ETHICS IN AMERICAN CULTURE: ADJUSTMENT TO CAPITALISM
AS 'AUTHORITARIAN ETHICS'
theme: Ethics in cultural context: authoritarian ethics are codes of morality based on external authority such as anonymous authority of the 'market' in capitalistic culture. The individual who focuses on the demands for adjustment to capitalism, the individual loses sight of his own intrinsic values which make him human. Such an individual demonstrates the various aspects of authoritarian ethics in their apparent unreflective ethical judgement.
Authoritarian ethics is the product of irrational authoritarian conscience derived form the internalization of an external authority. The authoritarian conscience is the "voice of an internalized authority such as the parental authority, or state authority." (Fromm Man For Himself 143)
Human conscience is not the same as 'authoritarian' conscience.
Value as coice of action or 'value choice' In the capitalist culture of American society, the word 'value' is used to designate 'choice of action'. A value is a 'value choice'. An individual makes a value choice on the basis of a symbolized concept which he has been taught to value such as 'honesty is the best policy'. The outcome of the value choice is considered to be symbolically desirable. Value choices which are made on the basis of symbolized concepts and in anticipation of desirable outcomes are 'conceived values'.
Conceived values are taught values... such as valued parental, social and cultural concepts. They are instinctively incorporated or 'introjected' into the organismic valuing process during development.
values are internalised or 'introjected' values
The human species is a social and cultural species which depends for survival on the ability of the young to acquire large amounts of knowledge from the significant adults. The developing child depends completely on the care and love of the adult. The need for approval and the fear of disapproval are powerful motivating factors for ethical judgement. Under intense emotional pressure, ethical judgement is determined by the friendly or unfriendly reactions of its psychological parents. In a process of 'introjection' the child makes a part of himself or 'introjects' what appear to be the wishes, demands, hates, scorns, and standards significant adults. If the adults are weak, infantile and irrational, their values are introjected as though they were rational.
The internalisation of valued parental and cultural concepts can have a malignant effect by modifying the child's intrinsic organismic valuing process which involves the instinctive human values or 'operative values' of the development of moral consciousness or 'conscience'. The modified valuing process tends to be fixed and rigid... 'authoritarian conscience'. Authoritarian conscience forms arbitrary distinctions between 'good' and 'bad' before making rational judgements through the natural process of reflection and reason. Norman development of conscience is a function of a natural reasoning process which is fluid and changing i.e. 'cognition'.
Under intense emotional pressure, "the child acquires a sense of distinguishing between good and bad before he learns the difference by reasoning. His value judgements are formed as a result of the friendly or unfriendly reactions of the significant people in his life... The fear of disapproval and the need for approval seem to be the most powerful and almost exclusive motivation for ethical judgement." (Fromm Man For Himself 11)
Further development produces the irrational 'authoritarian conscience' associated with authoritarian social character.
"The authoritarian 'conscience' is a fear for the authority rather than a representation of the individual's real conscience, the source of natural value judgements. (Fromm Man For Himself: Psychology of Ethics p.144)
Authoritarian ethics is derived from authoritarian conscience. Authoritarian conscience is irrational. It is derived form the internalization of an external authority. The authoritarian conscience is the "voice of an internalized authority such as the parental authority, or state authority... The authoritarian so-called 'conscience' is a fear for the authority rather than a representation of the individual's real conscience, the source of natural value judgements."
Authoritarian conscience Authoritarian conscience is derived from the internalization of an external authority such as parental authority, state authority or the autonomous authority of the 'market'. The authoritarian conscience is the voice of an insernalized authority and represents fear for the authority rather than the intrinsic conscience.
Authoritarian conscience is the source of irrational value judgements and produces 'authoritarian ethics'.
"Both the formal and the material aspects of authoritarian ethics are apparent in the genesis of ethical judgement in the child and of unreflective ethical judgement in the adult. (Fromm Man For Himself 10)
Social character and cultural forces The study of a specific character orientation which is common to most members of the culture indicates which powerful emotional forces explain the formation of social character. The personality of the average individual is determined by the socioeconomic and political structure of the society in whichhe lives. Introjection of conceived values explains some of the causes of the formation of character and character orientation and explains the correlation between character orientation and social structure.
The correlation points up the powerful emotional forces which are instrumental in molding the social character and explains the functioning of the society...
American social character The American social character is based on the scientific worldview which had its roots in orthodox Protestantism... justified by a combination of concepts and assumptions derived from Protestantism, scientific reductionism, behaviourism, moralism and the traditional ideals of 'democracy'. These basic concepts and assumptions have formed the basis for educational policy in the American educational system preventing the personal and psychological growth of the individual.
Political ideals interfere with the true aim of education which is complete personality growth and moral ness or 'conscience'.
Individuals who live in a culture which does not foster growth depend on codes of behavour ... codes of ethics... 'authoritarian ethics'.
Authoritarian ethics of capitalism As a result of the demands of the capitalistic economic system, ethical norms are formulated on the premise that the individual is powerless and insignificant.
Codes of ethics as codes of behaviour are codes of morality based on external authority... the authority of the 'market'... A 'code of ethics' for a specific situation can easily degenerate into a code which serves the interests of those within that situation. 'Medical ethics' becomes a code of ethics which serves the interests of those in the medical 'profession.' 'Business ethics' becomes a code of ethics serving the interests of those in 'business.'
Codes of ethics are separated from human morality based on developed conscience... universal human ethics.
"...intrinsic human values are not valued in a society which measures the individual in terms of
material success. Focusing on the demands for adjustment to capitalism, the individual loses sight of
his own intrinsic values which make him human. 'Adjustment' to the capitalistic 'society' is the cause
for neuroses which result from the unsuitability of humanness in a materialistic society." (Erich Fromm.
Man For Himself)
American capitalist culture American culture is not concerned with personal growth and the development of the human conscience, the source of morality and rational ethics. The capitalist culture devalues the naturalintegrity of the human organism. American cultural values of the capitalist culture place severe limitations on human experience and the human potential for autonomy and responsibility ... for living to the fullest and maintaining the desire for learning for adaptability to a continually
The culture promotes mental dishonesty as 'common sense'.
Absolute evil The thought and behaviour patterns of deception and hypocrisy are considered to be absolute evils because they are residual animal traits waiting to be erased by further social evolution and they must be suppressed to a minimum level. The individual who can suppress the residual animal traits is considered to be 'virtuous'.
Moral confusion and moral education as 'teaching of values' People are naturally bewildered by the irrationality of the cultural value system and they become morally confused. In their moral confusion they are forced to depend on ethical norms of behaviour or codes of ethics. Moral education as the teaching of 'values' fails because true moral education as education for personal growth and development of conscience - the basis for humanitarian ethics is not recognized.
Authoritarian conscience is not the same as the intrinsically
The human conscience which is derived from reason is the source of natural value judgements.
American moral education, based on the premise that the individual is powerless and insignificant is concerned with teaching the conceived cultural values. Hypocrisy and deception become the human devices for coping with the complexities of a social life which is based on the irrational authoritarian ethics of a business civilisation.
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