Entrenched Senses of Entitlement and Their Oppressive Effects on Capitalist Societies

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Entrenched Senses of Entitlement and Their Oppressive Effects on Capitalist Societies
Soch, Kyle B.
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Aaron James' book Assholes: A Theory takes an in depth look into the problems assholes cause in everyday life through their interpersonal relations with cooperative people and develops the concept of asshole capitalism. Going beyond examining the setbacks and harms assholes present in interpersonal relations, this paper further develops James' argument for asshole capitalism. By expanding upon James' presentation of capitalism, this paper will emphasize the effects social relations have on capitalism in our society. James' argument implies a model of capitalism which leads to the degradation of our society by means of an entitlement-oriented culture. This paper uses three theories of oppression to examine the impacts of an entitlement-oriented culture on cooperative people within the model of asshole capitalism. ( en )
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Awarded Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, Major: Philosophy, and Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, Major: Classical Studies, on May 8, 2018.
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College or School: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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Advisor: Westmoreland. Advisor Department or School: Philosophy

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Soch 1 Kyle Soch Dr. Peter Westmoreland PHI 4912 : Honors Thesis 28 August 2017 Entrenched Senses of Entitlement and Their Oppressive Effects on Capitalist Societies Abstract Assholes: A Theory takes an in depth look into the problems assholes cause in everyday life through their interpersonal relations with cooperative people and develops the concept of asshole capitalism. Going beyond examining the setbacks and harms assholes present in interpersonal relations, this paper further deve capitalism which leads to the deg radation of our society by means of an entitlement oriented culture. This paper uses three theories of oppression to examine the impacts of an entitlement oriented culture on cooperative people within the model of asshole capitalism.


Soch 2 Introduction The gives a unique description of a person. In The Ascent of the A Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years Geoffrey Nunberg tracks the term through history and how it began to pick up its current meaning by means of colloquial use. Through pursu ing the history of how the word is used, a comprehensive meaning begins to appear. There is a distinct intended connotation when calling someone an asshole; this separates the term from other, similarly derogatory, terms like jerk, boor, or schmuck More t han an offensive term, an asshole is a character type. In Assholes: A Theory, Aaron James develops a method ology of this character type, its identifying traits and shows how assholes present a moral problem. interpersonal relations with others. However, I will outlines how assholes, through their entrenched sense of entitlement, might go about corrupting a capitalist sy institu tions, a subsequent entitlement oriented culture will degrade that society in various ways. My paper seeks to further develop this particular social problem that assholes pose. I will argue that assholes, in the mode of asshole capitalism, do not merely degrade a capitalist society, rather, they oppress. I will begin the paper and present his argu ment purporting assholes caus e a moral problem. Then, give a brief summarization of capitalism with a focus on the role of social institutions and relations in a of capitalism, I will move into At that point, I will present three theories o f oppression and evaluate asshole capitalism in accordance with each of the theories


Soch 3 The Asshole Aaron James defines an asshole in the following formalized criteria: 1. Allows himself [the asshole] to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically; 2. Does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement; and 3. Is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other people. (5) is pertinent to understanding his theory In this section, I will present James acc ount of an asshole and systematically go through each portion of his definition. To do so, I will differentiate assholes from cooperative people and other character types similar to assholes Following, I will provide use a moral problem in interpersonal relations and defend his stance that we all should take seriously the threat posed by assholes. First, assholes take special advantages for themselves and do so systematically. James frames his theory around interperson share from others. For example, an asshole is someone who might cut to the front of a line because they do no t want to wait like everyone else; or an asshole might be a workplace supervisor who abuses his ine merely in accordance with James precedent.) Moreover, an asshole is not a one time offender; an asshole takes advantages


Soch 4 others and create a character type. someone who consistently seeks out the opportunity to put themselves before others, not just frequently, but regularly. ipulating that assholes act out of an entrenched sense of entitlement. This is to say that assholes believe that they are deserving of special treatment. This second part of the definition is perhaps the most insightful and helpful way of understanding the psyche of an asshole. The reason an asshole cuts in line is because he is motivated by the belief that he is entitled to skip the line. Therefore, there is something about an entrenched sense of entitlement which acts as a motivator for an asshole to take special advantages. The entrenched sense of entitlement motivates assholes as a basic feature of guides the ac tions of an individual and shapes the premises that justify h is actions. If many or most of the judgments of an asshole follow from this mode of reasoning based in entitlement, as James has defined them to be, then his subsequent actions are done so systematically. It is simply the way an asshole thinks. Cooperative people will consistently wait in line because of their mode of reasoning, whatever it may be, has guided them to the judgment to do so. Assholes, however, will cut in line just as consistently as the cooperative person chooses to wait, because their judgm ents are based in an entrenched sense of entitlement. Notice also that, by claiming of an a sshole on himself. shole is to shield oneself from the criticisms of others. When an asshole is acting un der the assumption that he is entitled to special treatment,


Soch 5 it becomes easy to see how the opinions and beliefs of o thers are inconsequential to hi m. e sets himself apart from others, he feels entirely comfortable flouting manifest itself in many ways, al though commonly assholes adopt the tactic of rejecting any engagement in substantive response to criticism and, instead, launch a personal attack on anyone who dares to criticize them. James goes on to prescribe different sub categories of assholes: there is the corporate asshole, the reckless asshole, the self aggrandizin g asshole, the smug asshole, the royal asshole, etc. Importantly, the way to describe these different kinds of assholes often denotes how they person who respo language expresses a special advantage of holding power over others in a systematic manner which is taken to entitle the asshole boss and immunizes him point of view. For one to be an asshole, he judgments. Altogether, using the line cutter example, an asshole (1) takes the spe cial advantage of cutting in line, regularly, (2) does so because he feels authorized out of a belief that he is deserving of a special privilege, and (3) ignores the gripes of others in line whom he disadvantages. Conversely the other people who ch oose to wait in line are acting cooperatively. A cooperative person treats others, generally speaking, as their equal; they are able to reason from see themselves as equals, as having grounds for special treatment only in special circumstances that others will equally enjoy


Soch 6 at the appropriate times the line cutter example, a cooperative person could be waiting in line beca use they are cooperative people, the majority of us choose to wait in li ne because we do not believe that we are entitled to cut in line any more than anyone else. Cooperative people, contrary to assholes, do not reason from an entrenched sense of entitlement and, thus, do not take special advantages in the same way assholes d o Moreover, the same could be said for the third criteria of an asshole; immunizing oneself from criticisms. Because cooperative people are not reasoning from an entrenched sense of entitlement, their responses to criticisms are likely to be more re asonable. Simply having t he capacity to reason that oneself has erred, rather than starting with the assumption that oneself is deserving of special treatment, provides a more constructive interaction with another person. Thus, when a cooperative person re sponds to criticisms, valid or invalid, there exists the possibility for them to concede their position. Consider the difference between a jerk and an asshole. Suppose jerks, like assholes, also take special advantages and immunize themselves from crit icisms. Further, jerks, by their nature, also agitate cooperative people regularly. The jerk however, differs from an asshole in that he does not reason from an entrenched sense of entitlement; he may even be a cooperative person in most settings. A jerk might not truly intend to agitate others or, perhaps when criticized, he is capable of conceding that he did not mean to offend. Thus, although jerks may disadvantage someone in a given situation, this is more of an instance of an inconvenience for those


