Sunshine Recorder

Toro Y Moi - Minors (from Causers of This)

When the highest and strongest drives, breaking passionately out, carry the individual far above and beyond the average and lowlands of the herd conscience, the self-confidence of the community goes to pieces, its faith in itself, its spine as it were, is broken: consequently it is precisely these drives which are most branded and calumniated. Lofty spiritual independence, the will to stand alone, great intelligence even, are felt to be dangerous; everything that raises the individual above the herd and makes his neighbor quail is henceforth called evil; the fair, modest, obedient, self-effacing disposition, the mean and average in desires, acquires moral names and honours.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Link: Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Thomas Piketty is Absolutely Right

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (Belknap Press)

Income inequality in the United States and elsewhere has been worsening since the 1970s. The most striking aspect has been the widening gap between the rich and the rest. This ominous anti-democratic trend has finally found its way into public consciousness and political rhetoric. A rational and effective policy for dealing with it—if there is to be one—will have to rest on an understanding of the causes of increasing inequality. The discussion so far has turned up a number of causal factors: the erosion of the real minimum wage; the decay of labor unions and collective bargaining; globalization and intensified competition from low-wage workers in poor countries; technological changes and shifts in demand that eliminate mid-level jobs and leave the labor market polarized between the highly educated and skilled at the top and the mass of poorly educated and unskilled at the bottom.

Each of these candidate causes seems to capture a bit of the truth. But even taken together they do not seem to provide a thoroughly satisfactory picture. They have at least two deficiencies. First, they do not speak to the really dramatic issue: the tendency for the very top incomes—the “1 percent”—to pull away from the rest of society. Second, they seem a little adventitious, accidental; whereas a forty-year trend common to the advanced economies of the United States, Europe, and Japan would be more likely to rest on some deeper forces within modern industrial capitalism. Now along comes Thomas Piketty, a forty-two-year-old French economist, to fill those gaps and then some. I had a friend, a distinguished algebraist, whose preferred adjective of praise was “serious.” “Z is a serious mathematician,” he would say, or “Now that is a serious painting.” Well, this is a serious book.

It is also a long book: 577 pages of closely printed text and seventy-seven pages of notes. (I call down a painful pox on publishers who put the footnotes at the end of the book instead of the bottom of the page where they belong, thus making sure that readers like me will skip many of them.) There is also an extensive “technical appendix” available online that contains tables of data, mathematical arguments, references to the literature, and links to class notes for Piketty’s (evidently excellent) lecture course in Paris. The English translation by Arthur Goldhammer reads very well.

Piketty’s strategy is to start with a panoramic reading of the data across space and time, and then work out from there. He and a group of associates, most notably Emmanuel Saez, another young French economist, a professor at Berkeley, and Anthony B. Atkinson of Oxford, the pioneer and gray eminence of modern inequality studies, have labored hard to compile an enormous database that is still being extended and refined. It provides the empirical foundation for Piketty’s argument.

It all begins with the time path of total—private and public—wealth (or capital) in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, going back to whenever data first become available and running up to the present. Germany, Japan, and Sweden, and less frequently other countries, are included in the database when satisfactory statistics exist. If you are wondering why a book about inequality should begin by measuring total wealth, just wait.

Since comparisons over vast stretches of time and space are the essence, there is a problem about finding comparable units in which to measure total wealth or capital in, say, France in 1850 as well as in the United States in 1950. Piketty solves this problem by dividing wealth measured in local currency of the time by national income, also measured in local currency of the time. The wealth-income ratio then has the dimension “years.” The comparison just mentioned says in fact that total wealth in France in 1850 amounted to about seven years worth of income, but only about four years for the United States in 1950. This visualization of national wealth or capital as relative to national income is basic to the whole enterprise. Reference to the capital-output or capital-income ratio is commonplace in economics. Get used to it.

There is a small ambiguity here. Piketty uses “wealth” and “capital” as interchangeable terms. We know how to calculate the wealth of a person or an institution: you add up the value of all its assets and subtract the total of debts. (The values are market prices or, in their absence, some approximation.) The result is net worth or wealth. In English at least, this is often called a person’s or institution’s capital. But “capital” has another, not quite equivalent, meaning: it is a “factor of production,” an essential input into the production process, in the form of factories, machinery, computers, office buildings, or houses (that produce “housing services”). This meaning can diverge from “wealth.” Trivially, there are assets that have value and are part of wealth but do not produce anything: works of art, hoards of precious metals, and so forth. (Paintings hanging in a living room could be said to produce “aesthetic services,” but those are not generally counted in national income.) More significantly, stock market values, the financial counterpart of corporate productive capital, can fluctuate violently, more violently than national income. In a recession, the wealth-income ratio may fall noticeably, although the stock of productive capital, and even its expected future earning power, may have changed very little or not at all. But as long as we stick to longer-run trends, as Piketty generally does, this difficulty can safely be disregarded.

The data then exhibit a clear pattern. In France and Great Britain, national capital stood fairly steadily at about seven times national income from 1700 to 1910, then fell sharply from 1910 to 1950, presumably as a result of wars and depression, reaching a low of 2.5 in Britain and a bit less than 3 in France. The capital-income ratio then began to climb in both countries, and reached slightly more than 5 in Britain and slightly less than 6 in France by 2010. The trajectory in the United States was slightly different: it started at just above 3 in 1770, climbed to 5 in 1910, fell slightly in 1920, recovered to a high between 5 and 5.5 in 1930, fell to below 4 in 1950, and was back to 4.5 in 2010.

The wealth-income ratio in the United States has always been lower than in Europe. The main reason in the early years was that land values bulked less in the wide open spaces of North America. There was of course much more land, but it was very cheap. Into the twentieth century and onward, however, the lower capital-income ratio in the United States probably reflects the higher level of productivity: a given amount of capital could support a larger production of output than in Europe. It is no surprise that the two world wars caused much less destruction and dissipation of capital in the United States than in Britain and France. The important observation for Piketty’s argument is that, in all three countries, and elsewhere as well, the wealth-income ratio has been increasing since 1950, and is almost back to nineteenth-century levels. He projects this increase to continue into the current century, with weighty consequences that will be discussed as we go on.

The key thing about wealth in a capitalist economy is that it reproduces itself and usually earns a positive net return. That is the next thing to be investigated. Piketty develops estimates of the “pure” rate of return (after minor adjustments) in Britain going back to 1770 and in France going back to 1820, but not for the United States. He concludes: “[T]he pure return on capital has oscillated around a central value of 4–5 percent a year, or more generally in an interval from 3–6 percent a year. There has been no pronounced long-term trend either upward or downward…. It is possible, however, that the pure return on capital has decreased slightly over the very long run.” It would be interesting to have comparable figures for the United States.

Now if you multiply the rate of return on capital by the capital-income ratio, you get the share of capital in the national income. For example, if the rate of return is 5 percent a year and the stock of capital is six years worth of national income, income from capital will be 30 percent of national income, and so income from work will be the remaining 70 percent. At last, after all this preparation, we are beginning to talk about inequality, and in two distinct senses. First, we have arrived at the functional distribution of income—the split between income from work and income from wealth. Second, it is always the case that wealth is more highly concentrated among the rich than income from labor (although recent American history looks rather odd in this respect); and this being so, the larger the share of income from wealth, the more unequal the distribution of income among persons is likely to be. It is this inequality across persons that matters most for good or ill in a society.

This is often not well understood, and may be worth a brief digression. The labor share of national income is arithmetically the same thing as the real wage divided by the productivity of labor. Would you rather live in a society in which the real wage was rising rapidly but the labor share was falling (because productivity was increasing even faster), or one in which the real wage was stagnating, along with productivity, so the labor share was unchanging? The first is surely better on narrowly economic grounds: you eat your wage, not your share of national income. But there could be political and social advantages to the second option. If a small class of owners of wealth—and it is small—comes to collect a growing share of the national income, it is likely to dominate the society in other ways as well. This dichotomy need not arise, but it is good to be clear.

Suppose we accept Piketty’s educated guess that the capital-income ratio will increase over the next century before stabilizing at a high value somewhere around 7. Does it follow that the capital share of income will also get bigger? Not necessarily: remember that we have to multiply the capital-income ratio by the rate of return, and that same law of diminishing returns suggests that the rate of return on capital will fall. As production becomes more and more capital-intensive, it gets harder and harder to find profitable uses for additional capital, or easy ways to substitute capital for labor. Whether the capital share falls or rises depends on whether the rate of return has to fall proportionally more or less than the capital-income ratio rises.

There has been a lot of research around this question within economics, but no definitely conclusive answer has emerged. This suggests that the ultimate effect on the capital share, whichever way it goes, will be small. Piketty opts for an increase in the capital share, and I am inclined to agree with him. Productivity growth has been running ahead of real wage growth in the American economy for the last few decades, with no sign of a reversal, so the capital share has risen and the labor share fallen. Perhaps the capital share will go from about 30 percent to about 35 percent, with whatever challenge to democratic culture and politics that entails.

