Searching for Solidarity in an Atomized Society
How can we continue to behave ethically within a wider culture in which so many forces prod us to use others for our own satisfaction or self-advancement? It’s an always-vexing question that Aryeh Cohen’s essay on “Justice in the City” raises in a fresh way.
There have always been unscrupulous individuals who operate in this way, seeking out others’ vulnerabilities in order to exploit them. But now we have entire industries devoted, in essence, to harvesting heretofore personal information for the sake of prompting particular consumer and political choices. We have people on the left, not just on the right, who “network” systematically with an intent that is flagrantly self-interested.
My point is the obvious one, that the wider society grows ever more oblivious to the problem of instrumental relationships: relationships based on what good I can get out of the Other rather than what good I can provide to benefit the Other. For many of our contemporaries, whether we should be using other human beings to our personal advantage is not even a question—it’s just the way things are.
Laarman, Peter. Searching for Solidarity in an Atomized Society. Tikkun28(1): 42.