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243

Looking Backwards from the Year 2096

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M. Rorty, R. (2000). Looking Backwards from the Year 2096. In M. Rorty, R. Philosophy and Social Hope. Penguin, pp. 243-251

248

Perhaps the most vivid description of the American concept of fraternity is found in a passage from John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck describes a desperately impoverished family, dispossessed tenant farmers from Oklahoma, camped out at the edge of Highway 66, sharing their food with an even more desperate migrant family. Steinbeck writes: '''I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the movement has direction.' As long as people in trouble can sacrifice to help people who are in still worse trouble, Steinbeck insisted, there is fraternity, and therefore social hope.

The movement Steinbeck had in mind was the revolutionary socialism that he, like many other leftists of the 1930S, thought would be required to bring the First Great Depression to an end. 'The quality of owning,' he wrote, 'freezes you forever into the "I," and cuts you offforever from the "we.'" Late twentieth-century liberals no longer believed in getting rid of private ownership, but they agreed that the promise of American life could be redeemed only as long as Americans were willing to sacrifice for the sake of fellow Americans - only as long as they could see the government not as stealing their tax money but as needing it to prevent unnecessary suffering.

—p.248 by Richard M. Rorty 2 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps the most vivid description of the American concept of fraternity is found in a passage from John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck describes a desperately impoverished family, dispossessed tenant farmers from Oklahoma, camped out at the edge of Highway 66, sharing their food with an even more desperate migrant family. Steinbeck writes: '''I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the movement has direction.' As long as people in trouble can sacrifice to help people who are in still worse trouble, Steinbeck insisted, there is fraternity, and therefore social hope.

The movement Steinbeck had in mind was the revolutionary socialism that he, like many other leftists of the 1930S, thought would be required to bring the First Great Depression to an end. 'The quality of owning,' he wrote, 'freezes you forever into the "I," and cuts you offforever from the "we.'" Late twentieth-century liberals no longer believed in getting rid of private ownership, but they agreed that the promise of American life could be redeemed only as long as Americans were willing to sacrifice for the sake of fellow Americans - only as long as they could see the government not as stealing their tax money but as needing it to prevent unnecessary suffering.

—p.248 by Richard M. Rorty 2 years, 10 months ago