There is a stronger implication of this line of argument, and with it we come to the heart of Piketty’s case. So far as I know, no one before him has made this connection. Remember what has been established so far. Both history and theory suggest that there is a slow tendency in an industrial capitalist economy for the capital-income ratio to stabilize, and with it the rate of return on capital. This tendency can be disturbed by severe depressions, wars, and social and technological disruptions, but it reasserts itself in tranquil conditions. Over the long span of history surveyed by Piketty, the rate of return on capital is usually larger than the underlying rate of growth. The only substantial exceptional sub-period is between 1910 and 1950. Piketty ascribes this rarity to the disruption and high taxation caused by the two great wars and the depression that came between them.

There is no logical necessity for the rate of return to exceed the growth rate: a society or the individuals in it can decide to save and to invest so much that they (and the law of diminishing returns) drive the rate of return below the long-term growth rate, whatever that happens to be. It is known that this possible state of affairs is socially perverse in the sense that letting the stock of capital diminish until the rate of return falls back to equality with the growth rate would allow for a permanently higher level of consumption per person, and thus for a better social state. But there is no invisible hand to steer a market economy away from this perversity. Yet it has been avoided, probably because historical growth rates have been low and capital has been scarce. We can take it as normal that the rate of return on capital exceeds the underlying growth rate.

How many times have I wondered if it is really possible to forge links with a mass of people when one has never had strong feelings for anyone, not even one’s own parents; if it is possible to have a collectivity when one has not been deeply loved oneself by individual human creatures. Hasn’t this had some effect on my life as a militant – has it not tended to make me sterile and reduce my quality as a revolutionary by making everything a matter of pure intellect, of pure mathematical calculation?
— Antonio Gramsci, Letter to his wife, Julia Schucht

(Source: ardora, via vngtrd)

Link: This American Life: Help Wanted (Transcript)

From “Episode 522: Tarred and Feathered (Act 2)”

Ira Glass: We’ve arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, Help Wanted. So this story is about a group that’s pretty universally reviled. I think if there ever was a group that people would want to tar and feather, this would be the group. And that’s pedophiles. Though I have to say, before we start, this is not the story you usually hear about pedophiles.

Reporter Luke Malone met somebody who has those feelings for young children and definitely does not want to act on them, and has to cobble together his own way to deal with the problem which raises the question is there a way to treat pedophiles. Could there be a way to treat pedophiles?

A warning, before we start, this story is definitely not for kids. Most of the names have been changed and two of the people in this story have asked to have their voices altered. Also, though there’s nothing graphic in this story at all, victims of child sexual abuse should consider this a trigger warning.

Everybody else, I will say, I have never heard anybody talk about these issues the way that the people in this story talk about them. I feel like I came out of hearing this story understanding something I really did not know before. So here’s Luke Malone.

Luke Malone: My interest in pedophiles began in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky trial. He had just been sentenced on 45 counts related to child sex abuse. It got me thinking about how all this starts and if there’s a way to prevent it. I mean, Sandusky wasn’t born a 68-year-old child molester. How old are pedophiles when they start thinking about kids this way? Do they ever want to do something to stop themselves? And if they do, who can they turn to?

I spoke to experts and dug around online. I came across a site, a group of people who acknowledged their attraction, but want help dealing with it. Most of the men I spoke with first noticed an interest in children when they were about 13 or 14. I had no idea. I asked how they reacted when they first knew something was up.

For most of them, this was going back 40 or 50 years. And I realized that I needed to speak with younger guys, ones who were going through this right now. I asked the men if they knew anyone like that. And a week or so later, I got an email.

My name is Adam, it read. I’m 18, and I’m the leader of a support group for pedophiles around my age. I’ll be very happy to talk with you. Adam is now 19. Just to remind you, Adam isn’t his real name. And his voice has been altered to protect his identity. But even knowing he’d be anonymous, he was uncomfortable.

Adam: You know, nervous.

Luke Malone: Why?

Adam: Just don’t think I’m a very vulgar person. It’s even weird for me to say it out loud. You know, it’s something I type, probably 50 times a day, just chatting with some people online, but actually saying it out loud is not very easy for me.

Luke Malone: Do you see yourself as a pedophile?

Adam: Uh, yes.

Luke Malone: And have you ever acted on your attraction?

Adam: No.

Luke Malone: Here’s the first of many distinctions, I wasn’t clear on when I first met Adam. And it’s an important one to make. Technically, you don’t have to act on your desires to be a pedophile. Pedophilia marks the attraction, not the behavior. Adam doesn’t want to act on his attractions.

Adam is self-diagnosed, as is everyone in his online support group. They go by the medical definition of pedophilia found in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, basically the Bible of the American Psychiatric Association, which says that in order to be a pedophile, you have to harbor sexual fantasies about or engage sexually with a prepubescent child for six months or more, and you have to be 16 or above and more than five years older than the child. You also need to have either acted on these urges, or the fantasies must cause distress or difficulty.

Guys like Adam hit puberty and discover they’re attracted to little kids. And what’s remarkable is that they have to navigate that all on their own, with no frame of reference. Everything they’re going through, they have to figure out for themselves at, like, 11. I was surprised when Adam first told me the specifics of his attraction. It was hard to relate to, and so you’re prepared, difficult to hear.

He’s most attracted to kids between the ages of eight and three. He was 14 when he started watching porn, porn involving children. For privacy, he found a way to connect an old computer that he had in his room. Before long, he was downloading it on a daily basis. He couldn’t believe how easy it was.

Adam: It was exhilarating. That’s the most accurate thing I could say about it.

Luke Malone: I think for people who are listening to this show, when they hear that, it’s going to be kind of hard for them to understand what you’re feeling. And I really want them to. So can you tell me, did you have any concerns for the kid in the videos at this time? Did it occur that someone else was abusing them by making these videos?

Adam: No. First off, the first [? child ?] pornography I came across I don’t think it even involved adults. What I thought as, I’d like to do these types of things. So it’s great that I can watch other people who are closer to my age range do these types of things. I just see two kids doing something that I fantasized about doing. So, you know, I’m one of the kids.

Luke Malone: Remember, he was 14.

Adam: And it was a little while later, as I started watching this stuff more and more, when I kind of realized that I was getting older, and it wasn’t some phase I was going through, but the children I was interested in weren’t getting older, you know, to follow along with me, but they were actually getting younger.

Luke Malone: Did it strike you as wrong?

Adam: At that age, no. I knew it was illegal. I knew it was considered wrong. But I did not know why it was considered wrong. I figured it was something that wasn’t allowed. I’d been using it for two years, before I started to think these children are real people. And they could potentially be hurt with this.

Luke Malone: The way Adam figured it out was particularly brutal. He was 16, and he came across a video he wanted to unsee. There’s no easy way to say this. It involved a very small child. An 18-month-old.

Adam: I remember thinking that I wanted to reach through the computer screen and kill the person. I was just so horrified at what I saw. At that point, I knew something was really wrong.

Luke Malone: He began reading up on child abuse and was upset at what he learned. He decided he wanted to stop watching child porn, and he needed help if he was going to do that. For that help, Adam turned back to the internet. He posted on a mental health forum, explaining his situation and asking for advice. Two women who were child abuse survivors befriended him. With their help, Adam says he stopped watching porn. But in its place grew a deep depression.

It wasn’t like he’d stopped having sexual thoughts about kids. He says he felt like a monster for having viewed the videos, but also just for having the attractions. Some days, he thought about killing himself. He didn’t know what else to do. He was 16. He wanted to talk to someone. So he started with a cautious letter to his mum.

Dear Mummy, it begins, I’m writing this letter to you, as I cannot bring myself to say what I need to say to you to your face. It would simply be too painful for me. I am always overshadowed with feelings of depression, guilt, and shame. I’m really sick and tired of covering these feelings up. I want you to let me see a psychologist. I understand you probably have a lot to ask me. But I need some time to get my head wrapped around things. Love, Adam.

He didn’t explain the source of the problem, and his mother never asked. Instead, she made him an appointment at a local therapist for a week or so later.

Adam: I remember it was a Friday morning, very early in the day. I was her first patient. We got there, even before she got there. And I was just very nervous. I knew exactly what was coming. I’d known for so long that I was going to walk in there and what I was going to say. And I’d rehearsed it in my head.

Luke Malone: And what was the script you’d been playing over and over in your head?

Adam: I’m a pedophile, and I’m addicted to child pornography. And I remember I walked in there, and we started talking. And then she kind of said, so what are you here for? And I said, well, I’m very anxious. And she said, well, why are you anxious? And my heart was beating. I’d never been so terrified in my life.

But I uttered the words. I said, well, this is difficult to say, but I’m a pedophile, and I’m addicted to child pornography. And I saw kind of a look of horror on her face, and she asked me to repeat that. She must have thought that she misheard me for something like that. But I repeated it. Then, immediately, she went from being this very nice, gentle person to very harsh and critical.

Luke Malone: What did she say to you?