Soch 7 disadvantaged. Assholes often inconvenience others, but the difference between the jerk and an asshole is in the way an asshole reasons. The line cutter example provides evidence. This is something that both a jerk and an asshole might do. Assholes reason that every time they have the opportunity to cut in line that they ought to cut in line. While a jerk might take advantage of an opportunity to cut in line, it is systematically think or assume that he has special entitlements that, from a mor al point of view, 19)]. When considering an asshole and the moral problems they cause, it is important to return to this distinction between a jerk and an asshole. That is: assholes, as a mode of reasoning will systematically disadvantage others, while jerks merely cause inconveniences irregularly. Assholes systematically cause moral problems, in a way which disadvantages others, simply because they reason like an asshole. Jerks are likely to inconvenience others but do not have the moral capacities necessary to systematically disadvantage others. As I shall argue later, this unique way of asshole reasoning will prove to be vital in understanding w hy assholes are oppressive (and jerks are not). Through thei r actions, assholes systematically ignore the moral worth of others. This is merely a part of their mode of reasoning and starkly different from that of a cooperative person. The asshole line cutter walks past all the other people in line and in doing so h e makes a moral judgment ; he does not have to treat the other people in line with a sense of moral equality. An asshole, from a moral point of view, does not acknowledge the moral worth of the other people


Soch 8 in line. The cost may only be an extra five minute s; however, the problem is not losing five minutes t o an asshole, rather it is The importance of moral respect is something which shou ld not be taken lightly. James speaks of the importance of being recognized as t being a person with moral status means anything, it at the very least means that one is owed that assholes cause a moral problem precisely because they are beings with moral status who are owed respect and consideration, yet, simultaneously they do not respect or consider others in the same way t hat they take themselves for granted Taking unfounded special advantages and excluding oneself from the grievances of others is not a means of respecting and considering and thereby makes the judgement that everyone ought to respect his position and no other judgements should be considered. Thus, there is a disconnect between most people, certainly cooperative people, who consistently give es and assholes who do partake in this reciprocation. Indeed the asshole fails not only to respect the moral status of others, but fails to ords, is for us to recognize moral respect person (26 27). Assholes completely immunize themselves from the criticisms of others, l eaving others without the possibility to have their opinion recognized by their peers. Ultimately, as James has claimed, assholes are not just ignoring the words of others, rather they are rejecting the moral


Soch 9 status of othe rs. The moral problem created by assholes is: the lack of a possibility to have a reciprocating, mutual, moral respect for others who share the same moral status. It may seem that James is making much ado about nothing. We may run into assholes, as James defines them, daily and their tactics are often minimally intrusive. Still we should think of assholes in ordinary settings. While Hitler or Stalin may very well fit all the criteria of an asshole, it is important to keep assholes categorized as commonplace and not just those few reprehensible figures throughout history. We already know that Hitler and his ideology are a moral threat; his categorization as an asshole is just another term to define him. An asshole need not be anywhere near as moral ly reprehensible as Hitler. Nonetheless, as James has argued, assholes present a moral problem. by a particular, identifiable, group of people amounts to a greater moral threat than appea rs on the surface I will argue that assholes are oppressive precisely because one can identify them as a group acting within society and their systematic mode of reasoning leaves others lacking moral recognition and opportunities for free choice. Jame argues that assholes use preexisting social institut ions, like religion, family, the government, as a means of advancing th emselves toward their desires. The asshole understands either implicitly or explicitly, how cooperative people function wi thin these institutions and, therefore, they systematically take advantage of other peo fear is that if assh oles become too prolific, our society would begin to degrade by means of an entitlement oriented culture. It is specifically in regard to asshole capitalism that I will make the case that assholes can oppress. Capitalism


Soch 10 To make the case that assholes in asshole capitalism are oppressive, it is important to In Capitalism, Value, and Exploitation Geoff Hodgson gives a definition of capitalism and outlines the social relations engaged in the economic theory. According to Hodgson, citing a Marxist view of capitalism; capitalist development are the major determinates of economic, social and political change on a purpose is to provide the most efficient platform from which a society can trade the goods and services it produces. Importantly, so cial and political institutions are part and parcel of the economic theory. Hodgson goes on to explain that a purely capitalist mode of production has never, and will never, exist because of the differentiating social dynamics which exist across every majo Thus, with this notion of production in mind, Hodgson gives the following definition of commodity to be brought to the market for sale. Once sold, the commodity can either be bartered capitalism, la bour power, i.e. the capacity to work, is also a commodity. People work, after a 24). stances unique to that society play a role on how the system functions. Explicitly, because each capitalist society has a unique set of social institutions and production capacities, the manner in which capitalist forces act within each society is both uni que and reliant upon the demands of both


Soch 11 human necessity and comfort (Hodgson, 25). In other words, social relations, and given social institutions within a society, have some effect on the mode of production. Capitalism allows for many goods and servic es to be brought to the market place, and socialization, at least in part, plays a role in what some of those goods and services are. Indeed, capitalist societies are susceptible to the tides of social relations precisely because social relations within th e society are capable of themselves holding value as a source of capital. Capital is not just a set of things, it is also a part of social relations within capitalist society; involving the separation of the labouring classes from the ownership and control of the means of production, and involving specific social relations between the workers and capitalist owners. (Hodgson, 29) In other words, capitalism involves both labor and social relations which control the distribution of capital and use of labor. Now, gaining capital seems to be a significant goal of many people within capitalist societies. This means that social relations of production are likely to be influenced by the entities who control that capital. There is a considerable amount of importanc e and influence involved in the social relations of a society, and the values capitalists hold can have an outsized influence over a society, as these values bear directly on relations of production that influence many persons. When we are speaking of a co rporation such as Walmart that employs millions of can be tremendous, not merely in the ways the y organize the distribution of capital, but also in the values they promote and display as wielders of capital. This sketch of how capitalism interacts with social institutions and relations allows an understanding of why assholes, as James defines them, are able to cause problems within a


Soch 12 capitalist society. Accord production and distribution of goods and services and in the allocation of capital. Instead of directing investment by centralized decision making, financial markets are trusted to put a If it is the case that influential elements of capitalist societies, such as financial markets, are who control those market forces, then the actors within the society, at least, play a part in deciding how capitalis m will be practiced. Asshole Capitalism Notice there is nothing inherently destructive about capitalism. Indeed, James believes capi talism can be a positive force. H e writes : The value of capitalism is better settled by people who are not assholes, who have to do the work of upholding the practices and institutions needed for a functioning society, often at a cost to themselves. Why should they be willing to adopt capitalism in stead of some other way of organizing economic and social life? The answer is offered to us over the past two hundred years or so is that capitalism promises various desirable things, including freedom, opportunity, and general property. It is supposed to advance the as well as or better than alternative social forms (154 ) Indeed, the James and Hodgson. Further, both authors recognize the importance of social institutions; they


