Yes, they’re Social Darwinists, but so are you

Chait pushes back against the pushback on the President’s application of the term “social Darwinism” to Romney-Ryan Republicanism.

Now, I suspect that right-wingers object to the term “social Darwinist” because it can be understood to imply a more literal application of Darwinism — that the poor should be killed off so they cannot reproduce.  Almost none of them would take the theory quite so far. But the more symbolic application of Darwinism to the market, as a morally optimal tool for allocating rewards, seems appropriate. Republicans may prefer a more positive-sounding label, but in politics you don’t always get to pick your label.

Chait in passing claims that Richard Hofstadter “created the label,” implying that Hofstadter coined the term, when it had actually been in use since the mid-late 19th Century.  You could say that Hofstadter helped turn it into a label – except that it never ended up being used as a “label” except in a moderately expanded version of the same circle where it referenced an already old discussion.

Not that Chait’s argument is bad:  As he says, and starts to demonstrate, there is a rather easily arguable social Darwinist aspect to self-regulating free market ideology as propounded by today’s Romney-Ryan Republicans, who have further managed to fuse it with Christianism and American Exceptionalism – resulting in the apparent belief, asserted in close to these terms, that God chose America as the place to experiment with the Holy Free Market.  The notion merges naturally with Dual Covenant Christian Zionism, and for that matter with the Mormon prophetic re-conceptualization of America and with applied Mormon economics.

There are two main problems with attacking this ideology. The first problem is that any criticism tends to look like an attack on religion or creed, and, as we know, the founding gesture of the modern dispensation was the declaration of politicized religious conflict as off-limits, not just in America, but in America especially.  All wars in the modern world must be justified on supposedly non-religious terms, with the ambiguous exception of wars against religious warriors, not that the justification of any resort to violence can avoid religious grounds for very long.

The second problem is that social Darwinism loosely speaking describes the political unconscious of most centrist liberalism as well, even or especially in its superficially atheistic versions, the main difference being that social liberals (“liberals” after World War II) are more interested in softening the sharp edges of free market implementation and operation, or in appearing to do so, accepting the trade-off against pure market efficiency, and taking it on faithless faith that enough of the social surplus will remain indefinitely relatively painlessly available from the winners for adequately social calmative re-distribution to the losers.

From the point of view of both liberalisms – the classic economic version and the modernized and socialized one – all the rest is so much Marxism, Satanism, New Ageism, or, even worse, monotheism under obsolete pre-capitalist conceptions.  Any willingness to view the world system as a system, with winners and losers distributed across time and global space, undermines the moral confidence of Holy Free Marketers, so must be rigorously denied, rejected, isolated, nullified, and extirpated, or, where nothing else avails, bought off.

[wpspoiler name=”The prior (pre-McCloskeyian intervention) version of this post” ]

Chait pushes back against the pushback on the President’s application of the term “social Darwinism” to Romney-Ryan Republicanism.

Now, I suspect that right-wingers object to the term “social Darwinist” because it can be understood to imply a more literal application of Darwinism — that the poor should be killed off so they cannot reproduce. Almost none of them would take the theory quite so far. But the more symbolic application of Darwinism to the market, as a morally optimal tool for allocating rewards, seems appropriate. Republicans may prefer a more positive-sounding label, but in politics you don’t always get to pick your label.

Chait in passing claims that Richard Hofstadter “created the label,” implying that Hofstadter coined the term, when it had actually been in use since the mid-late 19th Century. You could say that Hofstadter helped turn it into a label – except that it never ended up being used as a “label” except in a moderately expanded version of the same circle where it referenced an already old discussion.

Not that Chait’s argument is bad: As he says, and starts to demonstrate, there is a rather easily arguable social Darwinist aspect to self-regulating free market ideology as propounded by today’s Romney-Ryan Republicans, who have further managed to fuse it with Christianism and American Exceptionalism: God chose America as the place to experiment with the Holy Free Market. It merges naturally with Dual Covenant Christian Zionism, and for that matter with the Mormon prophetic re-conceptualization of America and with applied Mormon economics.

There are two main problems with attacking this ideology. The first problem is that any criticism tends to look like an attack on religion or creed, and, as we know, the founding gesture of the modern dispensation was the declaration of politicized religious conflict as off-limits, not just in America, but in America especially. All wars in the modern world must be justified on supposedly non-religious terms, with the ambiguous exception of wars against religious warriors, not that the justification of any resort to violence can avoid religious grounds for very long.

The second problem is that social Darwinism loosely speaking describes the political unconscious of most centrist liberalism as well, even or especially in its superficially atheistic versions, the main difference being that social liberals are more interested in softening the sharp edges of free market implementation and operation, or in appearing to do so, accepting the trade-off against market efficiency a la Saint Hayek, and taking it on faithless faith that enough of the social surplus will remain indefinitely relatively painlessly available from the winners for adequately socially calmative re-distribution to the losers.