Adam: Well, she raised her voice, telling me this isn’t OK. And we talked about it a bit. I mentioned that at that point, I’d been, I think, 11 weeks clean of child pornography. But I was terrified the whole time. And I remember she tried talking with me about why I have these attractions.

And she was obviously convinced that I had trouble talking with people my own age, so I felt less judged by younger kids, and that’s why I was interested in them. And that’s apparently a very common thing for therapists who aren’t at all trained in this area to think.

Luke Malone: So she didn’t even believe that you were a pedophile. Just that you couldn’t kind of make it with kids your own age, essentially, yeah? Is that what you’re saying?

Adam: Yes, yes.

Luke Malone: And what did you say to her in response?

Adam: Oh, well, I disagreed. I said, no, I really firmly believe that’s not the case. I know what I’m attracted to. And it’s not like I’m— I had friends. It’s not like I didn’t have a single friend. I said, look, these attractions are more intense than they are towards any adult I’ve ever met or seen. And I’m really confident that it’s not just being scared to talk to people my own age.

Luke Malone: Was it kind of weird or frustrating kind of disclosing this massive thing about yourself and then having to kind of just really drive it on home and prove it to her?

Adam: Yeah, it was definitely— it was annoying. But I’ll tell you the feeling that overcame me most the whole time was that I was being judged. That’s definitely what I felt most when I left later. I considered writing an email to her, apologizing for dropping such a bombshell on her. And I saw her again.

Luke Malone: And what happened in that second session?

Adam: So she was a little calmer. She’d obviously had some time to think about it. She basically told me, pretty much instantly, that she couldn’t help me. And she said that she’d looked around, but she couldn’t really find much.

And then within a few minutes, she asks, how I’d feel if she told my mother about what was going on. So first, my heart obviously started beating much faster, and I became incredibly anxious. And I said, I really don’t want to do that. So she left the room for a minute, and then came back in with my mother.

Adam’s Mother: And I sat down. And the first thing that I recall the therapist saying is we’ve got a problem.

Luke Malone: This is Adam’s mum. Her voice has also been altered.

Adam’s Mother: The therapist looked at me, and I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like—

Adam: Adam is addicted to pornography. And then she paused for a little bit, and then she said, a very specific type of pornography. Then she said it’s child pornography.

Adam’s Mother: And she continued to say that she couldn’t see him. We then talked a little bit, not details, about what had been going on. And Adam did not contribute at all. He sat there just shaking and looking at the floor. And I do remember that she then turned to Adam and said, how do you feel? And he said, I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Adam: You know, my mother, I’m sure, reacted the best I really could have hoped for. She kind of put her arm on my shoulder and squeezed a little bit. She seemed to be supportive. I’m sure she was in shock, probably kind of horrified, but at least she was able to hide that. And the fact that she was able to do that, it meant so much to me.

Adam’s Mother: And I looked at him, although he wouldn’t give me eye contact. I looked at him, and I said, Adam, we’re going to help with this. Whatever it is, we can help with it. And don’t worry, I’m with you.

Luke Malone: On the car ride home, Adam told her that he wasn’t just attracted to children, but also to adults.

Adam: You know, and I explained that I’d never done anything to hurt someone before and that I never would do something to hurt someone.

Adam’s Mother: When I had moments to be alone afterwards, I was very devastated in realizing the enormity of what we were dealing with. I was shocked. It was the last thing that I could have fathomed that was a problem for him. There were absolutely no signs. I have no earthly idea how Adam may have developed his attraction to children.

Luke Malone: She and Adam both say he wasn’t abused. His home life was stable. He had good relationships with his siblings. Adam’s mum did find him a new therapist, one who specialized in porn addiction. This one didn’t normally treat minors, and he was reluctant to take Adam on. She had to plead with him to accept her son as a client. He eventually agreed.

She says until our interview, his two therapists are the only people she’s spoken to about Adam’s attractions. She hasn’t told a friend, not a therapist of her own, not her husband.

Right now, if a pedophile shows up in a therapist’s office wanting treatment, it puts a therapist in a difficult situation. First, there are no guidelines on how to treat pedophiles who haven’t offended. There’s a lot of confusion in the field about how to handle them. Also, they’re in a tough legal position.

If a therapist thinks someone poses a threat to a child, they’re legally obligated to turn them in, because of mandatory reporting laws. They can lose their license if they don’t. So when it comes to counseling a pedophile, therapists have to gauge how likely that person is to act. They’re in a sticky situation where they have to make a judgment call about how dangerous someone is.

Professor Elizabeth Letourneau is one of the top researchers on child sexual abuse in the world. She’s done this work for 25 years. She says the great thing about mandatory reporting laws are that they’ve brought to light lots of crimes against children. But as they got more popular, she saw it affect the number of people reaching out for help.

Elizabeth Letourneau: Self-referrals for help really dried up. And people watched helplines just go silent, because folks are too afraid to reach out for help. The consequences are too high.

Luke Malone: Professor Letourneau is the director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University. And it’s with that mandate, the prevention of child sexual abuse, that she’s pushing hard for research into people like Adam. Amazingly, there’s very little research on pedophilia. We don’t know much about the sexuality of adolescents, let alone what might make someone a pedophile.

Elizabeth Letourneau: It is a gigantic black hole in science.

Luke Malone: Among things we don’t know, we don’t know that there’s a connection between being abused and developing an attraction to kids. Crazy, right? We don’t know what’s normal, when it comes to the sexual development of children. It might be normal for a 12 year old to be attracted to a six or eight year old.

Another thing that has not been researched in-depth is if having an attraction to kids makes it more dangerous to be around them. On its face, it seems obvious. But there is no evidence to support it.

The research that we do have, and this is from a very small sample size, suggests that pedophiles are more lucky to be shorter, left-handed, and have a lower IQ. Another study says that being knocked unconscious before the age of 13 may be a factor. It shows just how little we’ve scratched the surface.

For years, Letourneau has been trying to change all this, to get money for research, and for prevention programs. But there’s not much money for that. Funders don’t want to be associated with pedophilia research. The stigma is too great. Even someone like Letourneau, who wants to do this research in order to prevent children from being abused, has been called a pedophile sympathizer, simply for advocating these programs.

Elizabeth Letourneau: If we can prevent this, we can prevent a lot of harm and a lot of cost. And we just don’t. It’s nuanced. It’s difficult to wrap your head around. It’s a lot easier to say these guys are monsters. Let’s put them in prison. Let’s put them on a registry. Let’s put them in civil commitment facilities. And forget about them.

Luke Malone: The place that research is most solid is the numbers. Studies suggest that an astonishingly large number of men are pedophiles. A respected survey by Michael Seto, director of the Forensic Research Unit at the University of Ottawa, found that 3% of all men have sexually offended against a prepubescent child. Though not all these men would be considered pedophiles.

But he goes on to estimate that 1% to 3% of men would meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia, which equates to anywhere between 1.2 million and 3.4 million pedophiles in the US alone. That means there are lots of people out there who presumably try not to offend, with nowhere to turn to for help. There’s almost no research to explain why they are the way they are, and no known treatment. Which is how a teenager might conclude that his best option is to invent his own way forward.

At 17, Adam started searching online for other guys like himself, young men struggling to deal with their attraction to kids. And some responded. They got to talking online. And soon there were a bunch of them, communicating on a daily basis. Before long, Adam realized that he had inadvertently formed a support group for young pedophiles.

There are currently nine members, ranging in age from 16 to 22, eight men and one woman. They communicate in the same way that any bunch of teenagers do— Gchat, text, email, the odd phone call, or video chat. And there’s usually at least a few people online each night. I’ve talked to five of them, and met three of those in person. They all said they’re glad to have found the group. And for most, it’s the only outlet they have. Everyone I’ve spoken to has a story about how the group saved them. A 22-year-old college student told me this one.

Anonymous College Student: There was a time when I was really running out of hope for the future. I was unemployed, and I felt like no one was going to give me a shot. And I felt like I had literally no shot in life. And I kind of wanted to kill myself. I didn’t do it. The first thing I thought of was especially Adam, in specific, but the rest of them as well, that I couldn’t let them down like that.

Luke Malone: The governing principle of the group is that you can only be a part of it if you agree that it’s wrong to have sex with kids. There are other pedophile support groups online who feel the opposite, who advocate for the abolishment of age of consent laws. Others suggest that molesting children is wrong because it’s illegal, but stop short of taking a moral stand.

Adam’s group absolutely takes a moral stand. A few times, he’s found himself trying to convince potential members of the group that having sex with children is wrong. And occasionally, Adam has to turn someone away.

Adam: There was one time someone came in, and he admitted to me pretty much right away that he’d done some sexual things with a five-year-old kid. And right then and there, I said we can’t have you. First off, they’re a risk. But what’s more is I think, that I’ll admit, I have a bias. I think we are better people than those who go out and hurt kids.

Luke Malone: Did you tell him that?

Adam: I explained to him, you know, to the best of my ability, that what he did was very wrong. And that the most noble thing he could possibly do would be to tell the kid’s parents so that at least that kid could get the help he might need.

