Marxism

Wandering the Sea Of Fog Above Your Hotel Bed-Diminished Things: Theodore Dalrymple On Susan Sontag

From Fans Of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The White Race Is The Cancer Of The Human History.’

Susan Sontag couldn’t mean such nonsense, could she?

‘The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilisation has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions.’

Yes and no, probably.

Traversing the rocky outcrops of the postmodern landscape can lead to occasional outbursts of moral grandeur.  Beneath the fog, hilltops can present themselves as though all of ‘(H)istory’ is coming into view.

Bathing in the thermal pools of group identity, deep inside of this ritual or that, perhaps chanting ‘power-theories’ to feel some warmth and comfort; all may quiet the conscience for a time.

Sooner or later, though, action is required. The injustice becomes unbearable.  The Self lies suspended atop ‘(H)istory’ and the utopias to come under its oppressions.

What were once Romantic visions of grandeur high above the clouds (is that an old German castle?) were still available to some Modernists, but maybe even fewer postmodernists, yet.

Where are these things headed?

Addition: It would seem I can state the radical case well enough that actual radicals are mistaking this post for one of sympathy.

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Be careful where you put your Self, dear reader, as your moral sentiments, hope and despair will follow.

If I’m going to make an appeal to your Self, then at least let me do it in more pragmatic fashion, away from these many post-Enlightenment dead-ends and radical discontents.

Related On This Site:Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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. ‘

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

Shakedown, Breakdown, Takedown, Everybody Wants Into The Crowded Line

If you haven’t heard, open socialist Kshama Sawant (yes, really) of the Seattle Council Of Nine, desires Amazon and others pay at least $150 million dollars as part of a ‘head-tax’ to address the ‘homeless crisis’ in the city.  Four of her fellows agree.

‘They estimate the so-called “head tax” of about $500 per employee would apply to 500 to 600 companies and they are calling for it to be spent on low-income housing and emergency services for homeless people. The council has been planning to vote later this month.’

It’s just a start, mind you, phasing into a more permanent revolutionary revenue stream tax within a few years.

Amazon however, disagrees, and has halted construction on a downtown site in response (occupying something like 1/5 of premium office space in the city).

Long-story short:  Seattle is growing rapidly. The housing prices are through the roof.  Many arrivals are ambitious, skilled and entering the job market at the higher-end (Amazon works people pretty hard).  There are many other less-skilled people looking to gain skills and jobs.

Seattle is also attracting many mentally-ill, drug-addicted people into the city.  Many increasingly wander the streets and are encouraged to use public services and set-up tent cities alongside highways, taking-up settlement on public property (I’ll just link here as to final judgments about such matters…).

As for me: I’m currently [overhearing] a strategic political meet-up for the pro-head tax side in a coffee shop.  Here’s what I’m picking up:

  1. Their opponents are clearly ‘immoral.’
  2. Their opponents clearly have a lot of money, but they simply won’t cough it up and clearly don’t care.  In fact, their opponents are choosing to spend money to mobilize people against them unfairly (a lot of projection, that).  Did I mention ‘opponents?’   There’s a lot of ‘opponent’ talk.
  3. ‘Leverage’, ‘narrative’, press releases, ‘messaging’, mobilization, planned protests are all mentioned.  I infer a weakness in their position from their postures and subject matter. I’m thinking both realize this will take work.  Both lament the label ‘socialist.’  I check the latest news and see that iron-workers shouted Sawant down.
  4. As I suspect is the case with most coversations based upon shared principles, ideology and future planned action, there is a curious mix of praise and competitive false praise, familiarity and convenience.  There’s reinforcement of certain touchstones (class, industrialization, greed, the ‘industrial revolution’) and concrete action (Friday 5 pm, mayor’s office etc).

Having seen this a few times (my biases should be pretty clear :)):

Claim you have knowledge of how the world really is (usually some direct or warmed-over Marxism)–>

Claim that a better world is possible (utopia) through immediate political action–>

Claim that the ‘oppressor’ is responsible and blame the ‘oppressor’ for pretty much all injustices in life (filthy capitalist golden-geese like Amazon)–>

Claim anyone outside of your ideological lights is insufficiently ‘woke,’ falsely conscious, morally hollow and eventually either for or against you in supporting your conception of social justice–>

Organize protests/meetings/ to demonize and extract money, gaining political power while constantly projecting all of your intellectual/moral/ideological motives onto the ‘oppressor.’

