Arguing the Joseph Harris Way

Chapter 3 of Joseph Harris’s Rewriting discusses how to use countering in your writing. According to Harris, “to counter is not to nullify but to suggest, a different way of thinking. Its defining phrases are On the other hand… and Yes, but” (Harris 56). There are three main ways to counter someone’s idea, arguing the other side, uncovering values, and dissenting. The strategy which I will be addressing is arguing the other side, which Harris defines as, “showing the usefulness of a term or idea that a writer has criticized or noting problems with one that she or he has argued for” ( Harris 57). To fully understand and utilize this technique, I will argue against Anthony Giddens’ idea that a capitalist society is a society only because it is a nation-state.

Giddens is saying that the nation-state is an embodiment of the people who live within its borders, and if the nation-state was not officially established, then capitalism wouldn’t be able to function properly and there wouldn’t be society. Giddens states “For, given its expansionist characteristics, capitalistic economic life is only in a few respect confined to the boundaries of specific social systems. From its early origins capitalism is international in scope. A capitalist society is a “society” only because it is a nation-state” (Giddens 57). He is stating that capitalism wouldn’t function in a society without well established nation states like the pre-modern states.

Giddens argument is correct in the fact that capitalism runs on an international scale, and it defines the societies that live within each nation-state as actual societies, but I believe that without nation states capitalism would be a society. Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.  The owners are the people, not the government. I believe that this establishes a social hierarchy, in the fact that owners of capital, are high than those who own no capital. This in itself is a society. Society finds a way to create itself in almost all types of systems, because as humans we long for a sense of community, and try to establish our own communities. Even in an anarchist system, people will group to each other in order to survive, thus creating a society. Humans don’t need definitive borders to establish a society, especially if they have the foundations of capitalism to build on.

2 thoughts on “Arguing the Joseph Harris Way

  1. Evan, you did a great job of “arguing the other side” against Giddens. I also disagree with Giddens in that “if the nation-state was not officially established, then capitalism wouldn’t be able to function properly and there wouldn’t be society”. You backed up your argument against this very well, especially when you stated that, “Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state”. Additionally, your explanation of the social hierarchy that is formed seems quite possible. Do you think that Giddens has considered that humans long to be apart of a community in his argument that “A capitalist society is a ‘society’ only because it is a nation state” (Giddens 57)? Or that a government (in general) is not necessary to form a society?

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  2. Evan, in the first chapter of your post you do a great job of explaining where the rest of the blog post was going and how you planned to talk about one of Giddens’ more confusing points of capitalism. When explaining what form of countering you where going to use, you use the quotation, “showing the usefulness of a term or idea that a writer has criticized or noting problems with one that she or he has argued for.” (Harris 57). You did exactly this, especially when you say, “Giddens argument is correct in the fact that capitalism runs on an international scale, and it defines the societies that live within each nation-state as actual societies, but I believe that without nation states capitalism would be a society.” This is something I have never thought of before but makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Do you think that without nation state capitalism, the society you mention would be an economically thriving one?

    -AP

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