“A concept introduced by Howard S. Becker (in ‘Whose Side are we on?’, Social Problems, 1967), to capture social inequalities and the moral hierarchy of society. For Becker, those at the top (of an organization or a society) are seen to be more credible, those at the bottom less so. Indeed, the ‘underdogs’ may be completely discredited and pathologized, and often do not have a voice at all. He argued, as part of a wider debate in deviancy theory about the role of values in sociological research, that it may be the sociologist’s task to help the marginalized ‘underdogs’ to find a voice.”

The hierarchy of credibility.

For this post I am operating on some assumptions:

  • That the left has their own hierarchy of credibility based on their ‘education’ level. Based off phrases such as “educate yourself” and “its not my job to educate you.”
  • That engagement with the issues the left brings up to the table REQUIRES someone thoroughly educate themselves on the various arguments so that they can synthesize a response to whatever argument is presented.
  • That without this higher level of understanding beyond and outside and often completely critical to their own world view, no person can effectively argue with ‘the left’ without the accusation of bias, bigotry or personal deficiency.
  • That the left stoutly refuses to do this for ‘the right’. That being: educate themselves on and about the varying perspective based lenses of understanding on ‘the right’ so as to come to a political argument synthesized from their own world view and thus be more likely to win ‘change’.
  • That ‘the left’s rise as a dominant method of understanding, inquiry and opposition is highly based in identity politics.
  • That identity politics has given some awesome things to our political discourse, not the least of which a voice to many oppressed identities. But that the nature of identity politics is based on a static and unchanging identity upon the basis of which inalienable rights should be bequeathed… flies in the face of knowledge about identity itself which is a process whereby we are in constant conversation with ourselves and updating our identity. That this dichotomy  does not invalidate identity politics but indicates that identity politics needs updating.

The ‘left’s inversion of the hierarchy of credibility is WRONG and hurts discourse in my opinion because it does not challenge the nature of the hierarchy itself. It simply elevates a different knowledge.

This is sad and fails to be ground breaking. But things that fail to be ground breaking are safe. There is safety in the collective worship of a different hierarchy, there is safety in aggressively attacking the hierarchy only when it appeals to you and you know  you  will have people agreeing with you.

Which is what I accuse the left of.

Further reading:
Methods from the Margins by Sandra Kirby and Kate McKenna
Here’s a google scholar link to the article but it appears in Critical Strategies for Social Research, which I own and took some of the class Carroll built around it for his textbook. I’m intensely grateful to have had the chance to take his class and feel I’m extremely lucky now that I’ve realized how deeply my beliefs are informed by the things I learned in it. The hierarchy of credibility is also in this book.

Whose side are we on? By Howard S. Becker

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