Keith418 and I have had a ongoing conversation on the development of right-wing and left-wing ideological developments, his pessimistic judgement of Hegelian teleology, and why the far left and the far right seem to be more of a release valve for politically marginal people to vent. You can read our other interviews here and here.
C. Derick Varn: It seems like conservatism in the US has become completely incoherent in the opposition to Obama. What do you make of the state of the American conservative movement? Conversely, do you think the observation often made by Paul Gottfried and by Slavoj Zizek that the Eastern Block and the former bastions of Asian communism are far more culturally conservative than any of the capitalist societies that developed in the 19th century. This seems interestingly true, and even more true when you look at the most liberal bastions in the United States–they are the two coastal hubs of commerce and finance.
Kieth418: Both liberalism and conservatism are failing – neither has the answers, but the more obvious this becomes, the more people cling to the idea that somehow they have to still provide solutions.
One thing to consider about modern constructivism is how much of it has simply become a business – perhaps the ultimate “pro-capitalism, pro-market” irony. People in conservative circles don’t want to rule – they don’t want to assume power and responsibility. Instead, they want a comfortable living selling stem-winding speeches and red meat to a dwindling, but well-off constituency. The left has this problem too, but it’s more concealed. How many “non profit” left/liberal groups exist solely to employ the people running them? Come on. It’s a racket.
Communism froze many of these societies in Eastern Europe. It’s not surprising to find them more conservative. The dream of many communists was really a kind of democratized bourgeois life. It’s not strange, then, to find these societies in a more conservative state. In addition, many of these countries didn’t organically “achieve” socialism. It was imposed on them – either by the USSR or by a cadre of armed and organized revolutionaries. Why would we expect these people to be radical leftists, when none of the supposed conditions for evolving to that state were ever present?
The “left” in America these days is simply the liberal wing of the managerial elites. Why should we be amazed to find them concentrated near where the wealth is? I have to laugh when people in the Bay Area demand that we “Question the Dominant Paradigm.” The “dominant paradigm” in the Bay Area, for the last 40 years, has been left-liberalism, secular humanism, etc. Do they really want us to start being skeptical of that paradigm? Or are we not supposed to really notice who is in charge? This is like the left that gets upset about current government scandals and outrages while shielding Obama and his cronies from any blame. Do you know people who do this? I sure do.
Both the left and the right have failed. The right insisted that the market would save us. It has not. Globalism is a mess. The left demanded that governments would save us – but the state is weaker and weaker and clearly no solution. What do people do when both sets of promises prove to be bankrupt? Atheism captures so much attention these days, but when are we going to see ideological, political atheists popping up on the horizon? God may not be the only thing that died…
Why do you think atheism, both in advocacy and fear of it, dominates so much discourse when it is so unimportant to actual outcomes? Do see you the religious element of conservatism as a way of Reformation minded Protestants avoiding that secularism was actually implied in the logic of their own movements as some Catholic theologians and Heidegger have said? I mean both liberalism and fundamentalism can functionally be traced to the wars of reformation, and particularly the English civil war.
To answer your question, we have to ask ourselves why any subject is important to the managerial and cultural elites. Why is atheism so important to them? Because it insists on rationalism and an end to any hierarchy they do not control. They are following the demands of the zeitgeist – as described by Hegel and elucidated by Kojeve. Their project has to work this way – the creation of the kingdom of heaven on earth. That cannot happen unless people convert from Christians and Jews to liberal, rational atheists.
I also suspect that it conceals a more inchoate search for meaning and value. The collapse we see around us prompts people to search for things to believe in – and being an atheist and battling for atheism is a way for people to find meaning and assert values. In the end, they are all cashing Hegel’s paychecks.
What startles me is how much even conservatism is being secularized. Fox News, for example, rarely has religious figures on it. They don’t “do” religious programming at all. In the 1960s, for example, religious leaders were often on TV and even had had their own syndicated TV shows. Why aren’t they all on Fox all the time? Do you notice how no one asks that? The paleocon people I hang out with aren’t any different. Pop culture seems far more important to them than a lot of deep religious exploration.
