NARRATIVE POWER: A SHORT INTERVIEW In this short interview, Ken Plummer tells a little about his new book. Q: Why did you write Narrative Power? Narrative has become a contemporary buzzword: everybody’s talking about it. There’s now a vast amount of writing by academics in all kinds of different disciplines from literature and the…
This week marks the ninth anniversary of my liver transplant; I have had nine more years of life than could have been expected in past times. I remain in awe at this life saving procedure and in permanent gratitude to my donor. But still there are many problems. There aren’t enough organs: up to 1,000…
STRANGERS DROWNING LARISSA MACFARQUHAR This has to be the best book I have read so far this year! It is the story of ‘extreme do – gooders’, obsessed altruists who push their lives to ‘moral extremity’, wanting above all to solve the world’s problems in a directly practical way – and to be…
Cosmopolitan Sexualities is now published My latest book was published in May 2015 by Polity Press. You can find details and a study guide for it by clicking here or the tab at the top: Cosmosexualities It is reviewed in the Times Higher Education here, along with my ‘full profile, at: Review’ From the cover:…
If our world is to be a decent world in the future, we must acknowledge right now that we are citizens of one interdependent world, held together by mutual fellowship as well as the pursuit of mutual advantage, by compassion as well as self interest, by a love of human dignity, in all people, even when there is nothing to gain from cooperating with them. Or rather even when we have to gain the biggest thing of all: participation in a just and morally decent world. Martha Nussbaum Frontiers of Justice 2006: p324
I first encountered Martha Nussbaum through her book Sex and Justice (1999), and have been a cautious fan ever since.
I thank her for her discussions of the issues of narrative and ‘cultivating humanity’; of the importance of capabilities, rights and human flourishing; for her tentative list of central human capabilities; for her ideas of shame and disgust;for her work beyond the narrow confines of a US academic; for the ideas of cosmopolitanism; for her concerns about gender and sexuality; for her ‘religious tolerance’; for her concern with anmals and disability; and for her passion for a ‘decent world culture’ and a world moral community; She is surely one of the world’s leading philosophers and feminists and ~i think provides a good grounding for developing a better sociology. .
Martha Nussbaum’s Central Human Functional Capabilities.
- Life. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length; not dying prematurely or before one’s life is so reduced as to be not worth living
- Bodily Health and Integrity. Being able to have good health, including reproductive health; being adequately nourished; being able to have adequate shelter
- Bodily Integrity. Being able to move freely from place to place; being able to be secure against violent assault, including sexual assault, marital rape, and domestic violence; having opportunities for sexual satisfaction and for choice in matters of reproduction.
- Senses, imagination, thought. Being able to use the senses; being able to imagine, to think, and to reason – and to do these things in a “truly human” way, a way informed and cultivated by an adequate education, including, but by no means limited to, literacy and basic mathematical and scientific training; being able to use imagination and thought in connection with experiencing and producing expressive works and events of one’s own choice (religious, literary, musical etc.); being able to use one’s mind in ways protected by guarantees of freedom of expression wit respect to both political and artistic speech and freedom of religious exercise; being able to have pleasurable experiences and to avoid nonbeneficial pain
- Emotions. Being able to have attachments to things and persons outside ourselves; being able to love those who love and care for us; being able to grieve at their absence; in general being able to love, to grieve, to experience longing, gratitude, and justified anger; not having one’s emotional developing blighted by fear or anxiety. (Supporting this capability means supporting forms of human association that can be shown to be crucial in their development.
- Practical reason. Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one’s own life. (This entails protection for the liberty of conscience.)
- Affiliation. (a) Being able to live for and in relation to others, to recognize and show concern for other human beings, to engage in various forms of social interaction; being able to imagine the situation of another and to have compassion for the situation; having the capability for both justice and friendship. (Protecting this capability means, once again, protecting institutions that constitute such forms of affiliation, and also protecting institutions that constitute such forms of affiliation, and also protecting the freedoms of assembly and political speech.) (b) Having the social bases of self-respect and nonhumiliation; being able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others. (This entails provisions of nondiscrimination.)
- Other species. Being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and the world of nature
- Play. Being able to laugh, to play, to enjoy recreational activities.
- Control over one’s environment. (a) Political: being able to participate effectively in political choices that govern one’s life; having the rights of political participation, free speech, and freedom of association (b) Material: being able to hold property (both land and movable goods); having the right to seek employment on an equal basis with others; having the freedom from unwarranted search and seizure. In work, being able to work as a human being, exercising practical reason and entering into meaningful relationships of mutual recognition with other workers.
From Martha Nussbaum Sex and Social Justice. 1999: 41-2; but it can be found everywhere in her work (eg Frontiers of Justice); and most recently in Creating Capabilities (2011) and Development and Change, Forum 2006 Vol 37, No 6 November 2006 p1325-7, where she also comments on problems with the list – page 1315.
Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible
Comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weight thoughts,
Nor measure words–but pouring them
All right out–just as they are
Chaff and grain together,
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them,
Keep what is worth keeping,
And with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.
A MANIFESTO FOR A CRITICAL HUMANISM
ON QUESTIONING THE HUMAN SOCIAL WORLD
(Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Essex, U.K.)
This was First Presented at the VI Congreso Andaluz de Sociologiá, University of Cadiz, November 2012
In June it was published in
Daniel Nehring: Sociology: A Text and Reader ( Pearson, 2013).
This is the first edition; it is now under revision for a 2nd version. Comments are welcome
Contact Ken Plummer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science
– W.H. Auden ‘Under Which Lyre’. 1946
We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom. Leo Tolstoy War and Peace, 1869
These then are my last words to you. Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact. William James: The Will to Believe. 1896
- Prologue: A very human animal in an all too human world
- On the Human Search for Meaning
- On Sociology
- The Challenge of Humanism
- Righting the Troubles with Humanism
- On Critical Humanism
- The Human Condition: Obdurate Features of the Human World
- On Human Potentials, Capabilities and Rights
- The Challenge of Plural Worlds, Ethnocentrism and Cosmopolitanism
- On Becoming Human: The Process of Humanization
- A Sociology of the People: Being Practical and Pursuing the Wise Society
- We are the Story Telling Animals
- The Politics and ethics of Humanism: Living a Better Life and Making a Better World
- Dark Hope and Dreaming Ahead in Perpetually Troubled Timers: Key Directions For a Future Humanistic Agenda
- Further Reading
Handouts for recent presentations Today I have posted some summary handouts of recent lectures that I have given. The first was given at a lecture for Spanish sociologists. I launched the manifesto for Critical Humanism at that time; and this was the handout I gave them as I lectured to powerpoints.…
6th Anniversary of My Transplant: Time for Hallucinatory Stories Today, February 18th, is the 6th Anniversary of my Liver Transplant. I remain full of daily gratitude to my donor – and her family. I have had six years of extra life so far! It is a true scientific and human miracle. Any point in history…