Archives for the month of: August, 2012

Nicholas Georgouras, 2008, “HELP”, mixed media

 

One of the most strident opponents against the theory of human-derived climate change is John McLean. He has written pieces for the online journal Quadrant[1] and is supported in his thinking by many other prominent climate change sceptics who write influential opinion pieces in Australia’s broadsheet newspapers. An article was written recently by McLean about the Climate Change Conference held in Melbourne in June 2012 and hosted by two eminent scientists and Climate Change Commissioners, Professors Tim Flannery and Will Steffen. The title of the article “Doomed Planet” highlights the affective and loaded language that is used within the article in order for McLean to emphasise his opinion that the people supporting action on climate change are biased, fundamentalist thinkers who are dogmatic against any alternative view.

Mclean uses Christian fundamentalist imagery to imply that the conference was a small meeting of a group of fanatics. He begins his opinion piece with a quote from Vaclav Klaus explicitly asserting that environmentalists wish to control the way in which we should live our lives. This leads the initial claim in his first paragraph calling the conference a ‘travelling salvation show’ and a ‘revivalist meeting’. The Climate Change Conference was attended by 600 delegates from business, agriculture and science. The meeting was coordinated by the CSIRO and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. Farmers were particularly interested because many have seen in the last decades the significant impact of climate change upon their farms and wished to learn how that they could adapt to it[2]. Therefore, contrary to McLean’s claim, it does not seem to have been a meeting of religious zealots.

A report into climate change denial recognises five strategies that sceptics use to denigrate the large scientific body of research[3] that supports the theory of human-derived climate change. The first is the claim of conspiracy, where the scientific peer-review process is seen as a tool to suppress dissenting views[4]. McLean believes that this is what happened at the conference. He asserts that the audience was ‘largely of the faithful’ and observed that a young man in the audience who, although having his hand raised ‘for the entire question time’, was ignored. He fails to state whether there were others who also were not chosen, as often happens in question times at meetings, or if he discovered whether the question the young man wished to ask was pertinent to McLean’s argument.

The second strategy that sceptics use is fake experts. McLean has become quite renowned for his views upon climate change. He is cited by journalists, by politicians in the US Senate and some websites state that he is a climate data analyst based in Melbourne[5] . However, McLean is not a scientist but a computer consultant and part-time photographer[6] who has been interested in studying climate matters since 2003 and has written online reviews of CSIRO and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. This strategy was used by the tobacco industry in the 1970s to counter growing evidence that linked smoking to lung cancer[7].

The use of false experts is also accompanied by the denigration of established experts and researchers. McLean does throughout his article in his claims that climate change experts are religious zealots peddling ‘snake oil and hyperbole’, that their research is similar to ‘myths worthy of religion’, referring to the professors as Brother Will and Brother Tim. McLean states that the only proof that the global temperatures are warming rapidly is ‘an assemblage of the output of a collection of climate models’. This infers that the science that links human activity to climate change is not done by thousands of researchers working across the globe but by a few computer programs that output data that is put together in a spurious way. It also infers that the process of scientific peer-review is based upon belief and opinion rather than empirical evidence.

Other tactics used in the denial of science are selective use of isolated research to challenge a dominant consensus and the demand for impossible expectations. McLean writes in his article about the use of figures in the conference that he states misrepresent the commissioners’ case. A graph of annual heat content, that shows growing elevated temperatures of the upper ocean since the 1960s, is dismissed by McLean. Stating that modelling cannot be accurate, McLean makes the unsubstantiated claim that ‘there’s been no warming for the last 12 to 13 years despite the increase of CO2’. McLean asserts that ‘Brother Tim’s climate religion doesn’t have a gap but a chasm’ and that ‘observational data refutes their claim’. This does not correspond to the observations of many farmers, or the most recent scientific study enacted to address climate sceptics concerns, which corroborates even further the reports by the IPCC[8].