Do you think this is just a process of secularization, a backlash to fringe religious moments in their own ranks, or a mixture of both? What do you make of the fact that Catholicism is increasingly the religious voice of the US and a particularly secular Catholicism at that. I think of the make-up of the supreme court in this regard. As a Thelemite and thus a critic of Christianity, why do these trends concern you?
It’s a process of secularization. This is what colonialism looks like once the frontiers have closed. We have turned to these ideological battles instead of trying to expand other empires. I don’t see Catholicism as any kind of powerhouse at the moment. The churches are all hemorrhaging members and even though the Pope is popular now, he is not staunching the wound. The writing is on the wall, but if people accept this, it lowers the stakes in the conflict. There is no rising generation of many young religious adherents, nor will there be. It’s a done deal that no one really wants to admit to. The religious leaders can’t admit that they have lost the battle and their opponents can’t admit that they have won either – they need the battle to define their own identities and to raise money and gather support. The remaining “political” Catholics are mostly taking their marching order from the neocons. This indicates that their own bankruptcy – which is further illustrated by the way they could not fill the void left by the utter collapse of mainline Protestantism in the ’70s.
As a Thelemite, I’m opposed to Judeo-Christainity no matter what disguise it happens to come in. I’m inclinded to suspect that post-protestantism and liberal secular humanism are far more insidious threats, simply because they do not present themselves in starkly religious terms – and therefore come close to appearing as a priori vlaues for people or “common sense.” We all know that any ideology attains victory when it no longer is seen as an ideology as such – it’s simply “what everyone knows to be true.” This is what we see happening now in many places and it’s crazy-making.
I come from a long line of Protestants, I’m descended from one of the very first Puritan ministers in the US, and I understand the transition from mainline liberal Protestantism to liberal secular humanism. I know it intimately. So this whole process is not one I either take for granted or am unable to recognize. I know how dangerous disguised versions of Christianity can be. People never see them coming… and then it’s too late.
So you think attempts to fight secularization is, for the most, doomed by the very religious milieu they come from? I am assuming you find most religious traditionalist groups to either be tilting at windmills or deep in denial in so much that any of them talk about this sort of thing publicly anymore.
It can’t be fought. It’s like trying to fight the tide. It’s impossible. There’s not just one contributing factor either. There’s a plethora of impulses and pressures pouring into this phenomena. Oddly, even many secular people deny this is going on. The critics of the secularization hypothesis typically console themselves by battening on to one aspect or another. They don’t see the way all of these factors work together. They don’t want to.
I just keep thinking about one church I know back in New York. It survives with a ever diminishing number of people and the kind of people who used to go? These subjects either no longer exist, or they just have other things they want to do with their time. The more I think about it, the more anachronistic the whole process seems – getting up early on a Sunday, dressing up, packing the kids in the car, Sunday school, sermon, coffee hour. Who wants to do that stuff on the weekend any longer? For more and more people, it’s just an absurd kind of suggestion that one would, or should, invest time, energy, and money into this kind of activity. I think it’s past the point of apathy in a lot of areas. It’s not even on the radar enough to register that way.
The other issue I keep encountering is vast religious ignorance. People taking graduate classes in religious studies who know almost nothing about the Bible – what do we make of that? In general, I have found colossal ignorance, even among the middle class, about Protestant religious history and doctrines. They get their information about religion from the mass media, which tends to only concentrate on the funny, fringe elements. People on popular sitcoms don’t go to church, and there are never – say – religious figures as regular characters – like a Protestant pastor or Reform rabbi. If it’s not on TV, it doesn’t penetrate into people’s minds. Ross and Rachel might have been Jewish, but you never saw them going to a synagogue. The characters on “Modern Family” don’t seem to have any religion either.
