On the Failures of Liberal Democracy?

I first posted this on the sister blog, Food Truck Pastoral. I thought it was worth posting here because books are rad, and so is democracy. 

Has liberalism (not the modern American ideology identified with FDR, but the classical ideology all modern democracies are founded on)  failed? In a new book from Yale University Press, Patrick Deneen says yes, (and how).

“Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. This has created a peculiar situation in which liberalism’s proponents tend to forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution. As Patrick Deneen argues in this provocative book, liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has given rise to the most far-reaching, comprehensive state system in human history. Here, Deneen offers an astringent warning that the centripetal forces now at work on our political culture are not superficial flaws but inherent features of a system whose success is generating its own failure.”

Source: Why Liberalism Failed | Yale University Press

I’ve been writing about the “end of history” recently in relation to contemporary Christian theology.  It’s important to note, as this blurb about Deneen’s book does, that so often, we really do “tend to forget that [Western liberal democracy] is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution.”

We forget it because we’re meant to.  We forget it because for most of the founders, liberalism wasthe natural end-state of human political evolution.  It was observable and empirically true, Jefferson said, written by the laws of nature and nature’s God.  The founders knew that the US Constitution was not the end-point, but most believed that political evolution in this vein would continue until all people everywhere were free.

That western liberalism is built on inherent contradictions isn’t breaking news.  It’s a scion of the Enlightenment, after all.  But Deneen’s juxtapositions seem particularly timely.

I’m afraid that he’s wrong about fascism being dead, and neither am I certain that non-fascist communism was ever on the table in any 20th-century regime.  With those caveats, this looks like a good read.

 

A Very Cold Precision

There’s something almost — cold?– about the word precision.  And there’s something cold (and worse) about empire.  Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of a post from Old Jules about empire with this from Hackaday in my feed, or maybe it’s knowing that the engine of empire hums on the broken wheels and gears of most people.  The power, especially over people, is a cold, precise machine.  At its coldest when its most precise?

If you’re interested in making things (particularly metal things), you’re on a road that eventually leads to machine tools. Machine tools have a special place in history, because they are basically the difference between subsistence farming and modern civilization. A bold statement, I realize — but the ability to make very precise things is what…

via The Precision Upon Which Civilizations Are Built — Hackaday

Democrats Need to Try Harder

Yes, Republicans need to do some serious soul searching. But so do Democrats. I’m so tired of the Democratic trope about working class white people being bamboozled into voting against their economic self interest. I’m not asking for a civics or history lesson with this post. Trust me, I get it. I’ve studied these things at high levels for many years. So have many of you. What I am asking for, though, is a bold plan from Democrats to convince those white working class voters that Democrats have something better to offer than Republicans. Many rank-and-file working-class white people, especially in rural areas, don’t trust you, Democrats. Many of them trust plutocratic billionaires more. Why? Well, your nominee is a plutocratic millionaire, so there’s that. But they also just don’t believe that you’ll do anything for them economically, because they believe you haven’t so far. Some of you (and I stress “some”) are so busy deriding these people, referring to their communities as flyover country, and mocking them for not getting that you, and only you, care about helping them, that you never stop to consider that your party’s pathetic lack of traction with them might partially be on you. Then, when Republicans come along and say that you don’t care about them, that you’re out of touch with them and their values, you blame the Republicans for pandering. If you’re so great for working class white people, it should be easy to prove it. You should be winning this election easily. But people don’t trust you and they don’t trust Clinton. They also don’t trust the systems that you and your kissing Republican cousins have built for the last half-century. Those of them that support Trump get to swipe at you and at the establishment Republicans in one move. All of that said, I remain neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and cannot wait to vote for Jill Stein.

Rad Infinitum Podcast #1: Jesus and the Power-Elites, Trump and the Tea Party Populists

There were a few more things we might have mentioned, so stay tuned for Episode 2.

D’etre and D’etat: The Difference Between Jesus and Church

I worked at a big fat church for a few years once.

For about five minutes of those few years, the staff was charged to “live in the republic of ideas.”  I wrote what follows earlier today, but it strikes me as the difference between the Kingdom of God’s raison d’etre and the raison d’etat so many churches live and ultimately die by:

It occurs to me that our use of terms like “industrial” or “industrialized” nation reveals rather efficiently the willingness of our power elites (political and economic) to sacrifice most of us for personal gain; to spiritually, emotionally, and economically destroy the creative, academic, merchant and truly small-business class (let’s call it the bourgeoisie) right along with the cynically styled “working class.” We bourgeoisie and/or proletarians freely mingle, and not-so-freely mimic the choices of the power elites (be they Clintons or Romneys) with what we’re told are consumer “choices” but are really the gasping acts of hanging-on desperately performed by human agents too exhausted from surviving to enact true human agency. This is purely diabolical; if there is a God in heaven, that God must not endorse this system. Surely, the central Christian image of God not in heaven but on a cross is in reaction to the system that enslaved Judea, that murdered John the Baptizer, that found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and sedition. That Christ’s message — God is for the margin and not for the power structures we worship — brought about his death at the hands of those power structures isn’t only a sort of proto-theological poetry, it is the essential Christian fact, the essential Christian witness, the essential Christian claim about the nature and person of God. That Jesus spoke of a kingdom different from those of the Sanhedrin and Rome and Washington and Wall Street and Seattle isn’t some spiritual-only conceit. What Christ called the Kingdom of God is not so-called Christendom, not the so-called Church; it is a physical network of willing rebellion.

The Inherent Prospect of Melting Ice as Climatological Warfare

This animation by National Geographic may hold the key to explaining why some people don’t want to do anything about rising sea levels.  Look what happens to India and China if all the ice melts. The US loses more area by proportion, but it doesn’t lose a city the size or strategic significance of Beijing.  Are there people willing to let this happen to the world in the larger scope of this too-cynical-for-words real politik?  Maybe? Probably?  Yikes?

Ironically, China itself is the world’s biggest polluter and biggest emitter of greenhouse gases…