The main strategy of McLean’s article is to characterize the Climate Change Commission as a religious cult. In doing this, McLean creates the logical fallacies of ad hominem and straw-person arguments. McLean’s ad hominem attack on Professor Flannery alludes to the Professor being financially involved with the government in some corrupt way, when he states: ‘Brother Tim’s…benefitted from government largesse’. The allegation of a conflict of interest against Professor Flannery rejects the fact that the issue of climate change is something that is being addressed globally and does not rely upon the beliefs of a single person. Most major governments are listening to their scientists’ reports and are actively engaged in trying to combat the problem. McLean’s straw-person fallacy states that ‘religion and state are supposed to be separate’, however science is not religion and scientists are not religious leaders. McLean’s argument also begs the question: What is the motivation for the majority of scientists across the globe to engage in the selling of climate ‘snake oil’? Moreover his antagonistic, ad hominem article leaves another question begging: What is the motivation for McLean’s interest in the issue since 2003 and who helps in funding his analysis?

 

References:

  1. 1.      McLean, J. 2012, “Doomed Planet”,in Quadrant Online, August 3, 2012. Viewed: http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2012/07/praise-be-the-climate-commission-in-melbourne  on 28 July 2012
  2. 2.      Barbour, L. 2012, “Climate Change Conference Underway in Melbourne”, in ABC Rural, 27 June 2012. Viewed: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/201206/s3533895.htm  on 29 July 2012
  3. 3.      Pethica, J. et al.2010, Climate Change: A summary of the science, The Royal Society September 2010. Viewed: http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2010/4294972962.pdf  on 25 July 2012
  4. 4.       McKee, M. 2009, “Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?”, in European Journal of Public Health, Vol. 19, No.1, pp.2-4. Viewed: http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/1/2.full.pdf  on 28 July 2012
  5. 5.      McLean, J. (n.d.), “John McLean”, in Online Opinion: Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate, 2012. Viewed: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/author.asp?id=3754 on 28 July 2012
  6. 6.      McLean, J. (n.d.), Home page of John McLean. Viewed: http://mclean.ch/  on 28 July 2012
  7. 7.      Hickman, L. 2012, “Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds”, in The Guardian, 29 July 2012. Viewed: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jul/29/climate-change-sceptics-change-mind?intcmp=239  on 29 July 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] McLean, J. 2012, “Doomed Planet”,in Quadrant Online, August 3, 2012.

[2] Barbour, L. 2012, “Climate Change Conference Underway in Melbourne”, in ABC Rural, 27 June 2012.

[3] Pethica, J et al. 2010.

[4] McKee, M. 2009, “Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?”, in European Journal of Public Health, Vol. 19, No.1, pp.2-4.

[5] McLean, J. (n.d.), “John McLean”, in Online Opinion: Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate, 2012.

[6] McLean, J. (n.d.), Home page of John McLean.

[7] McKee, 2009

[8] Hickman, L. 2012, “Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds”, in The Guardian, 29 July 2012.

Nicholas Georgouras, 2008, “HELP”, mixed media
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JE Thomas, 'Portent', 2002, 168 x 224cm

 

JE Thomas, “Portent”, 2002, oil on canvas, 168 x 224 cm

 

2006J.E.Thomas. “Lament”, (2006), 160cm x 120cm, oil on canvas

The Sculptures of Picasso.

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                              “I  heard [Picasso] complain about how all the people who came

 to see him and saw him give new life to old bits of tulle and cardboard,

 string and corrugated metal, crumpled rags from the garbage can

thought they were doing him a favour to bring him remnants of splendid

 fabric to make pictures out of. He didn’t want them, he wanted

the true refuse of human life something poor, dirty, and contemptible.”

Louis Aragon (Spies, 2000:13)

Robert Hughes writes that the tradition of modern sculpture, with its welded and assembled sheets of metal and its open and constructed form, was derived from a small guitar that Picasso made in 1912 (Hughes, www.time.com ).Picasso radically expanded the techniques and materials used in sculpture during the twentieth century. Besides using bronze, plaster and wood, he employed found objects and the ‘fetishism that arises from the inexplicable and the overlooked’ (Spies, 2000:13). His penchant for violating convention set in motion the combination of found objects, an ironic approach to functional value, and a presentation of discarded pieces of consumer culture which have become inherent in artistic practice today. This essay will concentrate on describing the particular use of materials in Picasso’s work and how they have determined its outcome by assessing particular sculptures done throughout his lifetime.

