CHANTAL MOUFFE AND JURGEN HABERMAS: HOW WE GOT HERE
I want to follow-up on my immediately previous two Posts (the first on Catharine MacKinnon, the second on Antonio Gramsci).*
If by any chance, say, you may have voiced any of the thoughts from those two Posts to a local cadre of the vanguard elite Elect, you may well have been brushed off with the blithe assertion that none of my concerns or historical points apply since there’s much more ‘fresh thinking’ now that actually drives things.
If you have encountered such toss-offs, the cadre’s reference could very well be to the thinking of the French thinker Chantal Mouffe, who has been chief totem-thinker of the vanguard elites since the 1970s-1980s’ heyday of Eurocommunism.
So I’d like to continue with this thread for one more Post before getting back to the truly stunning ‘philosophical stylings’ of Catharine MacKinnon.
Mouffe was a key player in the ‘Eurocommunism’ craze of the 1970s-1980s. The Eurocommunist conceit was that you can have a ‘Westernized’ Marxism – recalling Gramsci’s idea that you cannot conduct an open revolution against the much more developed and integrated ‘hegemonic Cultures’ of the West the way Lenin could impose (through Political Correctness backed up by Terror) the revolution in and on the benighted masses of the Russian East; so instead you had to combine siege and infiltration strategies to get at the castle of Western Culture.
Although even on his best days, he never imagined that any Western government’s sworn defenders manning the walls and gates of that ‘castle’ would simply quietly throw them open to the Elect cadres and then put the entire resources of the armory and the treasure-box at their disposal – but Gramsci had never imagined a beast as treacherously addled as the demographically-terrified Dems of the very early 1970s over here.
Mouffe bought all of Gramsci’s major bits:
a) the Circle-without-a-Circumference image whereby the hoped-for result was a culture that would have no ‘marginalized’ people but rather all people would be at the Center of the new Culture that their efforts have somehow created, run in a marvelous new hegemony by the formerly marginalized (who apparently wouldn’t repeat the “Animal Farm” scenario once they got themselves set up);
b) the fundamental image of the oppressive (and ‘bourgeois’) ‘hegemonic Culture’ that was defended by a government and by laws that somehow induced even the most oppressed of its subjects to consent to it;
c) the consequent fundamental objective of deconstructing and destroying that Culture (either before, during, after, as a result of or by the action of either the previously marginalized or by the cadres of the vanguard elite Elect – nobody is quite sure as to which way it’s going to work, but they are all agreed that it will work and then things will be great) – although nobody has given any thought as to just what sort of polity will be constituted as a government but they are also pleased as punch and sure as sure can be that something great in the Culture and Government line will ‘creatively’ occur;
d) the nurture of as many ‘identities’ and ‘marginalized groups’ as possible whose ‘outrage’ and ‘grievances’ would fuel numerous simultaneous demands and agitations along numerous axes of attack against the Culture (which would befuddle and wear down the Culture and its defenders, who by definition of course, just don’t get it).
Just what sort of a polity would be created to govern this new Culture is left achingly unclear in all these dampdreams. Except that somehow it would be ‘inclusive’ and nobody would be ‘excluded’ and ‘difference’ would be ‘respected’ along with ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ (all of which, on top of everything else, have to be considered as quite possibly sly code words for very particular and special meanings known only to the cadres of the vanguard elites, those Elect who ‘get it’).
I can’t see how this is much of an improvement over Marx or Gramsci (or Lenin, for that matter). Or, really, the Bhagwan.
All of Gramsci’s basic vision is here in Mouffe and her ilk. They’ve simply expanded him.
Nor do I accept the now-trendy follow-on slyness of claiming to be “socialist” when, in reality, you have really just bought into some variant of the Eurocommunist gambit and would rather not use the M-word (Marx) or the C-word (Communist). Ditto the variant expressed in such sources as Timothy Ferris’s recent book “The Science of Liberty” that ‘liberalism’ – like ‘science’ – is not an “ideology” but merely a “method of inquiry”. This is akin to a John Rawls argument I will discuss further on, and yet it is grossly untrue. Because to the extent that contemporary American ‘liberalism’ has given itself over to Gramsci and Mouffe, which thus also instantly encompasses R-Feminism as well, then it is, and cannot in any way avoid being, a tool and instrument of the most rabidly-failed ideology in the history of the species, i.e. that Mother of All Ideologies stemming from Marxism. Trying to paint over the tiger’s stripes will not change the nature of the beast nor dull its teeth nor alter its lethal predatory instincts.
And although they claim that they do not agree with the Marxist idea of revolution so they are an ‘improvement’, then I simply point out that they pretty much endorse – for all practical purposes – Gramsci’s ‘revolution from below’ and his ‘war of positions’ and so their whole approach is still lethal and fundamentally and in principle hostile to a deliberative democracy.
Because if the vanguard elite Elect actually do gain MacKinnon’s ‘Knowledge-with-a-capital-K’ (i.e., the ultimate secret and Elect Knowledge that all life is primarily politics and men – through sexual oppression, ‘dominance’ and ‘patriarchy’ – have ingeniously and ruthlessly kept women willingly oppressed since either just before or just after the day when recorded history began), then why would they not consider themselves almost morally bound to impose that putatively marvelous Secret Knowledge forthwith by whatever means necessary?