Soch 13 help us attain the values that capitalism promises. That is, we ch o ose to abide by capitalism in order to freely act in our society, have the opportunity to educate oneself, practice the religions ple willing to act selflessly. I t is currently possible to do all these things in our society. despite the usual asshole, mostly upholding the various practices and institutions needed for almost everyone to have things like real freedom, real opportunity, and a goodly share i n general prosperity 147). our current capitalist society could turn into an entitlement oriented society. Asshole capitalism is a degradation of our c urrent capitalist society. Our society depends on certain institutions and a set of social institutions, such as the family, religion, public education, or the rule of law that o t he social institutions incentivize cooperative people to participate in activities which benefits almost all members of society. At the same time, by upholding these institutions we are disincentivizing those in ou r society to act selfishly (i.e. taking special advantages for themselves). For example, when one respects and abides by the rules of the law, they are effectively upholding the them and keep other institutions fair ; t his is the task of the rule of law. Those in society who act advantage of them may face a harder time of meeting their own goals, receive some sort of


Soch 14 punishme nt, or be disadvantaged in some manner. Capitalism disincentivizes people go against Asshole capitalism, according to James, is the process by which assholes, acting out of their ent renched sense of entitlement, contribute to the collaps e of these social institutions, leading to formerly cooperative members of society acting out of a sense of entitlement, rather than out of a yearning to uphold our current values I f everyone were to begin to think like assholes, then these institutions would start to crumble, asshole capitalism would take hold, and James argues, society would begin to degrade capitalism a style of capit alism which leads to the degradation of society due to the collapse of social institutions because the asshole mentality, acting out of an entrenched sense of entitlement, has taken over the social influence of a given society Consider the influence an asshole might have on the social relations of production as outlined above This is the switch from disincentivizing memb ers of society to act selfishly and dampening system. People want to contribute to society because they feel as if they are getting an equal opportunity or fair shot at things in society. This is, more or less, the general consensus of our society now. Although there may be certain facets of society p eople believe to be unfair, f or the most part, James believe s our society is structured and perceived to be fair. Even a capitalist society that is not seen as particularly fair might garner its own support to the extent that each feels better off for it a help an entitlement system of capitalism. It loses support among cooperative people precisely because it is perceived as insufficiently beneficial and fair. (171)


Soch 15 Assholes a ffect perceived fairness m erely by their mode of reasoning. Currently we rely on capitalism to give everyone a fair shake. But asshole reasoning runs directly counter to this notion. An entitlement enriched culture would crumble our belief in fairness due to a lack of cooperative f aith amongst its members. Consider if one does not receive a job offer because an asshole boss would rather have an unqualified and incompetent employee whom he could take advantage of. The message this sends to the candidate who lost the position is that the system is rigged. But this is not happening in only one institution, rather all throughout society people are losing the chance at receiving a fair shake. The perceived unfairness of society further corrupts the cap italist system. An entitlement enric hed culture would crumble our notion of fairness due to a lack of cooperat ive faith amongst its members. The effect of e veryman looking out only for themselves is that it turns people away from each other. Society becomes more entitlement oriented when we give into assholes. There becomes a eral prosperity. However, in the pro cess of becoming an entitlement oriented society, these promises will become ever harder to realize Further, contemplate what would happen if the social institution of t he f amily begins to break down. Currentl y we raise our children with the values of playing by the r ules and helping our neighbors, so everyone can get a fair shake. James would also refer to this as an asshole dampening system; it reinforces selfless values. But as we move towards this entitleme nt


Soch 16 meaning parents will often 166 s reliance on social institutions to sustain itself will become further eroded as the next generation of its members are raised in an entitlement society. The system would further erode and more of the negative effects of assh ole capitalism would gain more influence. James press upon the fact that assholes infiltrate our way of acting. Because our society values the institution of f amily hood as a part of our capitalist society as we become more entitlement oriented, child rearing becomes disadvantageous f or parents to raise their kids without any asshole qualities Those few people who maintain their cooperative position will begin to be taken advantage of by assholes. If assholes out number cooperative people, selfless acts will become opportunities for assholes to freely take advantage of in the same manner as they do in interpersonal relations. But rather than affecting only a single individual in the grocery store line, assholes influence the very institution of the family. It would no longer be b eneficial for parents to teach their kids selfless qualities if their selflessness would only be a means to an assholes end. In asshole capitalism, the social institutions which once depressed the asshole population not only degrade but they also have beg un to propagate assholism By explaining asshole capitalism James isolates the mechanism which allows for institutions. James argued that assholes are a m oral problem by explaining them in terms of their culturally induced asshole moral reasoning reasoning is the collapse of fair institutions. James does not go as far as to say that withi n an


Soch 17 asshole capitalist society assholes oppress cooperative people. Nor does he claim that we are currently in an asshole capitalist society. Nonetheless, his argument provides a basis for understanding how assholes situate themselves advantageously in relationships with cooperative people on a societal level. However, I will argue that assholes could, using the means d escribed in asshole capitalism, oppress cooperative people on a societal level If our society has the capacity to produce assholes, then clearly asshole capitalism is something whi ch we ought to actively prevent and, to do so, we must reaffirm our adherence to the institutions which uphold our current so ciety. Oppression Oppression can take many forms and can be understood through countless different lenses. It is not my intention to argue that being cut off in line exemplifies oppression in our society. Nonetheless, there are theories of oppression which illustrate how ou r society is structured in such a way that social practices amount to some groups of people being more advantaged than others. These theories can be used to evaluate the potential for assholes to disrupt society in a way that leads to oppression. In this section, I will present three distinct theories of oppression from three different philosophers and argue how one could reconcile asshole capitalism as being oppressive according to a given theory on a societal level FRYE Let us first consider the bird cage metaphor Marilyn Frye proposes in her essay titled Oppression : If one thinks about racism by examining only one wire of the cage, or one form of disadvantage, it is difficult to understand how and why the bird is trapp ed. Only a large


Soch 18 number of wires arranged in a specific way, and connected to one another, serve to enclose the bird and to ensure that it cannot escape. (12) The point of the metaphor is to show how oppressive structures are formed. Something is oppressiv e if there are disadvantages (single wires of the cage) which organize themselves in such a connected way that to escape from any one of the disadvantages leads only to being disadvantaged in another way. Thus, the cage is a structure of oppression in that it represents entrapping an individual by means of disadvantages which are all connected to one another. If a cage (oppressive structure) is formed, then there must be so many disadvantages surrounding the bird inside (any entity being oppressed) that the bird is inhibited from functioning in the same manner as those outside of the cage This metaphor is a representation of institutionalized oppression; meaning that the oppression is formed through many acts. Not one singular wire of the cage is enou gh to be considered oppressive, rather it is the manner in which the wires interact with one another which combine in an oppressive manner. only focuses on the way a wo man is told to dress as a sign of their oppression, the picture is incomplete. This is only one wire of the metaphorical cage. To understand oppression is to understand how telling a woman that they must look a certain way ties into the many other facets o cross their legs in public, never be outspoken, let men hold doors open for them, etc. The result of all of these practices functioning together is a message that women are powerless, endangered, less capable of autonomous action. Each of these norms is a wire. The cage is the structuring of range of possibilities for a ction, and these limits apply to a woman just because she is a woman.


