A Hypothetical Question About Hierarchy/Ethics

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potrokin
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Jan 28 2017 22:13
A Hypothetical Question About Hierarchy/Ethics

I would like to share something with you all that I have been discussing with someone lately. It's a hypothetical scenario regarding anarchism. So, this could apply to a small commune of anarchists or a post-revolutionary society. Let's say you have someone like a brain surgeon or a doctor. Compared to a lot of other people, what they do is particularly stressful and could be considered more important than what others do in the group or society. Lets say they don't necessarily want that stress but that what they do is constantly in demand. How do we insentivize them to continue to do their vital work? Brain surgeons get, like, £600,000 per year- how do we keep these highly skilled people that are rewarded very much in a capitalist society for what they do? If they are to get more than others, then that brings about inequality, which goes against anarchism. But if we force them to do something they don't want to do then that goes against individualism, a core part of anarchism. I thought this was a bloody good question and I'm not sure I found an answer. What do you guys make of this?

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Khawaga
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Jan 28 2017 23:15
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Compared to a lot of other people, what they do is particularly stressful and could be considered more important than what others do in the group or society. Lets say they don't necessarily want that stress but that what they do is constantly in demand. How do we insentivize them to continue to do their vital work? Brain surgeons get, like, £600,000 per year- how do we keep these highly skilled people that are rewarded very much in a capitalist society for what they do?

To avoid stress, we just educate way more fucking surgeons so that they won't have to work that hard. Part of the problem today is that in some countries the doctor's unions are advocating against having more doctors precisely because it would lead to lower wages and less status (this was at least the position of the union in Norway when I last lived there).

And like everyone else: the reward would be work itself and that you help others. This incentive objection to communism is hogwash; after all people were incentivised to do shit before wages came along.

potrokin
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Jan 28 2017 23:54
Khawaga wrote:
Quote:
Compared to a lot of other people, what they do is particularly stressful and could be considered more important than what others do in the group or society. Lets say they don't necessarily want that stress but that what they do is constantly in demand. How do we insentivize them to continue to do their vital work? Brain surgeons get, like, £600,000 per year- how do we keep these highly skilled people that are rewarded very much in a capitalist society for what they do?

To avoid stress, we just educate way more fucking surgeons so that they won't have to work that hard. Part of the problem today is that in some countries the doctor's unions are advocating against having more doctors precisely because it would lead to lower wages and less status (this was at least the position of the union in Norway when I last lived there).

And like everyone else: the reward would be work itself and that you help others. This incentive objection to communism is hogwash; after all people were incentivised to do shit before wages came along.

But aren't you assuming that there are loads of people who want to be brain surgeons compared to something else? Something both easier and less stressful to do. We have to also consider the important factor that brain surgeons tend to do their job because it is a high status job probably because it is highly stressful and highly skilled.

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Khawaga
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Jan 28 2017 23:56
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But aren't you assuming that that there are loads of people who want to be brain surgeons compared to something else? Something both easier and less stressful to do.

But you are making the assumption that this is something that people would not want to do. That assumption is as problematic as mine.

Quote:
We have to also consider the important factor that brain surgeons tend to do their job because it is a high status job probably because it is highly stressful and highly skilled.

So here you are saying that it is societal factors that lead people to choose a given profession. The same can be said in a communist society; something like a surgeon, precisely because they help people, would likely be high status in a communist society as well, also because not everyone can do it (you need extremely steady hands). But what the fuck do I know? I didn't take a time machine to the future communist society to check... In any case, a communist society would have to decide that we need more doctors and so on, and would take measures to make sure that that would happen (whatever that might be).

The problem with these questions is that you are assuming that individuals/people will exactly the same as they are in capitalism. That's a general problem. You start from individuals and assume that their behaviour, views, predilections and so on come from the individual rather than society, That's a very problematic assumption because it is demonstrably "true" that a new society also means that new individuals, beliefs, attitudes and so on are formed.

zugzwang
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Jan 29 2017 10:25
potrokin wrote:
Compared to a lot of other people, what they do is particularly stressful and could be considered more important than what others do in the group or society. Lets say they don't necessarily want that stress but that what they do is constantly in demand. How do we insentivize them to continue to do their vital work? Brain surgeons get, like, £600,000 per year- how do we keep these highly skilled people that are rewarded very much in a capitalist society for what they do? If they are to get more than others, then that brings about inequality, which goes against anarchism.

