16 thoughts on “Recent appearance on Zero Squared

  1. I enjoyed listening to you talk about this. I like this format for your explaining your views. I get a better sense of where you’re coming from.

    I don’t think that it is problematic about racism and privilege. Causes can simultaneously be effects. This can even be a feedback loop. But I take your point about personal bigotry and structural racism. They aren’t dependent on one another. That gets at the privilege issue. Systemic problems exist no matter our personal attitudes and benefits.

    Where I agree with you the most is on the identitarian issue. People become defined by what they fight against. It isn’t just a political weakness. It’s psychological. The polarized antagonism becomes part of one’s identity. I doubt many people understand that. I also strongly agree with you about the issue of capitalism and community. And I’m always with you on the relationship of race and class. Poor whites catching up with blacks and falling behind the Hispanics. That is the problem of politics of identitarianism and privilege, which feeds into the polarization. The most fundamental issues are entirely overlooked.

    I was thinking about this in terms of mental health. As you know, depression is a personal issue for me. Mark Fisher talks about mental illness as one of the ways capitalism externalizes problems. It destroys the communities, undermines the culture of trust, and consumes the social capital that mental health depends upon. I recently was looking at data on mental illness, specifically depression and schizophrenia. Many mental illnesses increase with urbanization. It sometimes takes a few generations, as people bring some of the rural social capital with them, the strength of communities and families, but it inevitably disintegrates over time.

    You make a good point about conservatism. As an identity, conservatism is inherently an attitude of loss, a longing to save what is already largely lost. The conservative, as you say, is inevitably always losing. And it is an interesting point that few people speak of conserving capitalism. But then why do conservatives align themselves so strongly with capitalism. Wasn’t the entire Cold War and its continuing legacy about saving capitalism that was under attack? That has been the fuel of the culture war.

    As for one of the last issues brought up, it is obvious that many people end up defending the status quo. I see that all the time with liberals and Democrats I know. There are plenty of people who are comfortable enough that they have no incentive to challenge anything, not really. They are intellectually capable of understanding the problems, but it is nearly an abstraction because it doesn’t relate to their everyday lives. Even though there are poor people with liberal views, there is a reason poor people so rarely identify as liberals. You can find radical liberalism, jut not enough of it.

    I’m not sure about the issue of entertainment media. It isn’t clear that anything specific is dying. Change always happens, but at least some of it is things going in cycles. In line with my response to Alan Moore, I feel less inclined toward the old many view of comic books these days (or movies or whatever). It’s just inevitable that new media forms will challenge old media forms. It doesn’t necessarily mean the old media forms will die. With the creation of the internet, more books are now printed than ever before. The internet, by way of such things as Amazon, ended up promoting certain old media. But eventually media will be so transformed that it at some point becomes unrecognizable. It just will likely take a long while.

    Anyway, good show.

      • Have you read his book? It’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. But I do recall appreciating his views on mental illness.

        If I’m remembering correctly, he argues not just about the relationship of capitalism to something like depression or at least certain forms of it. More importantly, he points out how the blame and responsibility of these problems are shifted to the shoulders of the individual. It is alienating isolation that can cause or make worse mental illness, and the response is to isolate the mentally ill even further.

      • It would be interesting to see a comparison of societies. In terms of rates of mental illness, public perception of them, and healthcare response. Not just a comparison between Western countries, but also a comparison of societies all over the world: capitalist, communist, theocratic, etc. And also in terms of different kinds of social organization: industrialized, pastoral, hunter-gatherer, etc.

        I recently read an article along these lines, although it wasn’t a systematic comparison and analysis. In it, there was mention of Cuba. A Cuban psychiatrist gave an interesting response. He said that the interesting part isn’t found by looking at rates of something like schizophrenia, when comparing for example capitalist and communist countries. Communist countries deal with mental illness too. What says a lot about a society is how mental illnesses manifest themselves. So, for a paranoid schizophrenic, the kinds of delusions they have will reflect the surrounding culture.

  2. About the conservatism issue, I was making that exact point in one of my recent posts:


    It also fits at least one aspect of Corey Robin’s view. As you know, he sees loss and nostalgia as defining features of conservatism.

    It is this reactionary quality that in a sense makes conservatism radical. The past that is sought to be conserved isn’t simply already lost. Often it never existed. The vision of the past in reality is a vision for the future, but in hidden form. Conservatism is inherently ungrounded because it can only take form once all of society is already in the process of being ungrounded from what came before.

    Out of curiosity, what was the name of the reactionary you mentioned? You spoke of his views of the ancien regime. What text is that from? I’d like to see a relevant quote of from his writings, if you could find one. The way you described his observation it sounded quite perceptive.

      • Thanks! I have read about Maistre but I haven’t read anything by him.

        Here is one thing that always bothers me. Conservatives are obsessed with loss and nostalgia. The problem is it isn’t always clear that what they mourn ever really existed, at least not as they praise it. Meanwhile, they dismiss or simply ignore so much of the past that doesn’t fit their reactionary vision.

        I’ve noted before that the difference between Burke and Paine wasn’t that of past orientation vs future orientation. In many ways, Paine was more concerned about the public good that had been lost from traditional culture. And much of his progressive ideas were motivated by a desire to compensate those who had been harmed by modernity, i.e., those who had experienced most of the loss.

        The early conservatives had no interest in conserving or regaining the commons, for example. The serfs, like Native Americans, worked the land and so, by the logic of Lockean land rights, they should have had ownership rights to the land they worked. Either by traditional rights or modern rights, there was no moral justification for the privatization and enclosure of the commons nor the stealing of native territory.

        Early conservatives were pushing modernization and betraying tradition. They embraced capitalism, the single most radical ideology to transform civilization.

        Considering that, what does this nostalgia mean? What do conservatives think it means? They have no clue what has been lost or why it ever mattered. Not only has there been a loss of what came before but also a loss of shared memory of what was lost. Conservatives have some of the worst historical awareness of any group and often fight against history being honestly taught in school.

        It’s not that many liberals aren’t clueless as well. My point is that few liberals pretend to care about the past with an attitude of romanticized nostalgia. If anything, liberals should take the past more seriously, but instead they take conservatives at face value and often assume that the conservative claim to the past is valid. It’s ignorance all around.

  3. Hi Derick,

    Have you noticed that the 2016 presidential democratic primary has exposed the true non-liberal leaninings of many supposedly liberal writers and mainstream bloggers.

  4. Hi Derick,

    Here is an interesting observation that I might have previously shared with you..

    The majority of people (below a certain age) with PhDs in the hard sciences are no longer able to get even semi-decent paying jobs in academia, institutes or industry. My consistent cyber-tracking of the careers of people I knew since the late 1990s has revealed an interesting, and disturbing, pattern.

    With the exception of a few who later went into medical school or some other professional degree and a few “connected” ones who got into academia- most have exited science. Other PhDs who went into industry have either been laid off, are in acute danger of being laid off or have reinvented themselves as some sort of “managers”. Even more disturbingly a rather significant number have even dropped off sites like LinkedIn etc within the last five years.

    I have a feeling that this trend of pumping out STEM PhDs without decent career prospects just cannot continue without blowback in the near future. Also all the incremental adaptations and changes (new research institutes, startups, make-work programs) that allowed the system to kinda absorb these people have either disappeared or shrunk within the last 5 years.

    Perhaps, someday you might want to write a post on the potential downstream effects of the severe disillusionment of very intelligent people who used to (at least partially) believe in the “system”.

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