Saturday, November 15, 2008

Left-Wing Cultural Conservatism

A few days ago, I mentioned to Kirby (at Lutheran Surrealism) that I regarded myself as a "left-wing cultural conservative." A Leftist Cultural Conservative (LCC) is someone who agrees with the cultural conservatives on most points: the decline of community and tradition; the hypertrophy of the government as diminishing individual liberty and flexibility of response; the rejection of self-discipline, rigorous standards, and commitment to
ideals beyond oneself; and the increase in narcissism or infantilism
generally . . .

. . . but in the left-wing version, all this is seen as symptomatic of a society in which consumerism runs unchecked, and the dynamic which drives consumerism is the dialectical movement of capitalism in its current manifestation. So I find much to agree with cultural conservatives at the level of CULTURE, but I see the motor of these changes as ECONOMIC -- hence the 'left-wing' part. Whereas right-wing cultural conservatives, esp. the Christians but increasingly Muslims -- tend to shift the blame to "the 60s" or to Darwinism, to "materialism," etc.

I'd hasten to point out that I don't mean to put religion firmly on the "right-wing" side without qualification -- there are also devout Christians, Muslims, etc. who are "left-wing cultural conservatives" -- and I would further hasten to add that my peculiar version of Reform Judaism-cum-religious naturalism is indispensable to my version of left-wing cultural conservativism -- the rise of narcissism is concomitant with neglect of considerations of justice for both human others and non-human others.

40 comments:

Skittles, The Huntress said...

Are you forming your own political party? If so, I may join.

WW

Anonymous said...

Your comments are amusing and witty, but I find myself frustrated by the association of cultural leftism with such things as narcissism, infantilism, and hypertrophy of government.

It may be I have a highly sceptical attitude toward "self-discipline" and "standards"--however, it is simply a misunderstanding--or a smear-- of what I am about to then conclude I support a slacker philosophy of life which is anti-work, anti-worker, and most likely really is highly unrealistic and, among other things, anti-cultural, anti-intellectual.

For example, I am both pro-government and pro-individual liberty, and there isn't the slightest contradiction in this. Government which hypertrorphies at the expense of individual liberty is simply bad government and governing. That there is such a thing as bad government and governing does not mean "government is bad," or "liberals wish us to have bad government because they hate individual liberty"--spurious conclusions which liberals generally did not arrive at and which they've merely been smeared with.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

This still seems chaotic to me, Carl.

As does the post by Yusef.

I don't think you're allowed to hold these positions.

It's like saying something is made out of water because it is a brick.

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, by David Landes (economic historian at Harvard) argues that capitalism is the engine of prosperity, and obviously it is prosperity that drives the art market.

You seem to segue back and forth between various socialist ideas. I can't keep them all straight. It's a little like trying to find the ball in a game of three-card monte.

Sometimes you've said you're a Marxist, but now increasingly you point back to his beginnings and his intrigue with Kant. But you won't accept the Christian side of Kant.

So in a sense you Marxicize (is that a word?) Kant.

Then I sometimes reproach myself for not understanding that you are a kind of missing link. That ni the evolution of cultural ideals there was an option that I missed and is represented by your heroines such as Jean Elshtain (who I haven't read, but who next to nobody has read).

As for Yusef, he was far and away the most hopeful candidate for a discussion at Shaviro's blog, but I never quite understood his drift.

Are you two anomalies or do you represent a new movement among the younger intellectuals?

I would also argue against narcissism and infantilism but also see them as necessary components of the Fall. I cannot see how anything can iron them out of the wrinkles.

You can to some extent protect against any one ego's takeover by arguing for two and three party as opposed to one-party states (too often ruled by a psychotic strongman).

You can build in checks and balances.

But what I don't think you can do is to promote economic diversity without also promoting greater factional deployment (more various factions) in academia, in government, and even at blog-sites.

And with that, you have to allow for greater freedom in the marketplace, with less taxes, rather than more.

Perhaps the great question is whether a Smithian economy is necessarily more diverse in every sense than a protected Marxist economy, ruled by a single-minded political committee (which too often for me come down to a vision of a hiring body in an English department -- three or four feminists and one idea of what they want).

At least I think Carl and I agree on one absolute value: the value of unfettered intellectual inquiry.

Simply because it's more fun.

Otherwise it's like playing chess against yourself. You can make the other side lose, or win, but you won't learn any new moves.

Anonymous said...

The ideas aren't chaotic simply because they do not fit your expectations, Kirby.