The religious traditionalists hold out hope for the younger generation and are often able to seize on this or that example of a young person who they can invest “faith” in – as representations of some kind of resurgence. The problem is that these people exist in too small number to make even the slightest shred of difference. It’s like the situation with the Internet companies vs. 20th century industries. How many people does Twitter really employ? How many people did Henry Ford employ? You see the comparison. These new companies loom large in our minds and our lives, while actually employing a relatively minuscule number of people. Young, faithful, vibrant, intellectually sophisticated and curious staunch Catholics? Hoo boy! That’s a tiny group!
What do you make of the “secular” or “pagan” right attempts to “fight” these trends? I am thinking of the Northern American attempts to mirror the European New Right, but with coded racialism and incoherent political nationalism. They also seem to talk a lot about Pop Culture showing some secret reactionary tendencies. They seem to be largely modal and marginalized individuals to me. They also seem to mirror the far left in the tactics and analysis, but often poorly and with much less of a coherent theory of politics or history.
I think they tend to have nearly all of the weaknesses of their counterparts in Europe, with absolutely none of the strengths. The more you plunge into that stuff, the less there is to see. Like everyone else, they would prefer to debate pop culture rather than do actual – I don’t know – journalism? Many of the nationalists in the 1920s and ’30s in Europe were real journalists first. This is what you see immediately in their writing. They weren’t obsessed with pop culture. Today’s versions cannot let go of it – and they cannot, or will not, do the journalism either.
The European New Right people have an enormous intellectual and cultural history to draw from. There’s nothing even remotely like that here. Gerald L. K. Smith was no Charles Maurras, that’s for sure! Even if you aren’t fond of his opinions, there’s no denying that Benoist is brilliant, and there is just no Anglophone equal to him – nor is their likely to be at the rate they are going.
These people, again, have a religious kind of posture sometimes, or a pretense. But where is the depth of their religious beliefs and how does it find its expression outside of their polemics? This is what is fascinating. It’s all a shell – it’s hollow. The art, the music, the writing… it isn’t where we’d expect to see it because the commitment isn’t in any way profound or sincere. They don’t believe in their pagan gods any more than the liberal Protestant really believes in the God of the Old Testament. If they did, they’d look totally different.
When I was a kid, both those on the left and on the right routinely opted out of pop culture. We knew plenty of people growing up who had no TV and who never took their kids to the movies. This wasn’t uncommon on the right either then. Now? It seems insane to a lot of people. Even if the parents keep TV away from their kids, they sure watch it themselves. I know an Evangelical minister who would never let his own kids watch TV, but who can himself cite Seinfeld with pinpoint accuracy.
The end result is the steady increase in the authority of the media. None of these people even dream of dictating to it. They unconsciously allow it to always dictate to them.
Do you see the focus on popular culture as coming from similar complicated long term trends as secularization?
It’s complicated. Fran Lebowitz pointed out that no one would have predicted that the media would become the last real authority left. But this is what’s happened. I was having a discussion with an old co-worker that’s part of one of the “‘Freedom Road” parties and he pointed out that the people on what remains of the Marxist left still “swims in the same waters as everyone else.” In other words, they are just as prone to the distractions proffered by the mass media as anyone else is. This is true with everyone: left, right, center, etc. if you try to escape, what happens? You’re cutting yourself off from ‘reality” – aren’t you? If you decline to participate, you’re eclipsed. It might have been an option in the 1960s and ’70s for people, because the media wasn’t as good at doing what it does now.
Can anyone picture a retreat from the mass media? It would look like autism, wouldn’t it? Has the media become so powerful because it has gotten amazing (technologically speaking), or has it taken advantage of the collapse of everything else? We have to look inward, at our own, individual and personal relationship with mass media, to try to get a handle on this phenomena.
I once thought that the Internet would be like a return of the underground media of the ’60s. My university library had dozens of microfilm reals of the ’60s radical press. This is an important part of the counterculture. People had these newspapers all over the place. There was even a wire service – the history of which is itself quite fascinating. The Internet gave us this option, but the cultural revolution it could have facilitated never really happened. I myself thought that blogging on these kinds of topics would let “a hundred flowers bloom.” Now we have Facebook instead.
