Thu, Oct 06, 2016 - Page 8 News List

The master-slave ethic and female oppression

By Chi Chun-chieh 紀駿傑

Fu Jen Catholic University College of Social Sciences dean Hsia Lin-ching (夏林清) has been accused of failing to help a student involved in a campus rape case, reportedly telling the student to stop playing the victim.

It is not only important that people be fully aware of their rights as victims, but any person or group with a sense of justice should also speak out and act with empathy.

This situation represents an important opportunity to place the nation on a trajectory toward a more just and democratic society.

One of the most influential figures in history to have systematically argued the importance of the victims viewpoint was German philosopher, social scientist and historian Karl Marx.

Marx adopted German philosopher Willem Friedrich Hegel’s master–slave dialectic and transformed it into a systematic social criticism with strong ethical implications stressing the need to side with the victim, the disadvantaged or the oppressed. In the master-slave relationship, the master is dependent on the slave, but the same is not true in reverse.

For instance, without the slave to provide a service, the master might not even be able to perform everyday activities such as dining, bathing or going to bed.

Just imagine what would happen if all the migrant care workers and housekeepers in Taiwan packed their bags and left tomorrow.

Drawing on the master-slave relationship, Marx further argued that, in a capitalist society, it is only by putting oneself in the position of the worker that one is able to see the reality of social relations.

On the surface, the slave relies on their master for clothing and food, but in reality, the slave is the one who performs all the tasks and understands the production process, as well as the master’s needs.

In contrast, the master has a limited knowledge of the production process and cares little about the slave’s needs. He cares only about his own interests, and his knowledge is partial.

Indeed, workers are the ones who have gained comprehensive knowledge about social reality through labor. Like slaves, they are the members of society that are oppressed by the ruling class.

Therefore, from an epistemological as well as an ethical standpoint, people should side with workers.

Contemporary feminists, following the Marxist tradition, developed feminist theory that argues that a women experiences of childbirth, parenting and housekeeping — which are productive activities that determine social relations — and their marginalized role because of their gender give women privileged access to social reality and knowledge.

From a Marxist standpoint, that the leader of a long-standing, self-proclaimed leftist group should criticize a victim for taking the standpoint of a victim is ridiculous and cruel.

Anyone with a sense of morality should stand up against this and make it clear that everyone should take the standpoint of the victim.

Chi Chun-chieh is a professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University.

Translated by Tu Yu-an

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