Last Testament: Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt

Society is indeed a contract. But it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature… As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.

–Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

The often controversial Anglo-American historian Tony Judt passed away this year on August 6, at the age of 62. His death was not sudden or unexpected, as he had been suffering from a rapidly advancing case of “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” diagnosed in 2008, that had already left him bedridden before he finished Ill Fares the Land, his last book – and his last political testament, an attempt to bequeath his life’s political project to his survivors. With the author’s recent passing in mind, I found myself going through his words with special care and intensified focus, more conscious than usual of the reader’s role in resurrecting the spirit of a writer – just as, when I write about the book, I become more poignantly aware of the convention that requires us to discuss an author’s arguments in the present tense: “Judt argues…,” one will say, as if he is holding forth in the other room or is currently on a nationwide speaking tour…

During the 2009 lecture that provided the outline for Ill Fares the Land, delivered from a wheelchair, Judt mentioned that he had been advised to find something uplifting to say about his illness. “I’m English,” he said. “We don’t do ‘uplifting.'” Yet despite Judt’s disdain for false cheer; despite the book’s circumstances of composition and its thoroughgoing, often alarmed and angry perspective on recent history, Ill Fares the Land is not a gloomy piece of writing. No reason to hide from it in fear of fear itself: Judt’s review of 20th to early 21st Century history mainly emphasizes the measures taken, with creditable success, against the greatest of public “ills,” including totalitarian and other temptations, in the shadow of catastrophes both real and threatened.

His themes come together in a passage a few pages from the end (again, it’s hard to disassociate the end of the book from the end of a career and a life):

We must revisit the ways in which our grandparents’ generation handled comparable challenges and threats. Social democracy in Europe, the New Deal and the Great Society in the US, were explicit responses to them. Few in the West today can conceive of a complete breakdown of liberal institutions, an utter disintegration of the democratic consensus. But what we know of World War II – or the former Yugoslavia – illustrates the ease with which any society can descend into Hobbesian nightmares of unrestrained atrocity and violence. If we are going to build a better future, it must begin with a deeper appreciation of the ease with which even solidly-grounded liberal democracies can founder. To put the point quite bluntly, if social democracy has a future, it will be as a social democracy of fear.

It’s both typical and appropriate that Judt turns fear into his and our last and surest friend, though he is not advocating a campaign of alarmism – of fear-mongering. He emphasizes that “‘defensive’ Social Democracy” has a long and respectable history, based on the “close relationship between progressive institutions and a spirit of prudence.” He is pointing to what he believes must be the main, concrete and durable, and thoroughly rational inspiration for a return to the bosom of the state.

In other words, Judt views the kind of leftism he advocates as distinctly and fundamentally conservative. He is therefore happy to turn our contemporary political vocabulary on its head:

It is the Right that has inherited the ambitious modernist urge to destroy and innovate in the name of a universal project. From the war in Iraq through the unrequited desire to dismantle public education and health services, to the decades-long project of financial deregulation, the political Right – from Thatcher and Reagan to Bush and Blair – has abandoned the association of political conservatism with social moderation which served it so well from Disraeli to Heath, from Theodore Roosevelt to Nelson Rockefeller.

At other points, his defense of the progressivist state strikes a self-consciously Burkean note: “To abandon the labors of a century,” Judt says, “is to betray those who came before us as well as generations yet to come.” The statements from the “father of conservatism” to which Judt is alluding were written in defense first and foremost of the English constitution – a whole system of laws, traditions, and customs whose defense was a conservative’s duty and privilege, to be exercised in major part on behalf of those unable, because dead or not yet born, to speak for themselves in present deliberations. Explaining why those “labors of a century” are worthy of a Burkean defense against reckless innovation is one of the main objectives of Ill Fares the Land. What Judt is calling on us to conserve, the modern administrative state with its egalitarian, progressive, and re-distributive purposes, is, of course, what many or most nominal conservatives, especially in America, blame for all our woes.

If Judt was paying much attention to politics and public discussion in his last months, he would have seen further evidence for this thesis of political-historical inversion: The Summer of his passing has been the Summer during which even somewhat sober American conservative publications and web sites have turned to hyperbolic, quasi-revolutionary attacks on “the ruling class” alongside celebrations of a populist “great awakening” unified by hostility toward the state in all of its manifestations (except the armed forces, of course). Yet, in his response to conservative thinkers and leaders – from the Austrian economists, to Reagan, Thatcher, Bush, and Palin – Judt seeks something more substantial than mere revulsion at immoderate voices. He wants to encourage a revivified dialogue, particularly among young people, about political values, about what we really should demand from politics. A typical passage develops as follows:

Is a system of “cradle-to-grave” protections and guarantees more “useful” than a market-driven society in which the role of the state is kept to the minimum?

