Philosophy for Business


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Launched on 2 November 2003, Philosophy for Business is an e-journal published by the International Society for Philosophers, looking at philosophical and ethical aspects of business practice.

We are aiming for a wide circulation to companies and corporations around the world, as well as academic philosophers.

In order to gain the widest possible readership, articles should be written in simple, non-technical language. The target length is 2500 words.

Some themes that we will be looking at:

   Globalization and monopoly
   Is business ethics possible?
   Philosophy of economics
   Practical ethics
   Idea of a code of conduct
   Freedom of speech
   Industrial democracy
   Whistle blowing
   Ecology and sustainability
   Education and health
   Business and the law
   Tax avoidance and evasion

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Geoffrey Klempner


Marco Senatore

Peter S Borkowski

Dena Hurst

Sean Jasso

International Society for Philosophers
[back to archive]

P H I L O S O P H Y   F O R   B U S I N E S S           ISSN 2043-0736

Issue number 67
26th May 2011


I. 'Issues in Workplace Accommodations for People with Disabilities'
by Andrew Ward, Paul M.A. Baker and Nathan Moon

II. 'The Necessity of Lying' by Max Malikow

III. 'Genealogy of Pop' by Lance Kirby



This issue of Philosophy for Business demonstrates, if nothing
else, the vast range of topics covered by the notion of a 'philosophy
of business' -- from the investigation of the assumptions underlying
disability legislation, to the philosophical examination of the
practice of lying, to the Nietzschean/ Marxist critique of the role
of capitalism in pop and rock music.

The main point of the contribution of Ward et. al. to the debate over
disability is the idea that the notion of disability is neither
exclusively medical nor social but rather 'bio-social'. It is the
complexity of notion of disability, as biologically based and yet
also partly socially constructed, which many of the participants in
the debate have missed. The legislation isn't there simply to force a
change in workplace arrangements, but also to effect a change in
social attitudes.

Max Malikow, who has previously published several articles in
Philosophy Pathways, looks at a question discussed at length
in the Pathways program 'Ethical Dilemmas' (downloadable from We recognize that at times lies
are necessary, yet, paradoxically, recognize that there is something
especially difficult in admitting this, by saying, 'In certain
circumstances I am prepared to tell a lie'. Why is this? Is it
possible to have a consistent attitude towards lying?

It states in the disclaimer to the Pathways e-journals, 'The views
expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect those of the
editor.' I disagree strongly with Lance Kirby's negative view of pop
and rock music, but I believe that the arguments deserve to be aired.
I would like to see a response. As it happens, one of my daughters is
a club DJ, while another sings in a rock band. To a considerable
extent, we share musical tastes; yet by common agreement, we listen
to classical music at mealtimes -- because it is more digestive.

Geoffrey Klempner



 I. Introduction

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990,
'historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate
individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such
forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities
continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.'[1] The intent
of the framers of the ADA was to protect people with disabilities from
discrimination in employment and public accommodations and services.
As stated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S.
Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, the ADA 'guarantees
equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public
accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local
government services, and telecommunications.'[2] However, even though
there is general agreement that passage of the ADA was 'a watershed in
the history of [U.S.] disability rights,'[3] and that it is 'the most
prominent change in social policy that focuses on the integration of
working-age people with disabilities into the workforce,'[4] there is
no consensus opinion about the appropriate theoretical perspective on
disability policy issues.

This absence of consensus may be due to the complex and
multi-disciplinary array of conditions and states that apparently
fall under the heading of 'disability', as well as to the diversity
of policy arenas and stakeholders. Indeed, some argue that the
diversity and personal character of disabilities precludes any
systemic academic treatment. For example, Corker and Shakespeare
write that 'existing theories of disability -- both radical and
mainstream -- are no longer adequate' because both kinds of theories
'seek to explain disability universally, and end up creating
totalizing, meta-historical narratives that exclude important
dimensions of disabled people's lives and of their knowledge.'[5]
While it is crucial that we attentively listen to, and include the
many voices that constitute the disabled community when reflecting
critically on disability issues, the creation of public policy, by
its very nature, imposes some kind of normative meta-narrative on the
practices of those protected and constrained by those policies. To
that end, the goal of this paper is to sketch out a broad framework
within which to understand public policy issues as they pertain
generally to disability issues and more specifically to workplace
accommodations for people with disabilities.

 II. Impairments and Disabilities

Although there is general agreement that the employment
opportunities of people with disabilities are fewer in number, and
more restricted in type than for people who do not have disabilities,
the conceptual framework of disability is largely ill defined.
Bickenbach, for instance, writes that the area of social policy
dealing with the 'sustained policy analysis of disability issues as
such... has historically suffered from basic ambiguities and
confusions' about goals, concepts and methodologies.[6] For policy
makers, these ambiguities, confusions and contestations are
especially important since, without a clear and well-defined concept
of what it means to be disabled and who is disabled, it is difficult,
at best, to collect and interpret data about the population of
disabled people.

In this context, there is considerable value in using the concepts of
functionings and capability developed in the writings of
Amartya Sen. According to Sen, whereas functionings are 'the various
things a person may value doing or being,'[7] capabilities are 'the
alternative combinations of functionings that are feasible' for a
person to achieve.[8] Regarding functionings, Sen writes that the
'valued functionings may vary from such elementary ones as being
adequately nourished and being free from avoidable diseases, to very
complex activities or personal states, such as being able to take
part in the life of the community and having self-respect.'[9] Thus,
whereas realized functionings 'represent parts of the state of a
person -- in particular the various things that he or she manages to
do or be in leading a life'[10] -- to which a person may assign
different values, capabilities refer to realistic opportunities a
person has to realize his or her sets of valued possible
functionings.[11] In this respect, the capabilities of a person are
the substantive freedoms a person has to achieve whatever it is that
he or she values. When the capabilities of a person (defined as sets
of possible functionings) are limited because of some physiological,
anatomical, or psychological factor, we can say that the individual
is impaired.[12] For example, a person with untreatable
Korsakoff's syndrome manifesting itself in the inability to form new
memories will lack capabilities dependent on the formation of new
memories and is, in that fashion, impaired.

Turning to the workplace, there are a number of jobs and tasks,
implicitly or explicitly defined by the workplace environment, that
require, according to norms established by the organization and the
workplace, certain functionings. For example, functionings within the
workplace may require certain visual or hearing functionings. When a
person has one or more impairments that prevent the person from
realizing those workplace functionings that he or she values, the
capabilities of the person are, relative to the workplace, limited by
those norms. Because of the impairments, either the organization will
not offer the person employment opportunities valued by the person,
or the opportunities valued by the person will be limited. In such
cases, because the attenuation of the person's workplace capabilities
is an attenuation of realistic choices created by organizationally
defined roles and tasks within a specific environment (the workplace
environment), the attenuation is more than just impairment
simpliciter. These impairments are a kind of disability, viz.
workplace disabilities. Thus, there is an irreducible social
character to the concept of disability generally, and workplace
disability specifically.

