Sunday, January 23, 2005

Socialist argument, the failure of liberal rhetoric

Although it's somewhat trite, I do believe that things can be considered in the framework of thesis, anti-thesis, and new thesis. I don't say 'synthesis' because that's not what Hegel, who originated the idea, really meant. He wasn't talking about some synthetic idea which had part of the original idea being the solution to the impasse; instead, what he meant was a new idea which satisfied the terms which the anti-thesis had laid down as not being sufficient, but the new idea itself was new: it just happened to also satisfy the terms.

It wasn't derivative.

Anyways, the dialectic of liberalism, '90s conservatism, and something which I hope is emerging can be seen as a thesis/anti-thesis/new thesis relationship.

It works like this: welfare state liberalism in the early '90s was exhausted. People were starting to rebel against the idea that the system was victimizing some people who therefore needed cash entitlements to address their victimization. People saw through this as an enourmous con. Even though the problems people were talking about were real, the way they were framed and the way they were presented, was becoming increasingly unacceptable to many Americans.

The conservative revival of the mid '90s played on very real shortcomings, then, with its "Contract with America", which emphasized personal responsability and initiatives for entrepreneurship and free enterprise, as well as some minor rhetoric regarding moral values.

The liberals had no effective response to this and so they basically folded. Clinton adopted the conservative agenda, and that form of politics is dead in the water now.

Which brings us to the present day and how we can navigate the impasse.

The Socialist movement has been really interesting in that it has always emphasized personal responsability in it's rhetoric. While the liberals have said "Society is basically OK, it works for people, but there are always a few marginal groups which fall outside of the lines and which need to be helped", Socialists have said that they indeed are fulfilling their role in society, they are being good working people, and yet society still isn't working for them.

They aren't marginal people, they're the working class, people who are supposedly doing allright under liberal society, and still they aren't getting the quality of life which they were promised.

So socialism has always said that, as productive members of society, the banding together of people to fight for social change isn't a movement of people who have nothing to do with society but is instead a movement coming from within society itself for structural reform of that society. Quite a different concept. And that that reform is just and necessary because these people are part of the heart and soul of society itself.

The combination of personal responsability and social justice which the socialist movement has put forward since the beginning can cut through the conservative impasse and create a new paradigm, a new way of talking about politics and society, which can replace the vaccuum left by the death of welfare state liberalism and change the political landscape forever.

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