In Alison Jaggar’s Feminist Politics and Human Nature she discusses, among many topics, human nature and how it relates to capitalism and socialist feminism. Though Jaggar proposes a strong and valid argument for her position on why work is awful under capitalism and how using an error theory worker’s are not inherently lazy, I will be critiquing Jaggar’s error theory, and as a result, her views (as well as some of Marx’s views) on capitalism in a broad sense. I believe that Alison Jaggar does not have a sound argument in her error theory against Thomas Malthus, strictly due to her interpretation on why capitalism is awful due to Jaggar’s interpretation intrinsic value under capitalism.
An Overview of Jaggar’s View of Capitalism and How it Isolates Workers, Human Nature, and Response to Thomas Malthus
(quote summarized areas with actual quotes from text readings)
Jaggar supported Karl Marx in the sense that they both believed that the capitalist alienates the worker under capitalism and even exploits the worker. According to Marx, the worker should create a product freely in order to develop his or her capacities. But under capitalism, the worker who creates a product does not have control over how the product is made, over what product is made, or what is to be done with the with the product once it is finished. Marx argues that the strong connection that should exist between the worker and product is fragmented; therefore workers are alienated under capitalism. He also argues that workers are often enemies because they are competing for jobs that are offered by the capitalist (Lecture, 10/7).
Jaggar then goes onto describe human nature. To summarize, it is with in human nature to work purposefully transform our world to meet our human needs (also known as flourishing). According to socialist feminists, purposeful work is instrumentally valuable and intrinsically valuable. Our needs are defined as humans meeting their biological needs (Lecture, 11/12).
A common argument against socialist feminists’ view on human nature is from Thomas Malthus. In a nutshell, Malthus argues that humans are inherently lazy, that it is not in our nature to work, and that we would rather avoid it. He is also implying that work in general is not intrinsically valuable, but only instrumentally valuable (Feminist Politics and Human Nature, Page. 210). Jaggar’s rebuttal can be presented through her error theory. Her error theory states that humans are in fact lazy at times. But the laziness is not indicative of our nature. Instead it is an indication of how awful capitalism is, leading to work being awful, therefore humans avoid work under a capitalistic society. And what seems “natural” is really only how we are in a specific kind of society. (cite lecture) We can lay out the portion of Jaggar’s rebuttal that I will critique in this basic format:
P1. It is awful to alienate workers.
P2: Capitalism is awful because the capitalist alienates or exploits the...