Joshua Knobe and John Jost discuss the latter’s research into “System Justification Theory” at Bloggingheads. System Justification is, apparently, what is at work when a poor person says that capitalism is the best system for the worst off in society; or when a biologist claims that Lysenkoism is the best system for advancing the study of evolution. I thought another term for this was “false consciousness,” but perhaps this is too Lenin dependent and SJT is something entirely different.

Now, the idea of “false consciousness” runs afoul of the claim by adherents of radical uncertainty, to which I’m sympathetic, that it is simply begging the question to imply that it is known that capitalism, socialism or some “third way” concoction is the best system for someone, poor or otherwise, to live under. Without this certainty, there is nothing necessarily “false” about any body’s consciousness.

But perhaps SJT is something entirely different.

Toward the end of the discussion, utilizing what Jost claims, partially by way of Jonathan Haidt, that liberal activists are open-minded personality types who don’t shy away from new experiences, Knobe suggests that the stereotype of the activist as a dogmatic ideologue is wrong – at least in the case of the liberal ones. But I don’t see how this is at odds with Philip Converse’s, and, subsequently, folks like George E. Marcus’ findings testifying to the opposite.  A personality style that is open to new experiences can be wedded to a belief system that “new experiences” are superior to traditional ones quite handily. Anyone seen a bumper sticker that reads “Keep ___ Weird,” with the blank space probably reading “Austin,” “Portland,” or “Santa Cruz”? When the desire to be open-minded to new experiences becomes this self aware, to the point of preserving the alleged result of spontaneity and free-thought, it sort of neuters the concept of grasping in the dark for such experiences and where they might take you, literally or metaphorically.

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