I think you are required to point out where our thinking becomes chaotic, and how. Otherwise, what I really get from your comments is a sense that you demand our conformity to your preconceived notions, expectations, and whatever conventions it is you find acceptable (which you seem to take to be non-chaotic...but what if your accepted conventions mask chaos?)

"I don't think you're allowed to hold these positions.

It's like saying something is made out of water because it is a brick."

It is perfectly fine for you to think I am not allowed to hold a position, but your opinion is useful to me only if I learn why you think I not be allowed to hold these positions. Is it because the position is somehow contradictory? If so, how so? In what way are any of the positions taken by either Carl or me like saying because something is made of water it is a brick? I can see how something made out of water is not a brick--for example, an igloo. So, if I was saying something comparable to what you think I am saying, I would want to know about that so I could correct myself and not say it again. At present,though, I don't see what I am saying as being comparable, so I don't yet get anything out of the comparison.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

I was laughing a little at my feeling baffled by both of your logic(s), Yusef.

Carl seems to simultaneously regret the loss of tradition, and to think it's leading to a rise in narcissism.

But his response is to attack the capitalist economy as somehow responsible, and to want to substitute -- a left-wing top-down economy, run by a secularist left.

So far that makes sense, unless you happen to be me, and to think that traditional Protestantism is responsible for the rise of capitalism (Weber's thesis), and thus to think that you are throwing prosperity out the window and meanwhile giving secularists a monopoly on culture -- they will preserve something traditional -- but tradition at least in this country has been defined by its adherence to Puritan norms (with which the secularist left is largely breaking -- since the "sexual revolution" of the sixties).

Now anybody can do almost anything with anybody, and perhaps the only ones to protest are animal rights groups.

Your position is even harder to understand, Yusef. Let me put it into a separate comment, so that these two don't get confused.

But at any rate -- community and tradition -- are in decline due to the rise of secularism. Carl sees somehow that instead they are linked to capitalism.

Capitalism used to have one brake -- religious thought -- which for instance guaranteed that stores would close on Sundays. Now that brake is off, and many have to work on Sundays, or all night long, willy nilly.

I can almost see Carl's point -- that if you have a new religion -- which is secularism founded on Kantian Marxism -- there will be new dictates -- but those dictates will have to come out of Kant, who is Lutheran -- but we won't go there -- we will just take the dictates without their rationale, and go on from there.

This reminds me of the Situationist film title, The Dialectic Can Break Bricks.

I don't see why we don't just leave the Puritan culture in place along with its rationale. It's working better than some Godless system that has never worked in any society, and that has always led to a complete breakdown followed by genocide of those who don't agree, followed by a return to tradition.

I mean, how many more times do we have to kill everybody in order to create a utopia, only to realize that tradition is tradition, and that we ought to work from within it, rathe rthan chuck the whole thing?

The tradition is our ecosystem. If we chuck it, we have to start from scratch.

how smart is that?

I'm not sure I understand the whole contours of Carl's idea. He may need a book's length to explain it. He has a pretty big brain.

Kirby Olson said...

Yusef -- if you are pro-government and pro-individual liberty you are a Lockean liberal (that is, at least if the liberties you support are Locke's principles of life, health, liberty and property).

So therefore I think you are like me.

But, you don't think that you are.

Perhaps you have other liberties in mind.

Perhaps.

Or maybe you are a Lockean! If so, then you should also be a Christian, because Locke argues that these are GOD-GIVEN rights.

It seems to me that you and Karl (purposeful K!), want the rock-solid traditions of Protestantism without the Protestantism!

But to have one you must have the other.

Otherwise you just have a mess.

Anonymous said...

"Yusef -- if you are pro-government and pro-individual liberty you are a Lockean liberal (that is, at least if the liberties you support are Locke's principles of life, health, liberty and property)."

I think it is demonstrably false to conclude that if I am pro-government and pro-individual liberty then I am a Lockean liberal.

Please note that I don't wish to take a stand one way or the other on Locke at this point. I only want to comment on the kinds of conclusions you are drawing, and to indicate they do not have the strength you appear to believe they have.

I want to go very slowly over this territory because unless I do, what I get from you is a feeling that I am being caricatured, and feeling that way, it is all too easy for me to unthinkingly respond by caricaturing you in return.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

Yusef, it's hard for me to read you because all I get are fragments.

I've met Carl, and corresponded with him privately, and talked with him on the phone.

I don't have any sense of you. I know you live in Alaska. That's the only thing I understand about you.

I don't know where you're from, what your family history is like, where you've been to school, or anything else.

Carl gives a strong sense of himself in his "About Me" discussion below. If I had a similar thing about you, maybe I could understand you better.