 III. Analyses for Policy Construction

Within the framework sketched out above, there are a number of
different ways to link the concept of workplace disability directly
to policies aiming to integrate people with disabilities into the
workplace. One linkage depends on noticing and explicating the
connection between disabilities and health lifestyles. According to
Cockerham, healthy lifestyles 'can be considered 'collective patterns
of health-related behavior based on choices from options available to
people according to their life chances.''[13] As Cockerham notes,
this characterization of lifestyles is Weberian in its 'depiction of
lifestyles as a collective form of health behavior resulting from the
interplay of choice and chance.'[14] Suppose, in this context, that we
understand choice in terms of Senian functionings. That is to say, let
'choice' refer to those various doings or conditions or states a
person values and so, all other things being equal, would choose.
Further, in a broadly Weberian spirit, suppose that we index the
choices (functionings) relative to a baseline 'normal' by
conceptualizing them as choices made within an idealized socially
constructed set of practices relative to a particular culture/
society. In effect, this entails that there is some socially
constructed range of 'normal choices' for a human being qua
human being that functions as a regulative idealization for the
culture/ society.

Sometimes there will be an attenuation of the choices (functionings)
of a person because of some physiological, anatomical, or
psychological characteristic of the person. For example, a blind
person cannot choose to 'see' a sunset, and a person who lacks
auditory capabilities cannot choose to 'hear' a symphony. In such
instances, there are often limitations on the number of realistic
opportunities the person has to realize his or her valued
functionings. In Senian terms, this means that there is an
attenuation of the capabilities of the person and, therefore, that
the person is impaired. When, because of particular anatomical, or
psychological characteristics, a person has fewer life chances than
does a 'normal person' (here understood as a socially constructed,
regulative ideal), then the person is impaired. Relative to the
socially constructed, regulative ideal, when the person does not have
fewer life chances, the person is not impaired. Put a bit differently,
the capabilities of a person who is impaired are sub-optimal relative
to the regulative, socially constructed ideal of the 'normal person'
as a human being qua human being. Because the capabilities of
an impaired person are sub-optimal, it follows that the choices an
impaired person may realistically hope to realize are, in one or more
respects, also sub-optimal. Since the choices an impaired person may
realistically hope to realize are sub-optimal, it follows that the
kinds of health-behaviors the person can engage in, understood
broadly as the activities 'taken by people for the purpose of
maintaining or enhancing their health, preventing health problems, or
achieving a positive body image,'[15] will be sub-optimal relative to
the 'normal person'. Because lifestyles refer to collective patterns
of health-related behavior based on choices from options available to
people according to their life chances, it follows that an impaired
person will be 'less healthy than the socially constructed ideal of
the 'normal person', and will have a more 'negative' lifestyle than
the lifestyle of the socially constructed ideal of the 'normal

What is important for policies addressing issues of inequality
resulting from disabilities is not economic equality per se,
but opportunity and 'upward mobility'. In the context of workplace
accommodations, it follows that there is an obligation for business
organizations to provide opportunities for employment, and for types
of employment, just in case providing the opportunities does not
result in any members of the business organization falling below the
standard of health and lifestyle of the socially constructed ideal of
the 'normal person'. There are times during which it is possible to
institute such accommodations, within the above parameters, using the
resources of the business organization itself. However, sometimes
instituting such accommodations may require the use of broader
societal resources -- e.g., tax incentives provided by the local,
state or federal government. When such extra-organizational support
is required, it becomes a complex matter involving issues in public
policy, politics and social ethics. In particular, the support must
be consistent with no one in the relevant community or society
falling below the standard of health and lifestyle of the socially
constructed ideal of the 'normal person'.

These complexities notwithstanding, the above analysis does address
what DeJong et al. claim to be one of the fundamental choices
when creating disability policies covering workplace accommodations.
Should such policies 'view working-age persons with disabilities as
(1) a group whose distinct needs warrant targeted (i.e., separate)
solutions or (2) a group whose needs should be resolved in the
context of larger health care reform'?[17] The answer, suggested by
the analysis above, is that the appropriate conceptualization comes
from linking the concepts of impairments and disabilities to the
concepts of health and lifestyle. Within this framework, policies to
address the needs of working-age people with disabilities occur
within the larger context of health-care reform.

While this analysis may seem to reflect what McElroy and Jezewski
characterize as 'a particularly Western bias about the autonomy of
the individual,'[18] this is not an entirely accurate assessment.
Because the socially constructed, regulative ideal of the 'normal
person' captures, for the society, what it means to be a human being
qua human being, it follows that the concept of impairment,
linked to the concepts of health and lifestyle, reflects an implicit
dialectical relationship between the society and the individual. As
Berger and Luckmann write, individual members of society
simultaneously externalize their own 'being into the social world'
and internalize 'it as an objective reality'.[19] Recognizing this
dialectic provides the means to address the concern of writers such
as Donoghue that functionalist characterizations of disability
reinforce acceptance of a medical model of disability. For example,
Donoghue writes that the 'American with Disabilities Act [ADA]
reproduces the medical definition by defining it as an inability to
perform a 'normal' life activity.'[20] However, by relocating the
creation of the regulative ideal of normalcy out of the jurisdiction
of medical professionals (or, more generally, out of the bio-medical
model) and into the broader arena of the myriad stakeholders
constituting civil society, impairment and disability
characterizations cease to be purely medical characterizations. In
this respect, the concept of disability is displaced from the
bio-medical model in which disability 'is defined as an observable
deviation from biomedical norms of structure or function that
directly results from a disease, trauma or other health

Perhaps the clearest instances of this shift occur in cases in which
the federal courts have dealt with the 'reasonable accommodation'
demands of the ADA. As noted by O'Brien, what changed between the
1970s and the 1990s was that in cases about ADA mandated reasonable
accommodations, 'federal court judges and justices stopped referring
to medical experts and starting acting like these experts
themselves.'[22] In doing this, the federal courts reflected the
broader interests and norms of society as opposed to the more
specialized interests of the medical profession, and thus further
'socialized' the concepts of impairment and disability.[23] Indeed,
the resulting concepts are neither exclusively medical (bio-medical)
nor social but, instead, bio-social.

Recall that what distinguishes workplace disabilities from
impairments is that workplace disabilities occur because of
organizational and workplace norms turn some physiological,
anatomical, or psychological characteristics of the person into
impairments within the workplace environment. In other words,
workplace disabilities are workplace created impairments, and as
such, have both a bio-medical component in the physiological,
anatomical and psychological characteristics of the person, and a
social component in the organizational and workplace norms.[24] For
example, suppose that, because of a chronic back problem, a person is
unable to use stairs to move from one level of a building to another.
Instead, the person must use some kind of assistive technology such
as an elevator or a ramp. In this case, because of the physical
characteristics of the person and the architectural environment of
the building, the person is impaired. Further, suppose that as part
of his or her job responsibilities, the person needs to go to
the fourth floor of a building and that the only access to the fourth
floor is by using stairs. In this case, the building poses an
environmental barrier to the person performing his or her job, and
the person has, relative to accessing the fourth floor of the
building, a workplace disability.

What is important is that workplace disabilities (environmental and
attitudinal) are 'social disabilities'; that is, they are
disabilities that exist because of limitations imposed on the ranges
of choices possible for impaired people 'situated within economic,
historical, family, cultural and political contexts.'[25] In the case
of the four-story building, the architecture and dependence on stairs
to move from one floor to another exemplifies a social norm of the
capabilities of people who use multistoried buildings. The
architecture of the building assumes the idealized standard of the
'normal person' as someone who is able to walk up a flight of stairs.
Other examples of socially instantiated norms include, but are not
limited to, the use of 'standard' telephones (e.g., telephones that
do not have TTY capabilities) relative to people who lack the ability
to hear, and the dependence on standard computer interfaces relative
to visually challenged people.