The answer depends on what we think “useful” means: what sort of a society do we want and what sort of arrangements are we willing to tolerate or seek in order to bring it about? …[T]he question of “usefulness” needs to be recast. If we confine ourselves to issues of economic efficiency and productivity, ignoring ethical considerations and all reference to broader social goals, we cannot hope to engage it.

Of course, such reflections, or claims that “among the options available to us today, [social democracy] is better than anything else to hand,” may ring rather less stirringly, than “Yes, we can!”

2008-2010 may not have been the historical moment to advance the conversation, and policies, that Judt and his ideological allies most wanted, even if conventional wisdom is now that Mr. Obama missed a major opportunity that may not come again for a very long time, if ever. Judt himself was something of a skeptic about Barack Obama, and in this book he refers to Obamacare as a “débâcle.” Viewing the reactive swing to the right in the U.S., an ideological enemy might choose to go much further, grouping Judt with the other “liberals,” and seeking to depict his politics as also suffering from an advanced, possibly even terminal malady. Other critics might be inclined to wonder whether Judt’s socio-political diagnoses involved inescapable elements of projection. Yet such readings would require a culpable disregard for Judt’s courage, and for the sacrificial dialectic of a message empowered, in our traditions even sanctified, by the death of the messenger.

That message, and new messengers, may be ready, or at least readier, when summoned by a greater crisis. Their next moment may not come until after a perceived failure of conservative governance, or even a perceived success that still leaves the populace unsatisfied and insecure. If a resuscitation and revival, a last ditch effort at salvation, or a transfiguration of social democracy is not on today’s political agenda, that may be all the more reason to pass this book on, following Tony Judt’s last requests, to a young person looking forward. It may even be the conservative thing to do.


WordPresser
Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution.

40 comments on “Last Testament: Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

  1. CK/I’m illiterate in both Burkean and Judtian philosophy;did they either address how a nation cures its propensity for bankruptcy without disintigrating itself or balancing its books by taking the assets of its neighbors via war?

    Did Burke recognize the possibility of a State so corrupt that it “Must” be overthrown?

    And finally,I’ll repost what I quoted earlier,and please,If you disagree with the quote,I’m not a Constitutional lawyer,but what would Burke/Judt opine on the Declaration of War Issue?

    “Therefore, when a U.S. president wages what might otherwise be considered a just war, if he has failed to secure a congressional declaration of war, he is waging an illegal war — illegal from the standpoint of our own legal and governmental system. And when the American people support any such war, no matter how just and right they believe it is, they are standing not only against their own principles and heritage, not only against their own system of government and laws, but also against the only barrier standing between them and the tyranny of their own government — the Constitution.”
    TRUMAN
    LBJ
    BUSH
    CLINTON
    W
    OBAMA
    http://www.fff.org/comment/com0204a.asp
    NOTE BENE:The two most Conservative Presidents we’ve had since WW2,Eisenhower&Reagan aren’t on the list. Eisenhower ended a major undeclared war,as did Nixon,I didn’t include Nixon on the list,because he,like Eisenhower,inherited his undeclared war.

  2. As for the second question, and as the quoted passage on the Right’s un-conservatism suggests, Judt was a fierce opponent of the Iraq adventure, which he considered a violation of international law and to have been undertaken on false pretenses. I don’t think the constitutional argument – in the narrow American sense of being supported by the written Constitution – greatly interested him.

    The Burkean, English sense of the constitution might relate in contradictory ways: On the one hand, our full tradition includes a broad interpretation of constitutional language on declaration of war, and acceptance of a substantial gray area. It was already understood early on that not all military operations could wait on a formal declaration of a state of war. In international affairs – War of 1812, Mexican-American War, World War I, etc. – up until Truman we generally sought formal declarations of war, but there were numerous exceptions: There was never a formal declaration of war with the Barbary Pirates, or in most (all?) cases with the Native American tribes and “nations.” In the Civil War, Lincoln avoid a formal declaration of war because doing so would have amounted to recognition of the Confederacy as a foreign nation. Since the War Powers Act, Congress has provided and presidents have sought, authorizations for use of force, not Declarations of War.