In 1912 Georges Braque (1882-1963), Picasso’s partner in the initial development of Cubism, was continually trying to adapt craft techniques to Cubism. Contrasting with the nineteenth century attitude which saw craftsmanship as secondary, an appreciation of craftsmanship was common to both Braque and Picasso, allowing them to manipulate and experiment with many types of materials (Spies,

2000: 17). Along with cut-out templates, Braque used sand and plaster mixed with paint to create a relief surface. By the time he had shown these new works to Picasso they had become three-dimensional. He had been assembling sculptural objects together, using paper and cardboard, and then painting and drawing over them. Braque conducted these experiments as a way of assessing their ability for creating illusion (Walther, 1986:207). Picasso then began making paper collages of his own and, when exploring the illusion of spatial values, began making three-dimensional work. These guitars were crudely made out of cardboard and left uncoloured.

By 1914 Picasso had used the cut-out elements of the cardboard Guitar to make one out of sheet metal. A constructive and additive procedure was the profoundly innovative characteristic of these sculptures, along with the use of such foreign materials as sheet metal, wire and stovepipe pieces. These constructivist works were based upon new principles in which the material played the primary role. With his sheet metal Guitar 1914, Picasso had also broken with tradition by using ‘found objects’, in this case a stove pipe to represent the hole of the guitar. The introduction of these new materials meant that he was able to show the negative void in sculptural form, thereby increasing the means by which sculpture could express its three-dimensionality (Markus, www.tau.ac.il). The flat sheets of metal acted as planes as well as lines, thus defining the form and also containing the negative space. Wire and nails represented the strings while pins held the whole piece together. Finally, to unify the work, Picasso painted the whole piece a muted brown in accordance with the principles of Analytical Cubism.

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Guitar,1914, sheet metal and wire, Museum of Modern Art

After concentrating on the three-dimensional possibilities of applied set and costume design, Picasso returned to sculpture around 1928. Motivated by the desire to create a monument for the poet Guillame Apollinaire, he turned to Apollinaire’s own description for a monument of the dead poet Croniamantal in La Poete Assasine, ‘a statue of nothing, of a void…’ (Spies, 2000:117). Through this description Picasso wanted to realise the opposite of the nineteenth century idea of ‘the monument’ and, like his work with the Guitar, describe the reversal of volume. After viewing the sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz, which was also exploring the negative void, Picasso’s sketchbooks began to feature points and lines based upon star constellations. He gave four of these drawings to his friend Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942), who was a sculptor and proficient metal worker. Picasso envisaged scaffolding; ‘these sculptures of poles and antennae executed on a large scale, in pylons of iron or some other material’ (Spies, 2000:118).

Gonzalez executed four maquettes in reduced scale which were fashioned out of thin iron wire. The resulting sculptures successfully conveyed the immaterial spatial quality that Picasso had visualized, playing abstract form against representational, spatial against graphic with line and space both being juxtaposed. The iron rods represent material volume, yet at the same time have the illusion of two-dimensionality. They can be interpreted as outlining the figure and also outlining the air which is invisible, therefore achieving a ‘monument of nothingness’ (Walther, 1986:342). These maquettes were rejected by the monument’s selection committee as being too radical and were not realised in large-scale versions until 1962. The materiality that Picasso had conceived and Gonzalez executed became particularly important for future sculptors, such as Alexander Calder, who concentrated on welded metal structures.