Soch 19 employment o The mundane experience of the oppressed provides another clue. One of the most characteristic and ubiquitous features of the world as experienced by oppressed people is the double bind situations in which o ptions are reduced to a very few and all of them expose one to penalty, censure or deprivation. (11) disadvantages. Within these disadvantages, Frye describes the dou ble bind. This is where it is difficult for the oppressed to escape from a disadvantage without a form of penalty. The options to combat the disadvantage leave the oppressed in a similarly undesirable position. Think of this n the options are loaded from the outset. For example, a woman who dresses conservatively is considered a prude and a woman who dresses less conservatively is considered a sl ut. Either way, women are disadvantaged because they cannot dress freely without f ear of repercussions. As one might assume, the people caught in a double bind might not truly understand the full implications behind their inhibited ability to act in the moment. Frye institutions inhibit our actions in such a way that we do not always realize the implications in the moment. institutions. While the manifestations of her theory are the physical and mental disadvantages of those entrapped in a cage, the theory is of how socialization got us to this state. It requires that we are applying practices across various aspects of our society and that these practices create meaningful imp acts on those within the social system. We can seek to apply this understanding


Soch 20 of oppression to asshole capitalism. Specifically, there are contexts which purport assholes examples Thus, to bring cooperative people which are connected to one another in a manner consistent with the bird cage metaphor and put cooperative people into double b ind scenarios An interpretation of understanding of asshole capitalism might look something like this. If the CEO of a large company is an asshole capitalist, his business decisions will always be to b enefit himself (the company may also benefit, but this is because it is beneficial to the asshole in charge of the company for the company to prosper). An asshole capitalist, like any other asshole, uses his entrench ed sense of entitlement as his mode of reasoning That is, he act ively and systematically seeks special advantages for himself, even if it come s at the disadva ntage of others The asshole capitalist fits all the formal criteria previously discussed, but he is deemed an asshole capitalist to specify he is practicing his assholery within the contex t of capitalism. Accordingly because of the systemic nature of assholes, the CEO will regularly and consistently make decisions beneficial to himself regardless of their consequences. Three examples of advantages he might take are: treating himself to a large bonus, using employees merely as a means to a selfish end, or utilizing his position to defer blame onto others. While these are advantages for the asshole capitalist they can be disadvantages for others, sp ecifically coop erative people. By awarding himself one exorbitantly large bonus he is taking away money from others who might be and often are, de serving of a portion of it W e know that assholes T his comes about as a disadvantage for a coo perative person when the asshole capitalist bo th uses someone as a means to a selfish end or defers blame and misconduct onto them.


Soch 21 The cost this sort of activity imparts on others is not considered by the asshole capitalist He will use his position to g et advantages, or larger slices of the metaphorical pie, without adhering to the rules and values of society. Notice, however, these examples are all in regards to interpersonal relations. But, the CEO, in this example, and asshole capitalists generally are specified for their assholery within the context of capitalism. Asshole capitalists are engaged in both interpersonal and societal relations. The CEO is an asshole capitalist because his actions, which guide the company, affect one or more social inst itutions with w hich the company is engaged Consequently, when the CEO disadvantages cooperative people there are two groups of cooperative people who could be harmed. First, there are t hose which regularly engage in interpersonal relations with him, i.e. employees, and second, there are the general members of society who are harmed by his actions within the context of his impact on capitalism It is the latter group of cooperative people w hich I will be arguing are oppressed by asshole capitalism. A ssholes hold together the wires of the cage merely by reasoning like an asshole Within a given social institution assholes systematically seek unfounded advantages through using c ooperative institutions against them. It is within these social institutions, like law, religion, family, etc., that assholes are able to create disadvantages which contain double bind scenarios. Instead of using a hypothetical, let us turn to a real example of how this plays out within our society. Bernie Madoff is an asshole. He acted out of an entrenched sense of entitlement to seek out special advantages for himself and schemed billions of dollars from cooperative people in our society. More than your ever yday asshole, Madoff flouted the law as if it did not apply to him. By his nature, he sought out ways to make the best deal possible for himself. In his book Bernard Madoff and His Accomplices: Anatomy of a Con Lionel Lewis describes how Mr.


Soch 22 Madoff went about con n ing thousands of people and using many different strategies to go about getting others to believe that investing money with him was a wise decision. Here is how a real life asshole capitalist uses the system of capitalism as a tool to disadv antage his victims: Going well beyond the usual practice of using fraudulent trade confirmations and account statements generated by BLMIS employees to routinely deceive clients, with the Tucker staging, props were introduced and utilized to make it appear that actual trades were with regularity being conducted and equities were accounted for and in safe hands. At the center of the ruse was Madoff simulating that he was connected to a DTC computer terminal, while in reality he was communicating with a BLMIS employee in front of another computer terminal in another room, a few feet away. (Lewis, 16 17) This is one specific example of how Madoff actively sought out advantages for himself because he believed he was deserving of them. Madoff practiced his con fo r many years, purporting it was a part of his mode of reasoning. Each time he got someone to invest in his firm he was purposely disadvantaging them t o his own advantage. Every t ime a BLMIS employee called investors for more money, they strung another disa dvantage for the victims involved. Practicing a business withi n a capitalist society like Madoff did a llowed him to systematically disadvantage cooperative people trying to partake in the financial sector of our capitalist society. Madoff knew that his clients had respect for the institutions which upheld his practice. That is respect for government oversight, the use of an exchange system, and belief in t he practice of investing money and h e used that to his advantage. He took cooperative institution and used it against them. Madoff did so consistently and systematically for a number of years. Each time he got another person to invest, he strung a wire of their cage.


Soch 23 Apart from the asshole CEO, other assholes, in other areas of society, are similarly taking advantages in their respective institutions. The asshole CEO disadvantages someone financially, n education, the asshole asshole CEO takes advantage of cooperative p eople financially, they are also imparting harm upon them by limiting their possibilities within other institutions. Merely because our society is centered around the use of capital as a means of participation in these institutions. Thus, the asshole CEO d asshole within their given institution. The asshole dean of students might bureaucratize the means of obtaining a degree from his institution and, therefore, disadvantage someone f rom advancing their education. But, in the process of doing so, he is also disadvantaging them from attaining better employment and receiving better pay. This overlap in the way our institutions functions makes forming cages around individuals more readily possible for asshole acting only within one institution. Furthermore, systematic assholery across multiple institutions contributes to binding all the wires of the cage together. eate many disadvantages for others, and do so in a manner which the disadvantages are associated with actions of assholes. These disadvantages are a reference to and directly correlated with the In the case of Be rnie Madoff, his entrenched sense of entitlement led him to flout the law and take advantage of the capitalist system in place in order to benefit himself. Furthermore, the moral worth of his victims were insignificant to him; he would make all the same de cisions over again to further himself. This serves as one example