There are at least two important implications of this
characterization of impairment and disability. The first implication
is that disability, like impairment, is a kind of deviance (from the
norm). As Goffman writes, society 'established the means of
categorizing persons and the complement of attributes felt to be
ordinary and natural for members of each of the categories.'[26] When
people are not capable of functioning in the ways society tacitly or
explicitly categorizes as 'normal functioning' for human beings
qua human beings, the person is reduced 'from a whole and
usual person to a tainted, discounted one.'[27] In Goffman's
language, such people are stigmatized because of their deviation from
socially constructed norms of adequate or proper functioning.[28]
Furthermore, as Berger and Luckmann note, such cases 'have the
character of individual misfortune' precisely because the disabled
person has 'virtually no defense against the stigmatic identity
assigned' to him or her.[29] The upshot is that if we conceptualize
disability as an exception to socially constructed, regulative norms
of independence and self-sufficiency, then it follows that disability
is a kind of deviancy and stigma in Goffman's sense of the words.[30]
Similarly, a workplace disability, as an exception to an
organizationally constructed (or accepted from society) norm for the
necessary functionings of employees, is also a deviancy and stigma
(doubly so, since the inability to find employment or to find
employment of only a certain type may result in broader social

The second implication is that disabilities are not, typically, just
bio-medical conditions. Rather, in as much as disabilities generally,
and workplace disabilities specifically exist because of the social
and organizational norms that determine which set of possible
functionings a person is free to realize, it follows that
disabilities do not have an independent existence. They are 'not
something that exists 'out there' for the scientist or anyone else to
discover,' but are social/ organizational constructions that emerge
from and are sustained by social/ organizational interactions.[31]
Thus, the attempt to eliminate disabilities through only bio-medical
means cannot succeed.

For example, suppose that science has advanced sufficiently to
guarantee the capabilities of a person are not, relative to some
idealized, regulative socially defined norm, limited because of some
physiological, anatomical, or psychological factor of the person.
Further, suppose that we could somehow guarantee that injuries never
occurred that would limit the capabilities of the person, and that
the capabilities of people did not diminish because of old age. Would
it follow, on these suppositions, that we have eliminated
disabilities? The answer, seems to be 'no'; there may still be a
class of disabilities that exist, viz., the class of disabilities
qua deviances that reflect attitudinal categories of
condemnation and negative judgments. Examples of these kinds of
disabilities include, but are not limited to, racism, sexism and
ageism. Such attitudinal categories exist because of the social/
organizational interactions of people with one another, and so do not
depend exclusively on the physiological, anatomical, or psychological
characteristics of the person.

None of this means that we must ignore the legitimate bio-medical
work related to illness and the treatment of dis-functions as they
relate to the biological functionings of people. Instead, it means
that we must resist the politically conservative and scientifically
suspect thesis that bio-medical characterizations fully determine
social characterizations of important characteristics of human
beings.[32] As Mulvany writes, the 'social approach to disability
must acknowledge the legitimacy of medical activities while, at the
same time, critiquing these activities where appropriate if it is to
identify the full range of social barriers people with disabilities
face.'[33] Thus, the appropriate conclusion to draw is that neither
the medical model nor the social model of disability, according to
which disability is an entirely socially created attribution
independent of a person's bio-medical characteristics, fully captures
the concept of disability. Instead, disabilities are bio-social

Equally important, the broadly bio-social approach to disabilities
suggests that imputations of disabilities are contingent on time,
place and audience,[34] and may manifest themselves differently
depending on the location of the person in his or her life course.
For example, for an adolescent moving into that part of life
traditionally associated with economic autonomy and independence,
what counts as a disability (both for the person and for societies
and cultures with which the person interacts) and what kinds of
accommodations are reasonable may differ from someone who has entered
that part of life traditionally associated with retirement. There is a
tendency to theorize disabilities in the context of work and workplace
accommodations for adolescents and young adults, while for people who
have moved into the years traditionally associated with retirement,
the theorizing has more to do with non-occupational
accommodations.[35] Given the emphasis in Western cultures on work
qua occupational activities, this has the possibility of
marginalizing older, disabled members of the population.[36]
Additionally, since the disabilities of the older population are
often the result of bio-medical conditions associated with the ageing
process, there is a danger of homogenizing the concept of disability
amongst the older population, and treating it as principally a
bio-medical condition best dealt with in institutional or otherwise
segregated settings (e.g., communities for people above a certain
age). For instance, Breitenbach writes that as they grow older,
'people with intellectual disabilities are likely to incur a number
of age-related illnesses and impairments, just as do other older
people.[37] As a result, 'despite the fact that many issues related
to their old age... are of a social nature, much of the published
literature is devoted to health and illness issues.'[38] Recognizing
and accounting for the interconnections between disability and a
person's location within his or her life course is important in
understanding the otherwise ignored nuances associated with
disability issues.

 IV. Conclusion

In 1990, President Bush compared the passage of the ADA to the
destruction of the Berlin Wall:

     Now I am signing legislation that takes a sledgehammer to
     another wall, one that has for too many generations
     separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they
     could glimpse but not grasp. And once again we rejoice as
     this barrier falls, proclaiming together we will not
     accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate
     discrimination in America.[39]
Unfortunately, while passage of the ADA and related laws and policies
has made some inroads into the workplace inequities people with
disabilities experience, it has not eliminated the inequities. These
continuing disparities are objectionable, and it is important to make
efforts to address them, precisely because the ideal of equality of
opportunity implies limits on any constraints placed on the choices a
citizen makes. However, without a clear and coherent conceptual
framework in which to frame issues of impairments and disabilities,
it is impossible to frame policies that create just and fair limits
on personal choices while, at the same time, offer people the fullest
range of opportunities, not constrained by physiological, anatomical,
or psychological characteristics, as possible. It is only by
recognizing that disability generally, and workplace disability
specifically, is an integral part of the social processes in which we
all participate throughout the course of our lives that it will be
possible, as Zola writes, to appreciate fully 'how general public
policy can affect this issue.'[40]


Bickenbach, Jerome E., Physical Disability and Social
Policy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993).

Bickenbach, Jerome E., Chatterji, Somnath, Badley, E.M., and Ustun,
'Models of Disablement, Universalism and the International
Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps,' Social
Science and Medicine, v. 48, n. 9 (May, 1999), pp. 1173-1187.

Bodenheimer, Carol F., Roig, Randolph L., Worsowicz, Gregory M., and
Cifu, David X., 'Geriatric Rehabilitation: The Societal Aspects of
Disability in Older Adults,' Archives of Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation, v. 85, supplement 3 (July, 2004), pp. S23-S26.

Breitenbach, Nancy, 'Ageing with Intellectual Disabilities;
Discovering Disability with Old Age: Same or Different?' in
Disability and the Life Course: Global Perspectives, edited by
Mark Priestley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp.

Cockerham, William C., 'The Sociology of Health Behavior and Health
Lifestyles,' in Handbook of Medical Sociology, fifth edition,
edited by C. Bird, P. Conrad and A. Fremont (Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall, 2000), pp. 159-172.

