Interdependence: Its Value and Limits for Social Ethics
Stone Porter, Andrew
Does awareness of interdependence with human and nonhuman others produce a moral commitment to social responsibility? This dissertation examines “interdependence” in its political, economic, quanto-bio-cosmic, and moral theological dimensions in order to assess its normative value for social ethics. Many feminist, womanist, process, ecological and liberationist thinkers regard interdependence as a positive ethical value. Moreover, interdependence has emerged as a paradigm for post-Newtonian science at the quantum, biological and cosmic levels. However, this dissertation shows interdependence to be a morally ambiguous symbol susceptible to hegemonic appropriation. The dissertation considers three forms of co-optation of interdependence: Race and interdependence as “integration,” the purported solution to American white supremacy; gender and interdependence as “complementarity” in the theology of John Paul II; and capitalism and interdependence as economic “globalization.” Although an ambiguous symbol (or a “grotesque” symbol using Victor Anderson’s phrasing), interdependence is not morally insignificant. Rather, as Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive method reveals, ethical ideals are inevitably haunted by internal divisions and aporias. Acknowledging these limitations as a critical task of social ethics does not render ethical values meaningless, but instead enables us to employ them responsibly. Tempered by its critical assessment of interdependence, this dissertation proceeds to recover “responsible interdependence” as a symbol and value for social ethics and social justice.