View Full Version : Relativism and absolutism in politics.

Norwegian Cat
09-04-2007, 01:06 PM
I’ll try to get to my point as quickly as possible.

What I’ve found interesting to debate is the dilemma (I certainly consider it a dilemma) about the amount of authority a party, person or government in general should have.

I first stumbled upon this subject when studying for the first time the Sophists in ancient Greece, who were arguing, basically, that there is no absolute Truth (with capital ‘T’) concerning knowledge and moral laws and ethics (these deeply involving politics at the time). The only truth that exists is each one’s individual truth, that is, a relativistic truth.

Plato later came around and said the opposite. And the one knowing the absolute Truth should be the one that would govern society, because since he is in possession of such truth, he can’t be wrong.

I’ve been observing lately the power Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, gets, as he slowly modifies the country’s constitution, giving him absolute power to govern the nation. Now, I find the reforms he has done in Venezuela (land reforms, free public education, rights for indigenous people, cooperatives, nationalization of natural resources, strongly reducing unemployment, etc.) quite positive for a country where 80% of the population are poor.

So if he is doing all these things that are truly positive (in my opinion), why shouldn’t he continue to do all these reforms for an unlimited time? Does he really have to listen to the opposition that has practically done nothing to help the poor?

But then again, how many leaders-for-life (monarchs, emperors, dictators…) have been corrupted with power and abused power, letting no one stand in his way? How can you tell Chavez, for example, is doing the right thing? Or maybe History should just flow in a continuous battle of contrary ideas (as Hegel saw it) or classes (Marx, hmm…) until reaching the absolute?

I don’t know if I’ve explained myself well, tried to make it short, but I think you get it.

09-04-2007, 01:45 PM
Well you haven't really explained what Truth with a capital T is, so I don't see how that is relevant.

If you wanna talk about Chavez we can talk about Chavez. I don't mind the guy, but there is definitely something fishy about the closing down of tv and radio stations because they are "terrorist organizations" and then setting up your own union because the major union doesn't actually like Chavez.

And his ruling by decree is also fishy.

Is this a problem? Only on depending how high you prioritize democracy and democratic tradition. I don't like what he's doing in that sphere, but I definitely approve of what he's doing in others.

But how many of this is inspired by populism and how much of it is done to maintain his power. He's done a good job of controlling public agenda and debate, in order to keep himself in power.

He also says a lot of stupid sabre rattling things like "take back the Falkland islands" etc.

Norwegian Cat
09-05-2007, 04:58 AM
What I was trying to explain was actually democracy versus authority of one. Political relativism is caracteristic of democracy since it assumes that there is no correct or only way to lead a society, and therefore permits the debate between parties that have different views on society.

Political absolutism is authoritarianism, because there are no moral laws or ethics in a society that are relative to each individual. There's only one way to do things and no other, therefore there is no need of paying attention to the views of opposite parties. Instead of each having his own truth, there's only one, absolute and correct.

If there existed such Truth with capital T, we would follow it since there is no chance of getting things wrong. But if we look at society from a relativistic point of view, which is essentially the democratic one, we have parties that debate, protest and fight against reforms done by the leading party. When this party loses an election, the other party comes in and cancels all the reforms made by the earlier party and puts in it's own. And on and on...

09-05-2007, 12:22 PM
I know about that, I just didn't know what the relevance of truth was. I don't think anyone believes there is one truth. Perhaps authoritarians do, but actual political commentators would be retarded to believe in that. Well not commentators, let's say analysts.

So the question is how democratic is Chavez? And to what degree does he follow a Truth?

Norwegian Cat
09-07-2007, 01:01 PM
I came up with the Chavez issue since I hear quite often people here say "Yeah, he's gonna be like Fidel" and "Chavez is the opposite to democracy".
I thought, well, he has done a lot of good things for Venezuela that the opposition in the country would never allow. Besides, the opposition, while staying in control of private tv channels, manipulate and influence on the public opinion, demonizing Chavez as some kind of stalinist.

So, considering the mass-manipulation in propaganda techniques, how far can you respect the democratic tradition? Here is where I recall how, in ancient Greece, the sophists studied methods of convincing people (rhetoric) in order to achieve personal goals (power, prestige, influence,etc).

This question can also be discussed not only about Chavez, but other leaders throughout history. For example, Julius Caesar started reforms that, for example, consisted of reducing slavery.