What do you mean by ‘coercionist’?

“I am familiar with the word ‘coercive’ but what do you mean by ‘coercionist’? If you mean ‘coercive [parent]’ why use this strange word instead of the simple one?”

What I mean by ‘coercionist’ is one who advocates coercion. The problem with saying ‘coercive parent’ is that it implies that some of us have reached the dizzy heights of perfect knowledge such that we never inadvertently coerce. That is likely to create an unhealthy insiders-versus-outsiders feeling, and it may propel people into feeling bad about themselves and giving up. But actually, no one is perfectly non-coercive. I myself am still discovering ways in which I have been being inadvertently coercive despite my strong desire and efforts not to be.

So we need a word to distinguish not between those who are coercive and those who are perfectly non-coercive, but between those who advocate coercion (or who take the view that some problems are inherently not solvable) and those who think that problems are soluble (i.e., thoroughly non-coercively) and whose way of being and acting actively embodies that idea (even though, being fallible and not omniscient, they sometimes fail to create the necessary knowledge in the moment, sometimes make mistakes, sometimes are coercive, and may be coercive in particular ways and not yet have noticed that coercion).

My Oxford English Dictionary (second edition, 1989, Volume III, p. 435) defines ‘coercionist’ as “One who advocates or supports government by coercion; esp. in modern English politics, one who supports such government in Ireland.” None of the many definitions it gives for ‘coercive’ talks about advocating coercion, and I am unaware of another word having that meaning, so I decided to adopt the word ‘coercionist’, which was used the way I am using it, in a book published about a hundred years ago, whose author clearly believed that he was arguing for childhood without coercion.

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 1995, ‘What do you mean by “coercionist”?’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/what-do-you-mean-by-coercionist/

Leave a comment