Written in 2005, Paul Gottfried’s book*, “The Strange Death of Marxism” calls to Us as We come increasingly to realize, perhaps like Custer as he gave the order to the bugler for that final Dismount call on the crest of that little hillock above the Little Big Horn, that things were turning out far differently from what he had confidently expected.
I’m going to discuss this book, and also a short but meaty review, written by a modern European that you may want to look at first, here.
Marxism – a mid-19th century European economic theory that examined (acutely and decently) the struggles of Labor and the working classes and the workers in a capitalist system that was simultaneously urbanizing and industrializing – actually did not die. It was taken by Lenin, a ‘real man’ of action who improved upon poor Marx’s airy thoughts and speculations, and imposed on Soviet Russia after the Reds overthrew the worker’s government of Kerensky in that awful Red October of 1917.
But after World War 2 Marxism-Leninism started to lose its luster. Perhaps it was the effect of the Americans and their anti-communist concerns, or their awareness that any critique of the capitalist-industrialist system whatsoever would simply slow down the marvelous American Century that seemed to be brilliantly and immovably established after 1945. No doubt Khrushchev’s 1956 not-so-Secret Speech outlining the extent of Stalin’s murderous policies against the Russian people also played a role. As did the experiences of the then-called Developing Nations as they deployed their newly-liberated post-colonial freedoms by dabbling with the Marxist vision and the Leninist model and seemed always to wind up with some sort of repressive state apparatus (and huge debt).
By the mid-1960s, it seemed as if the Marxist vision and the Leninist model of government and economics were pretty much worn thin as an attractive, workable possibility for any nation or government – although the USSR and its satellites were clearly going to be locked in the grip of Communism for quite a while.
BUT THEN, BUT THEN, BUT THEN … Marxism didn’t die. It was simply taken over. From an economic theory that required massive government intervention and control, it became a theory of government-sponsored overthrowing of (not the economy but) the moral and cultural foundations of Western society.
Gottfried traces this stunning metamorphosis.
The Frankfurt School plays a great role. A group of German Marxist thinkers escaped Hitler in the 1930s and came to the US. They compared notes and pooled their experiences and came up with a vision that called not for the economic reform of capitalism (they were in America, after all, where capitalism was kinda paying their salaries) but rather for a wider role of government in the task of ‘social engineering’ (don’t dismiss the concept just because the phrase has been used wayyy too much).
They volunteered their services in the insufficiently-noticed American efforts in the immediate postwar period to thoroughly purify and refine German culture and society so that it would never again serve as the (oh so potent) seed-ground for totalitarian wars of conquest and destruction. The Americans had a chance in both Germany and Japan in 1945 to try a hand at government-imposed destruction and reconstruction of the entire national culture and society. This was the Frankfurt School’s first phase.
In postwar Japan, Douglas MacArthur got a chance to conduct his reconstruction more or less insulated by distance and a certain lack of interest on Washington’s part. But Germany was the heart of Europe (and literally constituted the frontier between American Democracy’s West and Soviet Communism’s East).
In a curious sloshing back-and-forth phenomenon, Gottfried saw the Marxy Frankfurt School, established now in the West, drawing upon its experiences of both Marx and Hitler to influence the massive cultural terraforming project that the Americans would impose on a defeated Germany and its culture and society.
The American grand-plan was, as the author of this review of Gottfried puts it, “to reeducate the Germans by developing programs designed to eradicate the cultural identity of the German people”, the assumption being that Hitler had had 12 years to form entire cohorts of German youth and that there had to be something ‘in’ German culture that predisposed it toward the type of authoritarian war-mongering that had resulted in two World Wars in 25 years.
The Americans, through their thorough military and governmental Occupation administration, would transform that part of Germany that the Western Allies controlled (the Soviets were pursuing much the same objectives according to their own Big and Deep Picture illuminations in their Occupation of the eastern half of the former Germany).
Since Germans were warlike and revered their assorted militaristic heroes, then their culture would have to be gutted in order to eradicate their inner aggressiveness and violence (and right about here you may already start to connect some dots in terms of American society and culture 20 years later).
The Frankfurters had seen how Hitler deployed government force to Nazify the German people through the thorough-going coordination (Gleichschaltung) of government, law, education, and even religion, amplified and abetted by a propaganda-fueled media and, of course, the pervasive Terror of secret police and the cooptation of every useful strand of culture and tradition.
