Analytical Freedom trying to defend “agency.”

The blog Analytical Freedom, ran by someone who is pro-capitalism and thinks writing like an academic makes that proposition seem reasonable, is unworthy of discussion. There’s no point discussing with someone who’s head is so far up their ass that they actually think capitalism is a good idea. But I wanted to use their silly entry against my entries on “agency” to illustrate the arguments that such types bring to bear when defending what is basically the strategy of blaming the victim.

Analytical Freedom’s argument is a version of “I know what you are, but what am I.” Basically, they argue that my attacks against “blaming the victim” themselves are a form of “blaming the victim”:

Tremblay states that “no individual has the power to change the institutions in which they live” and dismisses the possibility as “magic”. This assumption is based on a similar premise as the first one; minority communities are on every level incapable of altering their patterns of behavior into more beneficial ones. While it might seem tempting to blame outside forces as the sole reason for the lack of development in certain communities, such a theory would be hard-pressed to explain large differences between communities of the same demographic by completely ignoring the effect of in-group institutions.

Even though they quoted me accurately, they obviously didn’t read it well. I clearly wrote “no individual,” and was referring to individual human beings, not groups or communities. The full quote was:

So again we’re talking about a purely reactionary strategy which aims to justify oppression through the delusion of power, but this time applied to entire groups of people. Because no individual has the power to “change the institutions in which they live,” this kind of “agency” applied to any individual must lead to the same conclusion: the victim is actually “responsible and accountable” for eir own oppression.

My point was that defining “agency” as “the ability of people to change the institutions in which they live” makes no sense because individuals (who supposedly possess agency) can’t “change the institutions in which they live.” Saying that a single individual has “agency,” meaning that they can somehow magically change the institutions that govern their actions, means blaming the victim because any victim of those institutions can be blamed for not changing those institutions.

How does one go from that to “minority communities are on every level incapable of altering their patterns of behavior into more beneficial ones”? I’ve said nothing like that at all, whatever “beneficial patterns of behavior” are; from my perspective those would be patterns of resistance, and it is quite obvious that communities are able to resist oppression.

But Analytical Freedom has failed to demonstrate that this ability stems from some magical individual capacity and not, as always, from institutional incentives. As proof, his own explanation is… based on institutional incentives! The fact that these institutions are in-group instead of out-group does not change the nature of the incentives.

Despite Analytical Freedom’s complaint that agency and free will are not that similar, advocates of free will use the same stupid objection: you must believe that individuals can’t change for the better and make better decisions. But they are confusing natural law or social laws with fatalism, and that’s a purely arbitrary decision. It would make as much sense to argue that, in the absence of free will, individuals can’t get worse or make terrible decisions.

Given how they end the paragraph I quoted, I know what Analytical Freedom is really talking about. When they say that “communities with behavior patterns grounded on values such as cohesion, individual responsibility and respect for physical integrity and property” provide more “choices” to their members, this is veiled racist-speak. Of course, racists don’t outright state their beliefs, as that’s unacceptable nowadays, but I think it’s pretty clear.

With this being dealt with, let me look at some other considerations brought up by the author:

The second assumption taken for granted is that an unequal amount of choices available during interaction necessarily indicates the presence of oppression or the lack of consent. However, a wealthy, well-educated laborer might very well have less available options in comparison to his employer, this does not render him in a state of oppression. Additionally, it is unclear what degree of choice a person needs to possess in order for them to be oppressed.

I have no idea what part of my entries Analytical Freedom is referring to here, but it doesn’t make any sense. Anyone who reads my blog would know that I don’t believe in “choices” to begin with, so I wouldn’t associate a greater or lower quantity of them with oppression. What does indicate the presence of oppression is, for example, being a subordinate in a hierarchy… something which a laborer is, in comparison to their employer.

I think this is supposed to be another blaming the victim argument, similar to “but they could have left at any time” rhetoric used to intimidate victims of spousal abuse, bad workplace conditions, cults, and so on. I assume Analytical Freedom would say that the laborer is not being oppressed because he can leave any time he wants. This is just more silly “agency” rhetoric without connection to the real world (as capitalist rhetoric usually is).

The fact that some women and ex-prostitutes oppose prostitution is completely irrelevant. Many women and prostitutes openly endorse prostitution, and the point of the quote was exactly that these prostitutes are silenced when universally painted as victims simply for selling sex. The fact that some prostitutes lack choice does not mean that every prostitute is a victim devoid of choice, responsibility, and accountability.

This is a bizarre reply because Analytical Freedom is now openly blaming prostituted women for being prostituted by saying they are accountable for their status. So much for their previous accusation of projection.

Either way, this is a complete non sequitur. There is no relation between portraying prostituted women as victims of an institution (which they are) and silencing those prostituted women. That makes no more sense than saying that calling poor people victims of capitalism (an analogy which Analytical Freedom would hate, I’m sure) means you’re silencing poor people. It’s a statement of fact about the status given to those people in society.

Many prostituted women support prostitution. This is not unexpected: people whose livelihood depends on a certain institution have an incentive in defending that institution, no matter what it’s doing to them. This does not mean that we should silence them. What it does mean is that we should take anything they say with a grain of salt, just as we would take what a politician says about a corporation financing his campaign with a grain of salt. That’s just common sense.

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