You just don't give any information to go on.

I have a blog with 800 posts, and 4 books. Anybody can find out just about anything about me.

But you're a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. You give us a name and a place (but even the name doesn't have a last name, and the place is enormous and could be anything from Valdez to the Aleutians, and no one knows what you are even doing up there or how you got there.

But I guess it's my fault you are poorly understood.

Anonymous said...

I want to look at very specific items which have come up in this specific conversation, e.g., your assertion that to be pro-government and pro-individual liberty means one is a Lockean liberal.

I don't think there is anything in my personal background, which would illuminate this specific item, or I would divulge it. I wouldn't intentionally be secretive, though I have disliked the way personal information gets used in a conversation such as this one, as when a person's background is used to discredit that person's ideas, as an ad hominem attack.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

Well, ad hominem attacks are irrelevant by their very nature and could be called as such. I'm just trying to help find a common ground -- Locke would be common ground -- for instance, a philosopher to whom we could both appeal.

You generally resist being pinned down. That's your right, but it doesn't help me find any common ground.

I can't "place" you, so I can't find any common ground.

Alas.

You could come to my blog and argue. I think we've worn out our last leftist. The leftists usually come in groups of two or three, and last for six months -- playing Thrasymachus.

We wear them slowly down, and then sadly they leave. But we always need new ones!

No advance without contraries -- as Blake said!

the only Yusef I ever heard of before was Cat Stevens. You aren't Cat Stevens, are you?

I used to really love his songs, but I think he refuses to perform any longer for some reason. I saw a documentary about him. You probably haven't heard about him. He was an enormous pop singer at one point, but then became a Muslim, and even supported the death sentence on Salman Rushdie.

Moon Shadow is a song that no one should go through life without humming to themselves in the shower at least thrice.

Carl Sachs said...

I haven't said anything about what I'd want to put in place of a capitalist economy, Kirby. I don't even know if I'd want to replace it with anything.

There's the level of social critique, and then there's the level of policy analysis, and while the two must be kept informed by each other, it's a mistake to substitute one for the other.

So while I stand firm on the ethical critique of capitalism, it certainly doesn't follow that I'd prefer communism, or any other system.

Perhaps there could be a capitalist system which is responsive to these critiques and makes moves to correct itself. And while perhaps no capitalist society could be ethically ideal, certainly there are better and worse.

America has been better than it is now, and it can be better than it is, and even better than it was. In that sense I'm a patriot, in the same sense that Rorty was. I used to be an anti-American leftist. Then I grew up.

Now I'm not sure what I am, except to say that I'm somewhere between Dewey and Adorno. There are worse places to be.

Kirby Olson said...

Carl, that is fine. It is fine to grow up, and no doubt when you are fifty you will be yet a little more conservative. We may find you wearing a yamaka yet.

Not sure of the spelling.

Meanwhile, I looked up Cat Stevens and he has two or three new CDs out and is beginning to perform again! I am amazed. You can listen to some of his songs at his web site, and he is just amazing, just as he was back in the sixties.

He was always my favorite of the sixties electric folk rockers. I loved his vision of peace.

But then I grew up.

Except I didn't.

I still hum his songs.

I am going to order some of his new CDs for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

We're trying to address misconceptions you hold about us and project onto us, in what amount to be caricatures, and when we do so, you draw away from further consideration of them, as if in evasion. The effect, for me, is one of being taunted, or teased.

When I have this feeling of being taunted or teased on the internet, it is impossible to nail down what's really happening, whether it's intentional or not,but it seems to be the case that I do better breaking off any further engagement.

I recall something about Cat Stevens (Yusef Islam) from a few years ago--during the Patriot Act hysteria of the time, he was denied entry into the US. But what I suspect is someone in gov't, some pipsqueak moron, was fucking with him.

Now, if you look at the Patriot Act and you look at the "conservative" rhetoric spewing about during the Bush train-wreck years wherein we are cautioned about trimming gov't to allow for greater individual liberty while simultaneously we allowed the US Constitution to be thrown into the garbage pail,( with the humungous increases in gov't bureaucracy which went along with that if one had one's eyes open,)one began to feel taunted and teased and tricked, on a massive scale.

