Under my thumb

5 10 2013

I was going to say that I’m severely ambivalent about the use of the word “privilege” (as a marker of unexamined social status), but, y’know, I’m not.

I flat-out don’t like the term.

Oh, I get it, I get why it’s used, and I don’t disagree with the notion that being able to take certain social resources for granted is, in fact, a kind of privilege. But the term “privilege” seems both overly personal and underly political: it seems more to judge the person than the circumstances.

I don’t really have a problem with judgment—I can judge with the best of ’em—but as a diagnostic rather than a weapon. Hell, if I”m going to attack you, Imma coming at you directly, not interpretively.

Still, “privilege” gets used because it does get at something real, and because there’s not a good, pithy, substitute.

Aimai at No More Mister Nice Blog doesn’t offer a substitute, either, but does usefully break apart the concept in order to examine that part of privilege which really is personal—the desire to punish and anger at the inability to do so—and then links it all back to politics.

Much to mull, there, in terms of her? his? links to Jay Porter’s discussions of tipping and Punisher-customers, and the notion that federal workers are somehow servants who don’t know their place; I wonder if this couldn’t be linked up to the idea that private charity is better than public provision, Oh, and the meritocracy fetish. So: chewy good stuff.

Still lookin’ for a better word than privilege, though.


h/t Brad DeLong




4 responses

6 10 2013


7 10 2013

Ehhh, something both less personal and with more bite.

8 10 2013

heh, that may take at least two words instead of one

9 10 2013

A phrase, I’m fine with a phrase. But something practical: no academicky neologisms.

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