Category Archive 'Nationalism'
17 Feb 2019
Matthew Continetti associates the rebirth of Socialism and Nationalism with the death of Christianity.
If the death of the socialist idea was the most important political event of the last century, then the rebirth of this ideal must rank high in significance in the current one. Just as nationalism has reasserted itself on the political right, socialism has grown in force on the left. In the twenty-first century the two ideologies are estranged and antagonistic twins, paired in Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The Democratic victory in 2018 has elevated socialism to a height it has not reached in the United States in more than a century. Only in recent weeks, however, have defenders of democratic capitalism become aware of how great the socialist challenge really is. Only now are we beginning to formulate a response.
Take your pick of the headlines. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most talked-about Democrat in the country. Her fellow member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Rashida Tlaib, opened the 116th Congress by saying, “Impeach the motherâ€”.” Their comrade Ilhan Omar apparently wants to offend every Jewish American by the end of her term. The Green New Deal, Medicare For All, eliminating employer-based health insurance, marginal tax rates of upwards of 70 to 90 percent, requiring corporations above a certain size to obtain a federal charter, the expropriation of wealth, heavy inheritance taxes, free college, universal basic income, abolish I.C.E., the anti-Semitism that has long been socialism’s fellow travelerâ€”what was once radical and marginal is now embraced and celebrated by a large and vocal part of the Democratic Party.
Why? The answer goes a long way toward explaining the resurgence of nationalism as well. In “Socialism: An Obituary for an Idea,” the essay quoted above, Kristol exhumed the ideology’s intellectual remains. He explained that the ideal of utopian socialism offered “elements that were wanting in capitalist societyâ€”elements indispensable for the preservation, not to say perfection, of our humanity.” Socialism supplied the values, aspirations, goals, mechanisms of meaning that democratic capitalism could not.
As Michael Novak observed in his 1982 masterpiece The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, what we call capitalism is really three systems in one. There is the economic system of entrepreneurship and free exchange. There is a moral-cultural system governing norms and behavior. And there is the political system of democratic pluralism and individual freedom. Socialism returns at times when the democratic capitalist trinity is out of whack, at places where the moral-cultural and political systems fail to provide answers that legitimize the economic system. Socialism is the attempt to derive from the political sphere the direction and purpose to human life that is the traditional province of morality and culture.
The separation of the moral and cultural from the political and economic was the crack in the foundation of democratic capitalism. “A society founded solely on â€˜individual rights,'” Kristol wrote, “was a society that ultimately deprived men of those virtues which could only exist in a political community which is something other than a â€˜society.’ Among these virtues are a sense of distributive justice, a fund of shared moral values, and a common vision of the good life sufficiently attractive and powerful to transcend the knowledge that each individual’s life ends only in death.”
Thus, if people do not see the fruits of the economic system as just, and if the moral-cultural system fails to satisfy people’s deepest longings, they will look increasingly to the political system to lessen the gale of creative destruction or to silence it altogether. The viability of democratic capitalism, then, depends on its moral and cultural character. “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and trust,” James Madison wrote in Federalist no. 55, “so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”
It was Kristol’s view that the founders of democratic capitalism simply assumed that such qualities would be always present. “Capitalist society itselfâ€”as projected, say, in the writings of John Locke and Adam Smithâ€”was negligent of such virtues,” he wrote.
It did not reject them and in no way scorned them, but simply assumed that the individual would be able to cope with this matter as he did with his other â€˜private’ affairs. This assumption, in turn, was possible only because the founders of capitalism took it for granted that the moral and spiritual heritage of Judaism and Christianity was unassailable, and that the new individualism of bourgeois society would not â€˜liberate’ the individual from this tradition. It might free him from a particular theology, or a particular church; but he would â€˜naturally’ rediscover for himself, within himself, those values previously associated with that theology or church.
Things did not work out as planned. The bourgeois values of honesty, fidelity, diligence, reticence, delayed gratification, and self-control that once reigned supreme have been contested for many decades by an ethic of self-expression, self-indulgence, instant gratification, and demanding the impossible. Our politics is a competition for control over what Michael Novak called the “empty shrine” at the center of pluralist democracy. The champions of Christianity and militant secularism, free speech and political correctness, meritocracy and diversity, the entrepreneurial instinct and an inflamed egalitarianism, and historical memory and limitless iconoclasm struggle for a dominance that is never fully attained.
Both the right and the left are uncomfortable with the democratic capitalist trinity. Both would rather have the empty shrine be replaced with something else. That is why you see laments for the loss of political community, as well as critiques of inequality, on both Fox News and MSNBC.
28 Jul 2017
Phantom accurately describes the process.
Imagine you lived your whole life in a quiet suburb that was just far enough away from the metro area where no one bothered you. Itâ€™s full of upper middle class homes, very low crime rate and youâ€™re generally afforded a peaceful life. You donâ€™t notice at first, but soon your way of life is getting chipped away at. The people from neighboring towns, whom you have no quarrel with and have rarely interacted with, start trash talking your town. Sure, you can ignore it. Maybe itâ€™s just petty jealousy and there is no advantage for you to get involved at all; let them say what they want.
As time goes on, the anger from the towns around you grows, the rhetoric gets dialed up and soon youâ€™re being painted as evil just for living in your town. People from the other towns start coming through your town, holding demonstrations and demanding that you apologize for being a resident of that town and demanding that you give in to other demands from the towns around you. They demand payouts from businesses who face boycotts if they donâ€™t relent. You find that youâ€™re just not as comfortable being out in public anymore because your quiet life has been disturbed. Even so, you tell yourself that if you keep your head down, this will all blow over because thereâ€™s nothing to it and youâ€™re not one of the bad guys. Youâ€™re not even sure who the bad guys are really supposed to be.
