What struck me most is that Mill applies highly rational thinking to liberal principles. This seems strange in light of our current two-party split, where liberalism is too readily associated with “feeling.” It’s odd to think that of the two men, Carlyle (who grew more conservative) is the more choleric, intuitive, and less rational in many ways, and Mill the more tempered, logical and rational.
I could be persuaded that investigation into liberal, rational principles wouldn’t hurt right now, and of course, I’m not the first nor last to think such thoughts.
See Also: Christopher Hitchens’ long arc from committed Trotskyite to anti-religious atheist…but maybe what I’m noticing here is that habit and one’s relation to the passions (artististic or otherwise) die hard. I was glad that the Independent noticed it too.
My belated condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Roger Sandall, who passed away on August 11th, 2012. He was an Australian thinker and critic of cultural relativism, romantic-primitivism and the Noble Savage. He was a keen observer of the ways in which certain strains of Western thought interact with the non-Western, and often, tribal worlds.
‘President Obama delivered a stern rebuke to the media, for their role in the 2016 campaign and, as he sees it, not holding candidates accountable for “unworkable plans.”
‘Unworkable plans,’ you say?
Perhaps NPR is being a little skeptical of the current administration’s words and deeds, despite being apparently sympathetic to many of his ideals and principles.
Either way, we can probably all agree the political and media scenes are quite the clusterf**k right now.
NPR in my experience (it’s usually 1968 and should you read this you are a devoted reader indeed): Notions of radical & revolutionary freedom, the stuff often pushed by the harder Left (with generally authoritarian and totalitarian consequences), doesn’t tend to make NPR prime-time, but the showcasing of activist concerns and the consultation of ‘experts’ is quite common.
Sometimes, these experts are folks in the sciences going where the math and data lead, people well-aware of the limits and depths of their work and who don’t mind speaking to a broader public. Science can be fascinating, after all.
Other times, social-scientists are consulted: People who often consider themselves adding to a body of knowledge capable of improving society/humanity/the public. Though, to be fair, these are people who often follow the data where it leads, too, just with less math.
Different fields in the social sciences have differing levels of empirical rigor, and different people in the social sciences have differing levels of personal/professional achievement and investment in any sort of policy recommendations favorable to NPR. Generally, though, the leap from the social sciences to public policy, law, politics (actually shaping lives) tends to be a less of a leap to make.
***Various and sundry other guests on NPR often have achieved some success in music, the arts, or pop-culture, but to my mind, a certain framework is often followed: They were less free and less wise (due to religious belief, ‘patriarchy’, tradition, etc) and are now more free (less religious, less ‘patriarchal,’ less traditional).
Maybe they’re playing a concert for equality and/or peace. Maybe they’ve just gotten back from a secular mission in the Global Village. Perhaps they’ve finished a book containing a rather clear feminist, environmental, or civil-rights theme.
It’s not race, but class!
More freedom, equality and solidarity are next, you know.
‘Both of these errors derive from a false analogy between the humanities and the sciences. Humanistic thinking does not proceed by experiments that yield results; it is a matter of mental experiences, provoked by works of art and history, that expand the range of one’s understanding and sympathy.’
‘Albert Speer (1905–1981) was born in Mannheim, Germany, the son and grandson of architects. Pushed by his father to study architecture, he studied first in Karlsruhe, then Munich, but he only became serious after he transferred to Berlin. There he applied to study with Hans Poelzig, the brilliant expressionist architect of Weimar Germany, who rejected Speer as an inferior draftsman. Disappointed, he turned to the man who was Poelzig’s polar opposite, Heinrich Tessenow, a reform-minded architect with a love of simple, clear volumes and neoclassical clarity—the ultimate basis of Nazi architecture. Speer, who all his life knew how to ingratiate himself, sufficiently impressed Tessenow to become his teaching assistant.’
From the looks of it, there’s some serious neo-classicism going on; deep Greco-Roman influence.
The thing likely would have been built if it weren’t for WWII:
So, what about neo-classicism mixed with ‘technocratic utopianism,’ or the rather suspicious desire to centrally plan, control, and organize everyone’s lives on the way the Glorious Future?:
Robert Hughes saw echoes of this technocratic modern utopianism in Albany, New York. It really may not be that far from Mussolini to the bland bureaucratic corporatism found elsewhere in the West:
‘…classicism with a pastry-cutter,’
And as for the fascists having:
‘…a jackboot in either camp, one in the myth of ancient Rome, one in the vision of a technocratic future.‘
‘The real feat achieved by Gropius and his cohorts was to have recognized and exposed the sociopolitical and moral power of architecture and design. They wanted to exert “effective influence” on “general conditions,” fashion a more just world and turn all of this into a “vital concern of the entire people.”‘
I’m always a little skeptical of such grand visions. Utopianism runs deep.
What if there was a Wisconsin motor court/supper club with global ambitions? What if you fused a local motel with the U.N. internationalist style, you ask?
After taking the photo tour, I remain convinced that ‘The Gobbler’ exists in its own realm of awesome badness. Such a shag-covered, abandoned love-child of the late 60′s and early 70′s is challenging just what I thought I knew about American culture.
Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:
‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’
In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage. Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos. You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.
~20 minutes (Hitchens was often engaged with many people on the ground in the places about which he speaks, and while there’s some anti-establishment, post-Trotskyite hyperbole at the beginning, he gets rolling).
