Skip to main content

“Against Responsibility”

There is an interesting historical narrative starting to be told about the political context in which I grew up in. I remember the period well, as I first starting following politics during this time. I ordered Cooper’s book based on the superb outline in this review. Davies gets to the heart of it when he says,

“What is brilliant and original in Cooper’s analysis is her demonstration that there are clear continuities between traditional forms of moral accountability (to parents, children, husbands, the church) and entirely new ones (intrusive systems of welfare reform, new forms of student and consumer credit). She suggests, for example, that gay marriage could only be introduced thanks to the demand for equality not in cultural or political status but for equal rights under inheritance law. What unites neoliberal and neoconservative mentalities is an insistence on personal bonds of one kind or another, whether financial, familial or some combination of the two. In the panic surrounding the libidinous insurrections of the 1960s, some form of superego had to be revived or reconstructed if an inflationary counterculture nightmare was to be averted.”

This romance between the neoliberals and neoconservatives is notable because before this alliance there was a period where, at least to many social conservatives, the neoliberals where effectively part of the counterculture. (The marriage between Bill and Hillary Clinton seems to be a perfect analogy for this. A former Goldwater girl meets an ideologically malleable “hippie” who is only as smart as the last book he read.) 

While the results of this alliance are well known, there is an interesting aside I’m hoping the book might take on a bit. What about the relationship between the New Left and the neoliberals? We could probably say society has become far more progressive culturally because of the neoliberals more than those who remained on the left. The cultural turn of the New Left was such a heated debate internally because, as the adage goes, so little was at stake. The left was already effectively powerless. 

This pretty well brings us to where we are today. Right now, for the most part, the radical left is not differentiated by its economics. Indeed, any stray from economic orthodoxy is typically associated with the “populist” right (e.g., Brexit, Trump tariffs). The radical left, in the minds of much of the populous, is differentiated by being more radical than the neoliberal establishment when it comes to cultural demands. Outflanked and overpowered on economics, the left distances itself from established structures the only way it has had (or at least thinks it’s had) past successes. (Here again I think of the Clintons. Hillary Clinton can have some over-educated staffer tweet out her 401-k plan for social justice, ripe with all the Twitter-woke keywords like “intersectionality,” and people forget the Clintons had unpaid black inmates doing household chores around the governor’s mansion in Arkansas. Yes, you read right, the Clinton’s had slaves courtesy of the Arkansas penal system. How’s that for tradition!) 

None of this is to say there’s a sort of cut and dry version of history. Often cultural and economic issues overlap, and one is not necessarily more important than the other. I also think that while there is something to this notion our current hyper-focus on cultural alienates parts of the working class and spurs a right wing backlash (I’ve worked in manufacturing for nearly 20 years if you want anecdotes), it’s also true the left has suffered from reluctantly defending tax and spend liberalism and nanny state “nudging” as a least worst option. 

One great thing about getting older is reflecting on histories you actually remember. One not so great thing is remembering how cyclical these debates on the margins are. It’s nothing less than a miracle people like Bernie Sanders have been able to stay consistent for so long. 


Popular posts from this blog

Someone get the CDC a thesaurus! I feel like this may be one of those stories that is quietly walked back in a week or so. Government bureaucracies are nothing if not committed to absolutely staying the same, and they can get around a word ban with little change in intent. Trump is hilariously committed to breaking brains of the liberal pundit class and his half-wit base loves it. It’s really all he has, as he hasn’t been able to get much else done. (Please don’t remind me of the tax bill that is all but certain to become law.)

The Piss Test

I find some perverse solace in knowing someone has to handle my piss, right there in front of me, in order to tell if I've been a good clean boy, or whether I've been dirty and bad. I hope there's at least a brief moment of " good god, what the fuck am I doing" (now she's tipping the capped piss container on its side in order to write something I assume is highly technical medical jargon on it.) Is it warm enough? Like baby formula, you have to warm up fake piss in the microwave before you can pass it off as your own. (The microwave wattage is important. I don't think altitude matters though.) I don't even know of any gods who care about piss temperature.  I know it's not her fault. It's a job. But holding piss, even if you label it a "specimen," is still a depressing way to sustenance. It's only slightly better than being a bill collector, a stock broker, or the President. We do share a bond. An unspoken understan
  I voted for Joe Biden and hope he wins. I’m also alarmed at the increasingly transparent alliance between the Democratic Party and influential sectors of corporate America, namely media conglomerates and the technology industry. (Their relationship reminds me of the Republican Party and the energy industry.) It’s true there are conservative media outlets that are not friendly to Democrats, but it’s far less certain how objective the “paper of record” and other “serious” media would be to a post-Trump and post-COVID Biden administration that is politically and ascetically their peer. (I would say we are at a point of competing Pravdas, but that would be a slander against the Soviet newspaper’s pre-Stalinist period when it was a battleground of ideas.) Perhaps even more damning is the Democratic Party’s relationship to the technology industry, particularly when companies like Twitter and Facebook have shown they are prepared to unilaterally decide what’s true and what’s false. Not many