A couple of weeks ago, Bill Maher broke a taboo that forbids using the words "liberalism" and "bullshit" in the same sentence. Maher is one of a kind, and I am not advocating this practice as a general rule. Still, I am struck by the way that liberalism has become the default setting in this country.
Conservatives, the few that are left, ascribe this hegemony to the dominant position of liberals in academia, the media, and Hollywood. Supposedly, the influence spread from those loci; absent these citadels liberalism would not be in charge. In all likelihood, though, the effect proceeds in a reverse direction: the media and so forth lean liberal because that is where most thinking people are. I know that I will catch hell for saying this, but is this monothink a healthy situation?
Forty years ago there was a substantial revival of Marxism, causing a healthy rethinking of issues having to do with class, the economy, and social change. Gradually, this trend faded. There was a little bit of pickup as a result of the economic crisis of 2008, but no much. All too often these days, though, what is left of Marxism is represented by such charlatans as Slavoj Zizek. It almost seems that the popularity of this crazy figure is designed to convey the message that Marxism is indeed dead. That is too bad in my view.
Another casualty of today's groupthink is libertarianism. Forty years ago, reading writers like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman was eye-opening. But now libertarianism is dismissed as simply having led to too little regulation--our present pickle--and that is it. At all events, I am seeking to tackle these issues in my next book project. This will be historically oriented, starting in the fourteenth century.
Afternote. I have just heard the good news that Delaware has become the 11th state to adopt marriage equality. The momentum that this movement has achieved in just a short time is extraordinary, but it may not be an irresistible force, at least not just yet. Most of the progress has been made in the blue states, and by contrast the red states, by and large, have erected formidable barriers. Nor are these restrictions purely formalistic, for many in the heartland still believe that same-sex marriage is immoral and should be blocked.
Will they be won over? One hopes so, but previous experience with efforts at fundamental social change suggests that this may prove an arduous process. I note also that not all the opponents of same-sex marriage are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. Two of my closest friends, who are long-term gay activists, have reservations about same-sex marriage. In fact they are resolutely opposed to it. Why so? They believe that marriage as such is a reactionary institution, and for GLBT people to rally to it is to blunt the transformational potential unleashed by the original movement for gay liberation. We will simply become stolid bourgeois conformists--like most everybody else. Asked about this, I would have to tell my dissident friends that, regrettably, theirs is a dwindling cohort, as young people have quite a different mindset.
At all events, these differences of opinion throw some light on my remarks above on the hegemony of liberalism (a political philosophy which may well, I hasten to add, deserve to be hegemonic). But in the matter of marriage equality the "approved" view is flanked by two others, one conservative the other on the left. They may be the skunks at the party, but they are here.
posted by Dyneslines at 6:18 AM