Luke Malone: And what was his response?

Adam: Something like maybe.

Luke Malone: In a different world, this person would be talking to a professional, not a 19-year-old with no training at all. Or maybe this person would just be in prison.

Here’s another important distinction. Eight out of the nine in Adam’s group say they are nonexclusive pedophiles, which means they are also attracted to their peers or adults, in addition to kids. That’s important because researchers like Elizabeth Letourneau think it might be possible to push people like that to become more attracted to people their own age, if you start young.

Elizabeth Letourneau: Yeah, so through hanging out with peers more often, engaging in fun things with peers more often, really increasing that, I really believe, at least for some kids, some portion of kids who are sexually attracted to children, it’s changeable. I don’t want to start with the premise that it’s impossible.

Luke Malone: When I first started talking to Letourneau a year and a half ago, she told me that in her 25 years in the field, she’d talked to lots of young guys who’ve abused children. But she’d never spoken to a pedophile who hasn’t, which I found pretty incredible. I told her about Adam’s group, and she asked if I could put them in touch. She’s since spoken to several of them and has been talking to Adam regularly. And she’s started to notice patterns, pattens that she can use to inform a treatment plan that she’s getting off the ground.

Elizabeth Letourneau: You know, before talking to Adam and the other young men, I didn’t know when it really crystallized for them that this wasn’t going away. I didn’t know what the experiences were. I had no idea about the deep depression and the self-loathing and the fear that really characterized all of their adolescence.

Luke Malone: While Letourneau is just starting to learn about what causes pedophilia and develop methods for treatment, Adam doesn’t agree that he can be fixed. He doesn’t hold out hope for the possibility of becoming something other than a pedophile. It took him years to figure it out in the first place.

Adam: The truth is, I know what my attractions are. I know they’re there. By every definition of the medical term, I am one. Sometimes, you really just know these things.

Luke Malone: Adam says being a pedophile is something he’ll spend the rest of his life battling. But he’s committed to managing it. He’s thought ahead to his future in a way that most 19-year-olds don’t.

Adam: You know, I’d like a partner, obviously. The thought of having a kid is very scary. I’m not convinced I could ever allow myself to do that, as much as I may want it. I think, most people want kids at some point in their lives. And that’s something that while I’m not saying I never will have, it’s something I don’t think I will have, I guess, for both of our safeties.

Luke Malone: Imagine being a teenager and being told never to act on your sexual feelings ever for the rest of your life. That’s what we’re asking of these people. At the moment, there is no clear plan for how to do that. But maybe there should be.

Link: Marxism vs. Liberalism, H. G. Wells interviews Joseph Stalin

In 1934, H. G. Wells arrived in Moscow to meet Soviet writers interested in joining the international PEN Club, of which he was then president. While there, Stalin granted him an interview. His deferential conversation was criticised by J M Keynes and George Bernard Shaw, among others, in the New Statesman. First published as a special NS supplement on 27 October 1934.

H. G. Wells: I am very much obliged to you, Mr Stalin, for agreeing to see me. I was in the United States recently. I had a long conversation with President Roosevelt and tried to ascertain what his leading ideas were. Now I have come to ask you what you are doing to change the world…

Joseph Stalin: Not so very much.

I wander around the world as a common man and, as a common man, observe what is going on around me.

Important public men like yourself are not “common men”. Of course, history alone can show how important this or that public man has been; at all events, you do not look at the world as a “common man”.

I am not pretending humility. What I mean is that I try to see the world through the eyes of the common man, and not as a party politician or a responsible administrator. My visit to the United States excited my mind. The old financial world is collapsing; the economic life of the country is being reorganised on new lines.

Lenin said: “We must learn to do business,” learn this from the capitalists. Today the capitalists have to learn from you, to grasp the spirit of Socialism. It seems to me that what is taking place in the United States is a profound reorganisation, the creation of planned, that is, Socialist, economy. You and Roosevelt begin from two different starting points. But is there not a relation in ideas, a kinship of ideas, between Moscow and Washington?

In Washington I was struck by the same thing I see going on here; they are building offices, they are creating a number of state regulation bodies, they are organising a long-needed civil service. Their need, like yours, is directive ability.

The United States is pursuing a different aim from that which we are pursuing in the USSR. The aim which the Americans are pursuing arose out of the economic troubles, out of the economic crisis. The Americans want to rid themselves of the crisis on the basis of private capitalist activity, without changing the economic basis. They are trying to reduce to a minimum the ruin, the losses caused by the existing economic system.

Here, however, as you know, in place of the old, destroyed economic basis, an entirely different, a new economic basis has been created. Even if the Americans you mention partly achieve their aim, ie, reduce these losses to a minimum, they will not destroy the roots of the anarchy which is inherent in the existing capitalist system. They are preserving the economic system which must inevitably lead, and cannot but lead, to anarchy in production. Thus, at best, it will be a matter, not of the reorganisation of society, not of abolishing the old social system which gives rise to anarchy and crises, but of restricting certain of its excesses. Subjectively, perhaps, these Americans think they are reorganising society; objectively, however, they are preserving the present basis of society. That is why, objectively, there will be no reorganisation of society.

Nor will there be planned economy. What is planned economy? What are some of its attributes? Planned economy tries to abolish unemployment. Let us suppose it is possible, while preserving the capitalist system, to reduce unemployment to a certain minimum. But surely, no capitalist would ever agree to the complete abolition of unemployment, to the abolition of the reserve army of unemployed, the purpose of which is to bring pressure on the labour market, to ensure a supply of cheap labour. You will never compel a capitalist to incur loss to himself and agree to a lower rate of profit for the sake of satisfying the needs of the people.

Without getting rid of the capitalists, without abolishing the principle of private property in the means of production, it is impossible to create planned economy.

I agree with much of what you have said. But I would like to stress the point that if a country as a whole adopts the principle of planned economy, if the government, gradually, step by step, begins consistently to apply this principle, the financial oligarchy will at last be abolished and Socialism, in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word, will be brought about.

The effect of the ideas of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” is most powerful, and in my opinion they are Socialist ideas. It seems to me that instead of stressing the antagonism between the two worlds, we should, in the present circumstances, strive to establish a common tongue for all the constructive forces.

In speaking of the impossibility of realising the principles of planned economy while preserving the economic basis of capitalism, I do not in the least desire to belittle the outstanding personal qualities of Roosevelt, his initiative, courage and determination. Undoubtedly Roosevelt stands out as one of the strongest figures among all the captains of the contemporary capitalist world. That is why I would like once again to emphasise the point that my conviction that planned economy is impossible under the conditions of capitalism does not mean that I have any doubts about the personal abilities, talent and courage of President Roosevelt.

But if the circumstances are unfavourable, the most talented captain cannot reach the goal you refer to. Theoretically, of course, the possibility of marching gradually, step by step, under the conditions of capitalism, towards the goal which you call Socialism in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word, is not precluded. But what will this “Socialism” be? At best, bridling to some extent the most unbridled of individual representatives of capitalist profit, some increase in the application of the principle of regulation in national economy. That is all very well. But as soon as Roosevelt, or any other captain in the contemporary bourgeois world, proceeds to undertake something serious against the foundation of capitalism, he will inevitably suffer utter defeat. The banks, the industries, the large enterprises, the large farms are not in Roosevelt’s hands. All these are private property. The railroads, the mercantile fleet, all these belong to private owners. And, finally, the army of skilled workers, the engineers, the technicians, these too are not at Roosevelt’s command, they are at the command of the private owners; they all work for the private owners.

We must not forget the functions of the State in the bourgeois world. The State is an institution that organises the defence of the country, organises the maintenance of “order”; it is an apparatus for collecting taxes. The capitalist State does not deal much with economy in the strict sense of the word; the latter is not in the hands of the State. On the contrary, the State is in the hands of capitalist economy. That is why I fear that in spite of all his energies and abilities, Roosevelt will not achieve the goal you mention, if indeed that is his goal. Perhaps in the course of several generations it will be possible to approach this goal somewhat; but I personally think that even this is not very probable.

Perhaps I believe more strongly in the economic interpretation of politics than you do. Huge forces striving for better organisation, for the better functioning of the community, that is, for Socialism, have been brought into action by invention
and modern science. Organisation, and the regulation of individual action, have become mechanical necessities, irrespective of social theories. If we begin with the State control of the banks and then follow with the control of the heavy industries, of industry in general, of commerce, etc, such an all-embracing control will be equivalent to the State ownership of all branches of national economy.

Socialism and Individualism are not opposites like black and white. There are many intermediate stages between them. There is Individualism that borders on brigandage, and there is discipline and organisation that are the equivalent of Socialism. The introduction of planned economy depends, to a large degree, upon the organisers of economy, upon the skilled technical intelligentsia who, step by step, can be converted to the Socialist principles of organisation. And this is the most important thing, because organisation comes before Socialism. It is the more important fact. Without organisation the Socialist idea is a mere idea.