The issue is the subjects. The subjects never appeared… or weren’t ready. You need subjects to do this stuff. If you don’t have them, you can’t pull it off. The left doesn’t have the subjects and neither does the right. The forces that created the subjects we wanted are gone, or have changed, so we don’t have the subjects we need. The left doesn’t have its Lenins… or even its Abbie Hoffmans. The right doesn’t have American versions of Robert Brasillach or Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. In the ’60s, you had subjects who were eager to put together newspapers like the East Village Other and The Berkeley Barb. Who do we have now who can keep a half decent blog going? C’mon.
Do you see the “Liberal” subject as clearly existing right now?
Sure. It’s anyone who laughs with and depends on Jon Stewart and Colbert. The eager volunteers for the liberal, managerial elites. The people gearing up to make the arguments for Hillary. We know who they are, don’t we? The people taking their marching orders from Salon and Slate and then there’s the poor bastards taking their orders from the people taking their orders from those people. It’s NPR. You’ve tuned in. You know the way they oh-so-tastefully elude the way that Zionism is really looking more and more like an Apartheid ideology every day. You know these people. They shoot down the class slope. They know who to target and who to leave alone. A gay couple in Manhattan worth 700K a year are far, far more oppressed than 65+ year old Walmart greeters if those greeters, struggling out in the parking lot in the blinding sun, are Christian homophobes, right?
When are we going to zero in on the managerial elites? Why do they get a pass?
On a related note, you pointed to Fussell’s book on class still applies despite recent downward mobility in the middle class and despite the fact it is thirty years old. Yet both the liberal and socialist narratives about class seem even older, acting as if the technocratic management, world war 2, and other things have not happened nor the de-industrialization from the mid-1970s forward. DO you think the use of bad class paradigms is a way to talk about class without REALLY talking about class?
I always ask people to give me specific, personal, individual examples of their class experiences. Stalin talks about how this is totally essential – he notes that you cannot get it out of a book. You need to meet with, and learn from, people from all different classes – and study their thinking, their psychology, their beliefs and morals, the stories and the justifications they routinely employ. You have to personally understand why they do what they do. If your knowledge of these classes doesn’t come from real personal experience, it’s useless. Fussell’s book is painful because it is so accurate and so personal. Who can produce similar stories and understandings today? Come on.
Can you talk about class without doing this? You can, I suppose, but isn’t it going to be crap?
What do you make of Fussell’s skepticism about left-wing “class politics’? Fussell was staunchly anti-war and a believer in the Enlightenment but that seems to be the limit of his similarity with modern left-liberalism, and he seemed highly distrustful of liberalism by the mid-80s.
Who can blame him? Is there a consistent left equivalent to the paleocon criticism of both the neoconservatives and the kind of “mainstream conservatism” evidenced (or defined) by Fox News?
Don’t we share the same criticisms of “class politics” and the left now? Which class does the left really represent? What’s remains of the working class? The “labor aristocracy”? Or is it merely advancing the aims of the left leaning branch of the managerial elites under the cover of other causes and concerns?
Fussell looks like an optimist to me now. He spoke to the kinds of well-educated middle and upper middle class liberals I knew growing up. They had no respect for the mass market consumer culture, they weren’t materialistic, and they weren’t conformists. I see fewer and fewer of these subjects on the ground these days, as the markets have gotten better at targeting them and wearing down their resistance. At the same time, the subjects who could have offered real resistance? Where are they? Where did they go? We aren’t making them any longer.
You have said to me multiple times that Marx and the early Marxists have the most developed and advanced historiography, but you have also said that both liberal and the socialists left have largely abandoned that model, often invoking Marxist notions of history and class or even economics without realizing that they have shifted it profoundly and abandoned the fundamental assumptions. Why do you think this has happened?
I keep going back to Burnham and his book on the rise of the managerial classes. I can’t find anything wrong with his logic or his grasp of the subject, no matter how far he fell after. Has the left ever really grappled with this basic thesis? Until it does, I can’t see how its analysis of class and economics is going to make much sense. Burnham wrote that book fresh from his Trotskyite experiences.