One wondered why and how the debate could remain perched and derailed on a purely artificial consideration of pro-gov't versus pro-individual liberty. Such a debate was neither here nor there, nor intelligent nor salient. I for one am not going to chase down "conservatives" and try to make them notice that beyond sadistically teasing liberals, what they are doing is doing nothing and means nothing. Maybe you are being cutesy, but grown men being cutesy isn't that cute.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

Teasing will never go away. You really can't stop it from happening. It's an important aspect of humanity. Teasing is a phenomenon that deserves serious study. What in fact is it? Is it true that everybody who is feeling teased is actually being teased? Teasing is sport, I think, but it is also accomplishing something else. Teasing is something that the entire simian family engages in, and it probably typifies the human species especially. Of course you don't like it! That's why it's done. But if you go to the zoo (I think there must be a zoo in Alaska) go to watch the squirrel monkeys. All they do all day is tease each other. You could probably just google them and watch them online. It's just fascinating. One of the things that impresses me most about the far left and the far right is that they try to repress humor itself. But the middle is very humorous, and a lot of this has to do with teasing the humorlessness of the far left and the far right. I'm not sure what's going on, but I just love teasing people, and I actually enjoy being teased. It's so funny!

I think that's why the internet was invented in the first place.

It's just one huge tease. The internet is a centrist phenomenon that allows the middle to tease the fringe groups.

That said, I'm trying to be serious. I can't say for sure about the Bush Baby. I think he's serious, as well, but he's also one of the funniest presidents in American history. He can wiggle both ears simultaneously in opposite directions. And his incredibly sapient wit! He couches things in terms that are so simple you can't believe it.

Teasing is something that all the higher mammals engage in. Dogs tease. I don't think that older people should entirely lose their sense of humor. Even nonagenarians and centenarians probably tease each other. I see teasing as both friendly and agonistic simultaneously, it's a kind of passive aggression, which for me at least, is much better than the naked aggression that you, for one, indulge in, because it leaves a holding back, and provides for the possibility that an overture is friendly, rather than merely triumphal.

But this is a very serious difference between the middle and the edges that I too note all the time. It's just that I think teasing is very nice, and I see it as a good sign in someone. I'm more or less terrified by its absence.

But there is a reason that I am the editor of the American Humor Newsletter, and you are not.

Carl Sachs said...

I'd like to continue this discussion, if Yusef and/or Kirby are still around. (Even if they don't want to engage with each other.)

Dewey and Adorno were both highly critical of Lockean liberalism. (They both came out of left-wing Hegelianism.) Lockean liberalism doesn't allow us to conceptualize the importance of community and tradition, or the varieties of human interdependence. And it also puts too much emphasis on equality of exchange and not enough on the inequality of production. It leads us to systematically mis-recognize the fact of unfreedom within capitalist societies and also the possibilities of new kinds of freedom that such societies make possible.

I have a long way to go in training myself to become a dialectical thinker, but I'm far enough along to see that the structure of the actual dynamics of contemporary capitalism works to systematically repress the actualization of the potentialities of overcoming that system which are nevertheless real potentialities within the system as it actually exists.

(I've made a conscious decision here to put the point in terms of real actualities and real potentialities rather than in terms of the real and the possible. Think of this as a way of bringing my training in Deleuze and Aristotle to bear on dialectics.)

The Lockean tradition, which is a tradition of social contracts formed among rational and self-interested individuals, can't accommodate the importance of tradition, of community, or of our ethical responsibilities to other cultures, to future generations, and to ecosystems.

So even though I'm "pro-government" in some way, and "pro-individual" in some way, it's certainly not in the way of Lockean liberalism!

Kirby Olson said...

My understanding is that Locke, as a Christian, does allow for and recognize tradition.

He's a broad-church Episcopalian, but he argues in The Reasonableness of Christianity, that as long as we at least share that paradigm, we can form a society together.

This may and does leave others outside the loop.

But how can you have tradition, unless you have a religion?

Do you mean by tradition that you traditionally drink coffee at noon?

Kirby Olson said...

I'm somewhat at a disadvantage in terms of understanding your Dewey and Adorno assemblage.

I've read Dewey's book on Art as ?

And I've read Minima Moralia by Adorno which seemed just dumb to me (the remark about jazz in particular).

But I liked one essay he wrote on Homer, and the notion of hospitality. That essay stunned me, and became a permanent part of my thinking when I teach Homer.

Hospitality I suppose is a tradition.

Adorno emphasizes that when strangers came to your house you had to feed them. Not only does the Cyclops not feed Odysseus and his men, he sets about eating them.

It's a marvelous insight.

I think your shorthand is falling on deaf ears partially because I don't know your landmarks very well.

My landmarks are largely in the Lutheran Surrealist tradition. So we have a bit of a differend.

It's nowhere near as big as that between Yusef and I.

I think as a Venn diagram, you and I have some overlap, and you and Yusef has some overlap.

However, Yusef and I have no overlap.

It's in the finding of common ground that a conversation can begin.