Could it rationally be imagined that if you have gone to the trouble and raised up such consciousness-raised vanguard elite Elect cadres, and they now have ‘the Knowledge’, they are then going to have the patience to submit their grand revelations about stuff to the time-consuming (and possibly skeptical) democratic deliberations of a lumpen-mass (comprised of the by-definition lumpen-males but also the false-consciousness females who – alas – are still enthralled to ‘patriarchy’) that just doesn’t get it in the first place?
After all, if you have the Secret Knowledge and the rest of the Citizenry doesn’t, then why waste the time – why betray and delay the rescue of the oppressed – by talking with those who don’t have the grand secret Knowledge and who aren’t of the Elect and therefore don’t deserve to play a role in things anyway?
I’ll say more about this later in the Post in regard to recent musings of Indian economist Amartya Sen.
If you were to recognize in these dynamics any similarities to the dynamics of the whacked out end of the spectrum of religious fundamentalisms and even cults, then I’d say that you could hardly be considered altogether wrong.
And it strikes me as hugely significant that the terrorist-anarchist view of the West (i.e. it’s nothing but an evil, rotten sinkhole of corrupt oppression and must be engaged not by genuine politics or political discussion but only by violence) resembles so closely the Gramscian-Mouffian view that the whole American reality is nothing more than a dominant, oppressive, hegemonic pact with evil and therefore must be assaulted in any way possible and by any means necessary in order to destroy and deconstruct it. And generations of Citizens have been subjected to the steady drumbeat of this ‘framing narrative’ of things, and generations of students at all levels have now been taught that this and only this is what politics is really all about and what it is for. Assault politics for the purpose of deconstruction – and somehow when the smoke clears Everything will Be Better and whatever ‘collateral damage’ or consequences can be ‘creatively’ dealt with at that time. Yah. You can also see how this approach is going to run rather clearly and robustly afoul of the Framing Vision and the entire concept of a deliberative democracy based on the competence of its Citizenry to deliberate (and – not to put too fine a point on it – functioning collectively as The People, to govern their government).
And you can also see how any Constitution that enshrined that Framing Vision would be, to such robustly certain Elect, nothing more than a totally erroneous and deliberately oppressive pact with Hell (except that the Marxist-derived Elect don’t believe in Hell, or Heaven, or God – but you get the idea).
Not so – the vanguard elite Elect would insist: Mouffe is very much for ‘democracy’ and in fact has invented her own kind, which she calls “radical democracy”.
Except that when you look at it, ‘radical democracy’ has no use for Liberal or democratic democracy or “deliberative democracy”. Rather it imagines a democracy where “freedom, equality, and difference” are all given equal weight. Just how that might be erected into a workable plan for a polity she, like Gramsci, doesn’t bother to say – but as Gramsci rather slyly insisted, just because a great architect only has plans and hasn’t actually built anything doesn’t mean he isn’t a great architect. And would you buy a used building from these people?
Because – make no mistake about it – the Beltway has used trillions of your tax dollars to buy the vision from such ‘thinkers’ as Mouffe and MacKinnon (who, as I have been saying, slyly lifted it from those indisputable DWEMs Marx, Lenin, and Gramsci) and for the purposes of constructing it over here. (It collapsed – you may recall – over there, with huge loss of life and treasure. But ‘optimism of will’ is the one thing the vanguard elite Elect are not short of.)
‘Radical democracy’ presumes that there are “unjust power relations” that “oppress and marginalize”, and therefore such a ‘democracy’ “thrives on antagonisms”. So much for any sense that there is any sense of common unity or commonweal among the Citizenry - in case you were wondering where it all seems to have gone to in the past few decades. Nor is it dissimilar to the Leninist experience that enroute to the paradise of the masses, a grossly engorged and powerfully intrusive government is necessary (as if those monsters, once allowed to grow, ever yield their power). In this regard the ‘liberal’ National Nanny State will demonstrate its true origins and already has begun to do so.
One need only think of the unspoken underlying vision of Victimism: that one-half of the Citizenry is nothing but prey for the other half. An outrageous state of affairs to which the only logical response are the tactics, structures, and laws of a police-state regime … but a Correct one that is working for ‘freedom’ and ‘liberation’ (and whose controlling vanguard elite Elect should, to borrow a phrase, ‘be greeted as liberators’).
So also, it is grossly insufficient to assert that Identity Politics as it has evolved here in the past forty Biblical years is ‘merely’ the same old American interest-politics of yore. Identity Politics is not interest-politics of yore: the old interest politics was simply the gathering together of Citizens or groups of Citizens with similar interests who would then seek to get their views adopted by their political representatives.
Let me refine that a bit. In my view, there are four levels of such ‘advocacy’ for your group’s interests. Level I is simply talking it up yourself and presenting your view to other Citizens. Level II is garnering together other Citizens who have the same interest, or ‘allies’ who have a similar interest, and bringing your views and desires to the attention of your brother and sister Citizens for their consideration and deliberation.
So far, so good. This is deliberative democracy, with the type of competing or varying interests that the Framers envisioned and which the Constitutional machinery was designed to handle and protect.
BUT THEN there is Level III: where the objective is not to inform other Citizens of the facts and the truth, but rather to make sure they only get your facts and your version of the truth – so that they can be steered (or stampeded, perhaps) into agreeing with you or at least not objecting to what you are going to do.
AND THEN in Level IV advocacy you and your allies/accomplices simply bypass the Citizens altogether (although perhaps tossing out a handy smokescreen of your own self-serving press releases) and quietly go straight to the politicians and start making backroom deals. Along the lines of: you recognize us and give us what we want, and with that status you give us we will sing your praises to the public – otherwise we will hold an outraged victim-vigil outside your office.
