His name is nobody

Revising and extending a comment at Crooked Timber, on “Mitt Romney and the Fallacy of Political ‘Authenticity’”:

Useful article, but mainly reverses and thus replicates the error that it seeks to correct.

It goes without saying that every individual subjectivity is endless from the point of view of analysis. Wherever the analysis, the reification in words, stops, there precisely would be where the authentic self begins – another way of saying that the authentic self is a question for mystics or philosophers. We can however differentiate between different forms of presentation of the self that correspond systematically to different conceptions of the self politically and socially, that in turn are crucial to and distinguish competitive political ideologies.

This observation is potentially the basis for a complex discussion, or for a number of them, but an offhand statement in the main post frames the issue. The blogger says about Romney that “there are reasons why he performs on the stages he does—he’ll never be any kind of liberal—but he doesn’t just play the same character every time.” Keeping in mind that human beings are complicated entities and that no one or thing is ever all only one thing or another, Romney in fact represents a very particular kind of liberal. He speaks or performs as the economic liberal or classical liberal, the liberal properly so-called prior to the emergence of social liberalism. He knows the principle of money and the free market, but the principle of money annihilates the public self. Its interest in the human character is mainly utilitarian – in no way “sympathetic” – and from every other point of view at least somewhat destructive.

Social liberalism (Democratic Party ideology broadly speaking) and social conservatism (paleo-conservative, evangelical – Palin, Santorum) emphasize very different presentations of self. To state the obvious, they are “social.” Romneyism is in this sense as nearly perfectly as possible anti-social within the bounds of “mainstream” politics: It displaces its irreducible social remainder onto other generally accepted sacred objects, typically the blessed nation of hyperpatriotism, and the family. The analysis of “Mormon economics,” but also Frank Rich’s insight into Romney’s overdetermined concealment of his Mormon identity, help explain how the “Romneybot” ends up with a transparently false salesman’s persona: It’s the reduced self adapted to free market capitalist purism, the stunted religion of “private equity” above all, which, like money itself, is generally transparent to the contents it proceeds to price.

In other words, the economic liberal whose personality is another “private equity” is the human exponent of the universal equivalent, money, and approximates its mode of operation in his chameleonlike adaptability. Yesterday he was a social liberal, today he’s a social conservative. He doesn’t “really” care. He isn’t “really” anyone, at least as far as we’re concerned. And that’s who he is for political purposes – same as what he comes across as – no one in particular.

14 comments on “His name is nobody

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  1. my friends aunt was unemployed but now makes $3000/wk over the internet showing pictures of her individual subjectivity bottomless.

  2. I agree, and as almost always, I appreciate your way of explaining something I’ve been experiencing but couldn’t put into words.
    Thanks.

  3. This is the worst prejudice, masking itself as analysis, from the same folk that saw nothing wrong with Tribe and Bell, and
    the other shapers of Obama’s world view, I mean he’s an auto company scion, Cranbrook and Stanford and Harvard Business, a more blanc mange figure can’t be imagined.

  4. The best part of this is that I can sense CK trying to decide whether to use his singular ability to speak Miggian here or not. Wouldn’t blame CK if he didn’t.

  5. I guess the Protestant ethic, that Weber intuited is evil, Christianson, is one particular idiosyncratic character, capitalism is dynamic not stationary, unlike the mercantilist vision of the 17th Century, Romney is imminently pragmatic, but he assumes
    other parties are likewise directed, that is often not even close to true.

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