Or in the lack of it, that a conversation -- ends?

Skittles, The Huntress said...

Have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

WW

Carl Sachs said...

A true conversation is not the discovery of a common ground, but the creation of one. But the creation of a common ground, like the creation of a painting or a cake, does not always turn out as one hopes.

Kirby Olson said...

Why is WW writing on your blog and not on mine?

Is she saying that she has found more common ground on your blog than on mine?

This worries me!

I feel like the wicked witch of the west after having the cold glass of water splashed on my face: I'm shrinking!

I had hoped to expand by drafting Yusef into my conversational circle, but I think I offended him, but I don't know how I managed this.

I'm a shy person -- I find it difficult to put myself out there.

I do do it, but am not very successful!

And somehow I offend people.

I think that your terms are too big on your original post, Carl.

You talk about devout Muslims and devout Christians, for instance, as opposed to Reform Judaism.

I'm drawing blanks on these terms.

Does it mean that you like things like Minorahs and Yamulkas, but you don't like to curl your sideburns? This is the sort of thing I write that offends people, but it's how my mind actually works, so how can I stop it?

I couldn't personally understand what took place in Mumbai this weekend. Is the idea to make us like Islam more for slaughtering all these people?

Is this a kind of propaganda move that is calculated to bring people around to Islam?

Going into a Jewish center and slaughtering Rabbis?

Are these the devout Muslims that you mean?

Or do you mean Cat Stevens aka Yusef Islam?

Many people on the far left and far right have turned to vigilante justice -- bombing abortion clinics or now the gays going into Mormon churches in california and throwing used condoms at the congregants.

I'm not sure how vigilante actions like these can ever lead toward something positive. Are they trying to convince the Mormons that they should change their minds and see gays as outstanding civilians who have moved beyond the narcissism and infantilism that you deplore?

Culture is one thing, economy another. But what about the law?

Isn't this where all these things get decided?

and it seems to me that the left is on the side of intervention in economics, and the right is against it.

I'm not sure how the left wants to intervene in culture but usually that's a disaster. I don't like intervention on that level. The right, again, is more or less against cultural intervention. The left seeks to control the culture, the right doesn't. (that is, there is lots of leftist criticism of novels and poetry, specifically for not being politically engaged, whereas the right never or almost never speaks about poetry or novels except to indicate that people like Salman Rushdie should have the right to write them however they please.)

I'm more or less for laissez-faire economics, and for laissez-faire politics, and laissez-faire culture creation. I don't want the government to intervene. that's why I largely side with the right.

I think you want the government to intervene.

Don't you?

Carl Sachs said...

I'm having a tremendous difficulty deciphering the associative chains between concepts which lead to pose the questions you're posing, Kirby.

And I don't know whether you're asking me to comment on what I think about the Mormons who lobbied for Proposition 8, or about the gays who protested against them, or about the terrorists who attacked Mumbai --

These are related only insofar as they involve, at a very level of generality, the intersection of sex, religion, and politics -- but they are also very different in the relevant details -- so I'm having trouble following your associations.

What I think about redistribution of wealth by progressive taxation is quite another matter altogether!

Kirby Olson said...

Ok, so tell me about progressive taxation.

Are you down with the Obama Nation?

Or do you want a bigger slice of the pie for the lazybones?

Carl Sachs said...

I'm not going to accept that terminology, Kirby. I'll answer only by re-phrasing the terms of the discussion -- without any allusions to "lazybones" and I'm not fond of "bigger slice of the pie" either.

For one thing, I don't want to give anyone a bigger slice of "the pie." I want a basically different pie.

That is, if we're talking at the level of ideals and principles, I'd insist on a basically different pie. But I don't think that translates into any specific set of policy recommendations.

Kirby Olson said...

That's the problem: terminology.

My thinking comes out of Aesops and the Bible.

Yours comes out of Dewey and Adorno.

Again, we need to agree on terms, because terms set the differential of the differend.

You probably want to square the pie.

Kirby Olson said...

I wonder how two discussants ever manage to agree on terms.

I remember hearing on NPR about a two-year long set of meetings between abortion and anti-abortion activists regarding their talking to one another.

The abortion group said that in order for them to sit down and talk, the anti-abortion activists could under no circumstances say that the foetus was a child. That was a pre-condition of any discussion. On the other hand, the anti-abortion group said that they would be willing to talk with the other group on the sole condition that the unborn were not described as "foetuses," but rather, as children.

It struck me as humorous in that the "terms" WERE the argument, that is, whatever terms we use lead inevitably to the conclusions that we reach. So controlling the terms in fact controls the argumentation itself, and its outcome.