Which is an offer few pols can refuse, no? (In a delicious but ominously ironic coincidence, Don Corleone’s ‘offer he can’t refuse’ burst onto the American scene in the first “Godfather” movie in 1972, the year that the Dems decided to put all this before the public and got thumped in that year’s presidential election 49 States to one.)
But in all these levels of ‘interest group’ politics, the background presumption is still that deliberative democracy works – even if that maxim is, in Level III and Level IV, honored more in the breach than in the observance. Nobody is looking to deconstruct or overthrow the American Culture or the polity that governs it.
BUT in Gramscian-inspired “radical politics” there is no such context of acceptance of the Framing Vision nor the Constitution nor of the American Culture nor even of the valid role of the Citizenry and The People in either deliberating or in the role of governing the government. After all, since “they just don’t get it” they have nothing worthwhile to say and by virtue of that same alleged ignorance they have no right to say anything in the first place ... which is a vision that comes from some alien political Universe hell and gone from anything you could call American.
And thus Identity Politics (especially as spear-headed by R-feminism here) is based upon the assumption that the entire American Culture and the American polity are rotten and have to be overthrown, and that the vanguard elite Elect cadres are justified in doing ‘whatever it takes’ (to borrow the Israeli phrase) to get what they want.
And what they want is the overthrow of the whole shebang in order to erect something reeely reeely great that they will think about later after they’ve wrecked what’s been standing here already. Shades of Lenin and the Central Committee, sitting in Moscow amid the wreckage of all that went before, trying to figure out what might come next. But in the meanwhile ruthlessly eliminating all opposition on principle while they were holding their endless secret meetings, chattering and braying their various theories at each other in their arcane politicobabble and happily calling it a day’s work on behalf of ‘the masses’.
This is no form of American politics no way. Not hardly.
And she admits herself deeply influenced by the late Carl Schmitt (a German political and legal thinker informally known as the “Crown Jurist of the Third Reich” for his support of and usefulness to that particular government back in the day). Specifically, she espouses his theory of “the political” which basically holds that politics is not merely one among many dimensions of civic life and existence, but rather is the primary core and source of identity and activity for a human being residing in any polity.**
And, Schmitt adds, political concepts are “secularized theological concepts”, raising instantly the idea that Secularism is basically just a rival (if non-metaphysical) religion trying to capture the aura and authority of Theological Belief (and, I will say, of the Beyond) by eliminating what it insists is ‘the middleman’: organized religion.
Which, by amazing coincidence, is precisely what Gramsci had envisioned: that the Party would have to be the ‘church’ for the elite cadres and would even have to function as the ‘church’ for the masses while they were having their consciousness raised to the point where they would wreck the hegemonic Culture and then come up (he blithely but sincerely imagined) with one of their own. I will deal with this further on in the Post; but you can see where this sort of thing is going with ‘radical democracy’. Equally so, that the Party must ‘educate’ the masses: yet even as the Correct educational content and method has been increasingly imposed, the capacity to critically think and analyze (not to be equated with attacking like a robot everything on the Correct target list using Correct mantras) has been grossly reduced – which is lethal for any hope of sustaining the deliberative democratic polity of the Framing Vision.
I would also add that it is precisely for this reason that one cannot claim that the expanded (and still expanding) post-1968 agitations and impositions of the 'revolutions of the Identities' have been and are nothing more than a glorious ‘extension’ of the truly and genuinely embraced civil-rights Vision of Martin Luther King. (Read, for example, this 1967 speech of his, and see if you can sense how utterly different is his Stance from that of R-feminist and Identity Politics today; and let your mind range over that reality.)
King sought to unite the entire country and The People around a call to the founding American Vision, to a ‘new birth’ of the freedom that that Vision embraced.
But everything after the initiation of the R-feminist agenda was and is solidly (if slyly) based in something from a far more lethally alien political Universe: the Marxist Universe.
Which, I say, is precisely why even as they seem to be hugely dedicated to the expansion of King’s splendid take on the American Framing Vision, yet the country, the society, the polity, and the Culture all seem to be suddenly wracked and weakened and not working properly or robustly at all.
Because they have all been progressively poisoned for the past forty Biblical years by massive if slyly-administered doses of the alien toxin of – and I don’t use the term lightly or rhetorically – Marxist-Leninist political Content and Method, mediated by Gramsci and the likes of Mouffe and MacKinnon and the rest of that Correct and putatively ‘liberal’ pandemonium of ‘cutting-edge’, ‘secular-progressive’ ‘radical democratic’ ‘thinkers’.
With the Framing Vision and its ‘deliberative democratic process’ undermined and the Culture continuously attacked and undermined and un-grounded, the Citizenry – especially the younger generations – are left helpless in the face of an engorged intrusive government which cannot rationally be presumed to ever yield its ‘temporary’ power (think of Caesar and of the cynical and farcical ‘restoration of the Republic’ under Augustus). If you ask me, in the question of whether Leviathan will yield to the Gramscian-Mouffian cadres, or whether in the end Leviathan will consume them after they have played their role as “useful idiots”, my money is on Leviathan. As the Framers always saw, Leviathan and not any other danger or ‘outrage’ is the Prime Enemy of the polity.
