Dignity & Humiliation

EDITORIAL, 20 Feb 2023

#784 | Prof. Howard Richards - TRANSCEND Media Service

Acceptance of the Lifetime Commitment Award from the
Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Association

I do not receive an award like this very often. So far in my life I have received such an award only once in 83 years.  At the rate I am going I would have to wait until after my 166th birthday for another opportunity to explain such an important concept to such a wonderful audience.  The important concept is structural humiliation.   The wonderful audience is you.

Structural Humiliation has a flip side: It creates dignified livelihoods that do not depend on sales.  Humiliation is the problem.  Dignified livelihoods are the solution.   They are two sides of the same coin.

Structural humiliation is the inevitable consequence of a labor market that depends on sales revenues.  The employees make goods and services.  The firm sells them.  Part of the money from sales goes to pay their wages.

Thinking globally, in the modern world system, the overall result is that  the people who need to sell something to get money vastly outnumber the employers who find it profitable to hire them.  Similarly, it is impossible to lift all the poor out of poverty by making them into micro entrepreneurs with micro businesses.

Inevitably, millions will be humiliated because they cannot perform as a human being is expected to perform.  They cannot comply with normal expectations, like dressing nicely, paying your bills, and supporting your children.     A world where decent jobs are scarce is a win or lose world.   In the ensuing conflict, racism, sexism, mass migration, prejudice against migrants, violence against truth, violence against basic civility, and violence against mother earth become inevitable.

Therefore, the ethical imperative: Create dignified livelihoods that do not depend on sales.  Donate regularly to a nonprofit.  Your donation helps pay for a dignified livelihood for somebody.

At the level of public policy, move income from natural resources to the public purse.  An example is Norway´s huge sovereign wealth fund.  Then from the public purse pay people to  reforest after fires, and in general to  save humanity from ecological disaster.

These two examples could be multiplied.  When you understand the problem and think about ways to solve it, you find that the positive possibilities are unbounded.


10 Dec 2021 – Download PDF file:

Howard Richards Lifetime Commitment Award 2021


Prof. Howard Richards is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. . He is Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College and he also currently teaches in the University of Cape Town`s EMBA programme. He was educated at Redlands High School in California, Yale, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, University of Toronto, Harvard and Oxford. His books include: The Evaluation of Cultural Action, a study of an application of Paulo Freire´s pedagogical philosophy in rural Chile (London Macmillan 1985); Letters from Quebec; Understanding the Global Economy; The Dilemmas of Social Democracies; Gandhi and the Future of Economics; Rethinking Thinking; Unbounded Organizing in Community; and The Nurturing of Time Future. His new book, written with the assistance of Gavin Andersson, Economic Theory and Community Development: Why Putting Community First Is Essential for our Survival, is available from the publisher, Dignity Press, and from Amazon and other major booksellers, as a print book and as an eBookhowardrichards8@gmail.com and howardri@earlham.edu.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 Feb 2023.

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