We all need better advocates of liberty, and better ideas, than this.

Ah, Seattle:

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Fun fact: During times of stress, Josef Stalin is said to have marched his fingers just so across his desk, transgressing his own boundaries!

A Few Recycled Thoughts On That Sam Harris & Ezra Klein Debate-IQ Is Taboo

On the Sam Harris/Ezra Klein debate:

Why progressives pretty much can’t leave you alone: Progressive doctrines conflate moral and political reasoning in a way which is plainly troubling:  How to live and what to do become intimately united with immediate political action and coalition-building (forgetting, or perhaps never understanding, what politics can actually do and at what costs).

Within progressive ideologies, groups of individuals are conferred legitimacy only through group identity, upon which is conferred an almost mystical and totemic signifiance within a larger ideological framework (blacks under slavery, for example).  Only the group and members of the group possess knowledge and/or experience which only the group and its members can know.

Only other individuals validated as members of different identity groups (all united within the larger ‘woke’ progressive coalition), in turn, have access to the knowledge of fellow identity groups and their members, all of whom feel pressure to find solidarity in seeking social and political change against the ‘oppressor.’

The knowledge all supposedly possess is not only of how the world really is (all the injustices traced back to the ‘oppressor(s)’) but of how the world actually will be (partially due to epistemic roots in the Hegelian dialectic via Marx, a dialectic not only capable of viewing and knowing (H)istory from ‘no place’ but knowing how (H)istory will unfold).

Anything less than pursuing this utopia to come makes one a moral failure.

Despite Klein’s intelligence, his deeper ideological beliefs which he’s manifested into a profound sense of Self, converted into friendships, money, and political influence, all now work against his simply understanding the discussion Charles Murray and Sam Harris are trying to have.

I’m not holding my breath…

As posted:

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The discussion hinges on the idea of whether or not you and I are already free, and whether or not we somehow need liberating from something. The world and society are full of injustices, and discontents, and inequalities. Sure, we needed liberating from King George III for various reasons during our revolution, but not in the radical, ideological, rationalist sense (addition: a reader points out John Locke’s right of revolution…duly noted).

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Related On This Site: Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

One way out of multiculturalism and cultural relativism:

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

They’ve got to keep up with the times:A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art. The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…

Update & Repost-Theodore Dalrymple And Roger Scruton-Don’t Judge Me

Theodore Dalrymple: ‘On Sentimentality And Compassion

”The fiction that all people are equally deserving is a sentimental one. People congratulate themselves on their generosity and largeness of spirit for not making distinctions between the deserving and undeserving, for such distinctions imply a scale of values and all scales of values are in effect mere prejudice, usually of the well-placed in society. They – the distinctions – are a manifestation of complacency and imply a lack of sympathetic or empathetic understanding of a suffering person’s situation. Therefore it is best, intellectually and ethically, to abandon the distinctions altogether.’

And this is to say nothing of the competition and self-identifying that goes on once ‘who is the most compassionate?’ becomes the norm. We are all still creatures subject to vanity, pride and false pride, desirous of praise and respect. This can create a stultifying, tribal in-group/out-group atmosphere where no one is really aware of the moral judgments they’re already making/simply ignoring.

More Dalrymple:

‘Who, then, are ideologists? They are people needy of purpose in life, not in a mundane sense (earning enough to eat or to pay the mortgage, for example) but in the sense of transcendence of the personal, of reassurance that there is something more to existence than existence itself. The desire for transcendence does not occur to many people struggling for a livelihood. Avoiding material failure gives quite sufficient meaning to their lives. By contrast, ideologists have few fears about finding their daily bread. Their difficulty with life is less concrete. Their security gives them the leisure, their education the need, and no doubt their temperament the inclination, to find something above and beyond the flux of daily life.’