And, worse, aided and abetted by what now must be considered to be the entire sitting political class. To quote one of Stephen Spielberg’s characters: “Boy, are we in trouble now”.***
Which brings me to Jurgen Habermas, noted if now elderly European political and religious thinker.****
Habermas started out his career as a “left-Hegelian”, Marxist-friendly type, pretty certain that such a thing as a ‘secular democracy’ – that would still be recognizable as a democracy in any Western or American sense – was sufficiently workable and possible as a structure and ground for a ‘progressive’, ‘liberal’ future. For which he was lionized by the vanguard elite Elect.
But now in his 80s, he is changing his tune (or, I would suggest, sobering up and getting serious). Consequently he has fallen under the gimlet-eyed opprobrium of the Elect (including among others Mouffe).
The trouble, as Habermas now sees it, is that Marx and any approach based on him (which as I have been saying includes all of the various types of secularisms espoused by the assorted vanguard elite Elect over here) focuses only on “human history” and not on “human nature”.
In my terminology, that would be to say that Marx’s first and most profoundly lethal error was to define humans as merely creatures of this-dimension, with no element of themselves somehow participating in – and grounded or Grounded in – any Beyond (which, Marx insisted, didn’t exist in the first place). Marx is thus making the Mono-Planar Mistake: that all of humans’ interior and exterior reality, and all of their history, can be accurately Flattened into this single dimension of existence conventionally appearing as ‘life’ and ‘history’ and ‘reality’.
And thereby denying the Multi-Planar Reality (i.e. comprised of several Planes of Existence stacked vertically, with what we conventionally call ‘reality’ being the Base Plane): that human beings participate in, and were created to participate in, a Multi-Planar Reality that encompasses both their own selves and the ‘world’ around them; and that on its upper Planes that Reality constitutes a Higher Ground for, and a Higher Law over, all human beings and all of the ‘reality’ of this-dimensional existence in all of its manifestations and aspects and elements.
Marx insisted that human beings have no ‘essence’. To admit an essence might be to open the philosophical door to some Beyond that created or instilled or imprinted that essence, and that illusory gambit was nothing more than “the opium of the people”, embodied first in organized religion and second in the ‘bourgeois’ governments that those religions supported.
Marx was working backwards: ‘organized religion’ as he observed it was primarily a tool of the overall capitalist and bourgeois oppression of the masses; hence it had to be wrong. And since whatever power it derived seemed to come from its claim to represent the Beyond, then there could be no Beyond. If religion were to be ‘delegitimized’ for being a tool of oppression, then the core basis of its claim to authority had to be erased completely. So Marx denied what I would call the Multi-Plane and reduced all of human existence (present and future) to the Mono-Plane, i.e. this Base Plane of Existence.
But if all you had was the Mono-Plane, then so much the greater was the ruthless urgency and necessity of grasping political power so as to ensure that you got whatever you felt you deserved in this life. Because there was no other life and surely no ‘next life’, so it all came down to getting control of politics and political power. Thus Marx. And Lenin. And Gramsci. And all the rest.
To try to put lipstick on this feral pig by claiming that ‘secularism’ is not the shallow and wheezy precipitate remaining after you have filtered out ‘religion’ (and, more importantly, the Beyond) but rather is a robust and competent alternative comprehension and knowledge of human existence and the human situation … that was what Habermas – agreeing with many Marxist Eurocommunists – initially espoused in his earlier years.
Like Shylock, they all figured they could have their ‘pound of flesh’ without any untoward consequences.
Humans, they presume to insist, are ‘born free’ (and instantly the awful saccharine whine of that 1966 nature flick’s theme song about baby lions comes back: “Borrrrnnnn frEEEEEEEEEEEEE, as free as the WINNNNND BLOWWWWWWWS“, that self-serving, self-flattering Boomer anthem – for those Boomers not already whacked-out on the just-arriving hard drugs and hard rock). And that it is humans themselves who “constitute society” and make their own history (shades of the Bushistas, going into Iraq: we are the ones who make history, not the ones who follow it). There is no Beyond involved at all.
For the Boomers and – in a nice dove-tail – for the vanguard elite Elect, to be ‘free’ meant to have no boundaries whatsoever, no externally imposed laws. And, it was presumed, since you were ‘born free’ you would have no interior laws – or ‘essence’ – to hinder your desires and urges either. You would not be ‘oppressed’ by boundaries or limitations or laws from without, and of course you would not be ‘oppressed’ by any (illusory) laws stemming from your ‘essence’ (or, say, from the illusion of any Image of any God that you might be told you were created by).
Of course, Marx had called religion “the opium of the people”. But what he was going for, as the Gordon article nicely points out, was that religion appeared to him to be an “addiction” – and an addiction to an opiate is a mighty hard thing to kick. Naturally, the alternative explanation for the stubbornness of human attraction to the Beyond – that the perennial and pervasive human attraction to the Beyond was simply the manifestation of the human being’s and humanity’s essential reaching for what is deeply sensed to actually be there – was not something Marx would even consider.
For him, and for all of his followers – declared or disguised – the human being is simply the sum of his/her willed actions and urges in this dimension. There is no essence, no human nature, and surely no Being somewhere out there or up there in the Beyond assisting humans – especially benevolently.
Marx saw the primary axis of human suffering as economic; many of his current devotees have expanded those axes to include ‘marginalization’ of any and all sorts, with Gender and sex being right up at the top of the new list.
But since there was no Beyond or God, then there was no use going after It or Him. Rather, Marx went after the human activity that – since there was no God – was clearly helping to oppress the masses, in the service of the bourgeois-capitalist oppressors, by drugging and distracting the masses with the opium of the God-illusion: organized religion. The alternative explanation – that organized religion was a natural human response, evolved precisely to help keep alive and to give tangible shape to humanity’s very real innate and essential sense of God or the Beyond – was not something Marx would even consider.