    As for bankruptcy and national self-impoverishment, there is an obvious conservative argument against it, but in the long view of history, the US government of our era is hardly the first nation to have severe difficulties with its finances. Judt is very sympathetic to Keynes, though questions whether contemporary Keynesians are any more authentically Keynesian than contemporary conservatives are authentically conservative. I think he falls into the category of a lot more concerned about the general welfare than whether it is secured through metalism or fiat.

  3. I agree with Fuster – well done.

    Has Judt included in this an analysis of freedom as the organizing principle of the current Right?

    Some time ago I saw part of a Glenn Beck show (I’m sure this is not precisely accurate) where he seemed (wiggle words) to place his idea of freedom somewhere between the idea of limited govt and anarchy.

    However innacurrate my account may be, I think the thought I attribute to Beck helps to cohere the apparent incoherence (to my mind) of much of the Right.

  4. @ bob:
    His critique of the Right tends to be more concrete and historical. For instance, in his discussion of the Austrian economists, he emphasizes how they were reacting to totalitarianisms of the right and left, and suggests that their justifiable revulsion encouraged them to overdo or over-simplify their own anti-statism. Similarly, he looks at (my word) the cult of privatization in some detail, acknowledging that the free market, or, sometimes to even worse effect, public-private partnerships in theory ought to handle something like public transit more efficiently, but demonstrating how they can end up being even more costly to the government and to the public both, while objectively reducing the “freedom” on individual and communities for whom the provision of transit under reigning market conditions may not be efficient. This fits with his emphasis on rightwing conservative definitions of freedom being reduced to narrow economism, rather than expanded to include substantial, shared freedoms in a better society.

    He actually spends a lot of time on public transit, but his emphasis is modern and rather European. He might have pointed out that gross inequities and inefficiencies in the privately run U.S. railroad system played a lead role in the encouragement of 19th Century American populism/progressivism.

  5. Hayek was reacting more against the scientististic and historicism schools of Schmoller and Wagner, that had led Austria until at least
    the time of Creditanstalt. Keynes, was just in the way there, coming
    from a different tradition with Britain, Comparing the approaches during
    the Depression, between the Baldwin/Chamberlain and the Roosevelt
    regimes, it is not clear that the latter commends itself necessarily

  6. @ miguel cervantes:
    The Road to Serfdom, Hayek’s most influential work, was published in 1944, long after Hayek and others had been driven into exile, and after certain other notable events had also transpired. He was lecturing at the London School of Economics at the time, and had projected, based on his experience, that Labour statism would lead eventually to fascism. He made a similar prediction about the eventual fate of social democracy in Sweden. This doesn’t mean that he was wrong in everything, only that he fell rather short of infallible, and there are reasons why he was out of fashion for so long.

  7. @ CK MacLeod:

    His essay I posted to Rec Brow does give a more historical view – and a pretty ferocious one at that.

    Today, we can still hear sputtering echoes of the attempt to reignite the cold war around a crusade against “Islamo-fascism.” But the true mental captivity of our time lies elsewhere. Our contemporary faith in “the market” rigorously tracks its radical nineteenth-century doppelgaenger—the unquestioning belief in necessity, progress, and History.

    Now that is quite a mouthful.

  8. Yes Stalinism, one of the most murderous regimes, the Khmer Rouge and Mao are in the running with capitalism, yes that is exactly the comparison I was thinking off, the latter has its flaws, the former is totally evil, what Orwell typified in ‘1984’. And we wonder why we don’t take them seriously.

  9. @ bob:
    He puts it very concisely and in a language accessible to those not steeped in critical theory, but the insight is similar to one that’s been put forward widely since the ’60s, including by writers whom Judt among others have frequently ridiculed as obscure or irresponsible.

    According to Baudrillard, for instance, both Marxism and Capitalism were bound by the metaphor of “production” and the related concept that the meaning of life revolved around “work.” For Marx as well as the bourgeois economists and philosophers whose conceptual framework he inherited/critiqued – this would include Hegel – being human meant “working to produce objects that could be exchanged.” Baudrillard sought to counterpose what he felt was an equally valid framework in which objects and instrumental values are only one type of “symbolic exchange” that is an end in itself. So the capitalist or Marxist looks at a rain dance and assumes that the tribal religion has an instrumental purpose: The pathetic primitives dance expecting the dance to bring rain. Unfortunately the professor who introduced me to Baudrillard stole my copy of THE MIRROR OF PRODUCTION, but, as I recall, for Baudrillard, they dance primarily because that’s what they do.

