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September 11, 2005


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I have to disagree with you -- the Left is plenty incoherent. It's just that, unlike the Right, it's incoherently incoherent.

But both Right and Left are marked by enjoyment, whose traces are legible. It's just that the structures of the enjoyment are different.

We read the structures of Right and Left allegorically in their views of ideal sexuality. The Right is married (the neo-liberals work in the office keeping the world safe for democracy, the neo-cons stay home with the kids teaching them about intelligent design); the Left is polymorphously perverse. Its very fragmentation and paralysis are marked by enjoyment.

Perhaps this says more about me than it says about the Left.


This is an excellent post that will take some time to digest all its elements. I have some comments on a portion of it:

"I, for one, oppose current Democrats almost as much (maybe more) than current Republicans."

I'm not quite there - I've always felt that the Democrats are not a leadership party - they move in response to popular / majoritarian trends but do not lead per se.

The exception being the New Deal, where if the Democrats did not lead, the country was in danger of a socialist revolution (believe it or not, check your history). FDR saved capitalism and lived to be hated by Republicans.

Since then, Democrats really have not known what to do - they have been fighting a rear-guard action and there has not been the upwelling of popular support since the 30's and 40's.

One brief period was in the 60's, where the antiwar movement and the rise in media technology came together (entirely contingently) and produce the weirdness that we fondly remember as the 60's.

So Democrats are not going to lead unless the *people* force them to - we should not expect anything else.

The strength of the Republicans is that they WILL lead - and by doing so relieve the public of the worry of who is doing the leading. This was the failed attempt of Nixon, but successfully re-attempted by Reagan.

So now of course the Republicans lead - but to what end? Off the cliff? We are starting to experience that very phenomena and the future is interesting to be sure.

There is much more in Jodi's post here - but lets take it a step at a time.


Hugh, Forgive me if I implied that the Left was not incoherent. What I was trying to get at was the way that the different components of the fragmented left don't cohere into anything so that coherence and incoherence don't factor in.

You might have more fun as a leftist than I do. But, then, you're Canadian, so it makes sense.

More seriously, I was thinking the exact opposite today as I was slogging through my run. So, on the organization of enjoyment: the Right has better parties; more hard liquor, more transgression--because of the thrill of sin! They have something to violate--and thus enjoy! Pathetic academic leftists: too many vegatarians, people with weird allergies, folks don't want to party too much because we have to go running, no one smokes anymore--not healthy! So, we end up enjoying our own sniveling misery....

or, does this say more about my fantasies? (boring, aren't they--I won't go into last night's dream about Richard Gere.)


PE Bird--really interesting account. It accords nicely with what Frances Fox Piven (author of Poor People's Movements) was saying at the meeting I was at last week: what forces the democrats to do anything is popular movements--labor, civil rights, farm, women, gay...

Clinton took this too an icky (some might say more democratic) extreme with his poll reliance.
Anyway, your point is good. So, what are the repercussions: progressives need to be more active in order to pressure the Democrats? I'm not optimistic on this score because of the change in the terms of politics since 1968: weaker parties overall, stronger impact of money and media. True, the organization of the religious right suggests that there are other possibilities. But, this leads to the additional worry: they are successful in part because of leadership and a fairly solid (or set of solid if contradictory) messages. The fragmentation on the left is so strong in part because the Democrats from Clinton on (under the control of the DLC) are so much the party of neoliberal economic policies. I hate this about the Democrats and think, pathetically, I'm afraid, that what makes the most sense is some kind of Leninist party. I say pathetically because this view has something unhelpful and utopian about it. Maybe, though, it can help at the level of movements to push the Democrats....


Well, we must remember that the Democrats are a party of the state - and as such shouldn't get our hopes too high as to what they can accomplish. But that does not mean we should ignore them.

What happened in the late 70's and 80's (after Reagan) was the abandonment of the Democrats by progressives and the rise of "coalition" politics and emerging identity politics - the maturing of the women's movement, the enviromental movement, Central American politics, Hispanic, gay/lesbian, etc. As well, alternative parties started back in the early 80's in the US (early Green). Of course, labor and black politics had been encorporated into the Democratic establishment and those movements leaderships split from their bases.

There seemed to be the idea that change would still be driven by the US, in the sense that the 60's were driven by the US. There was absolutely NO global sense back then (with the exception of Central America/El Salvador).

The power void left in the Democratic party was filled by the career and money guys (and I mean guys).

I wouldn't see the Democrats as a way to some fundamental change; they are kind of there in the background, waiting to co-op popular change if needed by the state. I think we will see something like this as the Bush-criminal syndicate falls apart.

I don't think there is anything pathetic about a Leninist party - but the Leninists I ran into never did know how to throw a good party.


"The fragmentation on the left is so strong in part because the Democrats from Clinton on (under the control of the DLC) are so much the party of neoliberal economic policies. I hate this about the Democrats..."

In order to have progress there has to be a mutual agreement between the parties and more specifically interest groups.
While you may disregard his neo-liberal economic policies, Clinton's political approach, compromising and coexistence, was more in touch with reality. In order to move past these policies, if you believe they are prehistoric, you must work within the framework of the government. You seem to think that this nation is comprised with single-minded citizens who are yearning for the same thing.

Clinton understood factionalism, as did our founding fathers, and understood that compromise was the path to progress. While it can be argued that this view appears to be appeasement rather than comprise (ex: 3/5ths and DLC's stance on gay marriages), it creates the possibility for inevitable change. In the era of Republican domination, Democrats and liberals alike have forgotten about compromise. They have replaced common sense with hatred, instead of trying to understand the lessons of Clinton's tenure. I am not blaming Democrats for the polarization, but they are equally responsible for the turmoil.