Currently, there are two major threats to the human religious sensibility: from the Right a rejuvenated Social Darwinism that insists the ‘fit’ are most worthy to lead and direct the human endeavor; from the Left a vanguard elitism that insists that only those who “get it” are worthy to lead and direct the human endeavor.
What they both have in common is that somehow or other they don’t accept the basic Framing Vision premise that Citizenship would confer a certain political equality. The Social Darwinist position is that only those who have ‘survived’ and succeeded in the material world have proven themselves truly ‘fit’; the vanguard elite approach (of Lenin and Gramsci and all their descendant ‘thinkers’) holds that only those who ‘get it’ have demonstrated themselves fit to be heard in public discourse and to direct society’s affairs.
The Framers sought – though their effort was not initially as sweeping as Christianity’s – to endow political equality through Citizenship. Which was a clear echo of the Christian and Catholic position that the ultimate human equality is spiritually grounded: all human beings are created in the Image of God and thereby derive an immutable dignity beyond any dignity this world can bestow and beyond the authority of any earthly government to disregard, deface or deny.
On the basis of that endowment conferred by Citizenship, the Framers could envision a deliberative democracy and a government governed by The People.
If that Vision is the Elf, then Marx’s vision is the Orc: ‘the masses’ cannot capably function as Citizens or as The People and therefore the cadres of the Party must govern on their behalf. And not as their elected representatives answerable to the Citizens, but as elites who ‘get it’ and who are answerable only to the Party and the illuminations of that Secret Knowledge.
And while the more recent Marxist derivatives have merely broadened the definition of that ‘it’ that one must get in order to prove his/her Elect status, the dynamic is just the same.
As is the dynamic that flows from it in the matter of shaping the government: it must be composed of an elite that rules on behalf of the incapable and helpless masses, much as a mental-incompetent’s affairs might be managed by a court-appointed legal guardian. (Precisely the nightmare abyss lurking in so much of Victimist agitation for ever-intensifying police-state laws to ‘help’ the huge numbers of Citizens putatively incompetent to manage their own personal lives.)
A country largely inhabited by political and maturational incompetents who stagger in unsleeping need of elite guidance and governance (and – as is the mantra in these Victimist times – protection) is hell and gone from the Framing Vision.
Within the logic of his system, Marx did not so much want to eradicate religion as he wanted to eradicate the conditions which made people turn to the opiate illusions of religion. And even if religions occasionally evinced the right sensibility – seeking to alleviate suffering, for example – their solutions were worthless since they involved a “metaphysical” realm that didn’t (in Marx’s sure and certain Knowledge) exist.
For Marx these life-crushing conditions were primarily economic.
For his more recent roadies, the life-crushing conditions have been expanded hugely, to include, as I have said, all manner of ‘oppression’, ‘dominance’, and ‘marginalization’, perhaps economic, perhaps sexual, directly or indirectly maintained, whether the harm (however defined) is physical or psychological, accessible to third-party observers or merely an un-testable assertion made by the self-declared sufferer. But always grounded in the principle that the ‘dominant hegemonic’ Culture must always be whacked wherever and whenever and however you can manage to do it.
But for the Marx roadies the envisioned solutions remain – as they did for Marx – thoroughly this-worldly and Mono-Planar. Or, to use Habermas’s terms, “secular” and “profane” (as opposed to “sacred”).
Habermas’s own formation was influenced by the Frankfurt School of postwar Marxist thinkers who had backed away from Leninist-Stalinist communism and the goal of ‘revolution’ after the world had clear evidence of the brutal violence – deployed against the very masses for whom Marxism and communism had claimed to provide a “profane redemption”.
Instead, the thinkers of the Frankfurt School had embraced Marxian analysis as a “critical theory” by which one might examine any society and culture for indications (invariably present) of “irrationality and imperfection”. Or, to use more current terms, ‘oppression’ and ‘dominance’ and ‘marginalization’.
Of course, if you keep expanding your definition of those terms (claiming that you’ve just made ‘great progress’ in ‘understanding the problem’), then you can stay in business pretty much until the end of Time.
That wouldn’t be a bad thing in itself – within the parameters of a deliberative democracy: it would always be a worthwhile thing to have dedicated critical appraisers who brought their insights to the attention of the Citizenry.
But it hasn’t worked out that way in the West and certainly not in this country in the past 40 Biblical years. The “critical theory” bit blended instead with the Gramscian vanguard elite Elect stream of thought, and - more repellently - an almost gleefully sour and rotten hostility on the part of the cadres, creating the grossly alien reality of a ‘deconstructive’ campaign of slow-motion revolution by sustained elite assault on the Culture precisely for the purpose of de-legitimizing and fracturing it, the better to erect some marvelously more acceptable Thing in its place.
And, as I put it at the beginning of the Post, the cadres of the vanguard elite Elect have unsurprisingly proven utterly impatient in getting their marvelous and secret Knowledge imposed from above, even to the point of bypassing the Citizenry’s role in a deliberative democracy and claiming that they are justified in doing that since a Citizenry that ‘just doesn’t get it’ has no right to participate in governance or public deliberation in the first place.