You can hate the term “Cultural Marxism” but what happens when you have a left analysis that’s divorced from economic reality and focuses on not offending people, correct moral behavior, PC platitudes, pop cultural diatribes, etc.? Within such confines, you can keep some of the labels, but they mean less and less.
Are you and your friends really interested in targeting the managerial elites and their culture? Or would you rather join them in shooting down the class slope at marginalized, and retrograde, poor whites? I keep wondering where the loathing and anger at the wealthy elites is on the left. You guys seem madder at the poor and disfranchised than you are the owners and managers. I have never understood it. In the 1930s, the left hated rich people and mocked them bitterly. Now, when their excesses are so extreme, that same instinctive hatred just isn’t there. Is it because people identify with the managers more than the marginalized? If this is the case, then “left politics” is really just an intramural disagreement about how the owners and managers should own and manage. It’s not really revolutionary. It’s a squabble among family.
What happens when the targets among the elites aren’t acceptable? I mean, how much visceral anger directed at Obama would look too much like racism to most leftists and liberals? If they were to really go after the owners and the elite managers, would that appear too much like antisemitism? Once the elite WASP hierarchy was smashed, or committed suicide, a “diverse” and multicultural managerial elite… is that new development impossible to really revile? How does that dampen revolutionary ardor?
I do not consider myself a leftist anymore, partly for the reasons you state, and partly because “the left” is not interesting in even that some days–the Marxists I know often waste huge amounts of their own meager cultural capital fighting itself, and that capital is hyper-marginal in the first place. I dislike the phrase “cultural Marxism” because most of what you calling cultural Marxism is fundamentally embedded in Puritan culture and would exist without the cold war whipping boy. However, you are right, leftist, liberal, and GOP conservative politics represents a fight among management and professors. It also is based on fighting last years war. You can see this in claims I have seen in Salon where people say they only teach “WASP” in the academy, but Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez aren’t taught. Where is this true? I went to a conservative liberal arts college in the deep South, and we offered undergraduate seminars on Shakespeare and Chaucer, but also on African Literature in English, slave narratives, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker–who we even got to meet. Even the Praxis test for high school teachers contains large sections on Latin American and African American literature. Where is this WASP only education happening? I would agree with the critique but it just seems like some is pretending its 1985.
Furthermore, take the Asian American twitter-verse which aimed its guns at Cobert. In an interview about it, Suey Park humble bragged about losing 4000 dollars in a week fighting this out. 4000 dollars in a week as a social justice advocate? This seems like a very elite racket. Meanwhile, the issue involving Native Americans and the name of the Redskins was effectively silenced. One can see this with complaints about Israel too. The attempt to bury what has happened to Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the discussion.
I think you may be onto something about the trends though with a diverse elite. It seems good for no one. During Obama’s tenure, the material economic condition for African Americans in the US has declined. Actually, steeply even relative to general poverty. Yet every few liberals or leftists feel comfortable bringing this up. The elites among minority groups have seen the same trends of extreme wealth as other groups–although they are under-represented compared population. The aggregate has declined. When you point this out to someone like Tim Wise, he will imply that your privilege makes you blind to your own racism. This may be true, but when you are talking about the material conditions of African Americans in a concrete way, how does this work as a strategy of anything other than “shut up?”
There does not seem to be any real revolutionary ardor? Do you see any, well, anywhere? Didn’t Occupy’s turn point to your instincts on Occupy where not misplaced? That even most Marxists lost their teeth for fighting a long time ago. 1960s maybe? the 1970s? I don’t know, but around that time. You were a leftist once, what led you to abandon it?
I don’t feel like I walked away from the left. I feel more like it walked away from me. Once, before the left-liberal managerial elites took power, or consolidated their power, they spoke the truth about the world. Once they got into power…? That stopped happening.
I walked away from the left because I no longer believed that the ultimate “left project” – the Hegelian Endstaat – was either inherently desirable or even possible. I don’t reject socialism and planned economies because I necessarily WANT to. I reject them because I just don’t think they’re viable. There a big difference between the people who revel in their non-viability and the people who look at the nature of the world and conclude it’s just impossible.