Working towards a theme: Politics tends to follow culture, but much culture seeps out of our institutions. And when our institutions charged with teaching what’s important to young people lose sight of certain kinds of judgment, ideology can seep in.

Roger Scruton focused on judgment, or the capacity for judgment attached to ‘I,’ and an ‘I’ which looks towards transcendence when it comes to teaching the humanities, rather than the ‘-isms‘ which have taken root:

‘Surely human beings can do better than this — by the pursuit of genuine scientific explanation on the one hand, and by the study of high culture on the other. A culture does not comprise works of art only, nor is it directed solely to aesthetic interests. It is the sphere of intrinsically interesting artifacts, linked by the faculty of judgment to our aspirations and ideals. We appreciate works of art, arguments, works of history and literature, manners, dress, jokes, and forms of behavior. And all these things are shaped through judgment. But what kind of judgment, and to what does that judgment lead?’

Here’s a quote from George Santayana:

“The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool.”

As Scruton has pointed out, people want to be a part of something, to have meaning and purpose and common lights. Certain ideologies often lead to darkness, as can abandoning your own moral judgment in favor of the compassion and sentiment of the moment.

What I ‘feel’ in the modern and postmodern transcendent quest for Self so often trumps what others feel and whether or not what one ‘feels’ is, in fact, true.

Humanities departments across the fruited plain can display this most openly, having lost a lot of whatever intellectual rigor and pedagogy they once had.  Unsurprisingly, many ideologues adept at colonizing low and mid-level administrative and bureaucratic functions have filled-in.

Of course, one’s own experiences, emotions, and ideas do matter.  In fact, they matter a lot.  Many young people, precisely at the moment of questioning the duties they might have to family, loved ones, friends and fellow citizens most deeply, can become plugged in to ideologies of radical change and ultimately some variant of Marxist revolution.  Here, individual duties, responsibilities and freedoms become secondary to a collectivist and authoritarian/totalitarian political project, which still leads to political dysfunction, utopian thinking, and much human misery.

Keep reading and thinking, indeed

‘Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades.
For ever and forever when I move.’

Does Nature need to lead, follow or get out of the way?  Can we know Nature’s Laws?

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason? Or:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant

Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Is there a move afoot in America away from religion, social conservatism, and toward morality via secular Enlightenment ideals…towards value-free relativism?  toward secular morality?:  Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’Repost-Steven Weinberg’s Essay ‘On God’ In The NY Times Review Of BooksRoger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’ …Will Wilkinson At Forbes: ‘The Social Animal by David Brooks: A Scornful Review’..

You Do That Taboo That You Do So Well?

This blog is still baffled by Angela Merkel’s decision to let in so many migrants in short-term, without seemingly having addressed many long-term immigration and integration issues.

What’s the plan, here, exactly?

‘Solomon Michalski loved going to his new school on a leafy Berlin street because it was vibrant and diverse, with most students from migrant families. But when the teenage grandson of Holocaust survivors let it slip that he was Jewish, former friends started hissing insults at him in class, he says. Last year some of them brandishing what looked like a gun took him aside and said they would execute him’

Perhaps there isn’t such a good plan, but this is the political will, expediency and leadership there is.

A good start for most media outlets might be just reporting the facts.  Letting the chips fall where they may; having the courage to discuss more sensitive matters in public forums is a balm desperately needed (plenty of crazies, idiots and ideologues all around…plenty of real elephants in the room).

Douglas Murray at the Spectator: ‘Why Can’t We Speak Plainly About Migrant Crime?:’

‘In Germany friends and readers describe to me how they are learning anew how to read their daily newspapers. When the news says that ‘A person was killed by another person’ for instance, and no names or other identifying characteristics are given, people guess – correctly – that the culprit is probably of migrant background. For the time-being serious crimes are still reported, but the decision has been taken that the public should not really be informed about them. Of course if you were to report them, or mull on them on social media then you would now risk losing that platform. So the media isn’t much use. And social media isn’t either.’

Typically, the kinds of failures we’re seeing means that deeper models are not robust! Many in the media, politics and academia are simply regurgitating parts of questionable models for as long as they will work, and for what they will cover.