And as I have said, not even Lenin could have imagined a Western government simply handing its power and purse over to the ‘revolution’. The very very best you could say about the Dems and the Beltway 40 Biblical years ago was that they tried the 19th century Italian government’s tactic of trasformismo: neutralizing a potential political threat by bringing it in closer to the Center by this or that deal.
But even if you wanted to say that the Beltway wasn’t primarily looking desperately for fresh demographics (to replace the Southern voters lost as a result of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts), you would have to say that the pols went wayyyyy overboard: it’s one thing to bring a group closer to the Center and give them some part to play, and very much another thing to simply appease and pander wholesale to an organized Gramscian strategy to use the government to attack and destroy the nation’s putatively ‘hegemonic, dominant, and oppressive’ Culture (and its Constitution, since that document was nothing more than a pact with Hegemony, Dominance, and Oppression).
A Constitution which, by the by, the pols and the various Branches were sworn to protect, preserve, defend and uphold.
Throughout his life, Habermas had been concerned with the persistence and the legitimacy of religion in human affairs.
That is to say: a) How and why does religion continue to exercise the attraction for humans that it does? And b) is there actually some Reality to which religion does really provide access, thus justifying its value even in the face of whatever drawbacks it also brings to the table?
Marxism and secularism would explain (a) by claiming that religion is merely a self-sustaining illusion, proffered to humans as a drug to help keep them docile in the face of oppressions that religion itself helps to uphold.
Marxism and secularism would answer (b) by saying No, religion has no legitimacy because there is no Beyond and the whole thing is merely a sleazy and treacherous magic show done with smoke and mirrors, and so religion is worse than useless – it is ‘part of the problem’, as used to be said back in the ‘60s.
Habermas in his younger years mostly went along with that.
It was, he says, in the very process of learning how to rationally align their originally awe-driven mystery-religions with more sustained observations about the human being and the human situation that humanity first learned to see itself as somehow exercising a role of judgment and participation in what were originally thought to be super-human ‘mysteries’ that must simply be accepted and placated. (If this is true, and I think it is, then surely the Catholic Church’s substantial body of theological and philosophical reflections, amassed over two millennia, would have to count as a rather ‘rational’ achievement of the highest order.)
But from a sort of Enlightenment-friendly process of combining human Reason with human Belief by using the former to help shape the latter to a full-blown Secularism where human Reason is simply declared as the sole and only useful human faculty for explaining life … this is something that Habermas cannot accept (at least not any longer).
To apply a perhaps musty and simple image: the human stands on two legs much better than s/he does on one.
And thus human societies, like the humans who comprise and develop them, cannot be accurately said to rely purely on Reason without any influence from Faith. “The idea of a sharp break [between the Age of Christendom and the Enlightenment] is historical fantasy.” As is, it has to be added, the assertion by such regimes as the Nazis that human Will, lubricated by human Passions and Emotions, could reliably create a New Order better than anything that had gone before.
So Habermas – to the fury and consternation of his onetime Correct admirers – now opposes the concept of a thoroughgoing laicite or secularization in the French mode (imported here in Mouffe’s work by R-feminism and adopted by the Beltway illuminati and deal-makers).
Religion, he concedes readily, and particularly monotheism (as opposed, say, to nature worship or Druidism or polytheism in its assorted variants) “may furnish important moral insights that can be useful to secularist democracies”, however repugnant that might sound to “radical secularists”.
But then he gets even more interesting.
To quote Gordon, Habermas asserts that “it is therefore important for historical sociologists and philosophers to recognize the religious genealogy of ostensibly secular precepts such as equal respect”.
And this is, in a word, huge – especially when taken in the context of so much Correct, secular conventional wisdom today.
There is – to use my own term – an Afterglow effect that has existed throughout the past half millennium or so of Western civilization: even when the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment broke (so to speak) with the post-medieval culture grounded in the synthesis achieved by the centuries of ‘Christendom’, yet the new movements were themselves shaped by and reliant upon many of the conceptualizations and conceptual contents of the now-rejected Christendom.
So, for example, I would say that the Framers could so easily urge a separation of Church and State because they could reliably presume that the profound ‘civil-izing’ of the population had already been accomplished through those generations’ common grounding and education and formation in principles that stemmed from a common Christian heritage (although somewhat fractured by the Reformation). The Framers, that is to say, could reliably but quietly count on the Afterglow of the age of Christendom to provide a common but profound cultural unity independent of any government regulation or intrusion.*****
In saying this I am not arguing for any sort of ‘Christian theocracy’ in this country; I am simply pointing out the vital reality of the role of ‘religion’ and ‘the Beyond’ or the Multi-Plane and – it has to be said – the Christian heritage, in both the formation of the Citizens of the Revolutionary and Framing generations and also in the Framers’ own conception of what sort of Citizen-competencies they could presume when they formulated their Vision and then constructed the Constitutional machinery to preserve it.
AND you will notice that as soon as secularism and Gramscian strategy disconnected that ‘Afterglow’ by de-legitimizing it, the entire cultural and political apparatus has ceased to function properly and Our great Vessel is now both losing steam and careening out of control, steering wildly and erratically through the crowded channel of human events and crashing into things.
“In fact”, Gordon goes on discussing and quoting Habermas’s early position, “the very emergence of the modern West has been shaped by the way that ‘philosophy continually appropriates semantic contents from the Judeo-Christian tradition’”. (See Note ***** below.)
But you notice that the early Habermas carefully limited that appropriation to a matter of semantics. Thus he had hoped and asserted that as human reason came to inform more and more of “our collective discourse” then “the authority of the holy could be gradually replaced by the authority of an achieved consensus”.