You can't demonize Republicans and disregard their policies completely...there is rhyme to their reason and merrit to boot...the same holds true for the Dems. I'm not advocating the two sides to embrace, but I think there needs to be a better understanding. The Republicans have done a better job of understanding Democrats and themselves, that's why they remain in power. (They learned their lesson after Barry Goldwater.) ok no more ranting...

One last point...maybe we should look at current situation in Iraq with regard to the formation of the Constitution. The idea of compromise may be the only thing that will save US, Iraq, and the rest of the world.


"neoliberal economics requires imperial (or colonial) domination in order to work."

...If you have domination, you have civil unrest, which sets the stage for revolution. An economy's efficieny depends on the stablity of the global market. If there is constant strife, as a result of imperpial impositions, then the market will turn sour...e.g. British, French, and Portugese colonial rule. Rather than extracting resources through an empire, it is more efficient to rely on "comparative advantage", which requires the soverignty of each nation. An example of this would be the United States or the colonies prior to the American Revolution. Unlike British colonies in Africa and Asia, the British left the American colonists to their own devices. Through a policy of salutary neglect, the British gained more (in the long run) from an independent USA...the American Revolution signified the decline in Mercantalism...The current state of Africa and the Middle East are examples of Mercantalism's failure.

The problem with the left-wing world view of global capitalism is that it relies on the example of European Imperialism to justify its claims. American Imperialism, if that's what you want to call it, is a different animal that needs further exploration. One difference is that American imperialism contains a moral component which was absent in the 19th century approach --If anything China (to whom we talk little of) is devoid morality when it comes to it's own foreign policy...how much money did they pledge to Katrina victims? 5 million, that's beans.How much did the US give to the Tsnami victims--

Without going off on too much of a tagent, liberals need to readjust their claims about American Imperialism that fits with contemporary standards...And maybe righ-wingers can do the same with regard to how they view Marxists and the Bolshevik Revolution.


"We can think about it in terms of the Right--a weird combination of neoliberal economics and neoconservative religious dominionism."

I don't want to dominate the postings, but I feel that Jodi's analysis of the right is superficial and inaccurate.

You can't enter religion into the equation from ideological standpoint...The neo-cons use religion (which is blind to class and race) as its vehicle to power. The Left tried to use the working class and minorities, they weren't cognizant of the power of religion. (EX: the Left during the French Rev. undestimated the power of peasant's relationship to the Catholic Church...this resulted in the Vendee Rebellion, first modern example of genocide)


Hi Jodi-- I didn't mean to suggest that you're unaware of the incoherence of the Left. I guess, insofar as I had a point at all, I was trying to draw attention to the fact that the fragmentation of the Left isn't a contingent occurrence -- it's a symptom. What, exactly, it's a symptom of, I don't think is so clear. The reason I point out this pretty obvious fact is that struggle (or lamentation) against a symptom is not necessarily productive.



You've make a good point - all of this talk (e.g., especially after the election) of Democrats not knowing how to "frame" and lacking a "message" did seem to me to be fighting the wrong battle.

The incoherence (lack of message, etc.) is due to an inability, or a repeating, or an unwillingness to recognize, or some condition that raises these symptoms.

The fight against a symptom can be productive IF you recognize that it is a symptom and you know you are thrashing around looking for something more fundamental. But saying you don't know how to frame, so lets all go frame together is worthless.


Hugh and PEBird--thanks for the comments. What if we say that the symptom is the disavowal of class (or of poverty, of the necessary antagonisms brought about by neoliberalism, of the failure of the market to make any progress toward social justice) or the failure to confront the repercussions of dismantling the little bit of social welfare that we had.

So, I fully agree with PEBird on the stupidity of the framing discussion and with both of you that worrying about fragmentation on its own is fruitless and disheartening. Yet, even as I want to emphasize the primacy of the economy, I know that many others want to emphasize the multiplicity of struggles and that sort of thing. And, then the question becomes: does one try to convince other progressives and liberals? Or, just fight one's own battle?


Good to see that you are enjoying I cite. FYI: I don't think of this blog as a site for left/right debate. That's not why I set it up and it's not why I do it. I do it more out of a narrow interest in a specific part of left theory (primarily that around psychoanalysis, socialism, and Slavoj Zizek). Of course, some of my other interests come in as well. So, just so you know, it's rare that I take up conservative or right wing comments. I don't have a lot of time, and that's not what I want to do here. I do engage them every once in a while, but less and less. Still, others might--and do--take up and respond to conservative comments from time to time.



I enjoy the I cite every much...especially since I have little else to do.


Didn't you graduate?


oh yes, I graduated...I'm working for a big bad reinsurance underwriter...the industry picking the Katrina tab


And are you happy and fulfilled? Do you feel valued in your work and that you are valued? Is value important? And, Katie (the wonderful)?


In searching for a job, my primary focus was attaining a position where I would be valued and where I would value my work. Initially I was hestitant about the insurance industry because I thought I would become a character from the movie Metropolis, but there is more to it than meets the eye...I'm working at a tiny Reinsurance company (there are about 7 people in my office) responsible for insuring insurance companies. We basically exist as "the" economic backstop against major catastrophes. While the insurance industry may lack compassion when it comes to those they insure, the Reinsurance industry is at the other end of the spectrum telling the insurers to cut it out...so to answer your question, yes I do find value in what I am doing, especially since my input contributes to the overall scheme of protecting the world economy from disaster...Katie is doing well


...fulfillment comes from hard work and can only be measured by incriminates over time. While I feel fulfilled in obtaining a job (and not living in my parents basement), it is uncertain whether or not I will always feel fulfilled...



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