Soch 24 where c apitalism is used to the advantage of an asshole systematically in such a way that those who try and use the system to gain the values which they are supposed to be promised are, at t he least, disadvantaged from obtaining such promises. Additionally, regarding the bird cage metaphor double bind scenarios are created within ultimatum put for th by having assholes in our society. Either participate in an institution and institution and not get the benefits of it. Like the feminist ex ample, there is a catch 22 scenario presented by assholes. Cooperative people ought to be able to participate in any of the social institutions of their own choosing. Asshole capitalism creates a double bind in that participation leaves one vulnerable to b eing taken advantage of; the other option is to resign from the institution, however, this is unfavorable because it leaves one lacking the kind of engagement in society they yearn for. Yet, as noted above, because capital plays such a large role in a ca pitalist society, by Madoff did not merely draw one wire of the cage. free choosing disadvantages them in mul tiple ways. It impacts where we go to school, where and how we work, how much we give to charities and churches, etc. Madoff used the system of capitalism as a whole to allow him to take financial advantage over cooperative people. But, not every as shole CEO is like Madoff who stole millions from cooperative people and, I would argue, formed an oppressive cage around his victims. What if the manager of my mutual fund is an asshole, yet the fund is making me millions. Certainly, I am benefiting from a n asshole capitalist. Is it possible that assholism might be working to my advantage? After all, if


Soch 25 advantage for both the asshole mutual fund manager and the ac count holder? To answer this, let us reflect upon the nature of an asshole. He is one who seeks special advantages based out of an entrenched sense of entitlement. While I may be making millions in the mutual fund, by the nature of an asshole he is using h is entrenched sense of entitlement to achieve this success. There is likely another group which is being displaced or disadvantaged by the actions of the asshole mutual fund manager in order for me to receive my perceived benefit. Perhaps the success of th e mutual fund is due to insider trading, dealings with irreputable or unlawful activities unwilling to do business with an asshole. Though not every asshole capitalist ignores and c ontravenes the law like Madoff did, at the end of the day they are still ignoring the moral worth of others and seeking to take special advantages for themselves. Though the money I am making through the mutual fund is legitimate, if it is being run by an asshole capitalist there is likely a group who is being taken advantage of in some capacity in order to make this possible. The justification for this is simply the way assholes reason lends them capable of disadvantaging others in their search to create a dvantages for themselves. I think it is likely that Mr. Madoff created an oppressive cage around his clients. He created serious, and for some, insurmounta ble financial disadvantages. Although he did so only withi n one institution in o u capitalist society disadvantages them in many ways. Beyond the financial institution, capital plays such a large role in a capitalist society that his actions created many disadvantage s However, if there are other assholes operating within other institutions in addition to an asshole capitalist like Madoff clearly more fully formed. Suppose all the other institutions


Soch 26 which operate within our society were occupied by Ma doff like actors. Cooperative people ca pitalism coming into fruition. This is w hen there are many institutions which are being taken advantage of by assholes While I find it likely that assholes are able to form oppressive cages around cooperative Her particular focus on social institutions and the role they play in creating an oppressive experience for cooperative people helps flesh out how assholes affect social institutions. But, as we will see there are other theories of oppression which take different approaches to the experience of the oppressed. The cas e that asshole capitalism is oppressive will be strengthened by comparing asshole capitalism to other theories of oppression. D e BEAUVOIR The Ethics of Ambiguity lends helpful insight into how asshole capitalism impedes upon the ability to act freely. Beauvoir works to create a moral theory out of existentialist thought and attempts to outline an ethic beginning with the developing a moral theory. To explain her concept of oppression, I will first explain the backdrop of her theory This means defining the following terms: ambiguity and freedom transcendence, constr uctive activity, negativity, situationalism, and finally oppression. Then I existential interpretation of oppression leaves cooperative people lacking the kind of freedom needed to support her theory.


Soch 27 Understanding a Beauvoiri an interpretation of oppression requires a grounding in the central thesi s of her work. She finds the human condition to be ambiguous and her goal is to Ambiguity is, for Beauvoir, a necessar y condition for possibili ty. In other words, an unambiguou ambiguity comes expansivene ss and openness, the environing conditions that must obtain for ntialists, is that this world is not prepared and predetermined for the subjects who enter it. It is the responsibility of the subjects in this world to define themselves and an ambiguous world is one which allows for the possibility to truly forge oneself within in it. The quintessential existential thought existence precedes essence is summed up in and because our agency in the world determines the meaning of our lives, the lives of others, and the world. Of the upmost importance to assigning value and meaning to oneself in an ambiguous condition, then, is the possibility to act freely. Beauvoir has this to say about freedom: Freedom is the source from which all significations and values spring. It is the original condition of all justificatio n of existence. The man who seeks to justify his life must want freedom itself absolutely and above everything else. At the same time that it requires the necessari ly summoned up by the values which it sets up and through which it sets itself 24) Beauvoir freedom to be that which assigns value and meaning in ambiguity. It is the tool


Soch 28 one is moving towards a particular end. Further, willing oneself towards an end creates value in ards something is valuable in and of itself. Moreover, the subject at the same time, assigns value to their lives and the world. The free of freedom, Beauvo ir claims freedom is the instrument which we use to aim ourselves towards our own freely chosen projects. Both freedom to choose the ends we will ourselves towards and the free act to will oneself is how we assign meaning and add value in our lives. After explaining the modes and constraints by which humanity operates the purposiveness of humanity is explained through the concept of transcendence then seeks, with the destruction of the given situation, the whole future which will flow from its victory. It resumes its indefinite rapport with itself. There are limited situations where this return to the positive is impossible, where the future is rad Transcendence To get clear on what transcendence i s, one must understand constructive activity Chantlle Sims gives the following explanation: Beauvoir attaches a distinct temporal aspect to the co ncept of constructive activity: it is hese descriptions she calls upon the Hegelian concept of going beyond itself ; as well as projection or Being towards possibilities If the absence of such activity turns us into thing s, we infer that, for Beauvoir, being human is defined in and through constructive action. (684)


Soch 29 Constructive activity is a title given to the actions of a subject which are directed at an end and freely chosen by the subject, a possibility toward which the human being defines itself and the meaning of its choice s. Constructive activity is the mode by which one can achieve a positive, life affirming, transcendence and it is understood in multiple ways. First, there is constructive activity in the overall life project. Then, there is the idea that constructive activity is someth ing that is temporal. Through living our lives as humans, we do constructive activities as a part of existing. human lives are fleeting and we will all eventually me et an unavoidable conclusion. But, working towards transcendence is not a present or momentary action. It is a lived action and a culmination of all a subject has done in the past and all they will work towards in the future. Thus, constructive activity be comes what defines our lives, through action and time, directed towards our unique projects. A life absent of constructive activity is lacking this sense of hum Having outlined transcendence as a positive notion, achieved through constructive activity and acceptance of an ambiguous condition, let us turn to the opposite of this concept Beauvoir deems this negativity Every person transcends themselves, according to Beauvoir (86). tension, inversely symmetrical with the existential and mo re painful tension, for if it is true that man is not, it is also true that he exists, and in order to realize his negativity positively he will


