#Political Philosophy

No Center at the Center

The world’s chieftain cannot serve the general interest effectively and reliably unless convinced that serving the general interest also serves “his” self-interest – that the two interests are finally the same or non-severable. When the chieftain falls into a depressive state – of apathy, or aboulia, or neurasthenia; doubting all, negating itself to negate all – the system fails, and the will to stasis is realized, or hypostatized, as crisis.

Posted in Featured, History, International Relations, Neo-Imperialism, The Exception Tagged with: , , , , ,

Ignorance Be Not Proud – All Things Are In Sex Edition

Politics as the ambulatory death of thought, often including the thoughts with which one might otherwise be inclined to agree.

Posted in notes, Philosophy, Politics Tagged with: ,

Cairo and Philadelphia: Statement of the Subject

I am thinking about the confrontation between “liberalism” – in the form of “liberal democracy” – and Islamism, but with a focus, in response to current events but perhaps also to larger necessity, on Egypt.

Posted in Featured, History, Philosophy, Politics, Religion Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

the included, the excluded, and the difference

Any opinion we form on the exception is an opinion we form about and for ourselves, of and in our own interest. Non-dialectical political science is purely pseudo-science on this matter that would be most important to it, if only it could ever remove itself from the inquiry, but every attempted movement away from the center of discussion converts necessarily and immediately into a new problem for the selfsame discussion, a new proposition of the included, the excluded, and the difference. The discussion is the tracking of this motion: We continue it for the sake of putting our prejudices to tests for them to fail. Suspicion or resistance on the part of the reader must also vary with his or her own also inextricably compromised position.

Posted in Featured, Philosophy, Politics, The Exception Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Monastic Temptation

If the subject of democracy – the demos, the mob – has proven itself, as always expected by those not taken in by the hustle, unworthy of respect or responsibility, then what basis do Berman, Scialabba, or any of the rest of us have for deeming whatever “Fahrenheit 451- or Blade Runner-style” authoritarian oligarchy to be “catastrophic”? Catastrophe becomes just another name for life on Earth as ever, and authoritarian oligarchy, with space set aside for the New Monks, looks like the best anyone ever could have expected. How else are we supposed to keep billions of ignorant, violent, etc., people from destroying themselves?

Posted in Books, Featured, History, Philosophy, Politics Tagged with: , , ,

From the Featured Archives

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.

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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.

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[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.

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