Justice, order, and the left-right divide
A book by three sociologists
In Why We Disagree About Inequality, John Iceland, Eric Silver, and Ilana Redstone write,
In short, those with a Social Order perspective tend to exhibit binding moral intuitions, a constrained vision of human nature, and a tendency to view social problems and solutions in terms of their implications for order and stability in society.
…In short, those with a Social Justice orientation tend to exhibit individualizing moral intuitions, an unconstrained vision of human nature, and a tendency to view social problems and solutions in terms of their implications for the oppressed in society, p. 11-12
They draw on Haidt, Sowell, and Kling. “Order and stability” resonates with my “civilization-barbarism axis,” and “implications for the oppressed” resonates with my “oppressor-oppressed axis.”
The goal of this book is to describe these two perspectives and put them on equal footing. In doing so, we hope to explain one “side” to the other in order to foster more fruitful conversations and solutions. We believe that complex social problems cannot be addressed without a shared understanding of their causes and magnitude. And to achieve this understanding policymakers and the public must first learn to recognize and become conversant in the moral language of their ideological opponents. p. 5
A lot people see that as a goal of my book. And maybe it was when I first wrote it in 2013. Although I think the goal was more to point out that the simplistic framing along the three axes is intellectually barren and not conducive to constructive debate. In any case, by the time I wrote the third edition, I was more keenly aware that most people don’t really want constructive debate: they use languages that do nothing but exacerbate tribal warfare because they prefer tribal warfare to constructive debate.
The last pages of the book advocate for viewpoint diversity in media, social science, and education. I wish them luck. But my guess is that the social justice advocates on the left find conservatives too disgusting to engage with. They will be too put off by the book’s attempt at even-handedness to read to the end. And the right will fight back with politics, which may be the best weapon that they have, but it doesn’t win hearts and minds.