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 Project for a Monument to Guillame Apollinaire, 1962, painted steel, Museum of Modern Art

Picasso continued his exploration of metal in his sketchbooks and also through his association with Gonzalez, whose welding techniques enabled Picasso to radicalize his forms and compositions. Welding, soldering and smelting allowed him to use iron wire, scrap metal and flat metal planes to create more ambitious and complex works. Already being aware of some extraordinary ethnological artworks made of metal in the TrocaderoMuseum in Paris, Picasso produced six large pieces of work with Gonzalez in the period between 1929 and 1931. The most complex of these was Woman in a Garden (1929), a piece which Gonzalez did not execute from sketches but which Picasso improvised from elements, such as a table body, to create the sculpture. This work is an assemblage rather than a construction and is also rather contradictory to the craft of metalwork itself through its use of unreconstructed scrap. It is a dynamic and rhythmic structure of line and gesture described by arts writer Werner Hoffmann as: ‘The piecing together of formal elements… rods and planes collide with injurious sharpness…’ (Spies, 2000:137). As with the iron wire works, Picasso’s concern was with transparency, with the lines in the work being paramount.

It was reported by the critic Andre Salmon that Picasso was highly amused by this form of work and enjoyed rummaging in the scrap heap for iron to perfect it.  Also, the Surrealist Andre Breton noted Picasso’s freedom in handling the material: ‘He even sought out the perishable and ephemeral for its own sake…’ (Spies, 2000:138). The assembled elements of the sculpture were then intentionally joined in a coarse and visible way, avoiding technical perfection, which lends it a quality of post-modernist self-reflexivity. Afterward Picasso painted the whole piece white to give it the appearance of uniformity. As the work had been designed for outside, a later bronze version was cast and welded by Picasso, which the critic Grace Glueck describes as being a ‘wild and compelling’ open-form assemblage that suggests both a woman and a garden fused in a poetic vision (www.nytimes.com).

In the mid ‘30s Picasso began a more extensive use of mechanically textured surfaces. Form played a secondary role to clear textures, such as the flowing parallel folds of corrugated cardboard representing the fluting of early Greek sculptures. Woman With Leaves (1934) contrasts these corrugated cardboard pleats in the lower body with vegetal veining of elm leaves pressed into fresh plaster. The surface of the sculpture consists almost entirely of adopted textures. Picasso considered this work to be one of his great achievements (Withers, 1975:72). Subsequently, the combinations of objects and materials began to play an ever more important role with the free interpretation of sculptural form and quotation from reality allowing a simple integration of real elements.

A good example of this is Head of a Bull(1942) which is the most famous of Picasso’s reproduced sculptural works. By achieving the simplest mode of sculptural expression, the coupling together of two unaltered bicycle parts, Picasso intended that the elements of the work should not be isolated by the consciousness. He understood that the process of assembling these ‘ready made’ works could be undone to become the functional objects again; that the functional value never completely disappears. Roland Penrose wrote that Picasso’s bull, though initially humorous, through its combination of material can also create a metamorphosis which can challenge our sense of reality (Green, 1985:73). A new viewer experiences Picasso’s synthetic illumination in reverse after realising that the sculpture is constructed of two visually and functionally separated bicycle parts. The material unity is completed through the process of bronzing.

However, Picasso says that the danger of the unifying nature of the bronze material is that the viewer may only see the ‘bull’s head and no longer the saddle and the handlebars rendering the work uninteresting’ (Green, 1985:71). The work needs the optical illusion of the metaphorical tension created between the two objects and the aesthetic image they create. Picasso anticipated a further stage in which the sculpture could be reduced again to its separated state and be reused in its original function (Green, 1985:72). By taking something that is rubbish and using it in an unexpected way is the visual renewal which Picasso made to twentieth century art. This approach could be associated with the period of war and its ‘characteristic peddling and use of scraps’ (Spies, 2001:216). Rubbish, garbage and scrap gained increasing importance in his sculptural work.

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Bull’s Head 1943
Handlebars and seat of a bicycle

Picasso’s sculptural activity was often confined to sketch models. These were an experimental approach to materials to try and force expression from formless and contentless elements. They were works influenced by ethnographical pieces such as masks from the Belgian Congo in which found objects are arranged together. Also ancient Gallo-Roman coins were another influence in his clay-moulded reliefs. This may have been due to the Surrealist interest in the metaphorical importance of objects. Whereas Marcel Duchamp was also interested in tiny works such as these and saving them in a suitcase (Spies, 2000:220), Picasso was interested in these reduced models because of their ‘intimacy and concealment’ (Spies, 2000:221). His paper pieces were not cut but torn; sometimes mouths or eyes were burned in with a cigarette. The paper was sometimes folded to create a spatial effect. Pebbles, bones, pieces of wood and tiny tin caps became birds, fish, foxes, goats, vultures, masks, children’s faces, death heads, cigars and nit combs embellished with a pair of lovemaking lice. They anticipated the sheet metal sculptures that would come in the 1950s and 1960s.