This is the Holy Grail of contemporary American secularism: that somehow the efforts of the vanguard elite Elect and their Beltway enablers would result in some sort of Least Common Denominator common discourse (not to say a complete and healthy and robust common American Culture). (This is discussed further in my Post on Peter Sallins’s thoughts on contemporary Multiculturalism here.)
But what’s left on which to build once you have factored out everything that could offend anybody or ‘oppress’ anybody but that could still have the chops to somehow put limits or boundaries on the total autonomy of their totally plastic and malleable individual and communal lives?
Nor, really, is any Mono-Planar ‘consensus’ a sufficient and reliable Ground for first principles, no matter how deeply felt at this or that Moment in Our (or any society’s) history. ‘Feelings’, change, and the behavior of an individual or a culture and society (and government) shaped and held to account only by ‘felt’ ‘principles’ is clearly not reliably predictable over any stretch of time.
In this matter he principles of physics have great relevance to the metaphysics at issue here: in order to anchor a weighty object you have to extend its anchoring beyond the surface of the plane on which the object is sited. Thus in this case, you have to reach Above this Plane of Existence in order to anchor vital first principles of behavior and action (or, of course, Below this Plane of Existence, if you are a Satanist).
Otherwise the early Habermas’s “nondestructive secularization” is a pipedream, and a lethal one at that. Yet it is that precise pipedream, with variations here and there, that the Eurocommunists, ‘socialists’, ‘radical democrats’ and other Marxist-derived vanguard elites are advocating – are indeed insisting upon as if they knew its actualization will follow their deconstruction as surely as dawn follows darkness.
But the new and older Habermas is now not so sure. It is only by somehow “translating” – i.e. more consciously incorporating and recognizing” meta-physical first principles – “whereby modern society might salvage the moral feelings that ‘only religious language has as yet been able to give a sufficiently differentiated expression’”.
I would go even further and assert that it is not merely a matter of ‘religious language’, but of the experience of Reality and – not to put too fine a point on it – the relationship with the Divine … which fuels the world-historically ineradicable human quest for the Divine as a Source and Ground of Meaning and Purpose. Compared to these elves – if I may – all the assorted materialist and secularist Mono-Planar schemes and substitutes and alternative and improved ‘realities’ have given history are nothing but Orcs.
Equally so, Habermas is now much more cautious (sober?) in his assessment of the great secularist Task: to come up with purely this-dimensional grounds and content to constitute a discourse and culture that do not “presuppose that everyone shares allegiance to the very same metaphysical vision of reality”.
This is by its very nature, as I have opined, impossible: you can’t anchor something by merely remaining on the same Plane on which it is sited AND if you are merely going to root it lightly in the surface of that same Plane then you have built a ‘common’ or ‘shared’ reality on sand and nothing more.
Further, you wind up pulling some very sleazy intellectual scams to try to avoid or get around the problem. Thus John Rawls – indentured to American ‘liberalism’ as it became deranged by R-feminism and its Marxist-Gramscian fundamentals – insists that public discourse cannot permit the intrusion of Citizen input based on “comprehensive doctrines” (i.e. religious doctrines) that not everybody shares.
BUT he then goes on to claim that his own and the ‘liberal’ agenda is not based on any such oppressive ‘doctrine’ but merely on the obvious assumptions that “any reasonable person” would make. Rawls, of course, gets to define what a “reasonable person” might presume, which – by amazing coincidence – consists in precisely his own and the ‘liberal’ agenda. This is a scam.
Habermas, tortuously, tried to present the challenge as one in which both sincere believers and sincere secularists simply have to accept equally the burden of giving some ground on the first principles.
It has that nice 1970s group-session flavor to it: if everybody gives, then consensus will be reached. If you don’t want to give then clearly you are either blocked or obstructionist, because the agreement is all. Whatever is lost in the strength of the first principles is simply an acceptable loss to ‘get to Yes’ and to get to ‘we agree’ (what American of a certain age hasn't had to sit like a bobble-headed Stalin-era Party Congress delegate through a We-Agree Workshop?). This was the poisoned fruit of the multicultural and pluralist tidal wave that, under the aegis of Political Correctness, resulted in the undermining of any solid foundations for any first principles at all and reduced American politics and belief to merely a thing of the surfaces and of the appearances: those who believed in anything were fuddy-duddies bound for the dustbin of history – those who were ‘flexible’ were the cutting-edge of history … oh, and reeely reeeely ‘with it’ and ‘cool’.
And is that working for Us, d’ye think?
But that was the ‘70s. Now Habermas “surrenders” “the premise of a fully secularized endpoint”. Which has enraged the cadres of the vanguard elite Elect.
As does his opining that “the modern commitment to justice seems to draw nourishment from non-rational sources and many of these sources are religious”. For the cadres of the vanguard elite Elect, as indeed for the Marxist and Gramscian programmes themselves or in any of their many newish variants, the only source for any ‘justice’ must be the particular this-worldly outrage of some particular grouped individuals against a particular (hegemonic, dominant, oppressive) situation or Culture.
There can be no Justice because there is no Beyond to anchor or impose it.
There is only ‘justice’ as it happens to work out in any particular situation, AND the way you will know it is indeed ‘justice’ is that it will work against hegemony, dominance, and oppression.
