10
Nov
08

Toleration Rant

Response to the toleration video rant by this MochiMochi guy which Dagmar posted the other day. He starts off by remarking that limitations on anti-sexist, anti-racist, etc. language led him to “realise” that a lot of people are victims of absolute tolerance. He doesn’t say what he means by “absolute tolerance”. Maybe he means that tolerance necessarily involves trade-offs, which people sometimes think means that toleration is incoherent. But that’s true of values like liberty and equality as well, rather than something peculiar to toleration (though see his end comment).

He then identifies absolute tolerance and Marcuse’s repressive tolerance. He seems to think that absolute tolerance requires tolerating everything. But nobody apart from anarchists (and not many of them) believe this – otherwise there would be no need for criminal law.

Then he goes on to note that a regime of (nominal) tolerance will perpetuate oppression where there are basic inequalities of power. It seems to me that he’s right that that may happen though I don’t know whether he thinks that racist etc language falls into that category. The wider point, which also seems to me to be right, is that political toleration enshrines inequalities of power. 

Tamagochi seems to lose it a bit at the end, when he says that absolute equality only serves to benefit those with power in society – presumably “absolute” equality would iron out imbalances of power. The consequence is that for radical egalitarians, correcting these imbalances is a more pressing task than promoting tolerance, and that’s why Marxists like Marcuse don’t much care for it.

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