There is no, nor should there be, irreconcilable contrast between the individual and the collective, between the interests of the individual person and the interests of the collective. There should be no such contrast, because collectivism, Socialism, does not deny, but combines individual interests with the interests of the collective. Socialism cannot abstract itself from individual interests.

Socialist society alone can most fully satisfy these personal interests. More than that, Socialist society alone can firmly safeguard the interests of the individual. In this sense there is no irreconcilable contrast between Individualism and Socialism. But can we deny the contrast between classes, between the propertied class, the capitalist class, and the toiling class, the proletarian class? On the one hand we have the propertied class which owns the banks, the factories, the mines, transport, the plantations in colonies. These people see nothing but their own interests, their striving after profits. They do not submit to the will of the collective; they strive to subordinate every collective to their will. On the other hand we have the class of the poor, the exploited class, which owns neither factories nor works, nor banks, which is compelled to live by selling its labour power to the capitalists and which lacks the opportunity to satisfy its most elementary requirements.

How can such opposite interests and strivings be reconciled? As far as I know, Roosevelt has not succeeded in finding the path of conciliation between these interests. And it is impossible, as experience has shown. Incidentally, you know the situation in the US better than I do, as I have never been there and I watch American affairs mainly from literature. But I have some experience in fighting for Socialism, and this experience tells me that if Roosevelt makes a real attempt to satisfy the interests of the proletarian class at the expense of the capitalist class, the latter will put another President in his place. The capitalists will say: Presidents come and Presidents go, but we go on for ever; if this or that President does not protect our interests, we shall find another. What can the President oppose to the will of the capitalist class?

I object to this simplified classification of mankind into poor and rich. Of course there is a category of people which strive only for profit. But are not these people regarded as nuisances in the West just as much as here? Are there not plenty of people in the West for whom profit is not an end, who own a certain amount of wealth, who want to invest and obtain a profit from this investment, but who do not regard this as the main object? In my opinion there is a numerous class of people who admit that the present system is unsatisfactory and who are destined to play a great role in future capitalist society.

During the past few years I have been much engaged in and have thought of the need for conducting propaganda in favour of Socialism and cosmopolitanism among wide circles of engineers, airmen, military technical people, etc. It is useless to approach these circles with two-track class-war propaganda. These people understand the condition of the world. They understand that it is a bloody muddle, but they regard your simple class-war antagonism as nonsense.

You object to the simplified classification into rich and poor. Of course there is a middle stratum, there is the technical intelligentsia that you have mentioned and among which there are very good and very honest people. Among them there are also dishonest and wicked people; there are all sorts of people among them. But first of all mankind is divided into rich and poor, into property owners and exploited; and to abstract oneself from this fundamental division and from the antagonism between poor and rich means abstracting oneself from the fundamental fact.

I do not deny the existence of intermediate middle strata, which either take the side of one or the other of these two conflicting classes, or else take up a neutral or semi-neutral position in the struggle. But, I repeat, to abstract oneself from this fundamental division in society and from the fundamental struggle between the two main classes means ignoring facts. The struggle is going on and will continue. The outcome will be determined by the proletarian class – the working class.

But are there not many people who are not poor, but who work and work productively?

Of course, there are small landowners, artisans, small traders, but it is not these people who decide the fate of a country, but the toiling masses, who produce all the things society requires.

But there are very different kinds of capitalists. There are capitalists who only think about profit, about getting rich; but there are also those who are prepared to make sacrifices. Take old [J P] Morgan, for example. He only thought about profit; he was a parasite on society, simply, he merely accumulated wealth. But take [John D] Rockefeller. He is a brilliant organiser; he has set an example of how to organise the delivery of oil that is worthy of emulation.

Or take [Henry] Ford. Of course Ford is selfish. But is he not a passionate organiser of rationalised production from whom you take lessons? I would like to emphasise the fact that recently an important change in opinion towards the USSR has taken place in English-speaking countries. The reason for this, first of all, is the position of Japan, and the events in Germany. But there are other reasons besides those arising from international politics. There is a more profound reason, namely, the recognition by many people of the fact that the system based on private profit is breaking down. Under these circumstances, it seems to me, we must not bring to the forefront the antagonism between the two worlds, but should strive to combine all the constructive movements, all the constructive forces in one line as much as possible. It seems to me that I am more to the Left than you, Mr Stalin; I think the old system is nearer to its end than you think.

 In speaking of the capitalists who strive only for profit, only to get rich, I do not want to say that these are the most worthless people, capable of nothing else. Many of them undoubtedly possess great organising talent, which I do not dream of denying. We Soviet people learn a great deal from the capitalists. And Morgan, whom you characterise so unfavourably, was undoubtedly a good, capable organiser. But if you mean people who are prepared to reconstruct the world, of course, you will not be able to find them in the ranks of those who faithfully serve the cause of profit. We and they stand at opposite poles.

You mentioned Ford. Of course, he is a capable organiser of production. But don’t you know his attitude towards the working class? Don’t you know how many workers he throws on the street? The capitalist is riveted to profit; and no power on earth can tear him away from it. Capitalism will be abolished, not by “organisers” of production, not by the technical intelligentsia, but by the working class, because the aforementioned strata do not play an independent role. The engineer, the organiser of production, does not work as he would like to, but as he is ordered, in such a way as to serve the interests of his employers. There are exceptions of course; there are people in this stratum who have awakened from the intoxication of capitalism. The technical intelligentsia can, under certain conditions, perform miracles and greatly benefit mankind. But it can also cause great harm.

We Soviet people have not a little experience of the technical intelligentsia. After the October Revolution, a certain section of the technical intelligentsia refused to take part in the work of constructing the new society; they opposed this work of construction and sabotaged it. We did all we possibly could to bring the technical intelligentsia into this work of construction; we tried this way and that. Not a little time passed before our technical intelligentsia agreed actively to assist the new system. Today the best section of this technical intelligentsia is in the front rank of the builders of Socialist society. Having this experience, we are far from underestimating the good and the bad sides of the technical intelligentsia, and we know that on the one hand it can do harm, and on the other hand it can perform “miracles”.

Of course, things would be different if it were possible, at one stroke, spiritually to tear the technical intelligentsia away from the capitalist world. But that is Utopia. Are there many of the technical in­telligentsia who would dare break away from the bourgeois world and set to work reconstructing society? Do you think there are many people of this kind, say, in England or in France? No; there are few who would be willing to break away from their employers and begin reconstructing the world.

Besides, can we lose sight of the fact that in order to transform the world it is necessary to have political power? It seems to me, Mr Wells, that you greatly underestimate the question of political power, that it entirely drops out of your conception.

What can those, even with the best intentions in the world, do if they are unable to raise the question of seizing power, and do not possess power? At best they can help the class which takes power, but they cannot change the world themselves. This can only be done by a great class which will take the place of the capitalist class and become the sovereign master as the latter was before. This class is the working class. Of course, the assistance of the technical intelligentsia must be accepted; and the latter, in turn, must be assisted. But it must not be thought that the technical intelligentsia can play an independent historical role.

The transformation of the world is a great, complicated and painful process. For this task a great class is required. Big ships go on long voyages.

Yes, but for long voyages a captain and navigator are required.

That is true; but what is first required for a long voyage is a big ship. What is a navigator without a ship? An idle man.

The big ship is humanity, not a class.

You, Mr Wells, evidently start out with the assumption that all men are good. I, however, do not forget that there are many wicked men. I do not believe in the goodness of the bourgeoisie.

I remember the situation with regard to the technical intelligentsia several decades ago. At that time the technical intelligentsia was numerically small, but there was much to do and every engineer, technician and intellectual found his opportunity. That is why the technical intelligentsia was the least revolutionary class. Now, however, there is a super­abundance of technical intellectuals, and their mentality has changed very sharply. The skilled man, who would formerly never listen to revolutionary talk, is now greatly interested in it.

Recently I was dining with the Royal Society, our great English scientific society. The President’s speech was a speech for social planning and scientific control. Thirty years ago, they would not have listened to what I say to them now. Today, the man at the head of the Royal Society holds revolutionary views, and insists on the scientific reorganisation of human society. Your class-war propaganda has not kept pace with these facts. Mentality changes.

Yes, I know this, and this is to be explained by the fact that capitalist society is now in a cul de sac. The capitalists are seeking, but cannot find, a way out of this cul de sac that would be compatible with the dignity of this class, compatible with the interests of this class. They could, to some extent, crawl out of the crisis on their hands and knees, but they cannot find an exit that would enable them to walk out of it with head raised high, a way out that would not fundamentally disturb the interests of capitalism.

This, of course, is realised by wide circles of the technical intelligentsia. A large section of it is beginning to realise the community of its interests with those of the class which is capable of pointing the way out of the cul de sac.

You of all people know something about revolutions, Mr Stalin, from the practical side. Do the masses ever rise? Is it not an established truth that all revolutions are made by a minority?

To bring about a revolution a leading revolutionary minority is required; but the most talented, devoted and energetic minority would be helpless if it did not rely upon the at least passive support of millions.