The thing that had to be done, the Frankfurters figured, was for the American government to deploy this whole panoplium, but this time in a GOOD cause.
Desperate both to punish the Germans and to build up West Germany as a ‘democracy’ against the Sovietized example of East Germany, the Americans set to massive and deep cultural terraforming with a will.
Nicely, since American money started pouring in just as soon as they stopped the more obvious incidents of goose-stepping, the West Germans were soused with lotsa cash, which made swallowing the Philosophic and Cultural Pill a whole lot easier.
And the whole thing actually worked, from the American point of view. Although how well things would have gone if the ominous presence of the Evil Empire just across the Wall, armed and efficiently dangerous, hadn’t concentrated the West German mind and rendered the nervous Americans somewhat indulgent of incomplete purification … well, one of the what-ifs of history.
But the Frankfurters, such as Herbert Marcuse** and Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, had set up their own Institute here, and through the 1950s they had morphed into a Post-Marxist phase where they were no longer in the business of critiquing Capitalism BUT INSTEAD now turned their energies to a thorough-going and profound critique of WESTERN CULTURE AND CIVILIZATION.
This was the Frankfurt School’s second phase.
And so when the Dems became desperate after 1965 to raise up new electoral demographic groups (which I call Identities, from which Identity Politics), the American Old Left that had sought better wages and working conditions for Labor against Management and Capital was kicked to the curb (along with all those white, male, smoke-stack productive-culture workers and their sweat, tears, sperm and violence) and in its place the American New Left arose, with the eager support of the Dems and then the entire Beltway.
And the programme of each of the Identities was precisely to Deconstruct that old culture, according to whichever ‘oppressive aspect’ (gender, age, ethnicity, race, etcetera) it had singled out.
And the former terraformers of the Frankfurt School – trained old European scholars all – provided a just-add-outrage ready-mix of respectable and serious-sounding intellectual and academic justification for the combined Identities’ cultural assault, Deconstruction, and general terraforming-by-government-imposition.
And what a ready-mix it was.
The Frankfurters were nothing if not widely-read systems-thinkers who sought a comprehensive understanding of the many deep dynamics that worked to Shape a culture (all the better to comprehensively Deconstruct and terraform it, my dear).
Reading Max Weber they formulated a critique of rationalism and Reason as it developed in the West, and an appreciation of the role of ‘elites’ and bureaucracies, and a reliance on the ‘scientific’ study of societies (it being assumed that there were ‘laws’ that governed human culture just as there were laws that governed forces like gravity and thermodynamics and aerodynamics and … yes, economics).
Reading Sigmund Freud they formulated a mistrust of the ‘reality principle’, a trusting awareness of the ‘unconscious’ that actually governed humans who yet dwelled in the delusion that reasoned action governed their lives individually and communally, and an abiding conviction that ‘culture’ and ‘society’ and ‘tradition’ did nothing but ‘repress’ and ‘oppress’ genuine human be-ing.
From their reading in philosophical Positivism they came to distrust the role of rationality in human affairs, to suspect the heavy influence of forces beyond Reason that shaped history, and to embrace their old Marxist friend Hegel’s dialectical and oppositional dynamic as THE operative force in history (and politics). (It was this last that found a convivial ally in the Good-Evil Manicheanism of American Exceptionalism and Fundamentalism, as well as in the bi-polarizing schematics of white-black, male-female, young-old that became the cartoonish conceptual basis of Identity Politicking.)
From their reading in Aesthetic Modernism they developed a fey and dismissive attitude toward the established authority or value of any Tradition or Culture, and a dismissive attitude toward any ‘popular’ culture embraced by the masses of society, and a dismissive attitude toward the need for or possibility of any Shape to individual or communal life, and instead they embraced a confidence in the value of ‘elites’ as the arbiters of Culture.
From what they recalled of Marx, they asserted a ‘bourgeois’ oppressiveness to Western culture, the oppression and alienation of one class by a more powerful class, and the value of a classless society. (And thus the Boomers, not overly given to study, especially of the past, were so quick to claim that American culture was “bourgeois” (perhaps spelled ‘boorjwa’) and ‘oppressive’ (what kid doesn’t think adults repress him/her?) and thus the feminists figured that if you if you can be oppressed as a class you can be oppressed as a gender and that if you can go for a classless society, why not a genderless one too?).
