Monday, August 08, 2016

Liberalism, the State, and Socialism.

Many people have misconceptions about the concept of the State, both in general and as it exists within socialist thought. The definition of the State as being the executive arm of the government is actually a relatively recent invention. Before the rise of large governmental apparatus', the State as such was many times considered to be identical to the community. Not in a way reminiscent of Fascism, which sees the State as a governmental entity as being all encompassing, but instead as being simply the entity in question. The State was an implicit entity made up of all the social relationships the existed within it, while the government was the part of the community that regulated the affairs of the State.

Underlying this was an understanding that a city or other geographical area made up a collective whole, one that transcended the individuals that made it up. This whole was made by the interrelationship of social institutions, for instance economic relations, familial relations, work relations. All of these together made up an entity that was thought to, potentially, have a sense of common interest, which the government would then be the representative of.

In this, the idea of a Constitution had a unique role. The Constitution of a State, in the older sense, was the arrangement of social and economic relations within that grouping, as well as the governmental institutions set up to regulate those interests. An example of a Constitution would be one which specified Aristocratic rule, as opposed to one that specified Democratic rule. The Constitution set up the implicit State of which the government was the explicit agent. A change in the Constitution of society, then, could be something along the lines of shifting the entity in all its forms from an Aristocratic social system to a Democratic one, or the opposite. Interestingly, Aristotle and other thinkers at the beginning of the Western tradition made no distinction between the economic and the social aspects of the Constitution and of the character of the State. An Aristocratic state, for example, would normally be dominated by large landowners, and this was thought to be part of the normal definition.

The problem with the understanding of the State, and of politics, that people have today is that classical liberalism has eroded the sense of community to the point where it's no longer recognized that political entities themselves are defined by common, communal, concerns and goals. Instead, it's thought that the individual is the sole anchor and actor in society, and that the recognition of any other kind of relevant social relationship between members of the community is the recognition of a fiction. However, the economic interdependence of people in the community, and how the policies of those that employ others effects the health of the community is not a fiction. You might not be able to conveniently put a finger on it, like you can with the individual, but it's as real as anything else.

It's proper, in my view at least, for the government to regulate the health of the community, which includes social programs to meet community need, social programs that individuals and businesses are expected to contribute to proportionally. You can call it socialism, but that's only partially true.

Socialism itself is a partially a construct, one that in point of fact only comes into being in response to classical liberalism. In truth, I believe that the tendencies that manifest as socialism were already present in the world of government that the classical liberals criticized. That world had socialistic factors as well as individualistic ones, and the classical liberals chose to emphasize the individualistic ones, while condemning the other factors by equating them with parts of politics that they disliked. This included monarchy as well as the domination of society by religion. However, neither monarchial government nor domination of society by religion is necessarily related to any basic collective form of action. The interest of a state as a collective entity still exists without monarchial government and with religious freedom.  

Back in a limited capacity

I've decided to start writing again, but only with regards to political philosophy, not as a commentary on current events. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Putting the blog on indefinite hold

Which shouldn't be too much of a surprise, since the last post was over a year ago. In any case, there are many reasons for it. First off, I think we face a much different political climate than we did when I started writing this. I started writing the blog just a little over six months after 9/11. With Obama winning, rolling back much of Bush's politics, and, amazingly enough, not becoming another self interested politician, the climate of fear and paranoia that categorized those days has pretty much dissipated. So in part, we've won. In part, also, I feel we're suffering from what could be called 'winners syndrome'.

Progressives have won, but in becoming winners, there's been a tendency for writers to not engage in the type of self criticism that's necessary, and that they, we, often held the right accountable for.

The type of politics that I believe in are ones that, while rooted in progressive values, recognize that conservatives and sometimes libertarians have good points at times as well. I have no interest in becoming part of a new orthodoxy.

Perhaps in the future there will be tendencies that reflect the kind of politics that I'd like to see, but in the short term, there appears to be nothing on the horizon that captures the kind of nuance that I personally believe in.

*on edit...there was a post about six months ago, but the fact that .I forgot about it shows that it's time to put an official break on things.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Fallacy of Post-Modernism

The Fallacy of Post-Modernism. To me, it’s based on familiar ideas expressed in an exotic vocabulary. 
If you look at Lyotard’s original “The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on the Status of Knowledge”, what he says is that in the Modern or Modernistic world you had several “Meta-Narratives” that organized everything, and in the Post-Modern world you no longer have any “Meta-Narratives” at all. 
Well…what exactly is this “Meta-Narrative” spoken of? 

In truth, what Lyotard was expressing is almost identical to historical ideas from Hegel and others that said that every historical era and every culture within that historical era had its own unique fixations and values….and that with the change of history, over time, one set of values declines and another rises in its place. None of this is particularly new at all, and it manifests not just in history and Hegel but also in Marx with the processions of different modes of production. 

In Lyotard’s “Post-Modern Condition”, the question to be asked is why exactly the end of Modernism, as an era, would be replaced by nothing unique at all? One could argue very easily that the “Post-Modern” confusion he saw is a temporary condition based on the ending of one historical era and the beginning of a new one, a sort of lull in the historical stream between two eras, rather than anything permanent. 

If, however, we really don’t have any overarching ideas or values that would rule our historical era, but everything really is now up for permanent grabs with mixing and matching, that would be significant, very significant…..but the post-modernists don’t provide any proof for this, and give evidence of not even understanding the concepts that they advocate for.