Soch 30 manifestation of den ying our ambiguous condition. It is the annulment of freely chosen projects and the acceptance of the given. To deny or shy away from transcendence leaves one disposed to negativity. As far as this project is concerned, Beauvoir is using the term to descri be a sort of ineffectiveness in the actions ability to ever meet the ends of a meaningful life. which must be explained. Situationalism describes a subject ability to act freely within an ambiguous world While every being is free, they are a part of a unique situation. We are all a tool to create value; each subject in the world is uniquely constrained within their given The situ The Ethics of Ambiguity begins with the claim that philosophers have always tried to deny one or the other aspect of a complex situation: either the livedness or the bodies (the 1 976, 104; 1947, 130) insofar as they are objects in the world for and among others. It is often argued that ambiguity in Beauvoir is found in being both, as S (Kruks 2012, 33). ( 8 ) of a future given the current


Soch 31 situation are directly connected to enemies, etc. re physical state of where the subject is at the time and place of current events which all come situation Consider situationalism generally i.e. the location, time period, gender, etc., and, in addition to these facts are their interpretations, for example, the ramifications or emotional responses brought about being a nce. For example, the situation of a subject in an impoverished third world country is immensely different than that of a middle class American. While the ambiguous human condition is no different between th e two subjects, their abilities to There are simply more possibilities for the American to pursue than someone who lacks similar resources and opportunities. Nonetheless, both subjects are able to work towards transcendence within their situations. When in her explanation of transcendence she means to say that one rejects the reality which imposes restrictions upon oneself, both belief that through unimpeded constructive activity one achieves transcendence. This is the kind of transcendence which Beauvoir finds to be genuine to our humanity a transcendence


Soch 32 that is dictated by a subject s own free choi ce. Although the subjects in my example have vastly different situations, both are able to perform constructive activity and freely work towards their own transcendence. By understanding how these technical concepts of ambiguity, freedom, transc endence, constructive activity, negativity and situationalism overlap and rely on one another, one can Perhaps it is permissible to dream of a future when men will know no other use of their freedom than this fr ee unfurling of itself; constructive acti vity would be possible for As we have already seen, every man transcends himself. But it happens that this transcendence is condemned to fall uselessly back upon itself because it is cut off from its goals. That is what define s a situation of oppression. ( Beauvoir, 86 87) Beauvoir knows that it is not currently the case that every ma n is recognizing the possibilities of accepting an ambiguous human condition and using their freedom in constructive activity (86). The situation of an oppressed individual is such that the embodied subject is being blocked off from the possibility of prod ucing constructive activity in their lives physically or temporally Situationalism is key here. I t is the situation of the subject which lends one to being oppressed. Merely resigning oneself from participating in constructive activity does not justify being oppressed. Oppression is when there is some kind of force which acts upon the situation of a subject and blocks off the possibility of participa ting in constructive activity.


Soch 33 Thus, in EoA, an ethics of free human choice, she turns repeatedly to situations of a blockage of freedom: of oppression by forces greater than the particular human being, that is by way of incursions of power, on the one hand; or by unethical human acceptance of immanence, on the other (173) an being is to say that there are forces beyond the control of a given subject which act negatively upon the subject. In other words, subjects are often thrusted into a situation where they are never able to achieve a positive transcendence: not because th ey have chosen to live negatively, but because there are forces Asshole capitalism seems lik e such a situation. Asshole capitalism blocks freedom, not by the hand of a particular individual, but by means of an institutional force. According to must change the situation of cooperative people in suc h a way that they are being blocked off from participating in constructive activity. Consider the example comparing s ubjects in middle class America and in an impoverished third world country. Both are still able to achieve transcendence provided there is which blocks off their abilities to act freely. Thus, for assholes to be oppressive according to Beauvoir, it must be shown that they obstruct cooperative people from participating in constructive activities. openi ng the floodgates ole culture seeps into society (163). This is a reference to his belief that once entitlement oriented culture penetrates our social institutions, it rapidly becomes prevalent. aged


Soch 34 sense of entitlement goes unchecked by any asshole dampening system. The first question to ask main concern is switc hing, they [cooperative people] simply withdrawal, being unable or unwilling any longer to do the things people need to do if cooperation is to continue as before (James, 163). James suggests people will likely withdrawal themselves for a number of reasons including exhaustion, underassurance (the general perception that not enough people are carrying their weight in society) rising costs, or unfair burd ens (James, 163 164). If asshole capitalism, as James suggests it to be, acts as a force to withdraw people from doing activities they wish to pursue, their free choice in pursuing ends will be, at least, disturbed. Or, more crucially, it could be the case that asshole capitalism systematically removes the possibility of cooperative people pursuing their projects. If we are to take seriously the threat of people withdrawing from orient ed folks, there will likely be the repercussion of free choice being limited. There will simply be fewer or less desirable options for engagement in civic activities. This is a blockage of freedom. If there is the possibility to pursue certain ends an d tha t possibility is being cut off from those who wish to purse them, then the forces causing the blockage are oppressive actors according to Beauvoir Further evidence for this claim comes from We said earlier that capitalism could fulfil its social promises only by way of various enabling social practices and institutions. But such cooperative relations will be maintained in a population only because e nough people each do enough to uphold the set


Soch 35 several of reasons, the spread of asshole culture in a system of entitlement capitalism can readily mean that not enoug h people are any longer willing or able to uphold social institutions and practices, including the institutions and practices needed for the capitalist system to l ive up to its own set of values (162) Beginning with the description of capitalism given by this paper, I presented the idea that capitalism depends on a set of social relations for the system to function proper ly. Furthermore, the social relations within a given society are unique to that the social relations explained by Hodgson to uphold the institutions and pract ices of our society. If these social relations are penetrated with asshole mentality and entitleme nt oriented thinking, our society would begin to degrade. One of the first symptoms of a society beginning to degrade i s what James is arguing Cooperative pe ople will not want to participate in an entitlement oriented system and will begin to withdraw from it. The importance of this is according to Beauvoir, the ramifications it would have on personal freedom and autonomy Within the idea of capitalism, as de opportunity to get an education, seek out employ are all parts of social institutions supporting the greater capitalist system and the means by which one can produce constructive activity. Having the freedom to engage in such things is at the heart of capitali


Soch 36 However, the same cannot be said in the case of asshole capitalism. With civic engagement declining on account of a lack of interest in partaking in the practices and institutions which upho ld our society, there will be a lack of options within our society for cooperative people to be able to freely choose in what to partake Furthermore, this will become an institutionalized problem seeing as James claims a broad range of institutio ns will be affected. Once the asshole mentality penetrates a societal institution, the immediate ramifications for cooperat ive people will be an ultimatum: participate with an e ver growing number of assholes or withdrawal. As James stated earlier, it is like ly that many cooperative people will choose to withdrawal One might ask themselves if this is too radical of an interpretation of oppression. Merely lacking civic engagement does not seem to be strong enough of a force to consider assholes oppressive. Sure, asshole capitalism might bring along some constraints for subjects within a society. But, constraints, like inconveniences, are not proper forms of oppression. In order to fully realize the implications of asshole capitalism as oppressive one must u nderstand these constraints as obstructions to freedom rather than normal kinds of constraints on beings in a capitalist society. Which means that there must be a change made in the situation of cooperative people by the hand of assholes, which is the caus e of this obstruction. Certainly, just because one chooses to remove themselves from civic engagement on account of an entitlement oriented culture which has grown within it, does not mean that they have freely chosen to no longer participate in the activi ties generally; only on account of the asshole mentality within the institution. This point is crucial because it exemplifies that asshole activity is causing a change in situations of the cooperative population.


