Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Politics for Outsiders: Learning Guide

There are broadly five challenges facing anyone concerned with teaching the theory and practice of inclusive politics. They may not always follow the same order, but many people, young or old, who are excluded from having any real influence over political decisions in their society, often believe in one or more of these propositions:

• There has always been, and will always be, wide gaps between those with power and the rest. There is nothing anyone can do about it, and we should just live with it.
• People will continue to disagree about what kind of community we should all strive for. There is no prospect of any political vision coming to be recognised as preferable to others, so we should forget about trying to rally people behind a common political goal.
• Activists tend to exaggerate the problems we face, and partisan advocates are obviously biased. It follows that attempts to raise concern against the dangers of exclusionary and oppressive politics will never get very far with a sceptical public.
• We may agree theoretically that reciprocity and mutuality are admirable, but in practice, it is just too difficult if not outright impossible to get people to cooperate on equal terms and achieve better results than if it were just left to a few experts or leaders to make the decisions.
• People cannot help how they behave. No one can be meaningfully held responsible for what they do, or the consequences that may lead to for others. Instead of bemoaning the irresponsibility of others, each should just be concerned with one’s own life.

In the light of the groups you are trying to teach, share ideas with, or engage through outreach, you may need to address some or all of these dispositions which can hold back political participation. The ‘Politics for Outsiders’ collection brings together materials that have been developed through the consistent application of inclusive political ideas in an inter-related set of academic and practical activities, so that together they present a package to make a comprehensive case for inclusive political participation.

One way of using the learning resources that make up ‘Politics for Outsiders’ would be to organise class discussions or reading circles to consider what they put forward with the help of a series of prompt questions. For example:

Against Power Inequalities:
→ what happened in history when power inequalities were allowed to widen without constraint?
→ how were power inequalities successfully challenged?
→ what were the risks in not sustaining limits to power inequalities after reforms were achieved?
More information: Info on Against Power Inequalities

→ what is the case for developing more inclusive communities?
→ what are the three communitarian principles and the implications they have for public policies?
→ what are the objections and responses to communitarian social and political development?
More information: Info on Communitarianism

Kuan’s Wonderland:
→ what is wrong with the society depicted in the novel?
→ what are the parallels with our own world?
→ what are the lessons from the struggle against those who relentlessly seek to take advantage of others?
More information: Info on Kuan’s Wonderland

Together We Can:
→ what are the core features of ‘cooperative problem-solving’?
→ what do we know about the evidence showing that its correct application can produce better and more sustainable results than other approaches?
→ what are the common mistakes and misunderstanding in trying to implement cooperative problem-solving?
More information: Info on Together We Can

Responsibility & Personal Interactions:
→ why do some people think no one can be held responsible for what they do?
→ what are the conditions under which people must be held responsible for their behaviour?
→ what would be legitimate reasons for accepting that someone is not responsible rather than irresponsible?
More information: Info on Responsibility