Conrad, Peter and Schneider, Joseph, Deviance and Medicalization:
From Badness to Sickness (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1980).

Corker, Mairian and Shakespeare, Tom, 'Mapping the Terrain,' in
Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory, edited
by Mairian Corker and Tom Shakespeare (London: Continuum, 2002), pp.

DeJong, Gerben, Batavia, Andrew I., and Griss, Robert, 'America's
Neglected Health Minority: Work-age Persons with Disabilities,'
The Milbank Quarterly, v. 67, Supplement 2, Part 2 (1989), pp.

Donoghue, Christopher, 'Challenging the Authority of the Medical
Definition of Disability: An Analysis of the Resistance to the Social
Constructivist Paradigm,' Disability and Society, v. 18, n. 2
(2003), pp. 199-208.

Giddens, Anthony, Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in
the Later Modern Age (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,

Goffman, Erving, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled
Identity (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963).

Hughes, Bill, 'Medicine and the Aesthetic Invalidation of Disabled
People,' Disability and Society, v. 15, n. 4 (2000), pp.

Kreismann, Ronald, and Palmer, Richard, 'Reasonable Accommodation
Under the ADA: What's an Employer to Do?' Cornell Hotel and
Restaurant Administrative Quarterly, v. 42 (October-November,
2001), pp. 24-33.

McElroy, Ann and Jezewski, Mary Ann, 'Cultural Variation in the
Experience of Health and Illness,' in The Handbook of Social
Studies in Health and Medicine, edited by G. Albrecht, R.
Fitzpatrick and S. Scrimshaw (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999), pp.

Mulvany, Julie, 'Disability, Impairment or Illness? The Relevance of
the Social Model of Disability to the Study of Mental Disorder,'
Sociology of Health and Illness, v. 22, n. 5 (2000), pp.

O'Brien, Ruth, Crippled Justice: The History of Modern Disability
Policy in the Workplace (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago
Press, 2001).

Office of the White House, 'New Freedom Initiative: A Progress
Report,' May 2002. Online at Last
accessed 5 October 2004.

Parmet, Wendy E., 'Plain Meaning and Mitigating Measures: Judicial
Construction of the Meaning of Disability,' in Backlash Against
the ADA: Reinterpreting Disability Rights, edited by Lindo
Hamilton Krieger (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003),
pp. 122-163.

Priestley, Mark, Disability: A Life Course Approach
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003).

Sayce, Liz, 'Beyond Good Intentions. Making Anti-Discrimination
Strategies Work,' Disability and Society, v. 18, n. 5 (August,
2003), pp. 625-642.

Sen, Amartya, 'Capability and Well-Being,' in The Quality of
Life, edited by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1997a), pp. 30-53.

-----, Commodities and Capabilities (Delhi: Oxford University
Press, 1999a).

-----, Development As Freedom (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf,

-----, On Economic Inequality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997b).

Stapleton, David C., and Burkhauser, Richard V., 'Acknowledgement,'
in The Decline in Employment of People with Disabilities: A Policy
Puzzle, edited by David C. Stapleton and Richard V. Burkhauser
(Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2003),
pp. xv-xvii.

Susman, Joan, 'Disability, Stigma and Deviance,' Social Science
and Medicine, v. 38, n. 1 (1994), pp. 15-22.

United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment,
Psychiatric Disabilities, Employment, and the Americans with
Disabilities Act (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing
Office, 1994).

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S.
Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, 'Americans with
Disabilities Act: Questions and Answers,' (November, 2008). Online at Last accessed 1 September 2009.

Zola, Irving K., 'Toward the Necessary Universalizing of a Disability
Policy,' The Milbank Quarterly, v. 67, supplement 2, part 2
(1989), pp. 401-428.


1. See ADA  2(a) (2)

2. United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S.
Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

3. United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, p. 1.

4. Stapleton and Burkhauser, p. xv. It does not follow from this that
there are no problems associated with the ADA, For example, Kreismann
and Palmer, p. 25, write that '[D]espite assurances to the contrary,
the ADA has proved to be a wellspring of litigation.'

5. Corker and Shakespeare, p. 15.

6. Bickenbach, pp. 6 -- 7.

7. Sen, 1999b: p. 75. Also, see Sen, 1999a: chapters 2 and 4.

8. Sen, 1999b: p. 75. Also, see Sen, 1999a: p. 9.

9. Sen, 1997b: p. 199.

10. Sen 1997a: p. 31.

11. See Sen, 1999a: p. 9.

12. See Sen, 1999a: p. 3.

13. Cockerham, p. 165.

14. Cockerham, p. 165. Also, see Giddens, pp. 80ff, for whom choice
is central to an understanding of 'lifestyles' and 'life plans'.

15. Cockerham, p. 159.

16. See Giddens, p. 81.

17. DeJong et al., p. 311.

18. McElroy and Jezewski, p. 195.

19. Berger and Luckmann, p. 129. Also, see Berger and Luckmann, pp.

20. Donoghue, pp. 202 -- 203.

21. Bickenbach, et al., p. 1173.

22. O'Brien, p. 164.

23. See Parmet, pp. 122ff.

24. This is not intended to be a 'neat' (sharp and well-defined)
dichotomy, since physiological, anatomical and psychological
characteristics are, at least in part, socially constructed.

25. Lynch, et al., p. 810. Also, see Mulvaney, p. 584.

26. Goffman, p. 2.

27. Goffman, p. 3.

28. For a critical discussion of the use of 'stigma' in the context
of disability issues, see Sayce, pp. 627ff.

29. Berger and Luckmann, p. 165.

30. See Conrad and Schneider, pp. 6-7, and Parmet, p. 128.

31. Conrad and Schneider, p. 21.

32. See Hughes, pp. 555-556.

33. Mulvany, p. 594.

34. See Susman, p. 16.

35. However, as noted by Bodenheimer et al., p. S24, for the 'older
worker, employment has a positive effect on their mental health, life
satisfaction, and marital satisfaction.'

36. See Priestley, pp. 159ff.

37. Breitenbach, p. 233.

38. Breitenbach, p. 233.

39. Quoted in Krieger, p. 1.

40. Zola, p. 420.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the Rehabilitation
Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations, funded by
the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
(NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education under grant numbers
H133E020720 and H133E070026.The opinions contained in this
publication are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect
those of the U.S. Department of Education.

 First author (contact author)

Andrew Ward
Division of Health Policy and Management
School of Public Health
University of Minnesota
420 Delaware Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0392
Phone: (609) 703-4022

 Second author

Paul M.A. Baker
Center for Advanced Communications Policy
500 10th Street NE, Suite 312
Atlanta, GA 30332-8845
Phone: (404) 385-461

 Third author

Nathan Moon
Workplace Accommodations RERC and
Center for Advanced Communications Policy
Georgia Institute of Technology
500 10th Street NE, Suite 380
Atlanta, GA 30332-0620
Phone: (404) 894-8845

(c) Andrew Ward, Paul M.A. Baker and Nathan Moon 2011




     That lying is a necessity of life is itself a part of the
     problematic character of existence.
     -- Friedrich Nietzsche
     Truthfulness in statements... is the formal duty of an
     individual to everyone, however great may be the
     disadvantage according to himself or to another.
     -- Immanuel Kant
The final scene in 'The Godfather: Part I' portrays Michael Corleone
lying to his wife, Kay, after she asked him if he killed their
brother-in-law, Carlo. Unable to dissuade her questioning by
reminding her of their understanding that she would never ask about
his business affairs, he relents and lies to her with a one-word
denial: 'No.' The scene and movie end with a greatly relieved Kay
embracing Michael, not doubting that she has heard the truth and
unaware that the stage has been set for 'The Godfather: Part II.'