And from the cultural theory that had been fermenting in Europe throughout the 19th century*** but had taken a rather anti-Western an ‘liberating’ turn during the postwar de-colonization era, they developed a sensitivity to the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ elites, and – as stated – a profound antipathy to Western culture in itself and also as it had been imposed on other cultures.
A witches’ brew indeed. Drinkable, perhaps, in small amounts, but as lethal as grain-alcohol if consumed by the pitcher-full or, say, pitcher after pitcher in a decades-long ‘night’ of bout-drinking. Say the past 40 Biblical years.
And in 1965, as I mentioned, Herbert Marcuse made the lethal mistake of putting his own personal experience of Nazism not into a historical article but rather into a general theoretical article. There are, he insisted, some ideas that are sooooo bad and soooo dangerous that no democratic and tolerant society can or should even tolerate their being discussed.
He may well have been thinking of the Nazi crapulence about the Jewish menace and all the master-race baloney. And in that sense, he certainly could make a case that since the Germans of the 1930s did not (or increasingly could not publicly) reject such ideas that the Nazis were spewing, they thus permitted the debasement of their culture.
But, untutored in the Framers’ take on human affairs, he could not grasp that there is no governmental authority that could ever be trusted with controlling the ‘toleration’ of some ideas and the repression of others; no government authority that could or should be given the power to say what could be discussed by the Citizens and what could not; no government authority that could be trusted – as the Nazis (and the Commies) were doing – to say what was Politically Correct and what was not.
THAT is a task that in the Framers’ Vision had to be left up to the Citizens and to The People, deliberating and thinking and acting through their cultural and social activities. But Marcuse was a government-heavy guy, as so many Europeans were (and still are), which actually dove-tailed perfectly with the newly-erected American New Left Identities’ need to steamroll the quick and uncritical acceptance of their assorted agitations and visions. Hence the American ‘Left’ became, profoundly and lethally, as government-heavy as any European movement.
After all, the American New Left of the 1960s was never a home-grown sorta democratic thing; never like in a Norman Rockwell painting of a town meeting deliberation. Rather, it was deeply influenced by European and Marxist thought and practice, either through Saul Alinsky’s Have-vs-Have-Not manipulations that placed no trust in the integrity nor reliability of a democratic deliberative politics, or through the second-phase Frankfurt School’s rejection of Western culture itself and its all-too-ready willingness to use the government to Deconstructively terraform entire cultures and citizenries, including Western culture and American culture and society.
And you wonder why American politics and government seem to have somehow gotten so … well … not-American? As the author of the review says, the plan from the get-go was “to use the government as a radicalizing cultural force”. Which, I would say, is to put it a little too politely. Marcuse, in his article linked-to below in Note 2, actually admits that if you follow his advice you wind up with a government that is going to be attacking its own people and culture, but he dismisses any downside since it’s all in a Good cause. (Such lethal imbecility is a characteristic now shared by unripe Americans un-tempered by the complexities of consequences and by Marxy former-revolutionaries and cadres; the similarity is by now so well-entrenched that you can’t tell where one characteristic ends and the other begins.)
But the American New Left was, perversely, not interested in developing a productive culture (by whatever impositional means necessary) but rather very much wanted to de-construct a productive culture (too ‘patriarchal’, too sweaty, too rational). A task which, with the Beltway’s invaluable help, has been rather largely accomplished.
The reviewer also notes that in 1922 Ludwig von Mises, in his book on Socialism, asserted that a genuine Socialism “demands promiscuity in sexual life because it consciously neglects the contractual idea”; the idea – that is to say – of two parties committing to each other in some formal way (marriage being the most bourgeois form of such entrapment, I would suppose): “Free love is the socialist’s radical solution for sexual problems [meaning: how to have sex and yet stay ‘free’] … The Family disappears and society is confronted with separate individuals only. Choice in love becomes completely free. Men and women unite and separate just as their desires urge”. [italics mine]
Now, you read that bit from 1922, and you think of the so-called cutting-edge, progressive radical-feminist agenda of the New Left here since the 1960s, and you may suddenly ask yourself if We haven’t been sold a whole mess of ideas that were well-past their sell-by date even in 1972 (or, if you like, since ‘Playboy’ introduced the idea in its approach to matters sexual in the 1950s, though without the benefit of whole-hearted government support).
