Saturday, July 10, 2010

Noh Explanation

OK, this is an exaggeration. Eric Alterman’s valiant attempt to identify the systemic roots of America’s political insanity does identify a number of prime suspects: the anti-democratic rules of the political game, the role of money, right wing media, background framing and ideology. It would be nice to be able to do something about them.

But coming up with a purely American explanation for what is clearly an international phenomenon violates the first principles of clear thinking. Progressive politics has hit a cul-de-sac in every advanced industrial economy. Not even the Great Recession/Reset/Whatever has lifted the constraints. Conservatives rule everywhere, and populism is in the hands of the loony right. One way or another, the scale of the explanation has to match the scale of the explanandum.


Shane Taylor said...

Playing John Gray's advocate, he might respond with two points.

One, the radical right of today has a more compelling story of frailty for the present order. In times of greater insecurity, this sensibility is more commanding.

Two, any left which invokes "progress" is in danger of discrediting itself from the start. In a time of regress for politics (and, so it seems, ethics), the teleological language will sound schizophrenic.

I would add something about authoritarian populism as a return to Hobbes, but I can't see how to square that with the Tea Party faith in some spontaneous order from a purer, truer market. They seem to have some cognitive dissonance about market chaos, as if the market must be appeased with sufficient sacrifice before order will emerge. And any order imposed from outside of markets would be false.

Jack said...

Try the explanation given by my own favorite political analyst, Maximillian Robespierre. In an obscure quote, I found it in Schurr's Fatal Purity, R. asks and answers his own rhetorical questions. "When will the people be educated? When they have enough bread to eat and when the rich and the government stop bribing treacherous pens and tongues to deceive them..." "When will this be? Never."

Without an independent Fourth Estate it sems unlikely, to me, that democracy can be viable. The MSM, as it is so innocuously called, is tightly controlled by a few corporations that are then controlled by a few very wealthy groups. In addition we have that modern form of propagandist so erroneously labeled the think tank.
Lots of thinking goes on behind those walls, but little of that is based upon demonstrable facts and it is
wholely an industry whose purpose is the dissemination of ideological screed.

Martin Langeland said...

Also a small sidelight: Many global corporations exceed the power of most countries. Despite the clerical error that allows them personhood, Corps differ from natural persons in that they exist for only one purpose: To maximize profit. Any other consideration is contrary to their governing law. Such monomania is difficult for ordinary scatter brained humans to argue with. Add the willingness of our species to argue against our long term interest for a modest short term gain. Finally add that we are both herd animals (as easily misled as led) and predators -- not an easy mix -- and our disadvantages overwhelm whether they are insurmountable or not.