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Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace by Sara Ruddick


This work and the ethic of care have a strength: A willingness to try diplomacy. Unfortunately, care's other tactics are less good. A peace that results from care pacifism occurs after victims die.


The care ethic has other weaknesses. It is anti-reason. Unclear and unspecific on many subjects, care offers a few vague, mistaken principles (handful-o-virtues rather than bag-o-virtues). The buzzword care works as a pile driver, allegedly standing for most things good. When actions fail, more care becomes the solution.

"Caring" is too often to ethics what self-esteem is to psychology, a mantra that obliges almost no one to act.


The care ethic insults men and women. Distortions of justice and consequentialism rule. It claims that consequentialism and justice are odious--as if truth and goodness depended on fun--yet replaces them with ideologies that few find inspiring.


The care ethic is provincialist, creating parochial misplaced compassion. Preoccupied with lofty rhetoric and petty controversies, it ignores or denigrates important issues. It considers American university policies more important than the suffering of billions.


The care philosophy is anti-individualist. Promoting ontological guilt and other guilts by specious associations, it assumes the best about evil individuals and demonizes non-evil foes. It creates Faustian characters who assume their own goodness and ignore harmful influences on others.


The ethic of care neglects or demonizes those not meeting narrow caring criteria. An exemplary individual who builds low-cost adobe homes would not be considered anywhere near the caring ideal because the construction industry is not a "caring" profession.


Personal services are the ideal. A feckless, yet popular, psychiatrist could be lionized.


The ethic of care is often a secular version of lobotomized religions. It considers "detached" knowledge of issues a vice. It believes contradictions are not a vice. (Apparently, recognizing contradictions is too odious.)


Maternal Thinking features abstract generalizations criticizing abstract generalizations. Perhaps “too abstract” means boring generalizations while concrete means entertaining generalizations. The complexities of a celebrity trial equals concrete and the complexities of preventing guinea worm equals too abstract. "Too abstract" is an excuse to escape the extremely important.


The author claims abstract thinking causes false dichotomies. How are false dichotomies caused by abstract thinking? I have no idea. Prisons are full of non-abstract thinkers whose idea of thinking is “My only options were…” Ruddick says astrophysics is a splendid career for a woman. How anyone becomes an astrophysicist without being an abstract thinker is beyond by comprehension.


The abstract thinking equals masculine thinking equals evil thinking equation is baloney. Most individuals get heavy doses of abstract ideas. The question is whether we should be getting them from the likes of TV newscasters or more careful thinkers. Criticizing generalizations in general often leaves us with only socially "correct" generalizations.


What humans overestimate is not the human potential to reason, but the value of trivial and destructive information.


The fact that individuals claiming rightness are often wrong does not make morality non-existent or subjective. The reality is that almost no one believes their actions are evil. Sociopaths love to wrap themselves in a rhetoric of virtue because it intimidates feckless individuals. Hitler and Stalin would not say: "Invading Poland is evil. All of you who participate are murderers, but I want you to do it. Have a nice day."


When everyone is "guilty," you end up with situations where no one was punished for war crimes for half a century (the last half of the twentieth century) despite over a hundred wars and tens of millions dead.


With rot filling bookshelves, it is little wonder plutocrats get popular. Some suggest a diabolical thing ultraconservatives do with campaign money is give it to the Green Party. Here is another idea for them: Create a care party.


I realized something. Multicult feminism shares numerous similarities with ultraconservatism:


What happens when vague, feel good ideologies wrap themselves in virtue? This book is what happens. The author makes the noteworthy statement that “[a]t long last I have been learning to work… a satisfactory predominance of activity  over passivity, of reality over fantasy, of creation over conception. It continues to astonish me that this simple human ability to work brings so much additional pleasure, order, solace, and meaning to my life.” But that statement is in a different book.


The world has too many chumps. The ethic of care is for chumps. Not recommended. 291pp. (H) 1989, book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated July 24, 2009


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