Picasso also produced sculptures whose appearance was mostly dependent upon materials that had a particular form or statement. His work was always grounded in the representational, and in pieces such as Woman with Baby Carriage 1950 he used a wide variety of different pieces of metal, such as bits from a real pram, but also cake pans and a stove plate, modelled in clay, which he then stuck together not leaving any doubt as to the fragmentary nature of the elements which had formed the sculpture. In his She –Goat 1950 he went about the assemblage in a different manner, only looking for materials that he would need to form the image that he envisaged. The sculpture consists of materials such as a wicker basket, palm leaves, bits of metal tube, flower pots and pieces of china, but these are no longer recognizable having been stuck together underneath a layer of plaster. Goat Skull and Bottle 1954 was also created from a number of found materials such as bicycle handlebars and large bolts for the eyes. The goat’s head is covered in a layer of corrugated cardboard that gives a textural direction of the hair; nails are used for the tufts in the ears and also for the rays of light emanating from the candle nestled in the bottle. Again the sculpture was unified by casting in bronze but he also painted it in shades of grey that matched the sombre palette of his post-war years. As in his other sculptures, the found elements never quite give up their original identities (www.moma.org).

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Goat Skull and Bottle. 1951, Painted Bronze, Museum of ModernArt, N.Y.

Picasso also used wood from crates, sofa feet, broomsticks, painting stretchers and sometimes an easel. Therefore these constructions and assemblages were largely determined by the materials used. In 1912 he had begun composing guitars using the same visual values in wood, cardboard and sheet metal. Further on, in the stage sculptures proposed for the ballet Parade1917, his sketches depict the use of boards and wooden elements. The Bathers 1956 with their clearly demarcated rectangular bodies are further investigations into these designs. Lines were carved and burned-in to convey a formal appearance along with a red and black paint transparently applied by rubbing. On the child’s face small wooden pegs are fixed to the disc of the head. The sculptures of this period were made of thin planes referencing painting in their near flatness.

Although Picasso was mainly recognized as a painter in his lifetime, perhaps it was because his sculptures were generally confined to his own collection that gave him the audacity to consider the ephemeral and unusual as material. Although the influence of primitivism and the inspiration of artists from such places Central Africa and Oceania must also attest to his ready acceptance of found materials. Moreover, he obviously did not feel the constraints of having to consider the durability of many of his sculptures, yet when he did he ironically resorted to the tradition of bronze casting. It was the bronzing of these ephemeral works which can unfortunately relegate some of them to quaintness, through the loss of the surprise of their materiality. This was an unfortunate result as artists such as Marcel Duchamp never felt the inclination to unify their sculptures through this process and the use of such materials were philosophically important to the work. However, it is generally accepted that Picasso’s sculptures are ‘among the most radical, thought-changing artworks of the modern period’ (Dickerman, www.moma.org).

Bibliography:

Dickerman, L., http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/exhibitions.php?id=8722&ref=calendar  Retrieved: August 10, 2008

Glueck, G., 1982, Art View: Picasso Revolutionized Sculpture Too, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F02E6D81038F935A1575AC0A964948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=allRetrieved: August 7, 2008

Glueck, G., Art: Gonzalez Survey, A Sculptor’s Reshaping, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9406E3DB1439F932A25750C0A965948260 Retrieved: August 7, 2008

Green, J., Picasso’s Visual Metaphors, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 19, No.4 (Winter, 1985) pp.61-76, University of Illinois Press

Hughes, R., www.time.com/time/time100/artists/profile/picasso.html Retrieved: July 14, 2008