And of course, since ‘sex’ was slyly injected as a second category (the original single category was ‘race’) of anti-discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only at the last minute, on the floor of the House, and thus voted-in anonymously and with no debate whatsoever, then you can’t really say We were ‘sold’ anything since it was arranged that radical-feminism would not work its way into national politics but simply be plopped down into the middle of it regardless of what anybody might think, object, or seek to deliberate about.
Thus the Dems and the Beltway set the country on one of the most profoundly consequential domestic courses in Our history with even less deliberation (which is to say No Deliberation) than even Bush-Cheney permitted in the run-up to the Iraq War or the Beltway permitted in regard to managing the economy in all of its Bubbles. Put on some sackcloth and ashes if you have them handy and give THAT some thought during this straitened holiday season.
And of course, nowadays, the bit about “men and women” uniting and separating “just as their desires urge” must now be amended to include kids, since We are now blessed with a ‘hook-up’ culture that has raised Nature’s most dangerously seductive (and ephemeral) aphrodisiac into a Way of Life available to anybody regardless of maturity (or lack of it). Might as well get the kids started early so that you can raise up new generations to replace the ‘old and patriarchal’ culture. Such progress.
The reviewer then goes on to say that “Gottfried does not address this, but it is interesting to read how Richard Posner in his 1992 book “Sex and Reason” observed that the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s became ‘aligned with those of the student radicals of the 1960s for whom sexual liberty and political liberty were, as they had been to their guru, Herbert Marcuse, two sides of the same coin, while economic liberty they considered a mask for exploitation.’ Although Posner is a libertarian, who agrees with the outcome of the Supreme Court decisions on moral issues, he disagrees with the Court’s Marcusean arguments”.
Well, economic liberty is gone, if for no other reason than We no longer have any money or – really – any ‘economy’. So, perhaps now, Bush 2’s advice to just “go shopping” might have to be amended to “just go hook-up”. And you wonder why the world no longer considers Us to be a serious (pick one or several) nation, people, economy, politics, culture, or civilization. Such progress. Such a future We face.
Gottfried notes, as does the reviewer, “that the traditional European Marxist parties, when they had most of the votes of their traditional electorate, never attempted to change the traditional, almost Victorian social and moral behaviour of their blue-collar voters”.
But that was in the days of economic Marxism, which sought only to reduce the oppression of industrial capitalism’s exploitation of the workers by Management.
Nowadays, Marxism has been re-directed away from bread-and-butter economics and aimed at the entire corpus of Western civilization and culture by the New Left. Substitute ‘the oppressed’ for ‘the workers’, and further distinguish among the assorted types of oppressed, with special attention to the gender-aspect of it (substituting ‘women’ for ‘workers’ in all the old tracts) and you get what We were given by sly elites 40 Biblical years ago.
Now everybody has sex (and sexual ‘freedom’) and nobody has any cash (or actual economic freedom).
Who dares to claim surprise at such an outcome?
Deliciously, it is pointed out that in the very beginning the Soviets actually did go this route, “legalizing free marriage and divorce, contraception, and abortion on demand.”
This was one of the ‘historical proofs’ offered in 1969 by radical-feminist and failed-family-person Kate Millet in her book “Sexual Politics”, one of the early bibles of the New Left genderisti: “Under the collective system, the family began, as it were, to disintegrate along the very lines upon which it had been built. Patriarchy began, as it were, to reverse its own processes, while society returned to the democratic work community which socialist authorities describe as matriarchy.”
To kick the tires of Millett’s ‘cutting-edge’ work would require a Post or three itself.
It’s enough to notice here that Millett in 1969 equated liberation with the collective system – the Soviet collectives! – and then with “matriarchy” and called it all Good. And crowed that the Soviets were actually working toward a “democratic work community” (as opposed to American industrial-capitalist smoke-stack, testosterone-drenched ‘patriarchy’).
In her book she quickly then regretted that the power of patriarchy snuffed out that marvelous light, without – as is her way – considering that there were other reasons beside ‘patriarchal resistance’ that such a marvelous-fine idea was quickly abandoned to the dustbin of history.