Found in some quarters of Europe: The desire for cheap labor + lower birth rates + more stratified, ethnically based societies + larger Welfare States and slower growth economies + Muslim immigrants often living as ‘European-Muslims’ in poorer enclaves + continued conflicts between the post-Enlightenment West and Islam over a longer period of time.
These factors and more = a population of radicalizing home-growns, unifying with various groups across the Muslim world, in both ideology and practice. In this case, with IS and its operational theater.
There don’t seem to be many immediate plans to question the ideals around which many Europeans are uniting, nor the basic apparent failures of the political leadership to address these problems.
Reasonable people can conclude: A more practical balance of security/freedoms, political courage, and more competent management of the realities of Muslim conflict, economic migration and social integration is not forthcoming.
‘It is so simple: A woman with a mattress, refusing to keep her violation private, carrying with her a stark reminder of where it took place. The work Ms. Sulkowicz is making is strict and lean, yet inclusive and open ended, symbolically laden yet drastically physical. All of this determines its striking quality as art, which in turn contributes substantially to its effectiveness as protest.’
It’s good to know her parents stood by her (something here is…wrong), if only for a while.
Add your own:
-Disturbing levels of narcissicism and a questionable relationship with the truth-√
-Making a sad spectacle of yourself and a mockery of normal, healthy relationships-√
-Making life potentially more difficult for actual rape victims-√
-Making life potentially more difficult for those unjustly accused of rape, likely including the accused-√
-Making the graduation of many other students about you-√
-Likely creating more incentives for legal and moral intrusion into all of our personal lives by eroding the distance between private/public-√
-Undermining even the credibility of other purveyors of bad art, emotion and ideology by likely lying about what happened-√
-Likely creating less respect for art in general-√
-Likely creating less respect for other postmodern performance artists, who are just trying to make a buck with their unmade beds–√
Thanks for the memories, Mattress Girl:
‘I do think that nowadays, art pieces can include whatever the artist desires, and in this performance art piece, it utilizes elements of protest, because that is what’s relevant to my life right now.’
Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.
Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.
Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.
Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.
What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.
Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.
Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.
An interesting discussion, in which the empirical research of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.
Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working. Check out his series at The American Interest. Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs. Even so, we can’t cling to the past. This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly.
Is modern democracy the best form of government, and if so, how did we get here? Who is ‘we’ exactly? All of Europe and the U.S.?
How do we really know that we are progressing toward some telos, or evolving our modern democracy to some point outside ourselves, and that the rest of the world ought to be doing the same?
Via Hegel, Marx and Darwin?
‘Fukuyama believes democracy is the only system of government with a long-term future, a familiar idea emerges: as societies become more prosperous, the growing global middle class will demand more political freedom and governmental accountability. Effectively a restatement of Marx’s account of the historical role of the bourgeoisie, it is an idea we have all heard many, many times before. In fact the political record of the middle classes is decidedly mixed.’
‘While the book contains some useful insights, at the most fundamental level Political Order and Political Decay remains a morass of intellectual confusion and category mistakes. Slipping insensibly from arguments about the ethical standards by which governments are to be judged to speculative claims about the moving forces of modern history, Fukuyama blurs facts, values and theories into a dense neo-Hegelian fog. Liberal democracy may be in some sense universally desirable, as he maintains. That does not mean it will always be popular, still less that it is the normal destination of modern development.’
But he does acknowledge the following, which I’ve found reading Fukuyama, is that I come away enriched in many ways:
‘In some ways Political Order and Political Decay may be Fukuyama’s most impressive work to date. The upshot of his argument is that functioning democracy is impossible wherever an effective modern state is lacking. Since fractured and failed states are embedded in many parts of the world, the unavoidable implication is that hundreds of millions or billions of people will live without democracy for the foreseeable future.’
This blog much values Gray’s thinking as he upsets the apple-cart of many an assumption found in the modern West. If you’ve ever gazed upon the secular liberal political establishment, witnessing the gap between its ideals and daily operation, its claimed moral supremacy along with a lot of foreseeable moralism and bureaucratic bloat, then you might have some sympathy for such thinking.
As previously posted:
Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:
‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.
Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘
and about providing a core to liberalism:
‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’
And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:
‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘
Are libertarians the true classical liberals? Much closer to our founding fathers?
Has John Gray turned away from value pluralism into a kind of ‘godless mysticism?’
Here’s Fukuyama summing up his book for an audience:
Kaplan, two years ago, as to claims of Obama’s foreign policy realism:
‘This leads to Obama’s fundamental problem. Actually he is not a realist, at least not in the vein of a Henry Kissinger, James Baker or Brent Scowcroft. Yes, Obama understands restraint. He rushes in with drones and advisers rather than with ground troops. But that is only the beginning of realism, not its culmination. Realism, when it works well, requires patriotism. It requires a profound loyalty to the patria — a specific geographical ground and its storied history, which the realist feels deeply in his bones — and whose basic interest is then pursued by the realist, often very aggressively. Baker and Scowcroft had this, and Kissinger, while an immigrant, had it as well. They all probably would have negotiated with Iran rather than pursue a military strike — but they also would have applied brinksmanship and other means to prevent being taken to the cleaners by the Iranians.’
Well, I suspect Obama is loyal, but to Civil Rights activism and various forms of progressive and Left-liberal ideals first and foremost…
I’ve been referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be. In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.