If the unborn are "children" of course you can't kill them, and if they are "foetuses," of course you can.

I think the conversation never got further than discussing the terms to be used in the conversation. Since the two sides couldn't agree on terms, there was no conversation.

Common ground has to be a set of terms that all members of a group are willing to agree on, and which seem neutral enough going forward.

It seems to me that I will always deny the validity of any terms that in any sense derive from Marxism.

Marxists of course will deny any terms that appear to come out of the Judeo-Christian heritage.

There are a few figures, precious few, who seem to speak out of both traditions. Martin Luther King, for instance, is honored by both groups.

There aren't many others.

Carl Sachs said...

Ironically, perhaps, one of the things I'd dispute with you about, Kirby, is the "opposition" between Marxism and Judeo-Christianity!

But be that as it may: since I'm not a Marxist, it's not quite relevant to the discussion underway here. I appreciate a lot in Marx himself, but as for Marxism, I'm largely ignorant and uninterested. The only Marxist I appreciate is Lukacs, for his History and Class Consciousness.

Adorno is hardly a Marxist, though he learned a lot from Marx, and Dewey is not at all a Marxist, though he shares with Marx a background in left-wing Hegelianism.

The last thing I would want to do is "deny the validity" of any concepts which come out of Judaism or Christianity -- though there is not much in Christianity which resonates with me, for the obvious reasons. (For me personally, Marx has made sense to me as an Old Testament prophet, warning the people about having fallen away from the truth and consorting with idolaters.)

This whole question, about the construction of dialogue, is important enough that I'll devote my next major post to it. I finally started reading Cavell's The Claim of Reason, and it's been helpful in goading my thought along important paths.

Kirby Olson said...

Carl, Marx said the Christianity was the opiate of the people. And in quite literal terms -- Marxism sought to abolish Christianity.

In the Romanian prisons it was pastors as much as avant-garde poets who were tortured.

And the revolutions of 1989 were Christian in inspiration. They began in Romania at a Lutheran church pastored by Bishop Tokes.

Tokes had been fired by the government (in Marxist countries there is no separation between state and church) and thousands of children knelt in the snow and prayed for their church. Ceausescu had ordered the children shot.

It was this that sparked the firestorm that brought down Ceausescu.

People rode tanks singing, "God Exists!"

At any rate, not only does Marx deny Christianity, but Marxists generally try their darnedest to destroy Christians.

Or in Tibet, they destroy Buddhists.

I personally don't think they can be combined.

Luther argues that we have to wait for the Second Coming.

Marx argues we have to take matters into our own hands.

They're totally different ideas, and sets of not only descriptions, but prescriptions.

Or so I think.

Kirby Olson said...

They're totally different sets of descriptions and prescriptions.

Where is the common ground between them?

I don't see it.

Anonymous said...

You are able to identify cases or examples which perhaps seem to support the conclusion you wish to make but in fact these examples do not lead us to make these conclusions. You do this sort of thing over and over and I wonder why.

Let's say I did something similar, for example using the behavior of a Lutheran pastor I know about in my community. The one I am thinking of is serving time in prison for molesting the children of his congregation. Now, I take that instance of Lutheran child molestation as support for this conclusion: Lutheran pastors are child molesters. Now, I'll go beyond that, and use it to support this even more wide-ranging conclusion: Lutherans are child molesters. Lutheranism is a religion of child molestation.

If I proceeded in this way, I would know exactly what I am doing--and it is dirty and rotten. I am giving the appearance of thinking and analyzing, but really I am teasing and taunting. If I was doing this in the same room with some Lutherans, I wouldn't be that surprised if in the heat of the moment one of them punched me in the nose. I acknowledge I would deserve a punch in the nose.

--Yusef

Carl Sachs said...

I tend to agree, Yusef. But I'm not interested in going over the same old ground with Kirby about Marx, about "Marxism" or about "Communism." It's not a worthwhile use of my time. Such conversations never break any new ground, never result in anything interesting -- just chasing our tails around and around.

Kirby Olson said...

One Lutheran pastor does not equal a tendency in Lutheranism.

The parallel doesn't hold.

When the entire East Bloc became dictatorial, and when all of the Asian countries that hold Marxism as their central philosophy (China, Myanmar, Burma) you have much more of a case than one pastor (who you don't even name, so I can't confirm even this tiny assertion).

I agree that there is a problem with capitalism, and state capitalism (which is far worse).