This essay addresses the phenomenon of lying. Stated as a question,
this piece asks: Is it always morally wrong to lie or is lying
something we all must inevitably do in order to effectively manage
life? Before proceeding, a definition of lie is required.
As a noun, a lie is a false statement or piece of information
deliberately presented as a falsehood. As a verb, lying is to
present information with the intention of deceiving; to convey a
false image or impression (American Heritage Dictionary,
1973, 754).

Noteworthy is that lying is not one of the seven deadly sins
(pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust). Neither is
lying's antithesis, truth-telling, listed among the four cardinal
virtues (temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence). Still, it
could be argued that telling the truth often requires courage
(fortitude), fairness (justice), and wisdom (prudence). It cannot be
taken lightly that most parents instruct their children to be
unswervingly honest with injunctions like, 'No matter what you've
done, always tell us the truth.' Few, if any, children have been
instructed to tell the truth selectively or lie judiciously.

 Tolerable Lies

There is almost unanimous agreement among philosophers that 'the
complicated nature of human affairs' requires sporadic, intentional
deception (Martin, 1995, 70). Immanuel Kant is a conspicuous
exception. 'Unlike most of his followers, he believed there is an
absolute (exceptionless) duty never to lie' (64). An oft
employed hypothetical scenario supporting the majority view is the
hiding of Jews in Nazi era Germany. It's absurd to think a rescuer
harboring Jews would answer honestly if asked by a Gestapo officer,
'Are you hiding Jews?' Parents routinely insist that their children
misrepresent the truth when they are told to express appreciation for
a Christmas gift from grandma, even if it is something they neither
want nor like. In a magazine essay, 'Liar, Liar, Parents on Fire,'
Katherine Deveny describes lying to her daughter:

     When my daughter asked me why it was embarrassing that
     former New York governor Eliot Spitzer was involved with a
     cowgirl ring, I didn't hesitate. 'Bad lariat tricks,' I
     explained. She looked a little confused, but I let it drop.
     I know that I'm not supposed to lie to my kid, but I didn't
     feel like explaining prostitution to a 7-year old. But it
     is hardly the first whopper I've told my child, and it got
     me thinking about how I really feel about honesty as a
     policy (Newsweek, 04/07/08).
After considering the matter, Deveny concluded,

     I'm going to try to stop lying to my daughter because I
     want her to trust me, and because I don't want her to learn
     that lying is an effective strategy for dealing with the
     adult world. Even if that's the sad truth (04/07/08).
Is it a sad truth that lying is a necessary evil? Further, are there
situations in which lying might be considered a noble act even if the
term honorable lies has an oxymoronic tone? It seems another
sad truth is that conflicts between virtues occur. Lawrence
Kohlberg's moral stages theory, found in virtually every
introductory psychology textbook, includes stage four (rules
and laws should be obeyed) and stage five (sometimes rules and
laws must be suspended to serve a greater good) (1984). Lying or in
some other way deceiving the Gestapo in its search for Jews would be
a stage five instantiation and as well as an honorable lie.
Similarly, when Senator John McCain was a prisoner of war, he gave
his interrogators the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line
when asked for the names of the men in his squadron.

It has been said that a dilemma is a situation in which no matter
what you choose, you'll be wrong. Although dilemmas are capable of
generating spirited discussion, psychologist William Kirk Kilpatrick
believes they should not be used in moral education. In Why Johnny
Can't Tell Right from Wrong, he explains why dilemmas are
counterproductive for teaching ethics:

     The question to ask about this admittedly stimulating
     approach is this: Do we want to concentrate on quandaries
     or on everyday morality?... A great deal of a child's moral
     life -- or an adult's for that matter -- is not made up of
     dilemmas at all. Most of our 'moral decisions' have to do
     with temptations to do things we know we shouldn't do or
     temptations to avoid doing the things we know we should
     do... The danger on focusing on problematic dilemmas such
     as these is that a student may begin to think that all of
     morality is similarly problematic (1992, 84-85).
Lying to save people from a concentration camp, protect grandma's
feelings, withhold confusing information from a child, and shield
comrades have something in common. In each of these instances the lie
is for the benefit of someone other than the liar If there is such a
thing as honorable lying, it is done in the service of others. Dr.
Benjamin Carson, a noted pediatric neurosurgeon, recounts this
deception by which he and his brother were served favorably:

     My mother was a domestic. Through her work, she observed
     that successful people spent a lot more time reading than
     they did watching television. She announced that my brother
     and I... had to read two books each (every week)... and
     submit to her written book reports. She would mark them up
     with check marks and highlights. Years later we realized
     her marks were a ruse, My mother was illiterate; she had
     only received a third grade education (2006, 28-29).
However, this is not to say that any lie that provides a
benefit to someone other than the liar is noble. The benefit of the
deception must be substantial to the one being deceived -- a judgment
often not easily made. A husband might choose to withhold from his
wife that he has committed adultery knowing she would be devastated
to learn of his betrayal. However, not knowing of his infidelity
mitigates her exercise of free will since she will not have the
opportunity to decide if she wants to be married to a man who has
been unfaithful. The obvious benefit of nondisclosure for him would
be avoidance of considerable discomfort and embarrassment.

It is possible for a lie to serve the interest of the liar, put the
recipient at a disadvantage, yet still be tolerable. In football
games quarterbacks deceive the defense by faking passes on running
plays. In poker bluffing is a deceptive maneuver by which a player
bets heavily on a poor hand or lightly on a good one. It seems odd to
refer to these activities as lying it is because they are understood
by the participants as part of the contest. Nevertheless, play-faking
and bluffing are strategic deceptions.

An especially interesting type of lie is one that the recipient
assumes to be a misrepresentation of the truth. Interrogating police
officers and cross examining attorneys often assume they are being
lied to and account for this in their questioning. In fact, one of
the reasons for the courts exempting husbands and wives from
testifying against their spouses is the temptation to give false
testimony would be close to irresistible. Attempts to deceive police
officers and juries are hardly morally right, but they are understood
as highly probable.

 Lying as a Necessary Evil

Since lying includes all forms of intentional deception, it is
appropriate to turn attention to misrepresentations in scientific
research. Stanley Milgram's Obedience and Compliance
Experiment is one of psychology's best known investigations
(2005). Less well-known, but equally intriguing, is David Rosenhan's
'On Being Sane in Insane Places' study (1973). These renown studies
could not have been accomplished without intentional
misrepresentations to the subjects. Numerous other studies involve
placebos, inert substances that have no medicinal power. Integral to
the placebo effect is the subjects' belief that they are receiving an
actual drug. These deceptions, like play-action fakes in football and
bluffing in poker, are rarely thought of as lies. Still, all of them
have the common characteristic of withholding the truth. The moral
question raised by these practices is one of cost-benefit analysis
in which the cost of an ethical compromise is weighed
against the benefit of some accomplishment.