At least passive? Perhaps subconscious?

Partly also the semi-instinctive and semi-conscious, but without the support of millions, the best minority is impotent.

I watch Communist propaganda in the West, and it seems to me that in modern conditions this propaganda sounds very old-fashioned, because it is insurrectionary propaganda.

Propaganda in favour of the violent overthrow of the social system was all very well when it was directed against tyranny. But under modern conditions, when the system is collapsing anyhow, stress should be laid on efficiency, on competence, on productiveness, and not on insurrection.

It seems to me that the insurrectionary note is obsolete. The Communist propaganda in the West is a nuisance to constructive-minded people.

Of course the old system is breaking down, decaying. That is true. But it is also true that new efforts are being made by other methods, by every means, to protect, to save this dying system. You draw a wrong conclusion from a correct postulate. You rightly state that the old world is breaking down. But you are wrong in thinking that it is breaking down of its own accord. No; the substitution of one social system for another is a complicated and long revolutionary process. It is not simply a spontaneous process, but a struggle; it is a process connected with the clash of classes.

Capitalism is decaying, but it must not be compared simply with a tree which has decayed to such an extent that it must fall to the ground of its own accord. No, revolution, the substitution of one social system for another, has always been a struggle, a painful and a cruel struggle, a life-and-death struggle. And every time the people of the new world came into power they had to defend themselves against the attempts of the old world to restore the old power by force; these people of the new world always had to be on the alert, always had to be ready to repel the attacks of the old world upon the new system.

Yes, you are right when you say that the old social system is breaking down; but it is not breaking down of its own accord. Take Fascism for example. Fascism is a reactionary force which is trying to preserve the old system by means of violence. What will you do with the Fascists? Argue with them? Try to convince them? But this will have no effect upon them at all. Communists do not in the least idealise methods of violence. But they, the Communists, do not want to be taken by surprise; they cannot count on the old world voluntarily departing from the stage; they see that the old system is violently defending itself, and that is why the Communists say to the working class: Answer violence with violence; do all you can to prevent the old dying order from crushing you, do not permit it to put manacles on your hands, on the hands with which you will overthrow the old system.

As you see, the Communists regard the substitution of one social system for another, not simply as a spontaneous and peaceful process, but as a complicated, long and violent process. Communists cannot ignore facts.

But look at what is now going on in the capitalist world. The collapse is not a simple one; it is the outbreak of reactionary violence which is degenerating to gangsterism. And it seems to me that when it comes to a conflict with reactionary and unintelligent violence, Socialists can appeal to the law, and instead of regarding the police as the enemy they should support them in the fight against the reactionaries. I think that it is useless operating with the methods of the old insurrectionary Socialism.

The Communists base themselves on rich historical experience which teaches that obsolete classes do not voluntarily abandon the stage of history.

Recall the history of England in the seventeenth century. Did not many say that the old social system had decayed? But did it not, nevertheless, require a Cromwell to crush it by force?

Cromwell acted on the basis of the constitution and in the name of constitutional order.

In the name of the constitution he resorted to violence, beheaded the king, dispersed Parliament, arrested some and beheaded others!

Or take an example from our history. Was it not clear for a long time that the Tsarist system was decaying, was breaking down? But how much blood had to be shed in order to overthrow it?

And what about the October Revolution? Were there not plenty of people who knew that we alone, the Bolsheviks, were indicating the only correct way out? Was it not clear that Russian capitalism had decayed? But you know how great was the resistance, how much blood had to be shed in order to defend the October Revolution from all its enemies.

Or take France at the end of the eighteenth century. Long before 1789 it was clear to many how rotten the royal power, the feudal system, was. But a popular insurrection, a clash of classes was not, could not be avoided. Why? Because the classes which must abandon the stage of history are the last to become convinced that their role is ended. It is impossible to convince them of this. They think that the fissures in the decaying edifice of the old order can be repaired and saved.

That is why dying classes take to arms and resort to every means to save their existence as a ruling class.

But were there not a few lawyers at the head of the great French Revolution?

I do not deny the role of the intelligentsia in revolutionary movements. Was the great French Revolution a lawyers’ revolution and not a popular revolution, which achieved victory by rousing vast masses of the people against feudalism and championed the interests of the Third Estate? And did the lawyers among the leaders of the great French Revolution act in accordance with the laws of the old order? Did they not introduce new, bourgeois-revolutionary law?

The rich experience of history teaches that up to now not a single class has voluntarily made way for another class. There is no such precedent in history. The Communists have learned this lesson of history. Communists would welcome the voluntary departure of the bourgeoisie. But such a turn of affairs is improbable, that is what experience teaches. That is why the Communists want to be prepared for the worst and call upon the working class to be vigilant, to be prepared for battle.

Who wants a captain who lulls the vigilance of his army, a captain who does not understand that the enemy will not surrender, that he must be crushed? To be such a captain means deceiving, betraying the working class. That is why I think that what seems to you to be old-fashioned is in fact a measure of revolutionary expediency for the working class.

I do not deny that force has to be used, but I think the forms of the struggle should fit as closely as possible to the opportunities presented by the existing laws, which must be defended against reactionary attacks. There is no need to disorganise the old system because it is disorganising itself enough as it is. That is why it seems to me insurrection against the old order, against the law, is obsolete, old-fashioned. Incidentally, I exaggerate in order to bring the truth out more clearly. I can formulate my point of view in the following way: first, I am for order; second, I attack the present system in so far as it cannot assure order; third, I think that class war propaganda may detach from Socialism just those educated people whom Socialism needs.

In order to achieve a great object, an important social object, there must be a main force, a bulwark, a revolutionary class. Next it is necessary to organise the assistance of an auxiliary force for this main force; in this case this auxiliary force is the party, to which the best forces of the intelligentsia belong. Just now you spoke about “educated people”. But what educated people did you have in mind? Were there not plenty of educated people on the side of the old order in England in the seventeenth century, in France at the end of the eighteenth century, and in Russia in the epoch of the October Revolution? The old order had in its service many highly educated people who defended the old order, who opposed the new order.

Education is a weapon the effect of which is determined by the hands which wield it, by who is to be struck down. Of course, the proletariat, Socialism, needs highly educated people. Clearly, simpletons cannot help the proletariat to fight for Socialism, to build a new society.

I do not under-estimate the role of the intelligentsia; on the contrary, I emphasise it. The question is, however, which intelligentsia are we discussing? Because there are different kinds of intelligentsia.

There can be no revolution without a radical change in the educational system. It is sufficient to quote two examples – the example of the German Republic, which did not touch the old educational system, and therefore never became a republic; and the example of the British Labour Party, which lacks the determination to insist on a radical change in the educational system.

That is a correct observation. Permit me now to reply to your three points. First, the main thing for the revolution is the existence of a social bulwark. This bulwark of the revolution is the working class.

Second, an auxiliary force is required, that which the Communists call a Party. To the Party belong the intelligent workers and those elements of the technical intelligentsia which are closely connected with the working class. The intelligentsia can be strong only if it combines with the working class. If it opposes the working class it becomes a cipher.

Third, political power is required as a lever for change. The new political power creates the new laws, the new order, which is revolutionary order.

I do not stand for any kind of order. I stand for order that corresponds to the interests of the working class. If, however, any of the laws of the old order can be utilised in the interests of the struggle for the new order, the old laws should be utilised.

And, finally, you are wrong if you think that the Communists are enamoured of violence. They would be very pleased to drop violent methods if the ruling class agreed to give way to the working class. But the experience of history speaks against such an assumption.

There was a case in the history of England, however, of a class voluntarily handing over power to another class. In the period between 1830 and 1870, the aristocracy, whose influence was still very considerable at the end of the eighteenth century, voluntarily, without a severe struggle, surrendered power to the bourgeoisie, which serves as a sentimental support of the monarchy. Subsequently, this transference of power led to the establishment of the rule of the financial oligarchy.

But you have imperceptibly passed from questions of revolution to questions of reform. This is not the same thing. Don’t you think that the Chartist movement played a great role in the reforms in England in the nineteenth century?

The Chartists did little and disappeared without leaving a trace.

I do not agree with you. The Chartists, and the strike movement which they organised, played a great role; they compelled the ruling class to make a number of concessions in regard to the franchise, in regard to abolishing the so-called “rotten boroughs”, and in regard to some of the points of the “Charter”. Chartism played a not unimportant historical role and compelled a section of the ruling classes to make certain concessions, reforms, in order to avert great shocks. Generally speaking, it must be said that of all the ruling classes, the ruling classes of England, both the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, proved to be the cleverest, most flexible from the point of view of their class interests, from the point of view of maintaining their power.

Take as an example, say, from modern history, the General Strike in England in 1926. The first thing any other bourgeoisie would have done in the face of such an event, when the General Council of Trade Unions called for a strike, would have been to arrest the Trade Union leaders. The Brit­ish bourgeoisie did not do that, and it acted cleverly from the point of view of its own interests. I cannot conceive of such a flexible strategy being employed by the bourgeoisie in the United States, Germany or France. In order to maintain their rule, the ruling classes of Great Britain have never forsworn small concessions, reforms. But it would be a mistake to think that these reforms were revolutionary.