I don't know how you can be so crazy as to equate one pastor who you don't name in a small community in Alaska with what seems to be PREVALENT IN EVERY COMMUNIST COUNTRY SINCE LENIN TOOK OFFICE.

I just don't know how you could do this, unless you are completely illogical to the point that you can't even feed yourself.

But that doesn't seem to be the case.

I haven't seen you, but you do seem to be able to get a spoon into your face. As can Carl (I've seen him eat, and he does a neat job of it).

But how can you not look at the tradition of Marxism as state capitalism and find it severely wanting, and how can you nevertheless look at one pastor and compare it.

There's not even an attempt at fairness.

Carl Sachs said...

There's a risk of diminishing returns by continuing this particular conversation, but I'll make a few more attempts at it nevertheless.

Whether or not it's fair or appropriate to blame Marx, or Marxism, for the evils of Communism depends on whether or not the Communists were correct in claiming Marx as their intellectual progenitor.

There's a parallel situation with Nietzsche and Nazism -- Nietzsche bears responsibility for Nazism if, but only if, the Nazis were correct to interpret Nietzsche as a predecessor of Nazism, and if non-Nazi interpretations of Nietzsche are less tenable than the Nietzsche-the-Nazi interpretation.

I do think that we all need to bear in mind that the relation between philosophical (or religious) texts (whatever the difference is between 'philosophical' and 'religious') and social-political movements which take those texts as points of departure, inspiration, etc. is a highly contested and over-determined relation, and as such it resists any simplifications.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know how you can be so crazy as to equate one pastor who you don't name in a small community in Alaska with what seems to be PREVALENT IN EVERY COMMUNIST COUNTRY SINCE LENIN TOOK OFFICE."

You really don't like this treatment, do you? I didn't think you would.

And in fact my point is that such treatment is wrong and the thinking behind it is crazy. It is not only worthless, it is harmful.

When people dish out this treatment, they are doing wrong.

Now how would you like it if I explain my bad behavior and poor, crazy thinking with "That's just the way I am...You'll have to get used to it...It's just the way it is." That's further enraging, is it not?

Of course, I know in advance that when someone else, in this case me, does something wrong, it is wrong, but when you do it, well, that's different, and in that case, it is okay, or even good.

So that this little experiment or whatever it is to make you take a dose of your own medicine is doomed to fail because you will never ever in a hundred million years see this is your own medicine and your own medicine is crazy and toxic.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

But, Yusef, the two instances are not comparable.

One Lutheran pastor (who you don't name, or place) is not a trend, when there are upwards of 10,000 Lutheran pastors.

What bothers me here is the logic, not the blame.

If you could verify that there is a child molesting tendency among Lutheran pastors (a tendency that on a graph would exceed the norm in a population of 10,000), then I would be overjoyed to see this trend, and might even reevaluate my commitment to Lutheranism as a result.

However, even though there is a clear trend in Marxism toward despotism, which is OUTLINEd in the Communist Manifesto (that there will only be one party), Marxists will still not acknowledge this.

Again, I'm not sure about the Nietzchean example that Carl gives. The Nazi state was not based on Nietzsche's Manifesto. They liked his concept of the ubermensch, but they didn't build the whole philosophy on that one term.

Nietzsche didn't offer a vision of the state in which the mediocre destroy those who excelled on a racial basis.

Marx clearly does do this in the CM.

All communist states use that as their legitimation.

Again, even if you could show a trend among Lutheran pastors toward pedophilia (which you can't, as you can't even name the one pastor in your village who purportedly is a pedophile), then you would be hard pressed to find Luther IN ANY WAY legitimating such a viewpoint.

I assume that in a population of upwards of 10,000 pastors there would have to be a few pedophiles in the mix since probability would dictate that. But you have to show that there is a probable connection between the two things.

Logic requires this.

Logic, I tell you.

Even in science, you have to show a causal connection.

Within Marxism, it is always likely that the state will take over and become totalitarian, and that there will be one leader who becomes a dictator.

There have been now 30 or 40 of these states. Do you think it's just a coincidence?

When the state runs the capitalist system (as it does in Marxism), then of course the state will have all the power. And since only the party is permitted to run the state, whoever runs the party will have all the power.

I'm not sure why this isn't clear.

by the way, I'm not mad about your charges concerning Lutheran pastors. I would LIKE to see your evidence. I do believe that probability would DICTATE at least a few molesters within Lutheran ranks.

It would be incomprehensible that there were none.

But you'd have to show me a trend that rises above the norm for me to be concerned.

Logic is perhaps one area of common ground.

I think without even that, we are really in trouble. Do we all agree on logic, and on the rules of logic?

hinkmeisters.