Figures of speech that combine seemingly contradictory expressions
not only add zest to discourse but also imply something about the
complexity of life. The oxymoron necessary evil communicates
that some worthy goal can be reached only by resorting to wrongdoing.
(One of the airplanes involved in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in
World War II was named 'Necessary Evil.') Driving well above the
speed limit and slowing down, but not stopping, at intersections is
defensible conduct when rushing an injured child to the emergency
room. An honest assessment of some situations would force most people
to the conclusion that there are circumstances in which wrongdoing is

As previously stated, Immanuel Kant has offered the minority opinion
that lying is always morally wrong and should never be employed.
'Kant was a duty ethicist, that is, someone who defines right acts as
those required by duty. Unlike most of his followers, he believed
there is an absolute -- exceptionless -- duty never to lie'
(Martin, 1989, 57). However, Kant himself would have encountered
conflicting ethical imperatives if his duty to always tell the truth
would have resulted in someone's death. Truth-telling in such an
instance would be contrary to the fundamental duty to respect human
life -- referred to by Kant as a categorical imperative.
(Reconsider the example of hiding Jews and being questioned by the
Gestapo.) Telling the truth at the expense of someone's life fits the
description provided by the wry aphorism, 'The operation was a
success, but the patient died.'

 Why Is Lying Unethical?

Perhaps this seems an odd question, given that everybody knows that
honesty is the best policy. This is precisely what
psychologists Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson found in their
investigation of universal virtues (2004). Honesty was one of
twenty-four signature strengths, also referred to as
ubiquitous virtues, identified in their study of virtues
affirmed by all cultures regardless of when or where they exist or
have existed.

A biblical condemnation of lying is implied in the Ten Commandments:
'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor' (Deuteronomy
5:20). Divine disapproval of lying is emphatically reinforced in the
New Testament where God strikes dead Ananias and Sapphira for lying
(Acts 5: 1-11).

The stereotypical used car salesman who makes car buyers thankful for
CARFAX (vehicle history reports) and the 'lemon law' (the buyer's
right to return a dysfunctional car) has acted unethically when his
misrepresentation hinders a prospective buyer's free will
decision-making. Unavoidable unknowns make used car buying difficult
enough without distortions of the car's history and condition. Kant
posited that any mitigation of an individual's autonomy constitutes a
violation of the categorical imperative: 'Act so that you treat
humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as
an end and never as a means only' (Martin, 58).

When lying serves the interests of the liar -- and only the liar --
it is an act of selfishness. Seligman and Peterson identified
universal virtues. It is ludicrous to speculate that if they had
given themselves to a search for universal vices they would not have
found lying as one of them. (In spite of its title, Ayn Rand's essay,
'The Virtue of Selfishness' does not advocate for unbridled
self-serving [1961, vii-xii]).

 Concluding Thoughts

Lying is akin to speeding in that it is something almost everyone
does but admits is wrong. Further, like speeding, it's something most
people rationalize but rarely believe anyone else can justify. Lying
is recognized as so powerful a temptation that the courts require
witnesses to 'solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth.' (How likely is this thought: 'I was fully
resolved to lie until I placed my hand on the Bible and promised to
tell the truth'?) Regarding 'the whole truth,' Sissela Bok has

     The whole truth is out of reach. But this fact has very
     little to do with our choices about whether to lie or to
     speak honestly, about what to say and what to hold back.
     These choices can be set forth, compared, evaluated, And
     when they are, even rudimentary distinctions can give
     guidance (1978, 4).
In his classic, Man's Search for Meaning, psychiatrist and
Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl describes his concentration camp
resolution to tell the truth and so let his fate be determined.

     In Auschwitz I laid down a rule for myself which proved to
     to be a good one and which most of my comrades later
     followed. I generally answered all kinds of questions
     truthfully. But I was silent about anything that was not
     expressly asked for. If I were asked my age, I gave it. If
     asked about my profession, I said 'doctor,' but did not
     elaborate (1959, 74).
How many of us, living in far less dire circumstances, would make the
same resolution? (The death to survival ratio of those who entered a
concentration camp has been calculated at 28:1. Frankl survived,
dying in 1997 at age 93.)

Bok's thorough, scholarly treatise on lying, Lying: Moral Choice
in Private and Public Life, includes the following chapters

   - Is the 'Whole Truth' Attainable?
   - Weighing the Consequences
   - White Lies
   - Lies in a Crisis
   - Lying to Liars
   - Lying to Enemies
   - Lies Protecting Peers and Clients
   - Lies for the Public Good
   - Deceptive Social Science Research
   - Lies to the Sick and Dying
This list implies Bok's agreement with John Stuart Mill's
observation: 'It is not the fault of any creed, but of the
complicated nature of human affairs, that rules of conduct cannot be
so framed as to require no exceptions' (Martin, 1989, 64).

In 1920 anthropologist Frederick Starr and attorney Clarence Darrow
debated the question, 'Is life worth living?' Darrow's introductory
statement included this assessment:

     ... man does not live by rules. If he did, he would not
     live. He lives by his emotions, his instincts, his
     feelings; he lives as he goes along. Man does not make
     rules of life and then live according to those rules; he
     lives and then he makes rules of life' (MacLaskey and
     MacLaskey, 1920, 15).

American Heritage Dictionary. (1973). New York: American
Heritage Publishing Company.

Bok, S. (1978). Lying: Moral choice in public and private life.
New York: Random House.

Deveney, K. 'Liar, Liar, Parents on Fire.' Newsweek.

Frankl, V. (1959). Man's search for meaning. New York:
Washington Square Books.

Kilpatrick, W.K. (1993). Why Johnny can't tell right from
wrong. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Kohlberg, L. (1984). The psychology of moral development: Essays
on moral development (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Harper and Row.

MacLaskey and MacLaskey. (1920). Clarence Darrow -- Frederick Starr
Debate: 'Is Life Worth Living?' Garrick Theatre. Chicago, IL:

Martin, M. (1986). Everyday morality: An introduction to applied
ethics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

________. 1995). Everyday morality: An introduction to applied
ethics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Milgram, S. (2005). Obedience to authority. New York: Pinter
and Martin.

Rand, A. (1961). The virtue of selfishness. New York: Penguin

Rosenhan, D. (1973). 'On being sane in insane places.' Science,
179, 250-258.

Seligman, M. and Peterson, C. (2004). Character strengths and
virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford
University Press.

(c) Max Malikow 2011




     Only sick music makes money today.
     -- Friedrich Nietzsche[1]

In his book, The Genealogy of Morality, Friedrich Nietzsche
traces the origins of Christian morality back to the ressentiment of
slaves towards their masters, of the powerless towards those who hold
power. Modern popular music, that is, those forms of music which
derive from African-American origins, I propose likewise is formed by
this quality, and, following Nietzsche's thinking, seek to show why it
cannot be considered as art as he may have defined it.

The argument is divided into four parts. The first part will outline
briefly the genealogy of popular music and draw its conclusions in
Nietzschean terms. The second part is a re-visitation of Theodore
Adorno's Marxist critique of the corrupting nature of capital upon
music, capital being the 'dominant force' that has reinterpreted the
meaning and purpose of this music.[2] The two arguments are separate
but parallel, and are not meant to imply Nietzsche was a
proto-Marxist, as certainly he was not. Rather, certain implications
of Nietzsche's thought are best drawn out in Marxist analysis. As
Nietzsche is a great thinker about power, Marx is a great thinker
about how power is applied, and Adorno most successfully I believe
applied this form of analysis to popular music.

