synthesising political philosophy & professional ethics for effective advocacy

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  1. 1. Synthesising political philosophy & professional ethics for effective advocacy David McMenemy Computer and Information Sciences University of Strathclyde Glasgow
  2. 2. Personal background/context Overview of 3 main theories of justice that inform political philosophy/ethics and their importance Examples of how political philosophy and professional ethics have interacted in library and information work How can we advocate with an eye on the emerging trends? What might the future hold? Overview
  3. 3. [The] ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understoodPractical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. J.M. Keynes, 1936. A thought to begin.
  4. 4. Have authored papers/book on ethics for library and information professionals For past 3 years been studying MA in political philosophy to enhance ethics knowledge Keynes words have rung true since minute one The language of public policy is the language of political philosophy Our advocacy needs to speak this language Personal background/context
  5. 5. Professionals delivering public services interpret policy from political philosophy filtered through many agents Think tanks (Demos, ResPublica, etc) Central government Local government Media Professional associations By the time we see it, the philosophy may not be overt The reality
  6. 6. In the UK, the people who run central government, think-tanks and media predominantly come from a political class educated in PPE (and variations) In such courses, social justice is painted largely in colours that highlight the prevailing wind of the time Crucially, they also educate the graduates in both defunct principles of social justice and potentially emerging principles The macro and micro challenges
  7. 7. Social justice relates to the theories of how we allocate social goods There are essentially 3 ways of thinking about social justice. Each has variations, but in summary: 1. Maximising welfare/utility. e.g. Utilitarianism 2. Protecting individual freedom. e.g. Rights based theories 3. Promoting virtue. e.g. Communitarian movement Theories of social justice
  8. 8. Public libraries (and other services) grew out of a historical period where utilitarianism was the over-arching political philosophy Utilitarianism as a philosophy advocated maximising happiness for the greatest number Post World War II the emerging emphasis on rights saw utilitarianism wane in influence Rawls A Theory of Justice (1971) largely spelt end of the principle in Anglo-American philosophy 1. Maximising welfare
  9. 9. Inspired by the theories of Immanuel Kant Rights philosophers believed utilitarianism did not respect individual rights in 2 areas: 1. It did not respect the separateness of persons 2. The individual should be able to select their own version of the good life Approaches from both left and right spectrums were available, though a famous iteration of rights-based theories could be seen in Thatcherism 2. Protecting individual freedom
  10. 10. Battle between negative rights and positive rights colour the debate Negative rights are non-interference rights. The right to be left alone, for the state not to interfere in your affairs, etc. e.g. libertarianism Positive rights, often called welfare rights, are the expectations a citizen can have of the state, e.g. provision of health, education, libraries, etc. e.g. Rawlsian egalitarianism (President Bartlett in West Wing was one) Types of right
  11. 11. In 2013 best-selling author of the Horrible Histories series, Terry Deary, suggested that public libraries deprive authors, publishers and booksellers of income and, That the concept of the free public library was one that belonged in a bygone age Books aren't public property, and writers aren't Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby. A philosophical debate in LIS?
  12. 12. Because it's been 150 years, we've got this idea that we've got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that. More Dearygate!
  13. 13. Deary was being selfish, and that society benefitted from his books being loaned Even calls on social media to boycott his books! My favourite social media reaction was: So Terry Deary..is on Masterchef. Hope his tart has a soggy bottom. The professional reaction
  14. 14. The state is trampling on authors and publishers and booksellers rights to provide a service based on a now defunct philosophy My property is being used to benefit others at my expense This is wrong! This is a negative rights-based argument and valid. Advocating against needs to be equally so. What Deary was really arguing?
  15. 15. Philosophical stances on public libraries? Pro public libraries Against public libraries Utilitarian view Provision of free public libraries benefits the majority at the expense of the minority. Benefit can be interpreted in a range of ways, intrinsic, social, economic, etc. Rights-based theory The author and publisher of a work have the negative right to not have their financial interests damaged through lending of their materials Rights-based theory Citizens have the positive right to a state-funded library service to enable them to succeed in life. Rights-based theory: The taxpayer has the negative right not have their taxes spent on a public service they may not use that therefore does not benefit their interests
  16. 16. For every philosophical argument in public policy there is usually a valid philosophical alternative We need to be less passive and debate and present these alternatives where necessary This involves engaging with the theories on a deep level Put simply
  17. 17. Identify the positive right citizens have to information and knowledge e.g. John Rawls proposes two principles of justice: 1. Equal basic liberty principle 2a. Difference principle 2b. Equal opportunity principle Access to information, literacy, numeracy, & libraries, all could be argued as social goods required by individual citizens Could Deary have been countered?
  18. 18. The emerging political philosophy now being put into policy is based on our third category of social justice, the promotion of virtue This is a fundamental change from a rights approach as it rallies against individualism In policy terms both the Big Society and Blue Labour movements have elements of virtue based approaches to social justice 3. Promotion of virtue
  19. 19. Based on an Aristotelian conception of justice Most prevalent in modern philosophy in the communitarian movement This group of philosophers emerged in the 80s and 90s as critics of individualism For communitarians, individualism ignored the societal elements of being a person. i.e. links to a common culture, history, etc. Promoting virtue
  20. 20. Tradition and history embodied in communities provides the purposes for which we should aim and a common ground for ethics and morality We do not create our own sense of right, it is informed by our links to community and past Phillip Blond, Red Tory Virtue is the means by which people fulfil the socially recognised goals that they are attempting to reach Virtue also implies a political context for ethics, as it imagines an objectively desirable future. Some communitarian concepts
  21. 21. Just some recent examples from the general election A country where a good life is there for everyone willing to work for it. - David Cameron Optimistic Ed Miliband says: Ill put working people first On proposing 3 days annual leave for people who volunteer, the clearest demonstration of the Big Society in action - David Cameron The politics of virtue
  22. 22. The UK communitarian turn
  23. 23. In all 3 titles we see the argument that both adherence to state solutions and individualism have failed The community needs to be centre stage Volunteering and charity are both virtuous and enhance a community wellbeing New models of service delivery need to emerge that do not just impose either state or individualistic solutions The philosophies espoused
  24. 24. In Red Tory, Phillip Blond argues that: Before the BBC was betrayed by John Birt and his ilk, there were giants like John Reith whodid not believe in choice but in equal access to things that are great A likely emerging aspect of virtue will be quality, related to purpose. In virtue ethics the purpose of something is vital to be able to allocate it as a social good We need to know the purpose of our libraries Challenges from virtue
  25. 25. Old models of delivery may become outdated, but new models may weaken quality e.g. weak volunteer models, poorly resourced community-run services We may find recent focus on a commercial model clashes with a communitarian one e.g. populist collections vs worthy stock The language of virtue can be stigmatising hard-working people, the good life etc The challenges summarised
  26. 26. Remember the PKSB core is
  27. 27. Chartering, Revalidating or going for Fellowship? Try to incorporate philosophical elements in your professional reflection Highly recommend Michael Sandels Justice: whats the right thing to do? for background His lectures are at www.justiceharvard.org Chapter on political philosophy from my forthcoming book and some exercises will be being placed on CILIP VLE for use (late 2015) What can we do?
  28. 28. Advocacy is not just a facet of marketing, its far more important th

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