There are deeper philosophical, ideological, political and thinking conflicts here, and few will be easily resolved.

It must be a strange time when self-described ‘libertarian Marxist’ Brendan O’Neill is advocating for the liberty of the man-on-the-street to live his own life.

He’s really bringing it to many nannying Eurocrats, techno-Davosians, the radically chic, the well-to-do daughters and sons of the liberal European Left claiming some variant of victimhood while up to their eyeballs in opportunity and material comforts.

This, as many populist responses fill the void:

Everyday people might be able to live their own lives!

But…to what end?  Revolutionary Praxis? A return to Marx?  A life well-lived?

It reminds this blog of Camille Paglia’s return to the promises of liberation baked-in into the radicalism of the 60’s (when she knew real Marxists just as she holds the academocrats who filled into their wake with contempt).  A welcome and bold voice, but…to which ends exactly?

Do you trust yourself enough not to know what could possibly be best for others, and thus default to basic liberty?

What about authority?

Do most people really just want to know where they stand in a hierarchy?

Arnold Kling reviews the late Kenneth Minogue’sThe Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes The Moral Life,‘ and finishes with:

‘Overall, I would say that for libertarians Minogue’s book provides a litmus test. If you find yourself in vigorous agreement with everything he says, then you probably see no value in efforts to work with progressives to promote libertarian causes. The left is simply too dedicated to projects that Minogue argues undermine individual moral responsibility, and thus they are antithetical to liberty. On the other hand, if you believe that Minogue is too pessimistic about the outlook for freedom in today’s society and too traditional in his outlook on moral responsibility, then you would feel even more uneasy about an alliance with conservatives than about an alliance with progressives.’

What can some moderns tell us?:

T.S. Eliot (Preludes: Stanza 3)

3.

You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.

On Marianne Moore at The New Criterion-‘Armored Animal:'(behind a paywall)

‘A first-time reader of Marianne Moore’s poems might be forgiven for thinking that they were dictated on the sly in some uproarious menagerie of the imagination.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Thank you for reading!

European Anti-Semitism, Marxism, Immigration And Bad Ideas

Via Mick Hartley.

Oliver Kamm:

‘Why would the leader of a mainstream political party declare that he is opposed to antisemitism? The answer, in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, is that otherwise it would be impossible to tell.’

Of course, NPR will tend to see ‘anti-semitism’ as a ‘far-right’ phenomenon and overlook how complicit naive idealism and authoritarian collectivisism can be in exacerbating the problem.

Let’s not forget that greasing many a cog, found grinding within many a big-city American political machine (exiquisitely corrupt), can be found similar activism.

My two cents:  Fashioning the same, tired ideas into a political platform and leading many of the same ‘People’ ritualistically against the world that is (the oppressor’s world), misunderstands much of human nature and much of what is politically possible.

Merely subjecting one’s Self to the continually fresh challenges and foibles of political leadership doesn’t necessarily legitimate bad ideas.

Labeling all individuals as either ‘racist’ or not, ‘misogynist’ or not, ‘Islamophobic’ or not, is serious mislabeling.

This can expose, sooner or later, genuine ‘minorities’ (definitional) living in plain sight to many of the abuses and legitimate fears minorities tend to face pretty much all the time and in all places.

The divisions within the human heart towards the known, familiar and comfortable tend to re-assert themselves, sooner or later.

Hopefully, this occurs magnanimously and within families, as part of institutional best practices and under laws which leave individuals free to practice charity, prudence and reasonable judgment where possible.  A solid friendship can weather much more than yet another political crusade.

The more institutions and laws with power to govern your family become governed by radicals and utopians, the weaker those institutions and more badly written the laws tend to become.  Unsurprisingly, this bodes ill for many families.

How is ‘Europe’ going to handle these problems?:

Update And Repost: From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Are we back to a clash of civilizations…or are there are other options: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’ …

Thank You Bernard Henri-Levy: The End Of Victimhood & Identity Politics

Tom Wolfe wrote about the Black Panthers showing up at Leonard Bernstein’s place: Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s.

