Order of orders: possibly last comment on Brooks-Schmitt, this one not posted at CT

Rounding back to questions of Americanism or American statist-conservatism, in other words questions of “conservation” of the American state as world-historical and neo-imperial state, come two comments following up on earlier discussion ((From geo, rejecting my interpretation of Brooks, as too “generous” (emphasis added):

Because if you think that the history of American foreign policy offers the slightest evidence of concern for humanitarianism (if understood as democracy, human rights, relief from poverty and deprivation, etc.), except rhetorically and for public-relations purposes, then I’m afraid you are, as you cavalierly label us believers in international law and global solidarity (though no doubt only possible after decades or centuries of gradual, painful, continually contested efforts, which only makes it necessary to begin immediately, on however small a scale), “tragically detached from reality.”

My reply:

[I]t seems to me that to deny even “the slightest evidence of concern for humanitarianism” in American policy ever and overall would be very close to saying, and for a self-styled humanitarian virtually the same as saying, that we might as well have let the Nazis have their way. To say anything else would be to admit of some meaningful difference between Nazism and Americanism. If you identify yourself as above all a humanitarian, then such a meaningful difference, if you recognize it, would presumably be a humanitarian difference.

There might also potentially or at least conceivably an alternative and possibly very Schmittian difference, based on the assumption that on balance it’s better to win than to lose a war for the winners, and that “we” (the friends) won (defeated the foes). Even under this construction, however, and without pretending to judge motives and morals of all involved on any side, among the fruits of that victory was the opportunity to impose an order of international law, entailing a global regime of human rights law and a range of global institutions, all in keeping with long-standing American aspirations, adopted under American tutelage, echoing American documents, and so on, and so on. So there’s rich irony, or arguably an exhibition of filial ingratitude, in standing on that same foundation or in that house in absolute condemnation of America or Americanism. Whether the global regime under whatever name and in its current form, including America’s role in it, is worth preserving (worth working to preserve, potentially fighting to preserve), and if so under what modifications, is another way of phrasing the historical-conjunctural question as I previously stated it.


167 mdc 03.19.14 at 4:30 pm

One take away from the analysis @ 166 is that if certain economic conditions (competitive global capitalism, bourgeois civil-libertarian democracy) align the self-interest of nations even partially with human freedom and welfare, we should promote the spread of those conditions (absent feasible and superior alternatives).

168 geo 03.19.14 at 6:47 pm

mdc@167: Yes, that’s exactly what Marx thought. Though it didn’t make him any less determined to help create those feasible and superior alternatives, which don’t, after all, appear out of nowhere, but rather grow out of decades (or even centuries, apparently) of radical activity in all spheres: protest, education, research, public information, labor organizing, civic/environmental/consumer activism, litigation, electoral activity, even political and economic theory. (Not sure about philosophy.)

Marx’s departure or disembarkation from philosophy began quite specifically (Theses on Feuerbach) as a rebellion against philosophy, in effect re-interpreting “end of history” as end of philosophy for history: It should not be taken as scandalizing that this orientation, customarily expressed in other terms, is what the Marxists and Marx had in common with the Nazis and the other negative or revolutionary parties.

This observation may also help to explain why Schmitt arguably does qualify as Hegelian, and why his two main practical-political projects, synthesis of his theological conservatism with ideological liberalism, and then with Nazism, were, despite superficial dissimilarities, versions of the same “political theological” project, which had to fail, as a committed opportunism lacking opportunity: He was a statist-conservative in an epoch of the (self-)destruction of the nation-state, a believer in “concrete order” whose own position was built on quicksand. Or you could say simply that he identified as an individual with a society bent on collective suicide.

For Heidegger, it was something similar. For Brooks and contemporary Americanists of his broad type, there are distinct parallels, but on a different order of orders.

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  1. Yes, it’s a stretch to paint the US, in such a lurid light, maybe in a Mirror Universe, where James Byrnes, became President, after the fall of Truman, due to the backlash from the invasion of the Japanese homeland, where he meted out a Melian punishment,

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