You have a higher opinion of the ruling classes of my country than I have. But is there a great difference between a small revolution and a great reform? Is not a reform a small revolution?

Owing to pressure from below, the pressure of the masses, the bourgeoisie may sometimes concede certain partial reforms while remaining on the basis of the existing social-economic system. Acting in this way, it calculates that these concessions are necessary in order to preserve its class rule. This is the essence of reform. Revolution, however, means the transference of power from one class to another. That is why it is impossible to describe any reform as revolution.

I am very grateful to you for this talk, which has meant a great deal to me. In explaining things to me you probably called to mind how you had to explain the fundamentals of Socialism in the illegal circles before the revolution. At the present time there are only two persons to whose opinion, to whose every word, millions are listening – you and Roosevelt. Others may preach as much as they like; what they say will never be printed or heeded.

I cannot yet appreciate what has been done in your country; I only arrived yesterday. But I have already seen the happy faces of healthy men and women and I know that something very considerable is being done here. The contrast with 1920 is astounding.

Much more could have been done had we Bolsheviks been cleverer.

No, if human beings were cleverer. It would be a good thing to invent a Five-Year Plan for the reconstruction of the human brain, which obviously lacks many things needed for a perfect social order. [Laughter]

Don’t you intend to stay for the Congress of the Soviet Writers’ Union?

Unfortunately, I have various engagements to fulfil and I can stay in the USSR only for a week. I came to see you and I am very satisfied by our talk. But I intend to discuss with such Soviet writers as I can meet the possibility of their affiliating to the PEN Club. The organisation is still weak, but it has branches in many countries, and what is more important, the speeches of its members are widely reported in the press. It insists upon this, free expression of opinion – even of opposition opinion. I hope to discuss this point with Gorki. I do not know if you are prepared yet for that much freedom …

We Bolsheviks call it “self-criticism”. It is widely used in the USSR. If there is anything I can do to help you I shall be glad to do so.

Sigur Rós - Festival (from Inni)

(Source: sunrec)

The Communists believe they have found a way of delivering us from this evil. Man is wholeheartedly good and friendly to his neighbour, they say, but the system of private property has corrupted his nature. The possession of private property gives power to the individual and thence the temptation arises to ill-treat his neighbour; the man who is excluded from the possession of property is obliged to rebel in hostility against the oppressor. If private property were abolished, all valuables held in common and all allowed to share in the enjoyment of them, ill-will and enmity would disappear from among men. Since all needs would be satisfied, none would have any reason to regard another as an enemy; all would willingly undertake the work which is necessary. I have no concern with any economic criticisms of the communistic system; I cannot enquire into whether the abolition of private property is advantageous and expedient. But I am able to recognize that psychologically it is rounded on an untenable illusion. By abolishing private property one deprives the human love of aggression of one of its instruments, a strong one undoubtedly, but assuredly not the strongest. It in no way alters the individual differences in power and influence which are turned by aggressiveness to its own use, nor does it change the nature of the instinct in any way. This instinct did not arise as the result of property; it reigned almost supreme in primitive times when possessions were still extremely scanty; it shows itself already in the nursery when possessions have hardly grown out of their original anal shape; it is at the bottom of all the relations of affection and love between human beings—possibly with the single exception of that of a mother to her male child. Suppose that personal rights to material goods are done away with, there still remain prerogatives in sexual relationships, which must arouse the strongest rancour and most violent enmity among men and women who are otherwise equal. Let us suppose this were also to be removed by instituting complete liberty in sexual life, so that the family, the germ-cell of culture, ceased to exist; one could not, it is true, foresee the new paths on which cultural development might then proceed, but one thing one would be bound to expect, and that is that the ineffaceable feature of human nature would follow wherever it led.
— Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin by Marzena Wieczorek 
Holocaust Memorial, Berlin by Marzena Wieczorek 

(Source: n-architektur, via tectusregis)

Link: How We Behave, an Interview with Michel Foucault

No serious thinker can afford to ignore Michel Foucault. He has a formidable intelligence, he is also pop, “difficult,” and controversial. Not since Aristotle has a man been so obsessed with categories—as he works toward a challenging, idiosyncratic synthesis of social, political, and cultural history in his books Discipline and Punish, Madness and Civilization, and the History of Sexuality. As Foucault explains to interviewers Paul Rabinow and Hubert L. Dreyfus in the following pages, his new project is to draw “a genealogy of ethics.” Beginning with classical Greek culture, through the Christian period and into the present day, he looks at change in, among other things, food, sex, and writing. He also, unexpectedly, emerges here as something else—a charming, accessible, contradictory man with an oddly cheerful view of our civilization.

The first volume of your work The History of Sexuality was published in 1976. Do you still think that understanding sexuality is central to understanding who we are?

Michel Foucault: I must confess that I am much more interested in problems about techniques of the self and things like that rather than sex… sex is boring.

It sounds like the Greeks were not too interested either.

NO, they were not much interested in sex. It was not a great issue. Compare, for instance, what they say about the place of food and diet. I think it is extremely interesting to see the move, the very slow move, from the privileging of food, which was overwhelming in Greece, to interest in sex. Food was still much more important during the early Christian days than sex. For instance, in the rules for monks, the problem was food, food, food. Then you can see a slow shift during the Middle Ages, when they were in a kind of equilibrium…and after the seventeenth century it was sex.

Yet volume 2 of The History of Sexuality, L’Usage des Plaisirs, is concerned almost exclusively with, not to put too fine a point on it, sex.

What I wanted to do in volume 2 of The History of Sexuality was to show that you have nearly the same restrictive, prohibitive code in the fourth century B.C. as with the moralists and doctors at the beginning of the Roman Empire. But I think that the way they integrate those prohibitions in relation to the self is completely different. I don’t think one can find any normalization in, for instance, the Stoic ethics. The reason is, I think, that the principal aim, the principal target, for this kind of ethics was aesthetic. First, this kind of ethics was only a problem of personal choice. Second, it was reserved for a few people in the population; there was no question of prescribing a pattern of behavior for everybody. It was a personal choice for a small elite. The reason for making this choice was the will to live a beautiful life, and to leave to others memories of a beautiful existence. I don’t think that we can say that this kind of ethics was an attempt to normalize the population.

Reading Seneca, Plutarch, and all those people, I discovered that there were a very great number of problems about the self, the ethics of the self, the technology of the self—and I had the idea of writing a book composed of a set of separate studies, papers about such and such aspects of ancient, pagan technology of the self.

What is the title?

Le Souci de Soi, which is separate from the sex series, is composed of different papers about the self (for instance, a commentary on Plato’s Alcibiades in which you find the first elaboration of the notion of epimeleia heautou, “care of oneself”), about the role of reading and writing in constituting the self, maybe the problem of the medical experience of the self, and so on….

What strikes me is that in Greek ethics people were concerned with their moral conduct, their ethics, their relations to themselves and to others much more than with religious problems. For instance, what happens to us after death? What are the gods? Do they intervene or not? These are very, very unimportant problems for them; they are not directly related to ethics, to conduct. The second thing is that ethics was not related to any social—or at least to any legal—institutional system. For instance, the laws against sexual misbehavior were few and not very compelling. The third thing is that what they were worried about, their theme, was to constitute an ethics which was an aesthetics of existence.

Well, I wonder if our problem nowadays is not, in a way, similar, since most of us no longer believe that ethics is founded in religion, nor do we want a legal system to intervene in our moral, personal, private lives. Recent liberation movements suffer from the fact that they cannot find any principle on which to base the elaboration of a new ethics. They need an ethics, but they cannot find any ethics other than an ethics founded on so-called scientific knowledge of what the self is, what desire is, what the unconscious is, and so on. I am struck by this similarity of problems.

Do you think that the Greeks offer an attractive and plausible alternative?

No! I am not looking for an alternative; you can’t find the solution of any problem in a solution of a different problem raised at another time by other people. You see, what I want to do is not the history of solutions, and that’s the reason why I don’t accept the word alternative. I would like to do the genealogy of problems, of problématiques. My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism.

I think that the ethico-political choice we have to make every day is to determine which is the main danger. Take as an example Robert Castel’s analysis of the history of the antipsychiatry movement (La Gestion des Risques). I agree completely with what Castel says, but that does not mean, as some people suppose, that the mental hospitals were better than antipsychiatry; that does not mean that we were not right to criticize those mental hospitals.

So, Greek life may not have been altogether perfect; still it seems an attractive alternative to endless Christian self-analysis.

Greek ethics was linked to a purely virile society with slaves, in which the women were underdogs whose pleasure had no importance, whose sexual life had to be oriented only toward, even determined by, their status as wives, and so on.

So the women were dominated, but surely homosexual love was better than now.