Markus, R. Picasso’s Guitar 1912: The transition from Analytical to Synthetic Cubism, www.tau.ac.il?arts/projects/PUB/assaph-art?assaph2?articles_assaph?13Markus.pdf Retrieved: August 5 2008

McCully, M.,  Picasso Painter/Sculptor. London, Tate Gallery, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 136, No. 1094 (May, 1994), pp. 326-328

Morisset, V., http://www.centrepompidou.fr/education/ressources/ENS-Picasso-EN/ENS-Picasso-EN.html#image09  Retrieved: August 15, 2008

Spies, W, 2000, Picasso: The Sculptures, Hatje Cantz Publishers, Stuttgart

Walther, I, 1986, Pablo Picasso, Benedkt Taschen Verlag, Bonn

Withers, J., The Artistic Collaboration of Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, Art Journal Vol.35 No. 2 (Winter 1975-76) pp. 107-114, College Art Association

Withers, J., Review: Werner Spies: Sculpture By Picasso, Art Journal Vol. 35 No.1 (Autumn 1975) pp.70-72, College Art Association

 

 

 

 

Nicholas Georgouras, 2006, The Landlord, marble

Inclosure came and trampled on the grave / Of labour’s rights and left the poor a slave … And birds and trees and flowers without a name / All sighed when lawless law’s enclosure came.”

                                                                                                       John Clare, The Mores (1821-24)[1]

During the Industrial Revolution in Britain, vast tracts of land were enclosed and the people who lived off them were completely disenfranchised[2]. This situation was much like circumstances the world over for indigenous peoples under colonialism. With this understanding of the enclosure of land through the acquisition of property, this essay will explore the theories of justice by two philosophers, Robert Nozick and John Rawls. Robert Nozick firmly believes in the rights of private property. Contrastingly, John Rawls argues that justice is based upon cooperation rather than competition. I will argue that Nozick’s theory is problematic through its assertion of property rights being based on the rights of the individual, and that a stable, secure society can only exist through people’s voluntary cooperation.

Robert Nozick favours libertarian principles which assert that a person who legally acquires, either directly or through transfer, some form of property is entitled to that holding[3]. This entitlement can be said to be directly related to the circumstances in which one is born or one finds oneself; for it is fortunate circumstances that allows one to secure an entitlement to the property that is transferred. They are fortunate because under entitlement theory no one is entitled to any holding unless they have legally acquired it[4], which alienates and excludes people who are too poor or powerless to own or hold a claim to land. Nozick does not believe that justice is about patterns of distribution of property but about entitlement to property[5]. He objects to patterns of distribution, such as the egalitarian principles of the equal distribution of societal goods, because of a lack of central distribution[6]. He states that there is no person or group entitled to control all resources or to decide how they should be allocated[7]. Further, Nozick contends that patterns of just distribution cannot be realised without there being an unreasonable amount of interference in a person’s life[8].

Nozick’s main principle of distribution is that is it legally and justly acquired. This condition is a problem for Nozick’s argument as, historically, much of the land that has been acquired upon the Earth has been through invasion, colonisation, war or oppression, not through any legal or just means. This assertion prioritises the rights of colonisers over indigenous peoples and undermines Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which the civil and human rights of all people are equal[9]. Nozick’s libertarian view of property rights relies upon John Locke’s assertion that property is a moral right by virtue of human labour[10]. However, an objection to this assertion could be the question: Whose labour? Is the labour of colonisers more important than thousands of generations of indigenous people’s labour? In Theory of Social Democracy[11], Thomas Meyer and Lewis Hinchman argue that Locke’s linking of freedom to property was problematic because there are people whose existence depends upon the property of others which negates their access to a moral right to liberty. Michael Thompson, in his review of Meyer and Hinchman, states that ownership, which is the province of the minority, gives inequitable access to positive liberty, thereby creating a material inequality which perpetuates into inequity at the level of human and civil rights[12].