But, as the reviewer points out, “because these reforms were far too radical and unrealistic, the Soviets abolished a number of them after a few months, reinstituting marriage for instance. Today, it looks as if the economic agenda of Communism has become too radical and unrealistic, prompting the Left to accept the market economy. The radical social agenda of the Russian Communists in the 1918-1920 period which Millett praised – free marriage and divorce, contraception, abortion on demand – has, however, become fact. The disintegration of the so-called oppressive patriarchal society has become the realistic agenda that the Left is today pursuing to its extremes”.
So, not to put too fine a point on it, under the influence of old European Marxist thinkers, America’s New Left - spearheaded by a radical-feminism that pointed to a whole library full of (hastily amended) Marxist-Leninist ‘thought’ as justification for its ‘change’ – introduced as ‘progressive’ a mess of profoundly anti-Western and even anti-civilizational nostrums that even the Soviets had quickly abandoned in horror when they realized how unworkable the whole thing would be.
And We wonder now why America no longer seems to ‘work’ in any sense of that term at all?
Yes, I know that the Correct comeback to this is that patriarchy is sooooo entrenched that not even the Commies could overcome it but that thanks to the Beltway’s self-interested support ‘America’ will do what the Commies failed to do.
But I would say a) if you want to bring old Soviet ideas to America and brand them as ‘cutting-edge, progressive liberation’; and b) if you want to impose them upon the ignorant lumpish masses (formerly The People) by Beltway fiat since the ignorant lumpish masses (formerly The People) ‘just don’t get it’ and have to be led – kicking and screaming, if need be – to their own liberation; and c) if you want to essentially Deconstruct what are not constructs of Industrial Capitalism but are rather the core structures of human society (even Millett admits it) that have been in place since the beginning of recorded human history; and d) if you want to all your ideas to be accepted without any deliberation or serious and extended public discourse … if you want all that, then you should at least be made to admit that you have injected into the national bloodstream a toxin so lethal that no advanced human culture or civilization in the history of the planet has ever sustained it.
But that’s not going to happen now.
But then, it may not have to: the hardly unpredictable Consequences of this whole jaw-dropping exercise in government-willed national self-destruction have progressed to a point, like in that Berlin bunker in the spring of 1945, where no amount of positive or Correct thinking and hoping is really going to make them go away. Nor klatsches of Old Fighters singing the old Party songs while swilling plastic glasses of cheap Chardonnay.
To quote the last blood-scribbled words of the long-dead Dwarfish scribe whose skeleton lay next to Balin’s tomb clasping his chronicle book in the heart of Moria: “They are coming”. To which one might today add: They are here.
Generations of American youth over the past decades have been raised without a well-grounded cultural Vision that can comprehensively Trellis their human energies and help them Shape their lives.
As Gottfried points out, the objective has been to “create a new electorate”. But a ‘new electorate’ that is grounded neither in the best of the Western cultural tradition nor in the American Constitutional ethos is not going to be able to conduct either its own affairs nor oversee the affairs of the nation (and the actions of the government and its ‘elites’).
The Frankfurt School’s vision was to use the government – in that statist, European way – as a manipulator and controller of the national culture and of the lives of the people. The American New Left, seeking a transformation on a level far more profound than even Marx or Lenin dared, sought to use the government (the ever-pandering Beltway) as a “radicalizing cultural force”. And with results and consequences that are becoming inescapably clear.
Gottfried and the reviewer note that both Communism and Socialism became “political religions”. Both movements were deeply involved in bringing about this-worldly changes: Communism to create a paradise on this earth and Socialism to somehow bring about an improvement in the condition of the little people, the workers, in the industrial capitalist system.
In 19th-century Europe that meant opposition to the Catholic Church – which stood for stability and caution and sought to preserve its own position as a significant cultural presence in this world.
But it stood for much more: the Church pointed beyond itself to God, and – though hierarchical in organization – insisted upon the dignity of human beings that was grounded not in the State or this-world but in the creation of humanity and of each individual human by God.
That other-worldly element, that element of a God who was beyond this world, was an obstruction to a Socialism that senses in the Church only an obstruction to its eager and urgent efforts to improve the lot of the workers, and a Communism that defined itself as the replacement agent of ‘paradise’ and located all of that paradise in this world.
