Thursday, September 17, 2015

I should have included the source.

Bertram: Why Corbyn won, the Peter Mair explanation
Over at the Monkey Cage, our very own Henry Farrell sets out how Peter Mair’s brilliant Ruling the Void helps explain Corbyn’s recent triumph. A shout-out too for my friend Martin O’Neill’s treatment of Corbyn’s victory at Al Jazeera
Two very different treatments of the same questions.


Technocratic elites and the pretense of epistocracy.

Farrell at the Monkey Cage. My comment is sloppy.
"Mair’s book is a study of European political parties — and how they no longer play the role that they are supposed to.
...European political elites — the people who really make decisions — are finding that they don’t really need the party rank and file"

Farrell is a political scientist who refers to a book by another political scientist that quotes a third, all of them describing a process that's been pretty obvious for a long time.  To top it off the article and the book and the quote exemplify the logic and practice of "epistocracy". It's more than a bit absurd for self-described experts who have a professional disdain for democratic politics to point out that elected leaders share their disdain. I'm more interested in how that disdain came to be.  We live in a time of anti-democratic elites.
Oh, for a political history of political science.

What are we to make of philosophers such as David Estlund who want to make "truth safe for democracy” or "to put democratic convictions on more secure footing."  What are we to make of the fact that Rawslian "public reason" follows the logic of what Kant called "private reason"?  All of this is possible only because of the rise of liberalism, over republicanism. Republicanism is not individualistic, but individualism is the sine qua non of modern liberalism.

Farrell used to be fond of libertarianism, but he seems to have outgrown it. He hasn't outgrown his sense of his own superiority. But there's no way to resolve the contradictions between his claim of support for democracy and his anti-democratic sensibility. As I've tried to point to him over the years, technocracy is not democracy.

The reason for democracy, contra all of the arguments above, is that truth is never on a secure footing; epistocracy is not possible.  But that doesn't stop the Weberian elite, elected and unelected, from pretending otherwise, in the name of "science" and self-interest.
Farrell, the unctuous passivity of a condescending priest.
If Mair is right — and parties have become increasingly disconnected from their base of support — then Corbyn’s election may be seen as a way of trying to revitalize this connection. The problem is twofold. It isn’t clear that the base for mass parties is there as it used to be, but it is is clear that the elites whom parties have come to depend on like the system the way that it is, and have resources that they will use to protect it. Corbyn likely isn’t the leader that the Labour left would have chosen, if it had thought it had a real prospect of success (and indeed he was in part chosen by the people who now oppose him). More importantly, perhaps, it’s not clear that the social and political conditions which once allowed people like Corbyn to succeed are there any more.
He didn't predict the Arab spring and he hasn't had a goddamned thing to say about it. Israel ditto. Politics is advocacy and prudence. If disinterest were the only model we wouldn't need lawyers.

Leiter quotes himself on "The Death of God and the Death of Morality"
Consider the Nietzschean Trolley Problem (apologies for anachronism): a runaway trolley is hurtling down the tracks towards Beethoven, before he has even written the Eroica symphony; by throwing a switch, you can divert the trolley so that it runs down five (or fifty) ordinary people, non-entities (say university professors of law or philosophy) of various stripes (“herd animals” in Nietzschean lingo), and Beethoven is saved. For the anti-egalitarian, this problem is not a problem: one should of course save a human genius at the expense of many mediocrities. To reason that way is, of course, to repudiate moral egalitarianism. Belief in an egalitarian God would thwart that line of reasoning; but absent that belief, what would?
Again, republicanism is neither individualist nor egalitarian. Individualism is a modern invention and it's amusing how much Leiter trusts the masses to know who to kill. Who's he talking to?

A proper anti-egalitarian would sacrifice his own life; a vulgar nouveau riche would kill the riff-raff and brag about it. And I keep forgetting to repeat this: the only ethos of service permitted under liberalism is the military.  The geek-technocratic need for clarity, for private reason, contradictions ignored that need to be open and negotiated, makes things even more dangerous. All contradictions are externalized, expunged from the ideologically defined non-contradictory self.

Traditions have major figures and minor ones, and each produce the other. Without the tradition the great composers we know would never have existed.  Leiter  follows his own tradition slavishly in a way Beethoven and Nietzsche would have found abhorrent. He's a righteous follower; his snide superiority is the condescension of someone who would never teach anyone below his own station. The elite reproduces itself, unconnected to the world, until the world gets annoyed and overthrows it, or just moves on.

And try this one: five (or fifty) ordinary people, or 5 of Beethoven's friends and family, his brother, his nephew, his "immortal beloved".  Considering how great artists often respond to trauma with great works, I'd vote to off his family.

SE/DG and Bertram
"Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."
If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right.
And another one for the list.
My name is tante but when I was born my parents didn’t know that so they called me “Jürgen Geuter”. 
Yasha Levine, friend of David Golumbia, critic of Omidyar, Snowden, Greenwald et al is a fan.
Levine has tweeted attacks on the ACLU for defending Nazis.

None of them can say anything about the effect of the wikileaks cables on middle east politics. It's a debate between narcissistic anarcho-libertarians defending free speech and narcissistic authoritarians defending the state. Varieties of hippy/geek uniformity.

next, more of the same.

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