Nozick’s objection to distributive justice can be addressed through looking at the Athenian economic crisis of 594 BCE. Civil unrest occurred because of the enslavement of farmers and their families, who defaulted upon their mortgages. The civil administrator, Solon, was chosen to mediate the dispute and he enacted social, legal and moral reforms that served as the foundation for later Athenian democracy. Through his law reforms, Solon implicitly subordinated wealth to an ethical code[13]. His authority stemmed from an agreement by both sides that he administrate the dispute, and also his reasoning that the whole society would suffer if the imbalance was allowed to continue to occur[14]. Solon’s political reforms established the basis of a moral and legal framework in which individuals could pursue wealth in a social context[15]. For Solon, it was necessary to see beyond short-term gain to long-term success through the use of reason. Reason becomes the authority that legitimises a government to control and allocate resources so that there is enough equity in society to enable it to be stable. Reason also makes it acceptable for citizens to comply with the demands of society without undue interference. In contemporary society social democracy theory reflects the ideals of Solon’s reforms. It reconciles the contradiction in libertarian appeals to civil and human rights by providing a framework for the government to provide the necessary means to enable these rights to become concrete[16].

John Rawls holds a contrasting egalitarian perspective of distributive justice to Nozick. He sees society as ‘a cooperative venture for mutual advantage’[17]. According to Rawls, people are not indifferent as to how the resources, on which society depends, are distributed. Conflicts of interests arise when there are marked inequalities between individuals or groups within the system. So Rawls advocates that we should look at distributive justice with the notion of an ‘original position of equality’[18]. The main idea of an original position is that life is a lottery, with no one having knowledge of what their place in society will be when they are born. Nor do they have knowledge of how they will be allotted natural assets or abilities, or whether they will be subject to liabilities, such as being born in a refugee camp, in wartime, in slavery or servitude, or with some form of disability. In choosing the principles of justice to which we would desire to be subjected if we were placed in the original position, Rawls contends that we would make our choice through a ‘veil of ignorance’[19]. This ‘veil of ignorance’ will ensure that, as we cannot know what advantages or disadvantages we will be placed under, we will choose principles that will be of the most benefit to the least advantaged.

Considering that, in the modern world, the production of goods and services relies upon a vast network of workers and consumers; Rawls has a strong argument that society is a cooperative effort that should result in mutual benefits. The companies that produce these items or services rely upon systems of utilities, education, health, transport and communication. Even if one of these systems fails, such as when a strike or natural disaster happens, many of the other systems may also fail with the effect upon a company or community sometimes being ruinous. Therefore, we all benefit from these systems being cooperative. Nozick rejects Rawls’ theory by stating that there is no guarantee that people would be motivated to adhere to his difference principle if they emerged from the ‘veil of ignorance’ being naturally well-endowed[20]. As far as Nozick is concerned, a government has no right to interfere with a person’s liberty in order to enact the distribution of social goods, and its only role is to protect the property of persons[21]. Just as the civil strife affected Athens in 594 BCE and no estate could be cordoned off for its own protection, under Nozick’s theory the government would have an onerous task trying to protect one person’s property from the many who do not have any property. Therefore, the motivating factor to adhere to the difference principle may be that the naturally well-endowed could not be guaranteed of keeping their position if they unfairly took advantage of their situation.

Nozick’s person does not live in a vacuum, relying upon the cooperation of others to make sure that he or she is protected. As John Stuart Mill stated:  “…everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest”[22]. Nozick’s theory results in an unequal society that is insecure and tenuous. Under such conditions, a person’s ability to maintain their hold upon property is also tenuous. Rawls’ theory of distributive justice recognises the benefits that people should enjoy when they cooperate for mutual advantage, and is based upon principles under which there is a balance of equality, liberty and productivity and so encourages all to adhere to it.

Nozick’s entitlement theory is weak because the legal right to property can be seen to be contentious, especially with regard to land obtained by invasion and the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples. Rawls’ theory, that we should consider our position in society from the ‘original position’, is based upon a real understanding of the unreliability of existence, as we have no concept of our potential societal or physical position before we are born. If we can cooperate to form principles of justice based upon mutual long-term self-interest, these will have more possibility of being upheld because we all benefit from them, rather than just a select few. Therefore, for the establishment of secure, stable and cohesive communities, Rawls’ argument has the most strength.