Socialism was not primarily atheist, but it was consciously leery of the Church’s social authority, standing as it so often did for the old ways, fearing that too much change too fast would only endanger the comprehensive, multi-dimensionally defined welfare of a complex humanity. But in envisioning humanity for all practical purposes only in its this-worldly dimension, Socialism relied heavily on government – Socialist government – as the only force capable of exerting pro-human force against the dehumanizing energies latent within industrial urban capitalism and its urbanized, mass societies.
In envisioning humans only from a this-worldly perspective, Socialism – despite its good intentions – wound up weakening the other-worldly (and higher-worldly) dignity of the human, dismissing morality and any sense of the sacred as merely obstructions to meeting the ‘real’ needs of humans in the wrack of the modern world. By insisting at the same time on removing such obstructions in order to increase the scope of human liberty, it effectively sought to cram on more sail than the human keel could ballast. And thus it had to emphasize the State as the rudder that must guide the energies raised by all that sail.
Communism sought to entirely eliminate the Church as a middle-man between this world and any other, reflecting its rejection of any other higher dimension of human existence and its insistence that Communism itself was the sole vessel of human hope. It was a secular theocracy, a comprehensive government and belief-system, ruling over a Flattened, this-worldly human sphere.
To the extent that the Church resisted the Flattening of the human and of human history into the one, single dimension of this-world both Communism and Socialism, government and State-heavy, saw an obstructive rival.
And so Church and morality and tradition and caution and an acceptance of the strictures which human dignity might place on the actions of government and State were all to be put under the ban. The Church would be consigned, with the rest of the old and inadequate order of Europe, to the dustbin of history.
This is the source of Europe’s anticlerical and greatly atheist ethos now: there is no Larger or Higher dimension that can limit the State and the government.
The reviewer opines that Europe’s much longer and more profound struggle with the social and political authority of the Church, and its much more thorough public rejection of religion and the Beyond, resulted in Europe having become far more deeply pocked by Socialist or Communist statism than America.
In America, the reviewer notes, its still-kicking “conservative reserves” of “traditional Christian values” has prevented so thorough a statist debauchment as has been embraced among the European nations.
There’s something to what he says. But he neglects the Constitutional ethos of the Framers, although it too was predicated upon an awareness of a Higher Dimension, as well as of dimensions of American social and cultural life that the Constitutionally-limited government (sooooo alien to both Communist and Socialist intrusive engineering and manipulation) had no business manipulating or trying to control.
And the Framers were themselves certain of the existence of a Higher dimension and of the dignity of the human being stemming from that Higher place, beyond any ultimate statist authority. Indeed, their Constitutional dynamic would not work if the Citizens and The People were not, independent of the government, well-Shaped by Larger visions and values. The ‘limited’ government of the Constitutional ethos was limited on soooo many levels, and for reasons of sober prudence.
Which is why the Constitutional ethos, as well as the Church and ‘religion’ and ‘tradition’ and ‘morality’, became the conscious targets of the New Left as the Beltway pols energetically sold off America’s “Higher” holdings in their self-interested urge to pander for fresh votes. The National Nanny State, the government vessel required by the New Left, has become as regulatory as any Socialist or Communist vision, and will brook no obstructions to its writ or freedom to intrude, to impose, to engineer, to shape (or to deform).****
As the reviewer notes, the collapse of Christianity in Europe as a result of the New Left as well as the still-lingering depredations of Communism, and the influence of an American culture now itself deeply compromised by the New Left of the Frankfurt School as it has sloshed back over the Atlantic, carried by the (now-declining) strength of American hegemony, has created a “religious vacuum”.
So long as the American ethos can retain its hefty traditional grasp on Higher values (woven into the warp and woof of the Constitutional ethos, as I have said), then the reviewer thinks that America will pull through and avoid the profound existential wound from which Europe is now suffering.
If there is any upside to the current, hugely sobering American financial situation, I think that it lies in the fact that it has been the age-old American wealth and abundance which has helped fuel the illusion that the New Left’s whackulent agendas has no down-sides: from Reagan and on up through all the administrations, the appearances of increasing ‘wealth’ have served both to distract Americans from any skeptical consideration of what the Beltway was doing to the American ethos, and to fuel the illusion that one could embrace all the whackery of the New Left and STILL be ‘rich’ and ‘wealthy’ and Number One on a world-historical scale.