  10. miguel cervantes wrote:

    Yes Stalinism, one of the most murderous regimes, the Khmer Rouge and Mao are in the running with capitalism,

    “Capitalism”? What is “capitalism”? If it’s the name for the political-economic system that determined the course of development of the West for a bit more than the last 200 years, then, yes, it has a tremendous heap of corpses and broken lives to account for.

    It is typical of bourgeois ideology – your ideology – to exclude all disturbing and disruptive externalities. Therefore, anything a capitalist country does that’s unfortunate, any ill effect or byproduct of capitalism, can be immediately attributed to any and every other cause: Backwardness, quirks of character or fate, irrational resistance to development and democracy, etc. It is a major feature of exactly what Judt is referring to: In short, “it” is always somebody else’s fault because in your mind you represent the inevitable truth and the inevitable good, and you are incapable of stepping outside of it.

  11. I think he’d be most dissapointed, I’m a little surprised then again maybe he’s competing with Ahmadinejad’s interview with Jon Lee Anderson, in the Atlantic

  12. CK MacLeod wrote:

    It is typical of bourgeois ideology – your ideology – to exclude all disturbing and disruptive externalities

    If you have an extra moment, could you explain why Miguel’s ideology is bourgeois? I’m confused. I understand if there’s too much backstory involved to fill me in.
    Also, thanks for the Judt rundown. Like Rex, I’m illiterate, but if I understand you correctly, and if I can get away with a gross simplification, Judt’s calling for an authentic conservative base to balance out people like himself. Sort of? I could be projecting because that’s what I would like.

  13. Scott Miller wrote:

    With the author’s recent passing in mind, I found myself going through his words with special care and intensified focus, more conscious than usual of the reader’s role in resurrecting the spirit of a writer – just as, when I write about the book, I become more poignantly aware of the convention that requires us to discuss an author’s arguments in the present tense:  “Judt argues…,” one will say, as if he is holding forth in the other room or is currently on a nationwide speaking tour…

    It just hit me that I wrote “Judt’s calling…” as in “Judt is calling…” You’re right about the convention. Glad you really are holding forth.

  14. @ Scott Miller:
    Well, miguel said,

    Yes Stalinism, one of the most murderous regimes, the Khmer Rouge and Mao are in the running with capitalism, yes that is exactly the comparison I was thinking off, the latter has its flaws, the former is totally evil, what Orwell typified in ’1984′. And we wonder why we don’t take them seriously.

    I don’t want to attempt a capsule intellectual history from the 18th Century to today focusing on the analysis of bourgeois ideology – so let’s just focus on the above statement.

    Bourgeois ideology would be characterized by a set of assumptions that prejudice any discussion in favor of bourgeois interests. In theory, if you start with those assumptions, which define the framework, selection and definition of evidence, and the possible point of the discussion, then you already know where you will end up: Bourgeois (democratic capitalist) good! Everything else (especially leftism) bad!

    In the above example, miguel is responding to to Judt’s argument that contemporary free market ideologues are replicating a “nineteenth-century… unquestioning belief in necessity, progress, and History.” miguel turns that into “Judt is saying that we’re no better than Stalin.” I see no evidence of that, among other things because Stalin was a 20th Century phenomenon.

    None of us can say what a triumph of unquestioning belief in the market might lead to 50-100 years from now, though people have tried – a global market in human clones and harvested organs, paradise paved with a parking lot in its place, etc. The dystopian possibilities are endless. Judt leaves this implication on the level of suggestion. He seems to think that rigid ideology is bad enough on its own terms, though he clearly also thought (social democracy of fear) that there were dire potentials on the other side of failed resistance to fanaticism.

    What’s particularly bourgeois about miguel’s viewpoint, however, is the underlying assumption that it’s possible to isolate and discretely define immensely complex historical and social phenomena on anything more than a provisional, context-dependent basis. I don’t know exactly what “capitalism” means to miguel, but he appears to adopt the term in a way that renders major negative by-products of capitalism – commodified slaughter, mass media and social organization, massive disruption of social, economic, and political relations in pre-industrial societies, etc. – as externalities. This view has nothing to say about what working in a contemporary Chinese factory building iPods, or a Bangladeshi sweat shop, is like for a modern day member of the global proletariat. It has even less to say about how Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia became what they were and were able to operate as they did – among other things by taking the “tools” developed under capitalism and utilizing them in pre-capitalist political economies, and in effect re-producing intentionally what capitalism did more spontaneously (without much central direction) in other 3rd world countries, or in the industrialized/massified “total” warfare prosecuted between capitalist countries. In a significant way that was the idea.