Alberto Nisman, The ‘Global Community’ & Anti-Semitism in Europe-Some Links & Thoughts

Looking For Liberals In The Postmodern Wilderness-Jordan Peterson & Stephen Hicks

Alas, the mildly ambitious knowledge, hobby, and vanity project that it is this blog continues (it takes a LOT to listen, watch and paste a link to a Youtube video):

Jordan Peterson and Stephen Hicks.  Recommeded:

Mentioned: Immanuel Kant and his transcendental idealism, Noam Chomsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Jacques Derrida, the American Pragmatic tradition and more.

Also from Dr. Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’

More On Nietzsche’s influence-Part of Bryan Magee’s series:

Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic Greek (the beginning of the end).

Quote found here at friesian.com (recovering Kantian idealism and moving in a libertarian direction):

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellctual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

Roger Scruton was cast out of polite society just for trying to provide some context and pushback:

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy.

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom:Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?: From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…

Competing Visions-Via Spiked Via A Reader: Fred Siegel On ‘The Revolt Against The Masses’

Maybe a lot of people just want to earn a living, spending some time with their families on the weekends, trying to live decent lives in decent towns.

Despite a profound American idealism arguably calling Americans away from such a life and towards something higher at various times (an idealism I’d argue which manifests across the political spectrum), perhaps many people simply can’t tolerate such a vision being at the center of American civic and political life.

Fred Siegel identifies many such people as ‘liberal elites,’ and from H.L. Mencken on, they have been pretty successful in transforming American civic and political life in their image.

Most recently on such a view:

‘Something happens in the 1990s. The elites of Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles meld together. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Washington and Wall Street all come together, and for the first time you have something like the British establishment. The British establishment could organise itself more easily because it was centred on London. For decades the American elite was divided among different coastal cities, plus the ‘third coast’ of Chicago, and it wasn’t until space collapses due to technology that you have the creation of this unified American elite. That unified elite is overwhelmingly liberal. Three hundred people who work for Google were part of the Obama administration at one time or another.’

As posted: Siegel, at The New Criterion, takes a look at the influence of German thought on American politics and populism, from Nietzsche via H.L Mencken, to the Frankfurt School, to Richard Hofstader via Paul Krugman:

Populism, IV: The German victory over American populism

He puts forth the idea that the German influence has eroded something significant about American popular thought, leading to his analysis of our current politics:

Obama was ‘post-Constitutional,’ and Trump is the post Tea-Party, post Anglo-egalitarian populist response:

‘The Germans have won: Mencken and the Frankfurt School each in their own way have displaced civic egalitarianism. Their disdain has become commonplace among upper-middle- class liberals. This might not have produced the current nausea if the pretensions of our professionals were matched by their managerial competence. It isn’t, and the German victory is moving us towards a soft civil war.’

Nein!

Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking

One More Revolution-Venezuela, New Yorkers, And Visions Of Ideal Societies

Alas, the New Yorker is having to come to terms with the mess in Venezuela…:

Sometimes I find myself wondering how the mission of supporting the arts and experimental literature got mixed-up with such political ideas over at the New Yorker (well-educated readers, aesthetes, writers, cultural critics etc) who seem to be viewing the failures of Venezuela from a very foggy Overton window indeed.

Part of this is due to the institutionalization and white-washing of the activities of many radicals and would-be radicals, revolutionaries and would-be revolutionaries from the late 60’s onwards here in the U.S.  Organizations like the Weathermen talked something of a game:  Appealing to the injustice of the draft while protesting the Vietnam War and aiming for ‘pure’ majoritarian democracy, but such appeals couldn’t mask the necessity of making criminal political bedfellows, spouting violent rhetoric and even devolving into terrorism and murder in the name of their ideas.

Okay, maybe it’s pretty simple…:

Here’s one senior New Yorker editor, Hendrik Hertzberg, discussing years ago how to abolish the Electoral College, arrive at a National Vote (to better serve the People, of course) and enact ‘democratic change.’

This strikes me as in-line with much Left and Left-liberal majoritarian populism. activism and softly (ultimately hard) radical change.