Satanic Marxism and its chief variations – including the major monotheisms under obsolete pre-capitalist understandings – under even a slight willingness to view the world system as a system, with winners and losers distributed across time and global space, undermines the moral confidence of Holy Free Marketers – so must be rigorously denied, rejected, isolated, nullified, and extirpated – or, where nothing else avails, bought off.

[/wpspoiler]

 


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18 comments on “Yes, they’re Social Darwinists, but so are you

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  1. I like some of those sentences, boy. A few two many twists to get your point across effectively, but I still like em. And who cares about points? The Clippers won last night’s game in every way except for points. It was kind of beautiful on a Social Darwinism level. The best player on the planet showed why he’s he’s still the best player on the planet: because he wins games. But at the same time there was enough trickle down to make room for a very exiting home team to somehow be all the more weirdly exiting since they have to play without an good enough home fan advantage. Who’s getting old. Who’s too young. Who’s already done it. Who might do it? Who may never get there because their team never gets there. All kinds of evolutionary criss-crossings. Both Pau and Blake are nice guys. Will finish last because or despite of their attempts to look tough. It was so cute when they tangled up and wanted to be fierce, but not really, and clearly neither one of them had any interest in brutality. One of my favorite sports moments ever.

    • Griffin seems like a great guy – a natural before the camera, too, and a perfect star for the Age of O. He’s so freaky talented it turns him into a meanie despite himself, but I agree Pau’s too cool to care much. The Ls are I think a little under CP3’s skin. He nearly killed himself trying to beat them last year in the p.o.’s, and might have helped set them up for their early exit. Did you catch the by-play at the end of the previous game, when Pau reached out and gave his head a kind of adult-to-kid friendly rub. CP did NOT like it. He wants to draw energy from hating the Ls, won’t allow himself to be un-angry until he’s overcome them, even though he was almost one of them.

  2. Right. So there’s weirdness there too. CP is so not in sink with Griffin and Jordon. He can’t really even lob to them well. They are just opposites. Right team from the two rosters. CP, Kobe, MWP, Kmart, and Bynum on one team. Williams-Sessions-Bledsoe, Foye-Young, Griffen, Pau, Jordon.

    • CP Kobe teams wins 2 championships while Griffen and Jordon learn how to play and make free-throws. Then they lose but almost win 3 in a row in really painful Clipper type ways.

    • Pau + Jordan + Gryphon? Nah.

      Clips really got hurt by losing Billups. Aside from his mindset and maturity, CP3 needs shooters to dish to, not dunkers to lob to. Anyone can lob, and taller players are better suited to lobbing than CP3.

  3. Yes, but Baron Davis was really great at it. Yes, just like in golf where players “drive for show and putt for dow,” in bball, you dunk for show and win championships with free throws. That didn’t turn out quite like I thought it might. Oh, well. Davis was the real architect of lob city. For my money (which hardly ever makes its way into Sterlings hands) those were the real Clips. I know you call them the Sternoids but if you called them the Steroids (pronounced like your stirring a pot rather than the drug), then you get a shot at the commish and the owner both. The only issue is that that pronunciation would have to be explained each time.

  4. Except that 19th Century Industrial capital, preceded Social Darwinism, Harlan happened to be right in his dissent, the law doesn’t enshrine ‘Spencer’s Social Static’ but neither did it do any other system, Peckham and Fuller, were as bad with Lochner, and they had been with Plessy, nearly a decade earlier.I wonder does Williams tackle the Matrix or Dark City, which aren’t necessarily zombie apocalypse, but techno Boschian landscapes.

  5. Hey I’m kind of Tamarian, on the subject, the Total Recall reboot, seems to follow similar notions of ‘false consciousness’
    but it’s curious how Havel and Walesa, found the door swings the other way as well.

  6. techno Boschian landscapes

    Nice “phrase-ology,” Miggs. Phrase-ology comes from the Music Man, which we can also see as a kind of pre-apocalypse apocalyptic landscape that Woods had already painted in American Gothic style, maybe after Bosch after all.

  7. In the sloppily formed dystopia department we have Escape from LA, something Carpenter dyspeptically belched, his admittedly TEchno boschian earlier effort, New York, which opened up with a prescient scene about where the Occupy
    Movement, might turn into, projected the dismal legacy of Lindsay into the future, which it took Guiliani to ultimately exercise.

  8. Happy or not, the reply at our old almost-friend’s blog, if I’m interpreting it correctly, is marred by some odd assumptions about where I’m a-comin from. I think he has me confused with J.E. Dyer, and I think he thinks this blog is a “neocon” blog.

    I d be more concerned that this post and others would lend themselves to misreadings along those lines, were I under the further impression that there were readers to be concerned about. Still, it’s probably good to be reminded how easy it is to miscommunicate. I think I’ll add some clarifying punctuations to the post, and try harder in the future to distinguish between the thoughts I mean others to think I think, and those I mean for others to think others think.

  9. ‘No one understands the words that come out of your keyboard’ anymore, neocon is not a pejorative, that might the original Contentions, which has become very blanc mange of late, I would say you’re more isolationist, but then again you entertain
    the ever more flawed Egyptian and Libyan interventions, so who knows,

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