On how understanding human nature allows socialists to reach for other people


“ You believe that the average human being should not be forced to live impoverished, stunted lives because you impute to the average human being certain unshakeable interests — being fed when hungry, quenched when thirsty, free when dominated. Consider the glorious socialist invocation, ‘Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.’ That’s a universal injunction. And why is that compelling? Because we all know that nobody likes being in chains. The slogan is not, ‘Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. Unless, in some cultures, people like being in chains, in which case, we demand that those people be allowed to keep their chains.’ (…)…a good political answer is one which puts you in the shoes of the person you’re trying to account for. What does it mean to put yourself in their shoes? This is the critical point. It means remembering that a Trump voter is a human being animated by the same kinds of interests that animate you. She cares about her livelihood, her dignity, her autonomy, her family in much the same way that you do. Your explanation and practice, in other words, should last a simple litmus test: could it explain why I would have voted Trump, had I been born her? ”

Adaner Usmani, ‘Why Socialists should Believe in Human Nature’, Jacobin Magazine


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