Celebrated American playwright David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago. In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some. At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.
Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:
-Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough. He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles. Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered). I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.
Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion. Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.
***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies. See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.
-Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican. There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left. There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).
Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature. This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves). As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.
I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed). I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.
-Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor. If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show. Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.
Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.
Anyways, this is just a brief summary. Any thoughts or comments are welcome.
Feel free to highlight my ignorance.
Christopher Hitchens referenced Hayek’s work in reviewing Mamet’s book. For Hitchens it seems, Mamet was adopting the grim literalism of religious texts without a richness of irony vital to the Western tradition (Hitchens cites Hegel). He also charges Mamet with taking-up his new political commitments with the zeal and ignorance of the newly converted.
‘I have no difficulty in understanding why it is that former liberals and radicals become exasperated with the pieties of the left. I have taught at Berkeley and the New School, and I know what Mamet is on about when he evokes the dull atmosphere of campus correctness. Once or twice, as when he attacks feminists for their silence on Bill Clinton’s sleazy sex life, or points out how sinister it is that we use the word “czar” as a positive term for a political problem-solver, he is unquestionably right, or at least making a solid case. But then he writes: “The BP gulf oil leak . . . was bad. The leak of thousands of classified military documents by Julian Assange on WikiLeaks was good. Why?” This is merely lame…,’
So, why is Hollywood so reliably liberal on so many issues?:
Related On This Site: Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue
Taking religion out of the laws, and replacing it with a Millian/Aristelolian framework?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder……From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum
People are using art for political, religious, commercial and ideological reasons as always…right or left…believer or non-believer…Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics…From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’
Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?: Brasilia: A Planned City…And Aesthetics…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?
Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza… A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’
From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics…
Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?: From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …
How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?…Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’