that those practices are often very convenient and important for us. Someone might tell us, oh, but there’s this background belief you have that’s false, but that doesn’t change the fact that when I go to the store or when I walk down the street, or when I go to the swimming pool, there’s still a set of practices that I’ve relied on to communicate with people.

It is precisely at the level of practices that the work of persuasion will need to be carried out insofar as practices resist mere argumentation and rational processes all the while bearing ideology’s implicit structures. More simply, being exposed to new situations and environments will do the heavy lifting that that rational processes cannot. Haslanger concludes as much when she adds:

So when we are trying to show people that things are not as they seem, you have to do more than talk to them about it. You have to bring them in a new community. You have to teach them new practices. You have to find ways for them to engage with each other on different terms so that they can begin to see that their old practices don’t work, that the signals that they thought were meaningful are not signalling what they thought it was meaning. That kind of showing I think we need to do a lot of.

Indeed, the notions of “signalling” and “meaning” carry considerable importance, for, though a person’s behavior, gestures, nonverbal interaction, etc. are not immediately available to reflective consciousness, the reflection of such in the speech, actions and even pushback of people to whom they would not otherwise be exposed may raise such to the level of consciousness. In short, confronting people with situations which they would ordinarily avoid as a matter of ideology may raise the attendant practices to the level of consciousness and make them available for work thereon. Even should ideology not become available for conscious reflection in this way, the situation would revise people to adapt their actions to the new situation.

When prompted for concrete examples, the interviewee cites her own experience with her adopted black son and her apprehensive father-in-law in which her father-in-law over the course of holding and interacting his grandson came to modify his behavior and the ideology implicit therein. To this, Haslanger also takes care to add:

I think that there’s a way in which finding opportunities for people of different races to just do ordinary things together – eat together, go to the park together and have their children play together. So that was part of the motivation for the desegregation laws in the United States, was desegregate and put people together and they will have more opportunity to really know each other.

(As a further example, one need only cite this recent undertaking in the southern United States.) So does Haslanger concur with authors such as Jeffrey Stout, for whom the existence of practices cutting across communities proves vital to maintaining a working democracy of participatory and deliberative depth. In such practices, we may begin to see the emergence of something like a “transversal identity”, as we have elsewhere defined this term.

What further challenges might await this view?


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