Monday, September 3, 2012

The Left is Not Dead

It's easy to imagine that the left is dead, unable to produce an account of the world that even begins to pass the laugh test.  Here is Michael Ledeen writing about an Italian lefty that got religion.
I have a good friend, an Italian who lives in Milano, who for a while was the head of the youth organization of the Italian Communist Party. One day he was walking across one of the major Milanese piazzas, and had an epiphany, which he later described very simply. “I shouted, ‘There is no working class!’”
There is no doubt that there was a time when an identifiable working class existed, but the world changes, according to Hegel, and so people must update their thinking. Only,
there are plenty of people who can’t update their thinking. They’re easy to recognize, because they write and talk about a world that no longer exists. The easiest places to find them in contemporary America are Hollywood, college campuses, and the Obama administration with its attendant satellites, the dead tree media and the Democrat Party. Their common bond is anger and frustration; frustration because they can’t understand what’s going on, and anger because their remedies for contemporary problems do not come to grips with the essence of the problems.
And so, Ledeen writes, the "left has ceased to exist as an intellectual force worth taking seriously."

That's interesting to me, because the subtext of my forthcoming book "An American Manifesto" is that we conservatives ought to take leftist thought more seriously, that we ought to get familiar with it, and understand what it is trying to say.  Here is a quick review of the best in leftist thought.

In The Dialectic of Enlightenment Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno unpack the idea of "enlightenment" and decide that it is all about domination, the domination of nature and other men.  In The Theory of Communicative Action Juergen Habermas develops the idea of the systems world of instrumental reason, the world of capitalism and bureaucracy, and the "lifeworld" where people exist not by systemic rules but by language, persuasion, and consensus.

Then there is the lefty trilogy by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: Empire, followed by Multitude and Commonwealth.  It is a noble attempt to resurrect the Marxian idea, the Exploitation narrative, for the 21st century.  Instead of the bourgeoisie, we have "Empire," the global cabal of national political powers and global corporations.  They call this phenomenon "Biopower".  Instead of the working class, they propose "Multitude."  The Multitude represents groupings of singularities in the world of work, no longer the "habit" of work in mass-production factories and offices, but becoming a culture of "performance" in creative occupations and productions of "affect".  The new multitude calls for a new "life in common".

Could this new form of social life use constitutional means to "establish a democracy from below of free men and women" they ask?  Unfortunately not, for the Multitude will realize itself in a spasm of revolution, a moment of "Kairos", the "moment when a decision of action is made".

Assuredly, the left is not dead.  It has plenty of ideas that take for granted the Exploitation narrative, and call for revolution to bring on the millennium of peace and justice.  And conservatives all across the world will have to fight their ideas and their eternal lust for political power and street action.

As long as there is government there will be exploitation and injustice.  Government is force, and force is unjust.  These days the problem is the huge and unjust power of the global educated elite that has tricked the Multitude into exchanging its birthright for a mess of pottage.  The question for the future is whether conservatives can persuade the Multitude that the problem is the educated elite, or whether chaps like President Obama can persuade the Multitude that the problem is chaps like Mitt Romney and  companies like Bain Capital.

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