By Zygmunt Bauman
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Extra resources for Alone Again (Demos Papers)
Some rights reserved. uk/openaccess New Ethics in Search of New Politics of being sure of nothing, of being never able to say with confidence ‘I have arrived’? What about seeing in the neighbourhood only a jungle to be warily and fearfully watched, in the stranger only a beast to hide from; what about the privatised prisons of burglar-proof homes? Life has not got to be like this. The space we co-habit may be well and consensually structured; in such a space, in which many things vital to the life of each of us (transport, schools, surgeries, media of communication) are shared, we may see each other as conditions, rather than obstacles, to our well-being.
In Jeffrey Weeks’ apt phrase, ‘humanity is not an essence to be realised, but a pragmatic construction, a perspective, to be developed through the articulation of the variety of individual projects, of differences, which constitute our humanity in the broadest sense’. It was the American political scientist Albert Hirschman who first suggested that people may influence the affairs which concern them in two ways: through voice or through exit (not by accident did Hirschman take as his model the actions undertaken by people in their capacity of consumers): ‘voice’ stands for demanding changes in the kind of things done and the way they are done; ‘exit’ – for turning one’s back on disliked things altogether and going elsewhere to seek satisfaction.
Or do we know the several-generations-long effects of artificial insemination and in-vitro conception? These are serious questions, the kind of which we never had a need to ask before. We seem to require now an entirely new brand of ethics. An ethics made to the measure of the enormous distances of space and time on which we can act and on which we act even when we neither know nor intend it. The ‘first duty’ of such ethics, to quote Jonas again, is ‘visualising the long-range effects of technological enterprise’.