Anonymous said...

The conclusions I drew based on the actions of one Lutheran pastor were illogical, wrong headed, insupportable. You understand that, don't you? You understand that I understand that, don't you?

You don't really seem to understand that even if I could show a tendency among Lutheran ministers toward child abuse this would not lead to the conclusion that Lutheranism is a religion of child abuse (or any of the other treacherous conclusions I presented,) and I find this failure of yours disturbing.

I find it disturbing you would reconsider your commitment to Lutheranism on that basis.

You really do not know much of anything and you do not appear to have much grasp of logic.

There could be a variety of factors contributing to greater prevalence of child molestation among Lutheran pastors which would have nothing to do with Lutheran religious doctrines, just as with Catholicism. There could be any number of relationships, correlations, social or economic factors,etc. which could result in such a thing,entirely extraneous to what Lutherans believe in their religious practice.

Your flimsy notion of "causality" here is pseudo-scientific and illogical if not downright anti-scientific and anti-logical.

Shift things a little bit and take up the idea that Lutheranism is anti-semitic. Certainly there is a great deal in Martin Luther's writing which can be taken as anti-semitic. Also, there certainly has been a "trend" or "tendency" for Lutherans to side with anti-semites. Large numbers of Lutherans even side with Nazis or became Nazis. Does that lead us to conclude Lutheranism is a religion of antisemitism? Does that lead us to conclude Lutherans promote antisemitism? To conclude that because you are Lutheran you would support another holocaust? No, it does not.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

Historically, within Germany, that would be the case that many Lutherans did support Hitler (we support all leaders, and it's a blind spot in Lutheranism). However, Lutherans also had at least a dozen of the 42 attempts on Hitler's life to their credit. The White Rose movement (googlable) was a Lutheran cause.

Hitler and his hierarchy were all lapsed Catholics. There were no Lutherans in the top echelon.

But note that they were lapsed Catholics. If Carl is right, and he generally is, Nietzsche, not Luther, was the leading thinker of Nazism (insofar as they can be said to have had any thinking -- Mein Kampf is just a mess!).

At any rate, it wouldn't necessarily PROVE that Lutheranism would be a cause of child molestation if there were a majority of Lutheran pastors who were the same. But it would give me a reason to look at the issue, and if I couldn't come up with a counter, or found that there really was something about child molesters (we agree that child molesters and Nazis are bad things, which means we are beginning to arrive at common ground, Yusef), then I would have to reexamine my commitment to Lutheranism.

But nothing would make you re-examine your commitment to Marxism.

Or nothing that I can find.

In spite of its hideous record in praxis, there are all kinds of reasonably intelligent people who back Marxism in theory.

Is this idealism gone wild?

Is it a refusal to think about the very structure of Marxism, and see how it invites tyranny, in that it puts the economy into the hands of the state, and then puts the state into the hands of the party, and then puts the party into the hands of its Biggest Brother?

I don't know.

I can't fathom it.

The Gulags and the Killing Fields are just as important as the Holocaust.

Numerically, the Gulags are far more significant.

The Killing Fields -- in percentage terms -- are far more significant than the Holocaust.

But maybe because it's only Asians, or some other group, no one cares. But the idea is the same: wipe out all opposing powers, and institute state capitalism under one despot.

This is always wrong, and always invites disaster.

Instead, we must do exactly the opposite: more dissemination of power, more parties, more centers, more factions, more ideologies, more competition.

Fear monopolies, even if they are seemingly friendly ones.

Kirby Olson said...

I think in fact we have arrived at a consensus. We are against Nazis and we are against child molesters.

Child molesters are not generally Nazis and Nazis are not generally Nazis (the Nazi hierarchy was sick, but child molesting is not noticeably one of their salient traits).

What then do they have in common?

They have in common an urge to power (a trait that they share with Nietzsche's Ubermensch, which they see as legitimation, which in turn comes out of Schopenhauer's notion of the ID).

And they want an unfair advantage over others. Nazis want to destroy all rivals and make captive groups subserviant to them.

Child molesters have an unfair advantage over the children that they molest (who are generally powerless to stop them).

So we are against monopolies on power, or so it would seem to me. Except communists think that they can make a monopoly on power that is benevolent in nature.

This is the mistake.

You can't do this. As soon as you have a monopoly it will always turn malevolent, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's a human law, or so it seems.

In praxis, as soon as you allow one party an unfair advantage over others, you have the basis of a certain diabolical unfairness. Unfairness is unfairness, and can't equal anything except unfairness.

Fair enough?

Anonymous said...

So basically you came up with a fancy name for populism?

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