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Is there a way that society can continue to exist, even with the polarization we have now?

I have been thinking about the fact that so many modern issues necessarily result in polarization, as the 2 views are mutually exclusive. For example:

  • If you are pro-abortion then the other side is trying to control women's bodies, if you are anti-abortion the other side is committing murder.
  • If you are a capitalist the other side is trying to steal your money, if you are a socialist the other side is trying to keep all the money by the rich and keep poor people poor.
  • If you believe in modern gender theory the other side is causing suicide and trying make people conform to their worldview, and if you are anti it the other side is causing the drugging and mutilating of people.
  • If you hate Trump the other side is trying to destroy democracy and put in a tyrranical and crazy leader, if you like Trump the other side is attacking the leader they support for no reason, in result attacking them.

And the list goes on...

So with so many issues leading to polarization as the 2 sides of the coin are polar opposites, can society continue to with these differences (as opposed to anybody drastically changing what they think/believe)?

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    What happened to compromises? Something like two people coming together and figuring out a way to live in coexistence together, only on a larger scale. Isn't politics the art of the compromise? Aug 21, 2022 at 8:36
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    I attribute this to American tradition of pointless "debates" where you are supposed to take an assigned extreme position and defend it without any attempt at listening to your opponents or trying to find a middle ground. The victor is arguably a prized consent destroyer and polarizer.
    – alamar
    Aug 21, 2022 at 9:06
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    what is the criterion for "society to exist"? Disagreements have existed for much of history. Is it the lack of an armed civil war?
    – Rad80
    Aug 21, 2022 at 13:22
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    I don't think there is a pro-abortion side (as in "let's have as many abortions as possible"). One side is pro-choice.
    – Vorbis
    Aug 21, 2022 at 16:36
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    "there is no way to agree with what the other side believes, even in part" But there is almost always a way. Just take abortion, you can make it more strict or less with different time frames or different exceptions. And for taxing, immigration, climate protection, resource usage, ... they are so quantitative that compromises are easily possible. Or you can trade issues, like you give something but get something else. It's not like compromise isn't possible anymore, it's just not sought nowadays. People don't want it anymore and that's why I asked in the comment what happened to it? Aug 22, 2022 at 6:07

2 Answers 2

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The problems you describe are a consequence of the bipartisan split, not the cause of it.

  • There are countries which accept a progressive tax system, inheritance taxes, etc., and welfare funded out of those taxes, without banning private property.
  • There are countries which allow people to switch their legal gender identity, but only after a lengthy bureaucratic process and possibly a medical/psych evaluation, and which ban any "therapy" on minors in either direction.
  • There are countries which allow abortion within strict limits, to include mandatory counselling. (Yet abortion is probably the one point out of the four which most likely leads to absolutist positions, at least on the 'no' side.)

In the US, all these issues and more (climate, vaccination, ...) are dragged into the existing bipartisan divide. There is something called Duverger's Law, a law in the social sciences sense, which suggests that single-seat, plurality-based election systems lead to only two viable parties. This comes together with modern social media, which is a commercial acitivty earning money by aiming targeted advertising at comsumers, and which requires audience engagement to sell their product. Facebook understood that this is easier done by stoking anger instead of more positive feelings.

The bipartisan divide, and the increasing inability to overcome the deliberate deadlock built into the US Constitution as a safeguard against government overreach, caused conservatives to seize on Supreme Court nominations to push their causes (see McConnell on Garland and Barrett). Which leads to your 4th bullet point:

  • Many Republicans were willing to overlook obvious problems with then-President Trump as long as Trump did deliver a stream of nominations to the SC. Compare the fate of Boris Johnson, whom the UK conservatives could replace with a new Prime Minister of their choice. So they are doing it.
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  • That is mostly right, but still somewhat simplistic. Canada has several major parties, yet is seeing quite a bit of polarization, though not as much at the US. Ditto France, but see the Gilets Jaunes or the rise of populist parties. While the UK did ditch Johnson they haven't found a way to reverse or mitigate Brexit. Finally, if the US's structure was so inherently problematic, why did it wait till the like of Newt Gingrich for the pot to boil over? Aug 21, 2022 at 23:10
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, I wrote "a law in the social sciences sense." Call me a hard sciences snob, but those are more like guidelines. And if I had to speculate, having "won" the Cold War gave them the leisure to bicker.
    – o.m.
    Aug 22, 2022 at 4:15
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: If one wants to nitpick, Brown etc. came about the same way, overriding filibuster in the Supreme Court. It's just that the tables have turned, which is actually more or less how stuff was in the early 1930s, i.e. a conservative-dominated court. Aug 22, 2022 at 9:07
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The question already implies that current polarization is a bigger issue than in the past, which to me seems obviously wrong. It is easier to express dissenting opinions, and you have mentioned some examples of this, but compare that to polarization in the past:

  • People being violently oppressed with others violently opposing oppression
  • States seceding and starting a war about it
  • People being oppressed for their (alleged) political views

So society should be able to tackle these problems in the way it has always been done, by coming to a conclusion about these points at some time; but it's probably going to be easier than in the past.

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    I think it is a big issue. Obviously we had, for example, the civil war, but in recent history there was widely understood unity. Like, when you look at old debates the candidates where tripping over each other saying how 'We both want the same objective, but have different ways of getting it'... But now there isn't disagreement, its personal. Its hate. Because so many issues stem from 2 totally different belief systems, visions of what America should believe, etc.
    – Kovy Jacob
    Aug 22, 2022 at 2:07
  • @KovyJacob "Its personal. Its hate" In 2018 Trump tweeted re TDS. "Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It's called Trump Derangement Syndrome!" See edition.cnn.com/2018/07/19/politics/trump-derangement-syndrome/… Seems more relevant today than 2018
    – user44167
    Aug 24, 2022 at 15:22

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