In many respects, I came to see how there was a fundamental dishonesty about human nature running through the core of the left’s narrative. There’s a real and noticeable disinclination to speak harsh truths to people. They believe in an Enlightenment version of reality that I just can no longer respect. Reason? Really? Equality? Come on. Democracy? Please.
I also came to see PC as the new Puritanism – and based as much on reality as Puritanism was. It’s all a stifling, moralistic, lie. You can’t live your life that repressed. People on the left that I know understand this, but they glumly accept it – as I suppose some of my own Puritan ancestors did. Me? I, like some of my other ancestors, left Massachusetts and lit out for Rhode Island. No thanks. It took me some time, but reality won me over.
Why do you think people believe in “reason” qua “reason” are often really terrible at doing logic? I have read the forums at say The Richard Dawkin’s foundation, and the fallacies are often everywhere from people who know the logical fallacies.
They can’t acknowledge the axioms that their reason is based on. They can’t dive down to the foundations that, in Heidegger’s words, have “hardened beyond all recognition.” They can’t perform their own “genealogy of morals.” Logic and worship of “reason” are as different as doing science and worshiping “science” on Facebook.
Do you think technocratic managers know this? Or do they drink their own kool-aid?
Have you met any of these people? They believe that quantifying any problem is the same as solving it.
Sadly, I have. They infect both board rooms and school boards. They seem to believe statistics are magic even though they do not always know how to read them. You seem to think a Hegelian EndStaat is both impossible as a goal, but also inevitable as a tendency. Why is that? You also state that needs much more violence than anyone seems to be willing to admit to bring its own contradictions to heel?
Of course it does. think of what it demands and think about the sheer level of coercion it will take. It’s “inevitable as a tendency” because everything is leading in that direction – at least in the West. As a much beleaguered small business owner put it to me, it’s the “sum of all hopes.” To argue against Goethe’s vision of the “giant hospital” is anathema to all good people.
To fight against this we must, at some point, be willing to do what Nietzsche taught us, which is to see that: “The great epochs in our lives are the points when we gain the courage to our badness as the best in us.” You cannot do this and stay on the left, or even stay in the middle. Yet if we fail to do this, we must, lend our backs to the Endstaat process.
My worry is that when we evade Hegel, we join in him regardless.
“[T]ruly to escape Hegel involves an exact appreciation of the price we have to pay to detach ourselves from him. It assumes that we are aware of the extent to which Hegel, insidiously perhaps, is close to us; it implies a knowledge, in that which permits us to think against Hegel, of that which remains Hegelian. We have to determine the extent to which our anti-Hegelianism is possibly one of his tricks directed against us, at the end of which he stands, motionless, waiting for us.”
I am assuming you think that libertarianism may be guilty of turning their backs and helping Hegel anyway? What is your thinking on modern libertarianism?
The libertarians I know simply argue that free markets will provide the utopia. I met with a very bright, very principled, very consistent libertarian pundit a few years ago and he insisted that if we had free markets, we’d all be living in space colonies by now. I wish the vision of the future these people had wasn’t so Hegelian, but I suspect that they assume that the market will do what the communists think the state and the party will provide. Is it really any different?
Modern libertarianism is, for the most part, venting. It’s not a serious, or sober, political position in many ways. If it was, the movement would look vastly different than it does. I can readily sympathize with much of the venting, but I know that it’s venting. I’ve always been annoyed with the way that the libertarians depend on the same middle class that thwarts them. They have no real criticism of the middle classes, but these are the people who insist on a large state for so many things. Above all else, the middle class desires safety and security – and they will trade away liberty for that safety immediately. The libertarians cannot look at how this tendency undermines them at every point. they have not developed a criticism of the middle class and I don’t they ever will be able to.
From our conversations in the past, however, did have slightly more respect for libertarians in being more consistently state violence. Why do you think they are better on this point even if they are blind to how markets are related to the same teleos as the state?
