nick_owen_smaller_sqPlease send me a message.

Name: (required)

Email address: (required)

Message:

Blog

30Sep2018

WHAT IS AMBITION?

This is the third in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. The first two posts examined motivations and orientation. Constituents and adherents, I argue, have different motivations. The constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

Precisely what the constituents and adherents seek is a matter of the orientation of the movement: that is the work the movement is engaged in. For example, if the movement is engaged in the pursuit of interests, the constituents are working to pursue their own interests (or the interests of others of whom they are part) and the adherents pursue the interests of others.

The degree to which this creates difficulties in the movement is a matter of the ambition of the movement’s work. More ambitious work presumes equality among the participants. Take, for example, a movement which is engaged in defining and pursuing a new, emergent interest. If its work is ambitious it will require the participants to participate on equal terms. It will be intolerable if some claim to have a superior grasp of what the interest is and how it should be pursued. Less ambitious work will find such claims less objectionable. They do not presume equality.

These differences of ambition are set out in the table below:

ORIENTATION  —»OUTWARDEXPRESSIVEEMPOWERMENTSOLIDARITY
In work of LOW AMBITIONInterests are not defined by the persons whose interests they are, but by others.

Interests are already-formed (‘crystallized’).
Identity claim is based on similarity.

Claims are petitions from below. Tolerance and respect are sought for the new identity.
Activists learn already-existing capabilities they do not possess (and others do).

Activists acquire such capabilities through instruction (as pupils).
Activists keep politics and life apart until the goal is achieved.

Activists embrace only the same goal.
In work of HIGH AMBITIONInterests are defined by the persons whose interests they are.

Interests are emergent.
Identity claim is based on distinctness.

Claims are demands from equality. Recognition and esteem are sought for the new identity.
Activists discover, develop and assess capabilities they already possess.

Activists acquire such capabilities through interactive discussion between teachers and taught.
Activists live their politics now.

Activists seek to share everything with everyone (e.g. feeling the same way)

In the final post of this series, I will consider the approaches that may be taken to these problems.