More on Venezuela:

Thanks to the New Criterion, they’ve recycled an Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) review of two books on the subject:

Man is born rich, but almost everywhere is poor:’

A response to one of my comments found on Alexandria, where I used to blog, on Hugo Chavez:

‘Chavez is actually not an orthodox Marxist in the sense that Marx would have recognized (which was why I linked to the sort of Marxist ‘prophecy’ of people like Chavez from the ‘Eighteenth Brumaire’). Chavez is more along the lines of what traditional Marxists referred to as ‘Bonapartist’ (borrowing from the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte). The whole theory on which Chavez based his political life was that the working class (or what passed for it, in a country like Venezuela) *could not* make a revolution on its own, and that someone else (the military and the Socialist Party, led by him) needed to make the revolution for them. For the very reasons that Bourdieu and Marx hint at in the quotations above. A ‘revolution from above’, in other words.

Where Chavez (and a number of other left-wing Latin American strongmen over the last century) departed radically from orthodox Marxist theory, is that Marx saw Bonapartism as essentially a conservative (thought not a bourgeois) strategy, by which military cliques delude the poor into supporting them, by promising to protect them against the bourgeoisie, and using paternalistic rhetoric. Chavez is, of course, a man of the left, as was his political inspiration, the mid-20th century Peruvian leader General Velasco. Marx seems to have been wrong about ‘revolutions from above’: sometimes they can be genuinely left-wing, and in a lot of cases (including Venezuela) they’re the only serious left-wing option on offer.’

Christopher Hitchens at Slate-Hugo Boss:

‘The boss loves to talk and has clocked up speeches of Castro-like length. Bolívar is the theme of which he never tires. His early uniformed movement of mutineers—which failed to bring off a military coup in 1992—was named for Bolívar.’

If we’re going to have a chattering class of middlebrow know-nothings, can we at least ask they know the right somethings?:

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It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

Some Brits Have Much To Teach Us About The Weight Of European History, Radical Ideology, And Speaking Their Minds

Roger Scruton on creating museums to the failures of Marxism, much as we do other forms of fascism:

‘One thing we should surely learn from the Russian revolution is that resentment is always on the lookout for the theories that will justify it. And the lesson that bore in on me in vivid and unforgettable ways during my own journeys behind the Iron Curtain, is that resentment, when it finally takes power, spells the death of politics. The real purpose of politics is not to express resentment but to contain and conciliate it.’

A lot of people in positions of authority outside the West (Russia, China, Venezuela, North Korea, Vietnam etc.) are wedded to institutional structures forged out of the very same ideology.  Their interests don’t necessarily align with ours, and these institutions and are often used to undermine U.S. interests and do harm (for a lot of other reasons as well).

It’s often very idealistic and utopian Westerners (some deeply resentful, indeed) who insist on bending Western interests ONLY towards global institutions.  Presumably, they have access to universal ideals which will benevolently guide their behavior and the institutions they design towards some promised future, which has yet to materialize (there certainly are design, incentive, and capture problems at the U.N.).

A lot of people in the West are wedded to the doctrines of revolutionary praxis, too.  There are real radicals out there and religious institutions, deeper legal and cultural traditions, universities, the family, the military etc. are looked on from this point of view as antiquated and cloying at best, oppressive and evil at worst.

All of the above deserve to be battered, destroyed, or co-opted according to followers of radical doctrines, and many liberal idealists are quite unwilling to challenge such radicals beneath them.

It may be a bumpy ride yet.

As posted:

Via ‘A Dose Of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The Socialist Wasteland

Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs:

  • It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
  • It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
  • It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
  • It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
  • It explains everything.
  • It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.’

Aside from the radical doctrines, it’s apparent that many in the West have placed their hopes and aspirations into various flavors of political idealism. Man’s nature is assumed to be fundamentally good, for the most part, merely in need of liberation from previous traditions, injustices and illegitimate claims to authority.

Karl Popper on why you never go full socialist:

…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

The below links are to whom I’m indebted in cobbling such posts together on alas…a blog:

-Thomas Sowell discusses his constrained/unconstrained formulation from a Conflict Of Visions.

William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss Ideology…as thorough an exploration of ideology and doctrines of radical liberation as I’ve come across.

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism  more broadly: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”