Instrumental Dissent vs. Expressive Dissent

“Instrumental dissent is an expression of civic responsibility insofar as it aims to hold political leaders accountable for their decisions. Expressive dissent, in contrast, is an aesthetic, a self-expression that is an end in itself. It is not patriotic but more ‘a-patriotic’. I see it as an expression of freedom rather than of productive criticism. instrumental dissent aims to improve the moral quality of the Res Publica. I’m not sure I can say the same thing about expressive dissent.”

–Richard Miller, chair of religious studies at Indiana University

Talk amongst yourselves. I’m too verklempt.

So, opinions of this? Who has recently done real instrumental dissent and who has merely been indulging in expressive dissent?

But if you can’t win today you should roll over? Bollocks to that.

That’s one way to put it. Another is duty.

There is a time and a strategic dimension to these things. As a member of a civil liberties group - and as a professional economist - I expect to be unpopular today. In the current climate in my country I expect to lose most times.

But I expect cooler heads to prevail - given a historical base of dutiful, principled opposition - in the longer term. And the predictability of people like me in opposing the politically expedient today makes it more costly to those fools and opportunists who would otherwise have the field unopposed.

The supposed distinction is weak: it ignores the power of agenda setters and the overweening importance of the crisis of the day. It supposes that good policy and real accountability is a day-to-day proposition rather than a set of rules to guard against temptation when information is poor and the blood is hot.

I’m committed.

Fascinating. So, you are of the opinion that actually working to change things without a screamfest is worthless. Why is this? Likewise, can you point out SPECIFICALLY where the statement was that accountability is a day-to-day proposition and that dissent boils down to a single act?

Perhaps your “analysis” was too simple-minded. Do you really put the Dixie Chicks on the exact same level of dissenter as the Mahatma Ghandi?


Oy. Such a faaancy ti’le. What kind of meshuga question is it, anyway?:slight_smile:

Interesting, I was thinking about this the other day, although not in such lofty terms. There are still people protesting the war right now, and I asked myself: What for? This has to be a “feel good” protest. The war, for all intents and purposes, is over. There was some statement about “troops out of Iraq”, but how could anyone really think that was the right thing to do at this point. They want we should leave now?? These are the same people who were screaming a few weeks ago that soldiers didn’t protect the Iraqi museum.

Dogface: you proposed an interesting question. Then you had to say “So, you are of the opinion that actually working to change things without a screamfest is worthless.” Why?

I don’t honestly see a difference between the two kinds of dissent Miller proposes. If some people are protesting just to express themselves, that’s fine, but all protest is an attempt to change things as far as I can tell. It sort of sounds to me like the distinction is being made just so some dissent can be termed worthless or non-productive and the other kind productive. Too rife with opportunities for value judgment for my taste. I’d say dissent is a good thing in and of itself; it keeps the democratic process from atrophying.