Youâ€™ve never had a reason to look down on the people from the towns around you. Youâ€™ve been more than content to let them leads the lives they see as most beneficial to them and you pay them no mind at all. You have no hatred or resentment, nor feelings or superiority either. But now youâ€™re being pushed. Youâ€™re being encroached on. Your way of life is threatened by people that have no business telling you how to live your life, but theyâ€™re doing it anyway. Theyâ€™ve painted you as a hater, a terrorist, and any other negative label they can pin on you. They get control of the media. They shame people relentlessly for not conforming to their way of doing things. At what point do you get fed up and start fighting back?
Welcome to identity politics in America. When your way of life and your culture comes under constant assault with no sign of relenting, you have to do something about it. You only have three choices: capitulate, fight back, or run and hide somewhere else and wait for it to catch up to you there.
Via: Vox Day.
27 Jun 2016
Megan McArdle tries to explain to the elites why Brexit won.
When asked “Where are you from?” almost no one would answer “Europe,” because after 50 years of assiduous labor by the eurocrats, Europe remains a continent, not an identity. As Matthew Yglesias points out, an EU-wide soccer team would be invincible — but who would root for it? These sorts of tribal affiliations cause problems, obviously, which is why elites were so eager to tamp them down. Unfortunately, they are also what glues polities together, and makes people willing to sacrifice for them. Trying to build the state without the nation has led to the mess that is the current EU. And to Thursday’s election results.
Elites missed this because they’re the exception — the one group that has a transnational identity. And in fact the arguments for the EU look a lot like the old arguments for national states: a project that will empower people like us against the scary people who arenâ€™t.
Unhappily for the elites, there is no â€œTransnationalprofessionalistanâ€ to which they can move. (And who would trim the hedges, make the widgets, and staff the nursing homes if there were?) They have to live in physical places, filled with other people whose loyalties are to a particular place and way of life, not an abstract ideal, or the joys of rootless cosmopolitanism.
Even simple self-interest suggests that it may be time for the elites in Britain and beyond to sue for peace, rather than letting their newborn transnational identity drive them into a war they canâ€™t win.
Read the whole thing.
28 Jun 2014
Jorge Luis Borges
Shaj Matthew, in the New Republic, explains why one of the last century’s greatest writers justly despised his own country’s national obsession.
Soccer is popular,â€ Jorge Luis Borges observed, â€œbecause stupidity is popular.â€
At first glance, the Argentine writerâ€™s animus toward “the beautiful game” seems to reflect the attitude of todayâ€™s typical soccer hater, whose lazy gibes have almost become a refrain by now: Soccer is boring. There are too many tie scores. I canâ€™t stand the fake injuries.
And itâ€™s true: Borges did call soccer â€œaesthetically ugly.â€ He did say, â€œSoccer is one of Englandâ€™s biggest crimes.â€ And apparently, he even scheduled one of his lectures so that it would intentionally conflict with Argentinaâ€™s first game of the 1978 World Cup. But Borgesâ€™ distaste for the sport stemmed from something far more troubling than aesthetics. His problem was with soccer fan culture, which he linked to the kind of blind popular support that propped up the leaders of the twentieth centuryâ€™s most horrifying political movements. In his lifetime, he saw elements of fascism, Peronism, and even anti-Semitism emerge in the Argentinean political sphere, so his intense suspicion of popular political movements and mass cultureâ€”the apogee of which, in Argentina, is soccerâ€”makes a lot of sense. (â€œThere is an idea of supremacy, of power, [in soccer] that seems horrible to me,â€ he once wrote.) Borges opposed dogmatism in any shape or form, so he was naturally suspicious of his countrymenâ€™s unqualified devotion to any doctrine or religionâ€”even to their dear albiceleste.
Soccer is inextricably tied to nationalism, another one of Borgesâ€™ objections to the sport. â€œNationalism only allows for affirmations, and every doctrine that discards doubt, negation, is a form of fanaticism and stupidity,â€ he said. National teams generate nationalistic fervor, creating the possibility for an unscrupulous government to use a star player as a mouthpiece to legitimize itself. In fact, thatâ€™s precisely what happened with one of the greatest players ever: PelÃ©. â€œEven as his government rounded up political dissidents, it also produced a giant poster of PelÃ© straining to head the ball through the goal, accompanied by the slogan NinguÃ©m mais segura este paÃs: Nobody can stop this country now,â€ writes Dave Zirin in his new book, Brazilâ€™s Dance with the Devil. Governments, such as the Brazilian military dictatorship that PelÃ© played under, can take advantage of the bond that fans share with their national teams to drum up popular support, and this is what Borges fearedâ€”and resentedâ€”about the sport.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to the Dish.
Borges, of course, was perfectly right.
Soccer is just the most popular commercial team game in the world outside the United States. All commercial team games are modern developments organized originally by carnival impresarios to separate the urban proletarian from his beer nickel. These teams and the games they play are totally and completely meaningless spectacles performed purely for commercial purposes. The teams’ regional identifications and mascots are utterly meaningless. Players come from anywhere. Teams may be sold and relocated, coaches and recognizable styles of play & performance may be routinely altered on the basis of owners’ whims at the any moment.
Commercial game teams stand for absolutely nothing, and fan identification and loyalty is, as Borges recognized, a kind of willful stupidity constituting an intentional surrender of self to a totally ersatz sort of group identity.
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