A Trap
July 28, 2019, 2:19 pm
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes | Tags: , , ,

Neoliberalism is a very clever trap, a labyrinth, except instead of being built to contain the beast minotaur, is made to ensnare you and me. All under the guise of freedom.

In the neoliberal labyrinth there are two choices both of which lead to … further entrapment. The way out is a girl, her boyfriend, a piece of string, and a sword updated to the 21st century.

Neoliberalism’s appeal is its promise of freedom in the form of unfettered free choice. But that freedom is a trap: we have just enough freedom to be accountable for our failings, but not enough to create genuine change. If we choose rightly, we ratify our own exploitation. And if we choose wrongly, we are consigned to the outer darkness—and then demonized as the cause of social ills.

Review of Neoliberalism’s Demons by Adam Kotsko

the story of Mouseland

the dogmatism of the untraveled
July 29, 2013, 10:42 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , ,

We tend to associate liberalism with big government and big society etc. and not with business.  Except of course for the idea of free markets and more broadly market liberalism, liberal is the word reserved for bleeding hearts.

Unless you believe in the invisible hand of the market, but that’s more magical than liberal.

Liberalism like any complex idea changes meaning over time, but also by how close or how far you are from it.  Here is a far away view which reverses some of our here and now ideas about liberalism.

At its best, market liberalism manifests forms of pluralism that throw together very different kinds of people, and burnish away the rough edges of intractability that would otherwise keep them apart – or at each others’ throats. From Bertrand Russell:

What may be called, in a broad sense, the Liberal theory of politics is a recurrent product of commerce.  The first known example of it was in the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, which lived by trading with Egypt and Lydia.  When Athens, in the time of Pericles, became commercial, the Athenians became Liberal.  After a long eclipse, Liberal ideas revived in the Lombard cities of the middle ages, and prevailed in Italy until they were extinguished by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.  But the Spaniards failed to reconquer Holland or to subdue England, and it was these countries that were the champions of Liberalism and the leaders in commerce in the seventeenth century.  In our day the leadership has passed to the United States.

The reasons for the connection of commerce with Liberalism are obvious.  Trade brings men into contact with tribal customs different from their own, and in so doing destroys the dogmatism of the untraveled.  The relation of buyer and seller is one of negotiation between two parties who are both free; it is most profitable when the buyer or seller is able to understand the point of view of the other party.

Bertrand Russell

seeing the other side

Ask yourself what makes someone vote one way or the other, says psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his essay excerpted below.  For example, why would someone – in this case poor, dispossessed – vote against the party that proposes helping them – in this case the Democrats – and for the party that smiles and tells them to help themselves, against increasingly difficult odds?  And of course, everyone and his cousin has an answer:  a chattering class is born with talking points, driving wedges, simplifying and clarifying, until all nuance and complexity and alternatives are bled out leaving two simpering dried up masses of ideology with a wasteland in between.

What if you look closer, asks Haidt.  And he goes to India to immerse in a different culture, and comes back with a new way of seeing the other side.  People act in response to very deep motivations.  Conservatives, says Haidt, fear uncertainty and change, and they see moral clarity as a means of regaining order and hierarchy.

Haidt’s is a vanguard stance:  recolonize the vast space between camps, and a new social culture will form – a reef – around ideas of complexity and nuance.  Occupy the evacuated center.

Here is the first paragraph of Haidt’s What makes people vote Republican? —

What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

What makes people vote Republican? Jonathan Haidt, Edge

February 6, 2010, 5:21 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

How civilized!  The Brit in me likes to fling that phrase around, every once in a while:  a label for someone drinking tea from a dainty cup with his pinky up, playing tennis in whites, snacking on smoked meats and vodka, being versed in opera.  Or slaughtering the natives.  Civilization, a complex topic, and one that leaves a decidedly mixed taste in the mouth.

Jeremy Rifkin’s definition of civilization below is smart because it addresses the foible of both of our political extremes.  On the right:  blood ties aren’t enough, to civilize your associations must extend beyond mere blood; and on the left:  you must develop as an individual to engage properly in society.

Here is the excerpt —

A heightened empathic sentiment also allows an increasingly individualized population to affiliate with one another in more interdependent, expanded, and integrated social organisms. This is the process that characterizes what we call civilization. Civilization is the detribalization of blood ties and the resocialization of distinct individuals based on associational ties. Empathic extension is the psychological mechanism that makes the conversion and the transition possible. When we say to civilize, we mean to empathize.

We frequently hear political conservatives argue that empathy is a code word for collectivism. They fail to realize that empathic maturity requires a well devolved sense of selfhood and individuality to flourish. Political liberals in turn, are likely to associate “individualism” with uncaring narcissism, again, not realizing that a well formed self identity is required for empathic extension and compassionate behavior.

–Empathic Civilization, Jeremy Rifkin

author – Jeremy Rifkin
book –  Empathic Civilization:  The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, Tarcher 2009
organization – Foundation on Economic Trends