Soch 37 Let us return to Sims thoughts on an oppr When someone aspires to this openness through unbridled choices and actions, when he uses his power to do anything he likes h e is an oppressor. An oppressor does not recognize the freedom of others or disempo wers them through mystification or coer cion oppression, oppressors are those who use their freedom and power to do anything they like to mystify or coerce cooperative people out of the institutions they once upheld. Accordi ngly, thrusting it ahead of itself and those who are condemned to mark time hopelessly in order to se writings on Beauvoirian oppression, it seems first that assholes have the capacity to mystify and coerce for their own personal gain. Justification of this is merely through their mode of reasoning as purported in the asshole section of this paper Seco nd, assholes, through their penetration into the social institutions, block off the possibility for cooperative people to engage in certain institutions without resigning themselves to the sort of condemned misery of supporting the collective. It seems li constraining cooperative people in normal ways. Rather, through the actions of assholes cooperative people are forced to withdraw from the kinds of things which are needed to both su pport capitalism and which are used as a means of constructive activity to work towards transcendence. The actions of a specific group, assholes, which target another specific group, cooperative people, and fundamentally change their situation in the world by blocking off certain avenues of constructive activity amounts to oppression. Cudd


Soch 38 Thus far, Frye has presented a social theory of oppression in which she employs the bi rd cage metaphor and the double bind scenario to exemplify what the experiences of the oppressed are like. This theory demonstrates that assholes are able to form cages around cooperative people through using social institutions in an interconnected manner which act s to oppress. Beauvoir gave us insight into how freedom and the block age of freedom affect others and provided a picture of an oppressor as one who uses his freedom to block the freedom of another in their situation Now, I will pres ent a third, and final, theory from oppression by Anne E. Cudd in her book Analyzing Oppr ession. Cudd will argue that oppression is the unfair harm enacted by certain groups against other groups in an institutionalized manner. Oppression, I claimed, is an institutionally structured, unjust harm perpetr ated on groups ex economic and psychological models by analyzing the notion of a social group that can be an oppressed or an oppressor group, a nd the notion of an institutionally s tructured constraint or action. (Cudd, 28) relations are able to effect groups in such a way that certain groups can impose u njustified harm upon others. Paul Benson gives the following summary of how Cudd justifies her theory: This thesis depends upon four claims: ( i) that the harms that comprise social oppression derive from institutional practices; (ii) that these harms ar e imposed on an independently identifiable social group (which constitutes the oppressed); (iii) that these harms operate


Soch 39 to the advantage of another social group; and (iv) that these harms derive from unjust coercion or force (25) (178) I will explain Cu capitalism acts oppressively. We must first clarify what Cudd means by social groups; then one can consider how institutionalized practices allegedly harm these groups. Doing so fulfil l social group is a collection of persons who share (Cudd, 44). shared social constraints the key element that binds a social group together. Cudd defines such es or ought to rationally consider in deciding how to ac t or how to plan around these constraints Cudd argues for example, blacks and whites in America are different social groups because they suffer different kinds of constraints within society (41) One way this might look is, the black social group plan their lives differently from white social g roups because they are constrained to live in different neighborhoods than the white social group s in America. Cudd takes institutional practices within society as the motivators of constraints upon other groups. Social groups are collections of individu als who face common constraints that are Explicit rewards set by groups whose c riteria of eligibility are common knowledge, for example, the starting salary for the typical MBA


Soch 40 graduate of the Harvard Business School would be one kind of constraint structured by a social institution. (Cudd, 51). People capable of attending Harvard Business School belong to a different social group tha n those who are not. The social institution of education is open to a broad array of social groups, but those who attend better schools are situated advantageously compared to those who cannot. which guide behavior in advance through the reward o r punishment those consequences that those who attend Harvard B usiness School are opp ressing those who cannot, but show s that social groups function within social institutions that enable and constrain in different ways and to different degrees. But, this example also reminds us that there are constraints which ensure certain social groups would never be able to attend Harvard Business School. oppression when the harms of social constraints are being aimed at an identifiable group. This can come about through both direct and indir ect forces of oppression. Cudd makes her point most clearly when she says the following about direct forces of oppres unjust laws that prescribe or proscribe behaviors by members of social groups, unjustified terrorist, police, or military by some groups on other groups, or unjust norms that deny equal opportunities to some membe two claims, unjust laws utilized by a social institution, that is the institution of the law and direct them to harm a specific social group. For example, Jim Crow laws are a direct implementation of unjust harm being directed at a specific social group by means of the institution of the law


Soch 41 third claim, that the harms of one social group work to the Collective Responsibility for Oppression: M embers of disadvantaged groups can also be kept from challenging oppressive relationships by dominant groups denyi ng them access to the resources they need to do so. In the case of economic oppression in terms of the way that the classic Marxist model presents it, workers cannot leave their relationship of subservience to capitalists because the structure of the labor market ensures that they are (by and large) unable to save enough to establish themse lves as independent producers (482) This is one means by which a social group is able to stay advantaged at the disadvantage of another group The two social groups in t infer that these are separate social groups because their constraints within society are clearly distinct, as Stahl points out. This is the working class has an inability to establish themselves as ind ependent producers. The harm, which should be explicitly stated, is that the capitalist system is set up such that the workers will never be able to create enough economic prosperity that they would be able to become independent and no longer rely on the c apitalists. I will return to this Finally, to exemplify the fourth claim by Cudd, these harms are coerced or forced upon specific social groups, consider the following thought from Laura Miller: If a black employe e is fired for an assortment of traits a manner of speaking or dressing or cornrowed hair whi


Soch 42 Cudd makes a similar point. Within the social institution of the workplace, there is an identifiable social group which is disadvantaged by another identifiable social group. Further, there is systematic e vidence of similar situations of unfair treatment of social groups throughout our society (Miller, 25). Getting clear on a couple of points here, it is unfair for an employer to milation into the people at a disadvantage in comparison to white people that the cultural practices of a social group employers. It is not the work ethic or performance of t he employee that is in question. What is in question is actions of the employer who makes up a set of standards that certain social groups are unable if the institution unfairly limits the choices of some group of persons relative to other groups in put forth in Miller of capitalism, broadly, or the workplace, more accurately, unfairly limits the choices of certain social groups relative to another. If we tell black people they must meet a thinly veiled set of white social norms, there is institutional racism taking place and this is oppressive According to Cudd, it is oppressive for black people to receive unfair harm imposed upon them by another identifiable social group, white people, through a means of coercion within a social inst itution. theory, capitalism on its own, not even asshole capitalism, may be oppressive Exploring each of the four claims needed to support C his. ( i ) T he harms that comprise social oppression derive from institutional practices (Cudd, 25) The harm being caused by the capitalists, in this example, is enabled by the social system of


