Monday, October 03, 2011

note taking. posted elsewhere. repeat arguments, here answering Corey Robin
The danger of revolution is that the moral logic -the sensibility- becomes self-sustaining through performative reinforcement. The dangers of reaction are the same. Ideology is armor, and you can think through ideology about as well as you can move around in a tin suit. Israel was founded by the victims of a crime but the former victims cannot fully conceive of themselves as victimizers. Zionism is illiberal by definition but “liberal Zionists” will brook no argument.

It would be helpful if educated liberals who are so fond of their capacity for reason would understand that the notion of the rule of law originates in a conservative fear of reason unmoored. It would also help if liberal academics (with the exception of law professors) understood how closely their claims for their own arguments track the those of legal conservatives regarding the Constitution. “My words will mean what I say they mean not what others interpret them as meaning. My writing will be interpreted as ‘dead’ ” to use Scalia’s terminology: outside of history, or historical change.

The rule of philosophers and technocrats is not democracy. It would help also if both modern liberals and conservatives understood that conservatism under the old regime was in origin, aristocratic, anti-materialist, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist. Burkeanism and market liberalism are opposed. Bourgeois liberals and bourgeois conservatives both ignore the fact that they’re bourgeois. Conservatives aren’t directly responsible for gentrification, which is best defined as the move of “adventurous” middle class liberals into working class neighborhoods, displacing members of the working class irrespective of politics.

Duncan Black (Atrios) specifically mocked the small town mythology of working class urban neighborhoods, and denies any responsibility for the transition of what was once a majority black neighborhood into a middle class majority white one. I suppose he reasons that words speak louder than actions, if they’re his. Brad DeLong argues that the urban non-rich should make do with tasteless cardboard tomatoes, (would he say the same about mediocre schools?) and at least one or two of the authors at Crooked Timber think governments should be allowed limits on freedom of speech. Are these arguments liberal? Were they liberal 30 years ago? Mike Konczal’s about page has him as “a former ‘financial engineer’” (or it did until recently). Marx would have fun with the title alone. But now he links to David Graeber.

Graeber’s focus is on the process of decision-making more than the result; on form not “content”. The rule of law is the rule of “due process”. Compared to the liberal focus on enlightened reason, Graeber’s arguments are conservative.

“The actual conservatives of the last 35 years in America were those individuals and movements and organizations that wanted to preserve the New Deal Order.”

Hofstadter is the precursor to DeLong as public intellectual: mid-century efficiency expert and neatnik as philosopher.

And again, as to the New Deal, both modern liberals and conservatives ignore that the biggest result was the economic unification of the country. Most modern conservatives are in favor of US economic dominance, and without Wickard v. Filburn and other decisions the US would not have become what it is. Similarly the civil rights cases had as much to do with economic efficiency, and liberal self-love, as concern. Read Derrick Bell’s dissent in What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said. Capitalism requires the collapse of public and private; private life has shrunk and continues to.

A mature politics deals in the conflict between desire and convention, freedom and responsibility. Law is convention, reason is colored always by desire. The civil rights movement was made up of socially conservative lower middle class african americans lead by their priests, not liberal or revolutionary upper middle class whites and their college professors.

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