I wouldn't consider the doctor's work more important, because he or she depends on the work of everyone else. A doctor's work is obviously more specialized and in more demand, hence why they're paid so much, but I wouldn't consider them more important. The doctor couldn't survive without farmers growing their food; couldn't have made it to become a doctor without all the social/domestic labor given to them; they couldn't live somewhere without the construction workers who made their homes; they couldn't apply their knowledge of medicine if they didn't have the medical equipment produced in factories. Pilots aren't paid as much as doctors, and neither are bus drivers, but both have the lives of other people in their hands. I would hope doctors are not just incentivized by money. If they were to have free access to the products of labor in an anarchist communist society, then I'd hope they'd just be motivated to do what they do because they care about the people around them (and not just about being handsomely remunerated) and because they believe in mutual aid.

potrokin
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Jan 29 2017 00:19
Khawaga wrote:
Quote:
But aren't you assuming that that there are loads of people who want to be brain surgeons compared to something else? Something both easier and less stressful to do.

But you are making the assumption that this is something that people would not want to do. That assumption is as problematic as mine.

Quote:
We have to also consider the important factor that brain surgeons tend to do their job because it is a high status job probably because it is highly stressful and highly skilled.

So here you are saying that it is societal factors that lead people to choose a given profession. The same can be said in a communist society; something like a surgeon, precisely because they help people, would likely be high status in a communist society as well, also because not everyone can do it (you need extremely steady hands). But what the fuck do I know? I didn't take a time machine to the future communist society to check... In any case, a communist society would have to decide that we need more doctors and so on, and would take measures to make sure that that would happen (whatever that might be).

The problem with these questions is that you are assuming that individuals/people will exactly the same as they are in capitalism. That's a general problem. You start from individuals and assume that their behaviour, views, predilections and so on come from the individual rather than society, That's a very problematic assumption because it is demonstrably "true" that a new society also means that new individuals, beliefs, attitudes and so on are formed.

Thats interesting and I think the last point you made is a good one but just stating that a communist society would take measures to make sure it would happen is not really an answer and I think we need one. I accept, however, that a new society would change people, or would need to and I think we can agree that we don't really know everything about what a communist society would be like. I mean, it might be the case that we have few surgeons and then more come along, but we don't really know. I think we need an answer though because before people commit to bringing about a communist society, they will want to know if there is, for example, going to be plenty of surgeons.

potrokin
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Jan 29 2017 00:30
zugzwang wrote:
potrokin wrote:
Compared to a lot of other people, what they do is particularly stressful and could be considered more important than what others do in the group or society. Lets say they don't necessarily want that stress but that what they do is constantly in demand. How do we insentivize them to continue to do their vital work? Brain surgeons get, like, £600,000 per year- how do we keep these highly skilled people that are rewarded very much in a capitalist society for what they do? If they are to get more than others, then that brings about inequality, which goes against anarchism.

I wouldn't consider the doctor's work more important because he or she depends on the work of everyone else. A doctor's work is obviously more specialized and in more demand, hence why they're paid so much, but I wouldn't consider them more important. The doctor couldn't survive without farmers growing their food; couldn't have made it to become a doctor without all the social/domestic labor given to them; they couldn't live somewhere without the construction workers who made their homes; they couldn't apply their knowledge of medicine if they didn't have the medical equipment produced in factories. Pilots aren't paid as much as doctors, and neither or bus drivers, but both have the lives of other people in their hands. I would hope doctors are not just incentivized by money. If they were to have free access to the products of labor in an anarchist communist society, then I'd hope they'd just be motivated to do what they do because they care about the people around them (and not just about being handsomely remunerated) and because they believe in mutual aid.