Soch 43 capitalism, through its various social institutions As discussed previously, social institutions play a role in the style of capitalism which is being practiced. Social institutions are dictated or strongly influenced by those who control societies i.e. the capitalists Thus, the capitalists are able to maintain their position of power through the direct and indirect implementation of policy. For example, the capitalist class created and enforced the Jim Crow laws, utilizing the institution of the law Thr ough the institution unfair harms were impose d upon black people in America. (ii) T hese harms are imposed on an independently identifiable social group ( which constitutes the oppressed) (Cudd, 25) The social group of the workers is clearly distinct from that of the capitalists. The constraints on t he working class are markedly different from that of the capitalists. While capitalists have a grea ter range and mobility on the choices regarding how they act and plan their lives, the working class is restricted due to financial burdens put in place through social institutions by the capitalists (iii) T hese harms operate to the advantage of another social group (Cudd,25) Through the use of social institutions, capitalists are enabled to have an advantageous relationship with the worke rs; even if this comes at the harm of the working class Viewing the two social groups through the lens of each of their constraints exemplifies that the capitalists are taking advantage of the working class. There exists the possibility for economic mo bility for the capitalists while the workers are constrained to their economic status. (iv) T hese harms derive from unjust coercion or force The unjust harm caused by workers cannot leave their relationship of subservience to capitalists because the structure of the labor market ensures that they are (by and large) unable to save enough to establish themse lves as ed in this paper, capitalism relies upon a set


Soch 44 of social relations. Hodgson expanded upon the social relations between different classes and its effects on society. It is unjust for the cap italist class to use their position within society to set up a syst em which leaves the working class unable to become independent producers. The Capitalism section of this paper However, James has argued for the opposite of this understanding of capitalism. He conceives of asshole dampening systems which are set up to prevent this mode of capitalism f asshole dampening systems works in the same way to prevent the capitalists from taking advantage of workers. James and Hodgson bo th think that social relations play a role in the style of capitalism within a society, but that style does not necessarily h ave to be insidious like Stahl laid out provided cooperative people uphold their end of asshole dampenin g systems. I f asshole including freedom, opportunity, and gene ral property. It is supposed to advance t however, provide the opposite understanding. Who, then, has the correct interpretation? Is asshole dampening systems uphold the institutions n eed ed to prevent this style of capitalism from becoming prevalent in our society, if it is not already. Assholes use institutional practices to impart harm upon cooperative people, an identifiable social group and through means of coercion or force, assholes take advantages for t hemselves, often at the disadvantage of cooperative people. This statement is not exactly the


Soch 45 however. Stahl assigns much more culpability to the system of capitalism itself, while James f ocuses on t he e ffects and harms assholes impart themselves. Nonetheless, c omparing previously discussed the the social institutions which uphold c apitalism. Through discussion of their interaction with various social institutions, the asshole take advantage of soci al institutions and relations for the betterment of themselves, and at the specific disadvantage of cooperative people. Through acting out of an entrenched sense of entitlement, on an institutional level, assholes create a sort of capitalism laid out in St H ere, we can see a philosophically productive tension. On the one hand, capitalism seems perfectly set up to be oppressive, and to take the form of asshole capitalism. At the same time, asshole dampening systems are in place to protect societ y. The key question is: Are these asshole dampening systems really powerful enough to pr ? Or, is the game rigged to begin with? Maybe oppression, especially in the form of asshole capitali sm, is just the way capitalism works Addressing such concerns requires a two pronged approach : first a reminder of s of capitalism a re purported distinction between particular social groups and how oppress ion requires that the har m stem from one identifiable social group acting upon another. First Hodgson and James have both outlined the positive attribute s of a capitalist system, specifically its ability to attain the values which we seek as a society (see Hodgson, 153 and Ja mes, 155). Nonetheless James recognizes the possibility of this kind of capitalism and offers the solution in cooperative vigilance.


Soch 46 According to Karl Marx, capitalism is unstable but inevitably gives way to somethin g better. The proliferation of asshole s suggests that Marx was wrong: Capitalism is unstable but can give way to something worse. Thomas Hobbes, that great student of the human condition, has a better nose for the asshole in human life. Hobbes argued that society was so inherently unstable that only an absolute monarch (such as the English king) dynamics of assholes may confirm his gloomy view of the risks. Cooperation is fragile Cooperative vigilance is the only bulwark against decline, especially in capitalist societies. (James, 148 149) oriented culture (148). Cooperative vigilance requ ires that cooperative people holdfast in their dedication to upholding the institutions which bring about the positive attributes of capitalism. Indeed, this is something James thinks our society can do. But it would mean that asshole dampening systems do not fail. Why should we believe that these systems have not, or will not fail? James thinks our current capitalist system is, for the most part, able to attain these values and uphold well es 146 147). Furthermore, both Hodgson and James have argued that social relations play a role in the style of capitalism being practiced (see Hodgson, 29 and James 160). Indeed, the style of capitalism portrayed by Stahl is an oppressive one according to Cudd. It meets the four requirements for justifying her claims. But, it is not the only style of capitalism that can be practiced Consider the following question: for the most part, if there are unfair and unjust practices in our society, are we able to effectively prevent or correct them? If the values we seek in our society are upheld by cooperative people, it seems likely that the answer is yes.


Soch 47 Second, one can social group. The working class is composed of many different social groups, all constrained in unique ways an identifiable social class ( 25 ). analogous to large corporations like Walmart or Amazon, who could potentially oppress many social groups through their ability to impact many institutions In this case, the corporations are a ble to keep the working class subservient across all kinds of social groups. But these are instances of actors within capitalism, not capitalism itself. Thus, if it is possible as James and I have argued to keep our as shole dampening systems functioning, then capitalism would not allow for these corporations to have the opportunity to exploit the working class. There might be a case where certain identifiable social groups are being harmed by other social groups accordi ng where the entire capitalist class fits one definition of a social group and the entire working class is set up to fit another social group Conclu sion theory of assholes and asshole capitalism. Next, I examined three distinct theories of oppression, to see if asshole capitalism fit those theories. In each case, the answer was yes. Under asshole capitalism, cooperative people are being systematically and institutionally disadvantaged by assholes; whether that be via institutional and systemic disadvantages, the limiting of free choice a subject has in their given situation, or by unfair harm being imparted upon a certain social group through institutionalized forces, to the advantage of another social group.


Soch 48 However, a t the end of this paper, I f ind that my reflections on capitalism as a mode of oppression in and of itself brings to light the real fears behind asshole capitalism and why I think they should be taken as a serious threat. Clearly various models of capitalism are possible social relations. However, the task of preventing oppressive capit alism is not easily solved. Cooperative vigilance might be an answer. B etter oversight and recognition of asshole like actors in our society by some authority m ay also work to solve t he problem. While capital ism is often unfair to different social groups in our society already, I am not ready to deem it oppressive. It seems likely, as James and Hodgson have argued that we can conjure a capitalist society which does not inherently have to disadvantage groups o f people. N onetheless, when bad actors, e. g. assholes, corrupt the system, clearly capitalism can serve as a means to advantage some at the disadvantage of others. Asshole management is not an easy task. I think it is safe to say that we have yet to meet our tipping point of asshole infiltration, whatever that point may be, and as long as that is the case, there is hope for prevention of asshole capitalism. Whether that be by cooperative vigilance, education, greater oversight, etc. the solution has to beg in with a recognition of the problem. If this paper serves as nothing else, it is my sincerest desire that it will serve as an opportunity to recognize that assholes present a serious threat beyond their interpersonal relations.


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