    All that matters to miguel is that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot called themselves communists. It doesn’t even matter that Judt was warning that fanatical ideological adherence to a vision of “necessity, progress, history” led to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. It clearly doesn’t matter to miguel that Judt and other leftists, including leftists killed in large numbers and usually first by Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, fundamentally rejected the notion that those tyrants were going about things in the right way.

    Already in the 1900s, some versions of Marxism, as later Marxism-Leninism, and then Stalinism, were being criticized as “state capitalism.” Elements of the critique also applied to Mao and every form of communism implemented on the Marxist-Leninist democratic centralist model with the idea of putting pre-capitalist economies on forced marches through industrialization – the state taking the place of the capitalist in pre-capitalist revolutionary economies. This was a major 20th Century divergence from classical Marxism, which had always assumed that communism would arise in the industrialized nations, which had already created their proletariats, and not exclusively through violent revolution. The Trots, leftwing anarchists, social democrats/socialists, and others argued, among other things, that state capitalism could be as bad or worse than democratic capitalism – just as exploitative and inhumane, and unable even to fulfill its supposed promise of safeguarding the revolution and competing with and overcoming the bourgeois democracies. Eventually, this perspective can dovetail with the neo- and post-Marxist theories of people like Baudrillard – and Judt.

    As already noted, advocating such perspectives could, literally, get you killed in Stalin’s USSR, Red China, or Khmer Rouge Cambodia. Since, however, those various leftist streams are all to greater or lesser extents the enemies of free market ideologues, it often serves the latter’s purposes to group them all together – often under the facile, unproven, and near totally ahistorical notion that modern statism of any sort necessarily leads to Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot (or Hitler).

    Now, there are huge and complicated problems with social democracy, too, not least from the perspective of an anti-imperialist critique of global capitalism. When I was active on the left in my school days there were still a lot of Maoist-influenced radicals who would have declared Judt hopelessly “bourgeois.” (I used to characterize this attitude as “brains are bourgeois.”) Be that as it may, Judt doesn’t advocate social democracy as an ideal solution to the world’s ills. He advocates it as the best option available. He wasn’t a communist: He believed in a mixed economy with healthy public and private sectors, and a democratic political culture making informed decisions about the trade-offs involved. At one point in Ill Fares the Land, he looks at Germany, which has generally been ruled by “Social Market” theory under governments of both the right and the left, and argues that a system with less labor mobility and economic “efficiency” but higher job security, with state support for the unemployed and underemployed, no culture of shame about receiving state support, generous social services and amenities, and more equal distribution of wealth (fewer super wealthy, fewer poor) is a reasonable deal for a nation to make with itself.

    Vote it up or vote it down, try it out or don’t, but it’s not Stalinism. Not everything that isn’t pure or getting-purer capitalism is Stalinism. Even Stalinism isn’t exactly Stalinism: What happened in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s reign was arguably as much Stalin as Stalin-ism, and the USSR was never a closed experiment unaffected by interaction with the rest of the world – but that’s another discussion.

  15. Asked and answered. Thank you. It’s no longer topical, but my least favorite capitalist “externality” is the killing of the ocean.

  16. One is struck by how the ‘limousine liberals’ are the only ones who can afford to be, You can be a multimillionaire like Couric or Rather, yet you can genuflect at a tyrant like Fidel or Chavez, the new model. I guess it is a way to sublimate their ennui, or their anomie. Or take a look at Walter Myers, the ultimate super annuated wasp, who supposedly was driven to spy for the DGI because of the issue of healthcare, so he said. On the international front we have the likes of George Soros,’a two bit pirate and greenmailer’ from another context, he shatters currencies, wrecks entire regions, some might blame him for creating the power vaccuum that empowered AQ like Gemaa and Abu Sayyaf, yet his life goal seems to be to topple the system that makes his wealth possible, You could add Maurice
    Strong, the other eminence gris, behind the Rio Summit and every
    environmental boondoggle to date.