I agree with what you are saying and I would certainly hope that doctors would not just do what they do for financial gain, though there may well be atleast some who do for all I know. With surgeons however, I am told that a lot of them are basically psychopathic (I believe they are at number 5 in this list of careers with the most amount of psychopaths http://www.alternet.org/culture/10-careers-most-psychopaths).

zugzwang
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Jan 29 2017 06:40

I'm not a psychologist (is "psychopath" even an official diagnosis?), but it wouldn't surprise me if people in such specialized fields have a few quirks. I don't think that means all doctors/surgeons are dangerous or wouldn't be doctors if not handsomely rewarded. Why would doctors care about having large salaries if everything they needed was provided to them free of charge (i.e. an anarchist communist society)? I'd hope they'd be motivated because of the passion for what they do and the status/respect/recognition discovering or contributing something confers to them, as well as the awareness that their survival depends on everyone else's. After all, doctors don't usually perform surgeries on themselves, etc. History is filled with such examples of brilliant and highly skilled people with quirks or psychological abnormalities here and there. In fiction even, Doyle's Sherlock is an eccentric drug addict who solves mysteries.

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Auld-bod
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Jan 29 2017 11:17

I’d like to comment on a few points raised. Everyone I know could be considered a bit ‘odd’ to another person.

Important work is all work that is essential to living well in a society. To differentiate levels of importance leads to odd conclusions, such as doctors save less lives than garbage disposal folk, so they are ‘overvalued’. We value certain types of individuals because they have higher skills/abilities than most people can or wish to attain. I would include all the sciences and other areas where I have limited knowledge or skill, including musicians, and lots more.

Most people most of the time are not motivated by money. Generally, the wish to feel good about yourself is an everyday occurrence, and we notice it only when mutual aid is absent, or when forced into the rat race.

I sometime feel that liberalism feeds off people’s altruism, it seduces the logic of revolution, in an urge to somehow accommodate/reform capitalism’s barbarism and eclipses the working class’s self-interest. The Beatles stated it thus:

‘You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out’

So liberal millionaires want change - but not too drastic.

potrokin
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Jan 29 2017 14:04
zugzwang wrote:
I don't think that means all doctors/surgeons are dangerous or wouldn't be doctors if not handsomely rewarded.

I'm not saying that they are dangerous necessarily but just perhaps that some of them might want a bigger reward for what they do. Though, I guess you could argue they would be kind of dangerous in that respect. But I don't mean dangerous as in murderous or violent.

potrokin
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Jan 29 2017 14:06
zugzwang wrote:
I'd hope they'd be motivated because of the passion for what they do and the status/respect/recognition discovering or contributing something confers to them, as well as the awareness that their survival depends on everyone else's.

I would hope so aswell- but would this be the case? I'm not sure we know.

potrokin
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Feb 3 2017 11:16
Auld-bod wrote:
To differentiate levels of importance leads to odd conclusions, such as doctors save less lives than garbage disposal folk, so they are ‘overvalued’.

Thats a great point.- without bin people there would be a big problem with disease. In a capitalist society we make the wrong choices as to who is 'more useful'. A person who teaches people to swim may well save more lives than a lifeguard.

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Chilli Sauce
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Feb 3 2017 12:59

Good responses on the thread (especially Khawaga).

I'd just add that I know a few people who work in medicine and although none of them complain about the money (the doctors anyway, the nurses and techs rightfully do) but I don't think any of them got into for the money. It's an intellectually challenging, prestigious career and you get to help save people's lives. That won't change under communism.

I tend to think the opposite way to the OP. I know a lot of people that stay in underpaid, undervalued shitty jobs because they gain some social or intellectual satisfaction from them. If that shit happens, even under capitalism, I don't believe that communism is somehow going to disincentivize the roles traditionally understood as "highly skilled", if that makes sense.

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Auld-bod
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Feb 3 2017 14:19

Potrokin #12

The mention of teaching people to swim reminded me of something a fellow told me when I was working in London. Like many he had been through WW2, and similar to his workmates in the boiler house was ex-navy – an old matlo.

Early on in the war, after suffering heavy losses in the Atlantic, the navy encouraged swimming lessons. It was quickly stopped as the losses increased and this was thought in part due to young lads feeling confident in their own swimming abilities, instead of saving themselves, were lost attempting to save their mates from drowning.

The perverse nature of war.