Bibliography

  1. Clare, J., The Mores, comp. 1821-24; publ. 1935, viewed 10 July 2012, http://orion.it.luc.edu/~sjones1/mores.htm
  2. Lamont, J & Favor, C, 2007, “Distributive Justice”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Viewed on 1 July 2012, URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/justice-distributive/ .
  3. Lewis, J.D, 2008, ‘Solon of Athens and the Ethics of Good Business’ in Journal of Business Ethics, (2009), 89, Springer, pp. 123-138, viewed on 13 July 2012, DOI. 10.1007/s10551-008-9989-4
  4. Mill, JS, 1869, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual”, Ch.4 in On Liberty,1869, Viewed on 8 July 2012, http://www.bartleby.com/130/4.html
  5. Monbiot, G., 2012, ‘John Clare, the poet of the environmental crisis- 200 years ago’ guardian.co.uk, 9 July 2012, viewed 9 July 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/09/john-clare-poetry
  6. Rawls, J. 1972, ‘An Egalitarian Theory of Justice’, extracts from A Theory of Justice, reprinted in Tom Beauchamp & Norman Bowie (eds.). Ethical Theory and Business, 6th edition, (Prentice Hall, 2001), pp. 649-656.
  7. Shaw, WH & Barry, V,1995, ‘Justice and Economic Distribution’, Ch. 3 of Shaw & Barry (eds.) Moral Issues in Business, 6th edition, (Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 1995), pp. 101-126.
  8. Thompson, M, 2009, ‘Theorising Social Democracy’ in Studies in the Culture and Politics of Antiurbanism, Autumn 2009, Palgrave Macmillan, viewed on 14 July 2012, http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d16Thompson.pdf
  9. Townley C, J 2012, Justice, Markets and Capitalism, Lecture notes distributed in unit, PHI230, Business and Professional Ethics, Macquarie University, Sydney on 2 July 2012
  10. United Nations, 1948, ‘Universal Declaration Of Human Rights’, viewed on 15 July 2012, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ .

 


[1] Clare J. The Mores, (1821-24)

[2] Monbiot, G., 2012, ‘John Clare, the poet of the environmental crisis- 200 years ago’ guardian.co.uk, 9 July 2012.

[3] Nozick, 1974, ‘The Entitlement Theory’, extracts from Anarchy, State and Utopia, reprinted in Tom Beauchamp & Norman Bowie (eds.). Ethical Theory and Business, 6th edition, (Prentice Hall, 2001).

[4] Nozick, 1974, p.658

[5] Nozick, 1974,  p. 658

[6] Nozick, 1974, p.657

[7] Nozick, 1974, p.657

[8] Nozick, 1974, p.660

[9] United Nations, 1948, Universal Declarations of Human Rights

[10] Nozick, 1974, p. 660

[11]  Thompson, M, 2009, ‘Theorising Social Democracy’ in Studies in the Culture and Politics of Antiurbanism, Autumn 2009, Palgrave Macmillan, p.96

[12] Thompson, M, 2009, p.96

[13] Lewis, J.D, 2008, ‘Solon of Athens and the Ethics of Good Business’ in Journal of Business Ethics, (2009), 89, Springer, p.124

[14] Lewis, J.D, 2008, p.129

[15] Lewis, J.D, 2008, p.131

[16] Thompson, M, 2009, p.96

[17] Rawls, J. 1972, ‘An Egalitarian Theory of Justice’, extracts from A Theory of Justice, reprinted in Tom Beauchamp & Norman Bowie (eds.). Ethical Theory and Business, 6th edition, (Prentice Hall, 2001), p.4.

[18] Rawls, 1972, p. 12

[19] Rawls, 1972, p.12

[20] Townley C, 2012, Justice, Markets and Capitalism, Lecture notes distributed in unit, PHI230, Business and Professional Ethics, Macquarie University, Sydney.

[21] Townley, C, 2012

[22] Mill, J, S 1869, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual”, Ch.4 in On Liberty,1869.