[OPE-L:8425] Re: Socialism for Idiots

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Mon Feb 03 2003 - 18:52:26 EST

>Re Michael E's [8421]:
>> Individualism should not be confused with egoism or capriciousness,
>> which often  happens. In the West, the notion of the individual has
>> deep historical  roots which  go back further than the modern age
>> of human subjectivity to -- you  guessed it --   to the Greeks. The
>> distinction between the _idiotaes_ (private  individual,  'idiot', some
>> who 'owns himself') and the _politaes_ (member of the  polis) is
>> fundamental for Greek thinking on social life. _idios_ means 'one's own,
>> pertaining to oneself, peculiar to oneself, private'. An _idiotaes_ is
>> someone who  is 'his own person', independent, who belongs to
>> him/herself and not to  another or  others.
>As you know, the modern meaning of the term 'idiot' is quite
>different from the ancient Greek meaning of idiot.  Indeed, there
>even seems to be an inversion in the meaning of the term to the
>extent that one who is independent, critical, and thinks for him or
>herself  is only identified by the dominant culture as being 'idiotic'
>in the modern sense if she or he puts forward a perspective or
>embraces a way of living that stands apart or is in  radical opposition
>to mainstream culture.   Thus, mainstream thought often fails to
>recognize the logic of opposing perspectives and instead dismisses
>those perspectives as idiotic.  This raises the question (why I do not
>know the answer to): when, where and how did this change in meaning
>of 'idiot'  take place?
>LaFargue defended the right to be lazy; should we defend the right
>to be idiotic?
>Solidarity, Jerry

The change was relatively recent. Marx (in the CM?) refers to rural idiocy.
There was a discussion once about this (Draper? Carver?) when it was argued
Marx had in mind not stupidity but the separation of those in rural
isolation from what was going on in the world. I assume the city dwellers
introduced the prejudicial use.

Chris A

17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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