  17. @ miguel cervantes: Gosh,I miss the Morgans, Fiskes and Goulds.
    These were men who knew the wisdom of getting them down and putting the boot in. None of this hand-wringing namby-pambyism such as that from that young Averell Harriman and that insipid Jay Rockefeller. Fancy-pants, the lot of them.
    These traitors to their class are the reason that today’s Pinkertons have to rely in Defense Department contracts rather than working Central and South America for private industry.

  18. @ Fuster:
    Maybe. Flirted with turning it into a post, but felt it might as well go in the thread. Posts have a different burden than replies. Anyway, it was either air out the comment, or try to get some work done while listening to CNN discuss the Rauf interview. I hope I made the right decision. I did hear Clifford May suggest that everything would be OK if Park51 decided to put a Christian church on the top floor, a synagogue below that, and a mosque even lower.

    I could hardly believe my ears.

  19. Scott Miller wrote:

    if I understand you correctly, and if I can get away with a gross simplification, Judt’s calling for an authentic conservative base to balance out people like himself. Sort of? I could be projecting because that’s what I would like.

    Realize I didn’t answer that, and feel I should. I wouldn’t put it that way at all. He’s arguing that supporting the institutions and values of social democracy/liberalism/social justice in the present era would be authentically “conservative.” He didn’t want people like himself to get balanced out by anyone. He was arguing that his position already represents a better balance, and that a more balanced discussion would expose certain general political and cultural tendencies as dangerous and wrong.

    Oh – and Rex is far from illiterate!

  20. Scott Miller wrote:

    It’s no longer topical, but my least favorite capitalist “externality” is the killing of the ocean.

    Let’s hope it somehow stays un-topical. Best estimate I’ve read is that we’re probably not killing the ocean, but we’re doing major stuff to it through acidification, and no one knows for sure what it will mean. Are you referring to something else?

  21. Well if he wants to be ecumenical, but that ship has sailed, he tore the wound, poured the acid, made himself and those who support him, feel so superior, and encouraged this nutberger down in Gainesville, mission accomplished. The point was to usurp the emotion around the continuing outrage that is typified by September 11th and the outreach to Islam that always ends up fulfilling Wahhabi/Deobandi
    ends.

    As for Judt, he may not be a Marxist, but he has a Brechtian sense of arrogance, ‘dissolve the people, and elect a new one’ is his motto. Maybe in an alternate world, where the NHS has not become
    a dystopic leviathan, right out of CS Lewis, complete with acronym, he might have a point.

  22. CK MacLeod wrote:

    Oh – and Rex is far from illiterate!

    I knew I should have added the “Judt and Burkje” part of that comment-quote. Rex referred to himself as an illiterate as far as their philosophies go. Jeez. You know what I was referring to. Trouble maker.

  23. CK MacLeod wrote:

    Are you referring to something else?

    No, that was it. Not sure if the “acidification” is connected to the lower levels of oxygen issue, but from what I’ve read, that’s the real problem.

  24. @ miguel cervantes:
    Now the petit bourgeois mentality, or sub-ideology, is totally circumscribed by bourgeois ideology, but comes into its own in its free-floating resentment and displaced anger. During hard times especially, it’s the spirit of the lynch mob. Because the petit bourgeois has a paranoid, resentment-driven, hatred and fear-dominated, aggressively chauvinist worldview, he can’t imagine others operating on any other basis. That is what being human (and political) is to the petit bourgeois.

  25. CK MacLeod wrote:

    fuckaluckasuckamuckawuckanuckaduck
    since you couldn’t restrain yourself in replying to the bot

    and raise ya a clucka

    (there are fuckbots on the net?)

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Last Testament: Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt"
  1. […] Assuming that things are as they are or worse (N.B.:  big assume; a few months ago most mainstream economists thought happy days were almost here again), then the election will be a paradigm test:  Political pseudo-science calls for the Prez under bad economic conditions to be thrown out.  Against these assumptions – immortalized in the famous nostrum, “It’s the economy, stupid” – the Obamians would counterpose  a re-election strategy that will presumably equate, in politically permissible/marketable language, with “the social democracy of fear.” […]

  2. […] “The deluge is rising, buy our lifeboat.” This approach is similar to what the late Tony Judt called the “social democracy of fear.” It arguably has worked politically in Western democracies at historical turning points  – the […]

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Related

Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins

Categories

Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins