Advocatory Ethics and Sexual Politics

Abstract

Every case law depends on generalisable versions of the legal norms, which can be interpreted and substantiated in the individual cases. The legal definition of the best interests of the child is negative: The best interests of the child can only be determined from the perspective of their endangerment. However, if legal discourses are mixed with popular and socio-political discourses, the norm of the welfare of children to be safeguarded, which is dependent on generalisation, can become independent in a highly problematic way. In the first part of this chapter, Micha Brumlik’s Advocatory Ethics are reconstructed, and in the second part, the current discourse in Germany on “Sexual Education of Diversity” is analysed, in which the protection of the welfare of the child is specifically referred to. I further argue that the systematically necessary abstraction from the concrete content of the only negatively determinable child welfare makes this concept susceptible to (political) instrumentalizations. Discussions of the best interests of the child are therefore indispensably dependent on their mediation with analyses of concrete, socially and historically always contingent constellations.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Brumlik uses the German term Unmündige, which means more than just minor children and adolescents. The term stems from the concept of Unmündigkeit, which is in English translations of Kant’s works translated as tutelage (Beck 1963), as immaturity (Ferrer 2013) or as minority (Gregor 1999). Kant’s own definition of Unmündigkeit, set out in the famous 1974 essay on the question of “What is Enlightenment?” reads as follows in the translation of Mary J. Gregor in the Cambridge Edition of the works of Immanuel Kant : “Minority is inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another.” (Ibid., p. 17) Thus, the term is not only applied to children and underage adolescents, but also to all human beings not being able to speak fully for themselves – for whatever natural or social reasons. Consequently, Unmündige includes the elderly losing their abilities to live independently by themselves or people with disabilities in need of support and guidance by others – simply all people ultimately being subjected to tutelage.

  2. 2.

    Sonja Buckel (2007, 2016) has reconstructed the automatization of law in dogmatics and legal practice, the fact that both can only be handled by juridical intellectuals as well as the constitutive meaning of the legal form within which law alone can be litigated, within the framework of her materialistic theory of law.

  3. 3.

    Again, the case is different regarding social work and social policy; transferring principles and methods developed in the context of children’s education into the strikingly different context of social work and social policy is indeed highly problematic. I cannot further go into this at this point though.

  4. 4.

    As proclaimed by Ekkehard von Braunmühl (1975) or in Hubertus von Schoenebeck’s German Children’s Manifesto (cf. Klemm 1992).

  5. 5.

    In his polemic against the humanistic pedagogy dominant in the German-speaking world at the turn of the century Siegfried Bernfeld defines education – more broadly, “the entire educational complex” (cf. Bernfeld 1973/1925, p. 34) – drastically and simply as merely the societal response to the “fact of child development” (ibid.).

  6. 6.

    The translations of the quotations by Micha Brumlik are by the author herself as there is no translation of his works into English yet.

  7. 7.

    Ricœur acknowledges these hermeneutics of suspicion as developed in the “school of suspicion” (Ricœur’s 1970, p. 33) dominated by its three masters Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as a methodology doubting the status quo, a “battle against masks” (ibid.: 30), intended to lift the veil or tear off the (false) front of placeholders for a hidden truth. Opposed to these hermeneutics in the lines of the critique of ideology Ricœur sees the hermeneutics of faith trying to reconstruct meaning with as little distortion as possible (cf. Josselsen 2014).

  8. 8.

    The German term pädagogischer Bezug stems from Hermann Nohl’s (1982/1933) discussion of the basic conditions of educational processes. According to Nohl (ibid., p. 134 f.) this basis is the passionate relationship of a mature human being to a young, becoming human being for the sake of her or his own life. Thereby, the relationship of the educator to the child is doubly determined, namely by the love for the child in her or his real living situation and by the love for the ideal of the (future) child, the goal being to promote the child, guide her or him and ignite the higher life in her or him. All efforts, both of the educator and the child, serve to build the future of the young person through education and training and to lead her or him to independence and self-responsibility.

  9. 9.

    In Civilization and Its Discontents Freud speaks of Anankē as what he calls “vital necessity” (Freud 1964/1930, 97) [Lebensnot/Not des Lebens]; something Lacan later interprets as “pressure, urgency", or "the state of emergency in life” (Lacan 1992/1959–60, p. 46). Freud thinks of Anankē as necessary to form the subject, and he speaks of Anankē and Eros as “parents of human civilization” (Freud 1964/1930, p. 101), specifically of Anankē as a strict educator of the human drive. So it is Anankē forcing the newborn to become active and acquire means and ways to live and survive in the world she or he was born into. On the bodily as well as the social circumstances of “Lebensnot” cf. Kirchhoff 2014.

  10. 10.

    The problem of the separation of morality and ethical life still is an unsolved problem of moral philosophy though, while the strictly formal approach to moral problems is still widely practiced (cf. Hogh 2017).

  11. 11.

    This is not a question of whether advocatory ethics depend on the “anticipatable, possible consent of the individuals concerned” (Brumlik 1992, p. 110), because the fact that they do so is, as stated, Brumlik’s argument against the universalistic validity of the criticized transcendental and universal pragmatic ethics. The question rather refers to how the mediation of the norm can and should be carried out with the moral content concerned and the real constellations of relationships in childhood environments.

  12. 12.

    The misleading title here aims to undo the ‘gender-ideological’ exclusion of heterosexual small families and lifestyles that was allegedly already carried out and to reinclude the ‘worried’ who now think themselves marginalized.

  13. 13.

    An overview of the discussions in public media in the summer of 2014 following Weber’s vilification of Sex Education of Diversity as “negligent pseudo-sex education” (transl. by the author) cf. Bunt and Brenner 2014.

  14. 14.

    The Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) is a far-right political party in Germany founded in 2013. While AfD narrowly missed the 5% electoral threshold to sit in the Bundestag during the 2013 federal election, they thrived off increasing anti-immigrant discourses all over Europe and became the third-largest party in the Bundestag in 2017. Representatives of the AfD have been linked to and some have openly been active in racist, anti-muslim, anti-Semitic and overall xenophobic as well as sexist movements.

  15. 15.

    The sex education programs in question include the possibility to have a look at dummies of sexual organs.

  16. 16.

    Cilly Kaletsch, Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 7th, 2014.

  17. 17.

    However, this does not need to irritate, as children simply do not yet draw proportionally and paint large in their pictures what they are currently preoccupied with (Eich 2005, ibid.).

  18. 18.

    This quotation by Johannes Rörig as well as the following quotations from the German Child Protection Services (Pfeifle 2013) are translated by the author.

  19. 19.

    Cf. for a critical discussion of this complex and precarious matter Clancy 2009; Becker 2011, p. 7 f.

  20. 20.

    Striking in the studies on children’s perspective of child work (cf. Woodhead 1999; Montgomery 2009; James 2007).

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König, J. Advocatory Ethics and Sexual Politics. Childhood Vulnerability 1, 67–82 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41255-019-00006-4

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Keywords

  • Advocatory ethics
  • Child welfare
  • Children's sexuality
  • Sexual politics
  • Primacy of the object