But with the drug of such illusionary wealth now quickly running out, its effects are wearing off.
Sobering up, Americans might be able to regain a bit of serious skepticism, and if they can muster the political as well as social and cultural will, they might yet regain their competence as The People and restore what has been Deconstructed in the statist, manipulative frenzies fomented by the New Left in the past Biblical 40 years.
This is not a prayer for a return to some ‘golden age’, nor for a regression to darkling imperfections now somewhat mitigated.
But rather for a rebirth of the genuine source of American liberty, which is a Shape that is Grounded in a Higher dimension and energized by a more profound and mature self-respect.
I find the reviewer’s European point of view interesting. Americans – who can be surprised? – haven’t really been informed by their mainstream media about the depth and breadth of Western Europe’s cultural hollowing-out; it is a culture that has largely lost any foundation in a Large and certainly more accurate conception of humans, as individuals and as societies.
And so – I think – We may not appreciate just how much, in comparison, the American New Left agendas have been stymied or slowed down here, thanks to the Constitutional ethos and the stubborn popular American insistence on retaining a religiously-informed Vision of humans and human life.
But it still seems to me that even if America is actually less hollowed-out than European culture, there is still more than enough damage to create an urgent need for Us to try to recover what has been ‘reformed away’ and kicked to the curb in the past 40 Biblical years.
What passes for ‘liberalism’ here is actually New Left-ism, which is clearly a hodge-podge of warmed-over Marxism-Leninism deployed here for the purposes of Deconstructing the foundations and the Shape of American and Western culture.
And such success as this whole gambit has enjoyed, with the Beltway’s unending support, has loosened the matrix not only of American and Western culture (as intended) but also of individuals’ lives. If American society and culture are now hollowed-out vacuums, they are very dynamic vacuums, charged with the frenzied and dizzy energies of a people that cannot master their own lives.
And therefore cannot come together as The People to govern the government. And THAT second vacuum has resulted in a government that pretty much has broken loose from the carefully constructed bonds of the Constitutional ethos and is now running amok domestically and internationally.
It is the decline of the civic competence of The People (however imperfect) that has enabled the various whackeries that have led to the decline of the nation – a decline whose presence can no longer be spun or wished or hoped away.
This is the rendezvous with destiny that confronts the current generations of Americans.
*Gottfried, Paul. “The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium”. Columbia, MO: U/Missouri Press, 2005. ISBN 0826215971 (hard cover) and ISBN 9780826215970 (paperback). It’s only 150 or so pages, but worth the read.
**See my Post on Marcuse’s thoroughly alarming 1965 article on ‘Repressive Tolerance’ here.
***Interestingly, the Italians had been applying a great deal of thought to economics, culture, productivity, the role of elites and the role of government since the Unification in 1860. By the late 19th century they had grasped the fact that Italy was still a peasant-agrarian economy and culture that was suddenly faced with remaining a ‘colony’ of the more advanced and industrialized European nations unless she could somehow industrialize quickly and massively, which would include changing her ancient peasant-agrarian culture and values as well. By the time the not-stupid and actually well-read Mussolini came along, there was a great deal of serious thought available to him and in the beginning he embraced it; the Nazis, by contrast, had almost no thought and did little thinking on this level. And the Japanese, of course, since the Meiji Restoration of the mid-19th century, had also put themselves to the task of rapid and massive transformation into an industrial culture.
****Which is not to ignore the Charybdis of the National Security State, that other rock formation threatening to rip open the American Constitutional vessel from the Right. Although the tendency of late-20th century American Protestant Fundamentalism to idolize the State as God’s Deputy has made it as dangerous a ‘religion’ as the ‘religion’ of the New Left; where the New Left seeks to dilute the existence of ‘religion’so as to create ‘space’ for its own programmes, jingo Fundamentalism seeks to deform Christianity into nothing more than an idolatrous chaplaincy of the National Security State.
Either of these rocks, the Scylla of the New Left or the Charybdis of the Jingo Right, will sink the American Constitutional vessel. The vortex created by each of them, increasing in strength as the vessel itself is weakened and slowed, will combine to rip it apart. As has begun.