The remaining two sections will raise and attempt to answer some of
the larger objections to the thesis, and conclude with a restatement
of the thesis in light of the arguments advanced for it.

To my knowledge, the genealogical implications of popular music have
never been investigated before, therefore my attempt here. However,
it is not for the novelty of the argument but merely the desire to
bring the question of popular music as art to the surface for greater

 I. The Lineage of Popular Music

Popular music as we know it today, Rock, Rap, etc., developed out of
African-American experience, largely under conditions of bondage in
the American south. Starting as hymns and spirituals created under
the conditions of slavery, African-American music adapted to these
conditions, serving the purpose of the expression of ressentiment.
These were the forerunners of what would became the Blues and Jazz.
The Blues in particular exemplifies this quality of ressentiment,
where the celebration of self-pity becomes the key attribute of

With Jazz we begin to see a trend towards the openly rebellious, in
distinction to the more muted ressentiment in the secret meanings
behind many Negro spirituals. Jazz is the musical equivalent of the
raspberry, an expression of defiant joy in the face of one's
oppressors with its rise under more permissive conditions after

We can see from this quick progression the general spirit in which
modern popular music is cast. It is, as Nietzsche would have phrased
it, a descending mode of life,[4] descending in the sense of
being in antipathy toward life. Developing from a medium of veiled
ressentiment in the secret meanings of spirituals, to the defiant joy
of the Jazz Age, and finally, manifested its self as the pure spirit
of rebellion in Rock & Roll.

I am making a distinction here, a distinction between what Nietzsche
might call high or, noble art, and its less life affirming or,
descending forms. Though he wrote no fully sustained work detailing
his aesthetics, there is sufficient material scattered through his
books to hypothesize what his opinions on modern popular music might

As to a definition of his term noble his meaning is plain. Its
character by its nature is hard to divine, as no outward production
or action could indicate its presence, as such outward signs are
always at the mercy of opinion, if not unknowable, and those who lack
nobility cannot see such a quality in those who have it.[5] However,
in Part Nine of Beyond Good and Evil[6] Nietzsche indicates at
least one clear irreducible trait: 'The noble soul has reverence for
itself.'[7] We may safely conjecture from this that Nietzsche would
require this same quality of reverence in anything resembling art.

Popular music is, we may agree, largely bereft of reverence, being
both too self-aggrandizing and too self-referential. Ego is all, and
the ego of the small souled individual who must shout to drown out
the self-knowledge of their smallness. It is not in the nature of
such a music to be satisfied with a few knowledgeable listeners. In
contrast, noble art would look with indifference upon the crowd. A
thought impossible to conceive of in the current cult of celebrity
where judgment is an exercise in ressentiment, and the opinion of the
crowd, whether good or ill, is the only thing that confirms one's
relevance.[8] It can be agreed with little argument that such a
mindset is anything but reverent.

Nietzsche talks much about suffering, and even states: 'Profound
suffering makes noble; it separates.'[9] But lest this be taken as a
possible loophole where Nietzsche may have found common ground with
the Pop music enthusiast, his reference is clearly meant in the
context of the individual not the mass, and production of a shared
artistic mode of expression is an art for the mass. The noble
individual for Nietzsche cannot be understood by the mass because he
stands so far apart from common experience.[10]

 II. The Culture Industry as the Dominant Force

As stated in the beginning of this essay, much of this section is a
gloss on Theodor Adorno's book The Culture Industry.[11]
However, Adorno's critique lays the corruption in modern music almost
solely to the influence of bourgeois taste. Whether this is or is not
the case does not concern us here. Rather, it is with Adorno's
identification of capital as the 'dominate force' in pop music that
needs to be made explicit. As outlined in the introduction, Adorno's
analysis plays the smaller role within the larger context of
genealogy. His analysis of the culture industry is an analysis of the
most powerful force of our time, as the church was in a
previous age.

Thus Pop, beginning as a folk manifestation, that spoke to,
and dealt solely with the concerns of a specific group,
popular music's rebellious qualities attracted the rising white
middle-class youth of the early twentieth century as we know. The
Blues, too pessimistic to appeal to the majority of optimistic white
youth, found Jazz, conceived as an expression of defiant joy in the
face of oppressors, offered them a more elated alternative that
served the purpose of manufactured rebellion, creating a false
consciousness in which white youth believed the rebellion was their

To clarify, the quality of rebellion found in Jazz was at a remove
from white experience, giving the appearance of rebellion to
authority without genuinely rebelling. It is this same strain of
rebellious ressentiment which Rock & Roll would inherit and amplify.

By this point in its development, popular music had become fully the
acquisition of capital. The quality of rebellion which had first
attracted white audiences, was adapted by the now established music
industry as a marketing tool. It had become an homogenized product to
be sold, rather than a product of the soul. At each stage the original
intention was harnessed and co-opted by capital to serve a new purpose.

Capital, having arrogated this line of expression so completely,
alienated its original intended audience. In response, we see the
emergence of Hip Hop, Rap, etc.[12], to fill the void. These modes,
having developed in a more socially tolerant atmosphere, became
vehicles for black culture's repressed frustrations, and, instead of
self-pity, resignation, and veiled meaning[13], opened the
flood-gates of grievance. After the waters cleared, the manufactured
quality of Rock is revealed for what it is. The hotel room wrecking
Rock star is a cliche, a manufactured construct meant to appear
dangerous without being so. The gun toting rapper, on the other hand,
is very real. It is this seriousness which sets it apart, where an
aggressive posture on stage is unflinchingly backed up with action
when off. This highlights the tragedy of a minority culture's need to
adopt greater and greater physical and vocal means to distinguish
itself from the dominate group.

Due to increased industrialization of musical production, and the
loss of social context, proper appreciation becomes impossible, as
most know little to nothing of music in a technical sense, and fewer
reflect upon the monetary and mass produced nature of the music
industry as a whole, further alienating that audience from the art it
consumes by eliminating the knowledge for informed comprehension and
discernment. In such an environment, music is not 'appreciated',
cannot be appreciated without proper training, it is merely consumed.

At a certain level of maturity, Rock's audience knows they have been
'tricked' as it were. And many, chafed by the dishonest quality of
commodified rebellion in popular music, become cynical towards music
as a whole. A few will drift to the world of Independent Rock in the
belief it will be more genuine, not realizing the alternatives nor,
that there is no such thing as the independent in popular music. Out
of this cynicism in the realization of the work of art as commodity,
then reinforces the relativism of aesthetic judgment. Musical
standards are then degraded further in a misguided desire for
fairness. Misguided because, once technical knowledge is lost, there
are no longer signposts to allow for the discernment of the

 III. Objections

Finally, I wish to examine some of the objections to my argument and
responses in tandem.

First, it will be pointed out that Rap too has taken on a
commercial character. This is just the tragedy I had earlier referred
to. It has been lifted from its original context as a response to the
dominate culture, and then appropriated by that dominate culture to
serve a new purpose, obscuring, if not burying, its origin.