It might look that way. Since there is an important and large literature about loving boys in Greek culture, some historians say, “Well, that’s the proof that they loved boys.” But I say that proves that loving boys was a problem. Because if there were no problem, they would speak of this kind of love in the same terms as love between men and women. The problem was that they couldn’t accept that a young boy who was supposed to become a free citizen could be dominated and used as an object for someone else’s pleasure. A woman, a slave, could be passive: such was their nature, their status. All this philosophizing about the love of boys—with always the same conclusion: please, don’t treat a boy as a woman—is proof that they could not integrate this real practice in the framework of their social selves.

You can see through a reading of Plutarch how they couldn’t even imagine reciprocity of pleasure between a boy and a man. If Plutarch finds problems in loving boys, it is not at all in the sense that loving boys was antinatural or something like that. He says, in effect, “It’s not possible that there could be any reciprocity in the physical relations between a boy and a man.”

It seems certain that we do not feel comfortable in our present-day civilization, but it is very difficult to form an opinion whether and in what degree men of an earlier age felt happier and what part their cultural conditions played in the matter. We shall always tend to consider people’s distress objectively—that is, to place ourselves, with our own wants and sensibilities, in their conditions, and then to examine what occasions we should find in them for experiencing happiness or unhappiness … Happiness, however, is essentially subjective. No matter how much we may shrink with horror from certain situations—of a galley-slave in antiquity, of a peasant during the Thirty Years’ War, of a victim of the Holy Inquisition, of a Jew awaiting a pogrom—it is nevertheless impossible for us to feel our way into such people.
— Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontent

Link: Genetics and Homosexuality

Sexual preference is one of the most strongly genetically determined behavioural traits we know of. A single genetic element is responsible for most of the variation in this trait across the population. Nearly all (>95%) of the people who inherit this element are sexually attracted to females, while about the same proportion of people who do not inherit it are attracted to males. This attraction is innate, refractory to change and affects behaviour in stereotyped ways, shaped and constrained by cultural context. It is the commonest and strongest genetic effect on behaviour that we know of in humans (in all mammals, actually). The genetic element is of course the Y chromosome.

The idea that sexual behaviour can be affected by – even largely determined by – our genes is therefore not only not outlandish, it is trivially obvious. Yet claims that differences in sexual orientationmay have at least a partly genetic basis seem to provoke howls of scepticism and outrage from many, mostly based not on scientific arguments but political ones.

The term sexual orientation refers to whether your sexual preference matches the typical preference based on whether or not you have a Y chromosome. It is important to realise that it therefore refers to four different states, not two: (i) has Y chromosome, is attracted to females; (ii) has Y chromosome, is attracted to males; (iii) does not have Y chromosome, is attracted to males; (iv) does not have Y chromosome, is attracted to females. We call two of these states heterosexual and two of them homosexual. (This ignores the many inpiduals whose sexual preferences are not so exclusive or rigid).

A recent twin study confirms that sexual orientation is moderately heritable – that is, that variation in genes contributes to variation in this trait. These effects are detected by looking at pairs of twins and determining how often, when one of them is homosexual, the other one is too. This rate is much higher (30-50%) in monozygotic, or identical, twins (who share all of their DNA sequence), than in dizygotic, or fraternal, twins (who share only half of their DNA), where the rate is 10-20%. If we assume that the environments of pairs of mono- or dizygotic twins are equally similar, then we can infer that the increased similarity in sexual orientation in pairs of monozygotic twins is due to their increased genetic similarity.

These data are not yet published (or peer reviewed) but were presented by Dr. Michael Bailey at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting (Feb 12th 2014) and widely reported on. They confirm and extend findings from multiple previous twin studies across several different countries, which have all found fairly similar results (see here for more details). Overall, the conclusion that sexual orientation is partly heritable was already firmly made. 

The reaction to news of this recent study reveals a deep disquiet with the idea that homosexuality may arise due to genetic differences. First, there are those who scoff at the idea that such a complex behaviour could be determined by what may be only a small number of genetic differences – perhaps only one. As I recently discussed, this view is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what genetic findings really mean. Finding that a trait (a difference in some system) can be affected by a single genetic difference does not mean a single gene is responsible for crafting the entire system – it simply means that the system does not work normally in the absence of that gene. (Just as a car does not work well without its steering wheel).

Others have expressed a variety of personal and political reactions to these findings, ranging from welcoming further evidence of a biological basis for sexual orientation to worry that it will be used to label homosexuality a genetic disorder and even to enable selective abortion based on genetic prediction. The latter possibility may be made more technically feasible by the other aspect of the recently reported study, which was the claim that they have mapped genetic variants affecting sexual orientation to two specific regions of thegenome. (This doesn’t mean they have identified specific genetic variants but may be a step towards doing so).

Let’s explore what the data in this case really show and really mean. A variety of conclusions can be drawn from this and previous studies:

1. Differences in sexual orientation are partly attributable to genetic differences.

2. Sexual orientation in males and females is controlled by distinct sets of genes. (Dizygotic twins of opposite sex show no increased similarity in sexual orientation compared to unrelated people – if a female twin is gay, there is no increased likelihood that her twin brother will be too, and vice versa).

3. Male sexual orientation is rather more strongly heritable than female.

4. The shared family environment has no effect on male sexual orientation but may have a small effect on female sexual orientation.

5. There must also be non-genetic factors influencing this trait, as monozygotic twins are still often discordant (more often than concordant, in fact).

The fact that sexual orientation in males and females is influenced by distinct sets of genetic variants is interesting and leads to a fundamental insight: heterosexuality is not a single default state. It emerges from distinct biological processes that actively match the brain circuitry of (i) males or (ii) females to their chromosomal andgonadal sex so that most inpiduals who carry a Y chromosome are attracted to females and most people who do not are attracted to males.

What is being regulated, biologically, is not sexual orientation (whether you are attracted to people of the same or opposite sex), but sexual preference (whether you are attracted to males or females). Given how complex the processes of sexual differentiation of the brain are (involving the actions of many different genes), it is not surprising that they can sometimes be impaired due to variation in those genes, leading to a failure to match sexual preference to chromosomal sex. Indeed, we know of many specific mutations that can lead to exactly such effects in other mammals – it would be surprising if similar events did not occur in humans.

These studies are consistent with the idea that sexual preference is a biological trait – an innate characteristic of an inpidual, not strongly affected by experience or family upbringing. Not a choice, in other words. We didn’t need genetics to tell us that – personal experience does just fine for most people. But this kind of evidence becomes important when some places in the world (like Uganda, recently) appeal to science to claim (wrongly) that there is evidence that homosexuality is an active choice and use that claim directly to justify criminalisation of homosexual behaviour.

Importantly, the fact that sexual orientation is only partly heritable does not at all undermine the conclusion that it is a completely biological trait. Just because monozygotic twins are not always concordant for sexual orientation does not mean the trait is not completely innate. Typically, geneticists use the term “non-shared environmental variance” to refer to factors that influence a trait outside of shared genes or shared family environment. The non-shared environment term encompasses those effects that explain why monozygotic twins are actually less than identical for many traits (reflecting additional factors that contribute to variance in the trait across the population generally).

The terminology is rather unfortunate because “environmental” does not have its normal colloquial meaning in this context. It does not necessarily mean that some experience that an inpidual has influences their phenotype. Firstly, it encompasses measurement error (just the difficulty in accurately measuring the trait, which is particularly important for behavioural traits). Secondly, it includes environmental effects prior to birth (in utero), which may be especially important for brain development. And finally, it also includes chance or noise – in this case, intrinsic developmental variation that can have dramatic effects on the end-state or outcome of brain development. This process is incredibly complex and noisy, in engineering terms, and the outcome is, like baking a cake, never the same twice. By the time they are born (when the buns come out of the oven), the brains of monozygotic twins are already highly unique.

Genetic differences may thus change the probability of an outcome over many instances, without determining the specific outcome in any inpidual. 

A useful analogy is to handedness. Handedness is only moderately heritable but is effectively completely innate or intrinsic to the inpidual. This is true even though the preference for using one hand over the other emerges only over time. The harsh experiences of many in the past who were forced (sometimes with deeply cruel and painful methods) to write with their right hands because left-handedness was seen as aberrant – even sinful – attest to the fact that the innate preference cannot readily be overridden. All the evidence suggests this is also the case for sexual preference.

What about concerns that these findings could be used as justification for labelling homosexuality a disorder? These are probably somewhat justified – no doubt some people will use it like that. And that places a responsibility on geneticists to explain that just because something is caused by genetic variants – i.e., mutations – does not mean it necessarily should be considered a disorder. We don’t consider red hair a disorder, or blue eyes, or pale skin, or – any longer – left-handedness. All of those are caused by mutations.

The word mutation is rather loaded, but in truth we are all mutants. Each of us carries hundreds of thousands of genetic variants, andhundreds of those are rare, serious mutations that affect the function of some protein. Many of those cause some kind of difference to our phenotype (the outward expression of our genotype). But a difference is only considered a disorder if it negatively impacts on someone’s life. And homosexuality is only a disorder if society makes it one.