Like I said, I sympathize with them. But they also serve to sort of put a check on everyone’s beliefs in “freedom.” If you want people to be free, what not let them trade freely? If you believe in the essential “goodness” of people, why not let them make their own decisions? This kind of exposes the lies lurking in liberalism and the left – their inherent authoritarianism. Those on the left believe that the sate has no right to tell you want to do in your bedroom, except when you want to rent it out to AirbnB. Come on.
I used to think that the libertarians had an Achilles’s heel when it came to property. If the state exists to protect property, and people start to amass a ton of property, then you are going to have a giant state to go with that. But some libertarians dispute this role for the state. They think the state is there to protect liberty first, not property.
They would also argue that if capitalism looks “oppressive” to people now, it’s because it’s not “real” capitalism. Instead, it’s corporatism backed by state power. Many libertarians forget this distinction.
It will be interesting to see if libertarian ideas ever move beyond the venting category. I do not think they will. The subjects to handle this level of liberty and freedom, and all the dangers that this brings, just aren’t there.
Do you think capitalism was inherent to become corporatism? Schumpeter argued that both popular and business pressures for stability would make that nearly inevitable.
How wasn’t it inevitable is a better question. How did “liberalism” go from meaning a tiny government to an all inclusive one? The factors may be the same, the identical contributing forces: technology, population density, demand.
Do you think technology is shaping the form of the society, or vice versa, or is there a kind of spiraling reinforcement loop going on?
I think we’re the slaves of a technology that we can no longer control. Everything that Heidegger (and Friedrich Georg Jünger) said about technology is true, and those observations seem – now – bizarrely prescient. There’s also less and less criticism of technology and many of its former critics seem to be holding out some kind of hope that technology itself can solve the problems technology has created.
You’ve been critical, as other leftist friends of mine have been, of the “anti-civilization” types, but you’ll notice that as they have departed from the scene, no moderate or middle ground alternative approach has arisen. There could be a lot of technology skeptics, but we don’t run into too many. Instead, everyone’s hopping on the “tech boom” bubble. As I keep saying, the real “idealists” I run into these days, in the full-on, “old school” way of thinking about “idealism,” are the “Code for America” people – the ones who believe every to quantify a problem is to solve it.
Who among us is criticizing this tendency?
I have noticed that the anti-civilization people have departed. The criticism in Zerzan became eventually against abstract reason itself. Although Heidegger would not use these words, he definitely seemed to critique that technology would basically force upon everyone “instrumentalization” as a value. I think you can see that, and I think it is unavoidable, but I cannot accept the Zerzanite tendency to turn against both rationality and value.
Are you familiar with the book “Anti-Nietzsche”?
Malcolm Bull? No, I haven’t read it.
Bull attack on Nietzsche is basically that the left should literally “sub-humanize” itself and turn against value, not just economic value or labor value, but value qua value. I was shocked but I had a hard time arguing that it was not implied by some of the criticisms of Nietzsche. He talks about how the Frankfurt school’s critique of instrumental logic and cultural value could not take that step. The thing is, I could not even imagine what a valueless human being would actually be.
It hit a core nerve: if one is not merely replacing one value with another, one must look look at what this would mean. Bull answers this with some notion of “darkening”–inverting Heidegger–and then “passive revolution.”
Do you think Bull may be actually presenting Nietzsche’s primary critique of both leftism and liberalism with his own critique of Nietzsche?
Or that we’ve past the point to which a subject that could even hear Nietzsche could exist.
Any final notes?
“One day a Tzadik came to Sodom; He knew what Sodom was, so he came to save it from sin, from destruction. He preached to the people. ‘Please do not be murderers, do not be thieves. Do not be silent and do not be indifferent.’ He went on preaching day after day, maybe even picketing. But no one listened. He was not discouraged. He went on preaching for years. Finally someone asked him, ‘Rabbi, why do you do that? Don’t you see it is no use?’ He said, ‘I know it is of no use, but I must. And I will tell you why: in the beginning I thought I had to protest and to shout in order to change them. I have given up this hope. Now I know I must picket and scream and shout so that they should not change me.'” – Eliezer Wiesel