Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Commitment - Let's Commit it to the Dustbin

So it occurs to me that if in fact there is no reason to punish people for leaving LTCRs, then in fact the concept of an LTCR is basically defunct. If our expectation is that a person should stay in an LTCR if and only if he/she is happier in the LTCR than outside of it, then there is no meaningful commitment. The commitment is just to stick around until it's no longer advantageous to do so, and that is no commitment at all.

This clarifies a lot of things for me. I formerly believed that LTCRs were an important social institution, but this is a difficult position to maintain if in fact they are indistinguishable from uncommitted sexual relationships. It now occurs to me that the real difference between an LTCR and an uncommitted sexual relationship is that the former is the label we give to the behavior of privileged people, while the latter is the label that we give to the behavior of people against whom there is still residual stigma. What is really going on is a sort of class struggle in which the upper class perpetuates the myth of its own superiority (by pointing to its stable marriages, low rates of teen pregnancy, etc.). The concept of fidelity is a cudgel in the culture/class wars. False consciousness and class solidarity have led some affluent liberals to embrace the language of commitment and loyalty, but hopefully soon the illusion will be exploded.


Blogger Alan said...

People often are "punished" for leaving LTCRs, depending on the circumstances. And I don't think anyone seriously disputes that people should be punished under certain circumstances. No sane autonomy-valuing person regards autonomy as the only value, so it is useless to observe that a monomaniac might argue that all punishment should be rejected as impinging on people's autonomy. (Similarly, you periodically contrast yourself with the monogamaniac who supports excessive, illiberal punishment for leaving LTCRs.)

Moreover, it's not even clear to me that an autonomy fiend would oppose all punishment. Sometimes constraints increase overall autonomy, e.g. by solving collective action problems. These may not be the most plausible examples, but consider a requirement that all patients get second opinions before undergoing certain procedures, so that no patient has to worry about offending her doctor. Or a requirement that all marrying couples sign pre-nups addressing certain issues. I'm not saying these requirements are desirable, just that they are meant to be autonomy-facilitating. Similarly, an autonomy lover could defend punishment for leaving LTCRs on the grounds that commitment facilitates beneficial reliance, etc., but would be underprovided by a strict market approach.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

"If our expectation is that a person should stay in an LTCR if and only if he/she is happier in the LTCR than outside of it, then there is no meaningful commitment. The commitment is just to stick around until it's no longer advantageous to do so, and that is no commitment at all." There is the question/complication, though, of short-term versus long-term happiness/advantages; one may benefit in the short term by leaving an LTCR (sweet relief!) but suffer in the long term. The commitment part, I presume, comes from holding out for long-term benefits over short-term relief. But I need to catch up on your last several posts before I know if this comment is actually relevant to the discussion.

11:47 AM  
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