Power Show Dept.


From a ways back: Oliver Kamm: Not the whole story

The social theorist Daniel Bell, whose seminal writings might profitably be consulted by those who imagine Noam Chomsky to be a leading public intellectual in the field, is in no identifiable sense a neoconservative. Bell broke politically with his friend Irving Kristol, the founding father of neoconservatism, in 1972, when Kristol backed Richard Nixon for president while Bell supported George McGovern. To my knowledge, Bell has never amended his ideological self-identification (in his most famous book, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism), as a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics and a conservative in culture.

Emphasis mine. This is a little closer to what I was talking about when I was referring earlier to a multidimensional political spectrum. It's good to be this granular, but again, how many of us do it? More importantly, how many of us would vote for someone who advertised themselves this way?

Then I read this:

Rand Paul and the Empty Box - NYTimes.com

Why is American politics essentially one-dimensional, so that supporters of gay marriage are also supporters of guaranteed health insurance and vice versa? (And positions on foreign affairs — bomb or talk? — are pretty much perfectly aligned too). Well, the best story I have is Corey Robin’s: It’s fundamentally about challenging or sustaining traditional hierarchy. The actual lineup of positions on social and economic issues doesn’t make sense if you assume that conservatives are, as they claim, defenders of personal liberty on all fronts. But it makes perfect sense if you suppose that conservatism is instead about preserving traditional forms of authority: employers over workers, patriarchs over families. A strong social safety net undermines the first, because it empowers workers to demand more or quit; permissive social policy undermines the second in obvious ways.

In other words, the politics are only one-dimensional because that's what best serves incumbent power. To think of it any other way doesn't serve them and them alone, and that's why they don't do it. That incumbent power does not serve any particular political philosophy except the urge to protect itself at all costs.

Barrows Dunham, whom I mention often but never seem to get around to talking about in proper detail, wrote about this in his book Man Against Myth. He was dismayed by the way people who, for instance, asserted that there was no such thing as "truth" or "social justice" (in 1947, mind you), were people who were not harmed one whit by such assertions, and in fact benefited greatly from them, and that was the most tangible reason he could discern for why they argued in favor of them.


Tags: Barrows Dunham Oliver Kamm politics sociology


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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2015/04/08 16:00.

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