The use of popular may be interpreted as a relative term and so I
will clarify. Any and all music may be cited as popular in any
period. However, by popular I mean specifically how I defined it in
the beginning, as a strictly modern phenomenon derived from
African-American experience, and commodified by capital. To
illustrate, the music of Georg Friedrich Handel was popular to both
the people and court of Georgian England alike. However, the lower
classes took their cues in taste from those above and, to return to
my example, when Handel fell from royal favor, so too did he with the
population at large.[14]

Using the examples of classical composers suggests a bias that I hold
that form of music to be exclusively noble. I do not argue that
classical music is the only form which may possess this
quality of the noble as reverent, only that historically it has
tended to cultivate this quality more consciously. Also, among those
qualities as Nietzsche would prescribe, a true art cannot appeal to
numbers of adherents as proof of its value, in fact it is the
contrary.[15] As reverence requires the ability to feel piety, to
feel for something higher than the only personal. I may be corrected
but, there is no sacred music in the Pop repertoire.

It will also be charged that, if one is to use the genealogical
method of critique one must except Nietzsche's critique of religion,
and Christian art must be jettisoned with Christian morals. However,
the purpose of my argument has been merely to assess the origins and
nature of popular music using Nietzsche's ideas as a guide for
analysis. Nevertheless, excepting this particular criticism as valid,
I will attempt to address it.

I posit that what is called Christian art is not truly 'Christian'.
What I mean is that, even when dealing explicitly with Christian
themes, the lineage of noble art is obviously pre-Christian,
developing within the aristocratic ethos of the secular world, in
relation to political and economic factors. For example, the
explosion of art in the Renaissance was determined by material
causes, not spiritual ones. As well, the Catholic church appropriated
the pagan, building upon the earlier structure and reinterpreting it,
much as modern capital has done to popular music.

Another abjection may be that Protestant art should fail under these
terms, exhibiting as it does the same qualities of rebellion and
ressentiment contrary to noble art. Yet, Protestantism arose out of a
confident assertion of truth against perceived error. Luther's
confidence required courage and reverence, not concealed
ressentiment, and acquiescence to servitude.[16] What is more, Luther
sided with aristocratic interests against the poor. Certainly not the
action's of an intentional social revolutionary.

Lastly, my use of western music as an example of noble art will no
doubt be construed as racist. However, the legacy of black
contributions to the classical tradition is genuinely profound, as
witnessed by the figures of Chevalier de Saint-George and George
Bridgetower being but only two superlative examples. Race is not the
issue, my analysis has been concerned only with the agency of power
as represented by capital, and its negative effects upon art. If this
dynamic of power had been the reverse, I have little doubt we should
see the same results. In truth, such a similar reversal can be found
in the genealogy of Country music[17], which would appear to confirm
these conclusions. Nevertheless, if we take Nietzsche's genealogical
thinking to its logical conclusions as I have done in this essay, and
follow his idea's on the nature of nobility and art, we must at least
consider that the nature of modern popular music fails under this
criteria to stand as genuine art.

 IV. Conclusion

We have followed the development of modern popular music from its
origins in slavery engendered in ressentiment. We have watched its
progression through periods of increasing liberality of expression
yet, at each new stage we have witnessed the process of capital
absorb the original and reshape it to new ends, turning the spirit of
rebellion that arose in its founding ressentiment, and obscuring its
specific meaning through the process of commodification.

Following Nietzsche's aesthetic thought, we can conclude that modern
popular music fails to live up to the quality of reverence demanded
of nobility. Yet, we can also see how capital changed the meaning of
the original intent, recycled repeatedly until, after a succession of
facsimiles the end result is degraded beyond recognition.

In summation, we may see the effect of this process, as new art
emerges only to be quickly stripped of its genuine nature and
commodified, much as Nietzsche did when he wrote: '... all original
music, is a swan song.'[18]


Adorno, Theodor W., and J. M. Bernstein. The culture industry:
selected essays on mass culture. Psychology Press, 2001.

Leiter, Brian. Routledge philosophy guidebook to Nietzsche on
morality. Psychology Press, 2002.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The portable Nietzsche. Penguin,

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Walter Arnold Kaufmann. Basic
writings of Nietzsche. Random House, Inc., 2000.

Criticism, 51:623-649. Wayne State University Press, 2009.

Spinks, Lee. Friedrich Nietzsche. Psychology Press, 2003.

Wilkins, William Henry. Caroline, the illustrious Queen-Consort of
George II, and sometime Queen-Regent: a study of her life and
time. Longmans, Green, 1904.


1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans.
and ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: The Modern Library, 2000), 622.

2. 'A proper 'genealogical' account,... would not begin by
identifying the purpose and meaning of a practice at its origin
before offering a narrative of its historical development. It would
focus, instead, upon the systematic reinterpretation of the 'meaning'
and 'purpose' of a practice according to the requirements of dominant
forces... ' Lee Spinks, Friedrich Nietzsche, (London [u.a.]:
Routledge, 2004), 71.

3. '[B]y revealing the 'shameful origin' of MPS, the Genealogy simply
brings 'a feeling of diminution in value of the thing that
originated thus and prepares the way to a critical mood and
attitude toward it'. It prepares this way by giving evidence of the
pernicious causal powers of MPS, without establishing that MPS still
possesses them. Even to produce a 'feeling of diminution' and to
'prepare the way' for a critique is already to accomplish a project
of some importance... Suppose an acquaintance recommends a restaurant
in glowing terms... You then learn that... he is part-owner... The
origin does not... refute... reasons to patronize [it]... but the
discovery of this 'shameful origin' surely 'prepares the way to a
critical mood and attitude toward[s]' those reasons.' Brian
Leiter, Nietzsche: on morality (London: Routledge, 2002), 179.

4. Spinks, op cit., 6.

5. Basic Writings, op cit., 417-418.

6. Basic Writings, op cit., 391-427.

7. Basic Writings, op cit., 418.

8. Basic Writings, op cit., 635.

9. Basic Writings, op cit., 410.

10. Portable Nietzsche. op cit., 669-670. Where Nietzsche
expands upon his idea of the two types of sufferers.

11. Theodor W. Adorno, and J. M. Bernstein. The culture industry:
selected essays on mass culture. (Psychology Press, 2001.)

12. Hereafter simply referred to as Rap out of simplicity, though not
to deny the differences among these forms.

13. The belief in coded messages in African-American spirituals has
been contested, but I still contend that it is a viable hypothesis.
James Kelley, 'Song, Story, or History: Resisting Claims of a Coded
Message in the African American Spiritual Follow the Drinking Gourd,'
in The Journal of Popular American Culture, 41.2 (April 2008),

14. William Henry Wilkins. Caroline, The Illustrious Queen-Consort
of George II, and sometime Queen-Regent: a study of her life and
time, (Longmans, Green, 1904), 500. The rivalry of Frederick,
Prince of Wales, and his founding of the Opera of the Nobility to
spite his royal parents, is of great interest in this respect.

15. Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Portable Nietzsche.
Penguin, 1954., 667.

16. This is not a defamation of the dignity of subject peoples, nor
to an acquiescence to slavery by all African-Americans, but rather
the qualities the spirit of slavery tends to engender in Nietzsche's

17. Erich Nunn, 'Country Music and the Souls of White Folk...' In
Criticism, 51:623-649. Wayne State University Press, 2009.

18. The Portable Nietzsche, op cit., 667-668.

(c) Lance Kirby 2011