The Corner

Talent Usage & Powerful Effects on Society

Re: Kathryn’s post, Hirshman’s famously a philosopher, so maybe there’s some deep esoteric wisdom I’m missing. She writes: “Should we care if women leave the work force? Yes, because participation in public life allows women to use their talents and to powerfully affect society. And once they leave, they usually cannot regain the income or status they had.”

Couldn’t you substitute serial killers, basketball players, loom-operators, tall people.  smoothie-makers or just about any other category of human being/profession into that sentence? Maybe she’s so deep in the bunker that everyone she’s talking to already understands what she’s saying, or she takes as much for granted. But I’m missing a compelling moral argument here. Talent usage and powerful effects can be good or bad for society, can’t they?  Moreover, as Kathryn suggests, you need to ask, At what cost? If ditch-diggers leave the work force, they won’t be able to use their talents and might even “powerfully affect society.” But if they’re leaving the workforce to do something better than ditchdigging (by their own account or some other measurement) that might be preferable, no? The problem at the end of the day is that Hirschman has decided that contributing to the body politic (for her, it seems economic productivity is a political act) is the only true and legitimate measurement of female self-expression. And we all know that self-expression is better than self-sacrifice. 

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