In other words, so long as you’re working against hegemony, dominance, and oppression, then anything goes because your success will itself constitute ‘justice’. And can you see the immediate blood-relationship between such thoughts as these and the assertions of the Bush-Cheney administration that if you’re fighting ‘evil’ then you automatically must be ‘good’ and by definition whatever the ‘good’ do cannot be evil or wrong … ?
And then, just to nail it all down, Habermas now asserts that “when profane reason is set free to act on its own, it ‘loses its grip on the images, preserved by religion, of the moral whole – of the Kingdom of God on earth – as collectively binding ideals’”.
But of course, that was and remains the whole object of the ‘liberating’ assault on the hegemonic Culture that dared to ‘oppress’ by imposing ‘boundaries’ or shape on each born-free, plastic person’s ‘total autonomy’. Plastic persons, indeed, are what have resulted.
Such progress. Such enlightenment. Such liberation.
After all the decades of deconstruction of hegemonic Culture, Habermas finds himself agreeing with the plaint voiced in the Brecht-Weill opera ‘Mahagonny’: “Aber etwas fehlt”. ‘But something is missing’.
And it’s not a little something either, but rather a Something which – in the experience of the species over the course of its recorded history – is essential to the Grounding and Sustaining of a Culture.
Sure, you can have ‘pluralism’ – so long as the different groups have their own little territorial patch they know they can reliably go back to. Thus the great trading cities of yore were able to accommodate many different groups of merchants and others from distant lands and different cultures. But each group had its own ‘Quarter’ or neighborhood where the local authorities allowed them – with the most minimum necessary restriction – to pursue their own cultural lifeways.
OR, as in late Imperial Rome, that Culture’s own boundaries and fundamental Grounds – the endo-skeleton of the Culture, you could say – were simply shorn away and ignored and transgressed (to use a contemporary and giddily Correct concept) by decadent elites who had the money to do whatever the hell they felt they wanted to do. Orgy, anyone?
But if you are going to insist that secularists and believers share the same turf on any real basis of equality then you are going to have to reduce the content of acceptable common culture to an impossible minimum.
OR you can insist that one side simply give up its position.
And if you have control of the government you can make it a national policy.
The Framers did not have to face this awful conundrum because they had the best of both worlds: the common grounding in Christianity – which had so deeply shaped Western Culture – was already there, so the Framers could dispense with any government intrusion or imposition of a common Culture while simultaneously secure in the knowledge that such a vital and indispensable civic reality as a common Culture would always under-gird all the Citizens.
But the sorcerer’s apprentices of the Beltway during the last 40 Biblical years threw all of that out the window when they embraced precisely the deconstruction of the common Culture as part of the Gramscian agenda that was the price for getting some access to the putatively huge ‘female’ demographic.
And now we have what really reduces to a Keystone Cops or Mack Sennett farce where the cadres of the vanguard elite Elect and their solemn or ‘engaged’ academic scribes are forever trying to square the circle and put back together – Correctly, of course – the Humpty-Dumpty which they had thrown over the wall when they first came into power and influence in the Beltway.
And the Humpty-Dumpty which, even by the strategic requirements of their own Agenda, must ultimately be tossed over the wall and be destroyed.
This reminds me of nothing so much as the hefty zebra that accepts the small scorpion as a passenger when crossing a raging river: the scorpion, perched on the zebra’s head, will keep an eye out for crocodiles. Halfway through the crossing, the scorpion stings the zebra, and as the zebra dies it asks the scorpion: Why did you sting me when I am your only path to the other side and safety? To which the scorpion responds with a shrug: I’m a scorpion – stinging is what I do.
The Gramscian programme, in any of its new guises, is precisely a scorpion and it will sting to death whatever culture or wannabe culture-makers seek to carry it along for their own purposes.
Which in Our case is the American Culture, harnessed to this scorpion courtesy of the deal-desperate Beltway pols 40 Biblical years ago (and counting).
Habermas lets off another limpid broadside: “Simply put, profane reason may not retain the requisite strength of motive or aspiration to fulfill its own mission”. [italics mine]
With so acutely aimed a shpritz of holy water, you can hear the assembled vanguard elite Elect vampires wailing and gnashing them nasty choppers.
So “wass fehlt”? Gordon answers the question: in Habermas’s estimation now “… for secular reason what is missing is God”. Zang. Biff. Bam. Pow. And Kaboom.
But Habermas ultimately cannot bring himself down on the side of ‘religion’. Too much of a history of how those operating in the name of religion have created and are still creating all manner of death and destruction. But at the same he acknowledges that “a secularism dogmatically sure of its independence from religion” has done no better (and at greater cost to the culture and human lives, I would add).
So at this point Habermas will simply say his say and refuse to take sides.
I would go further and say that as organized religion – certainly in terms of the Church – has over the past few centuries become increasingly and constructively mature (try reading some of the papal encyclicals when you get a chance) in its thoughts and guidance, the Western ‘democracies’ have become (who can be surprised?) increasingly deranged, strident, simplistic, irrational, and violent.
So – I would say – the Church is not the most dangerous of the world’s, and certainly not the West’s, problems these days. (Although the persistence of attacks on it indicates that the secularized elites of the now addled West are trying to keep negative public attention focused on it to distract those various national publics from the dying zebras of cultures upon which they are still perched, as the waters rise.)
Lastly, I want to consider briefly some equally related thoughts put forward by the noted Indian economist Amartya Sen.******
Sen is of interest here for several reasons.
First, he has done a great deal of work in India – helping to bring that economy and culture into some sort of modern development. In this sense, his India bears some resemblance to Gramsci’s late 19th century Italy.
But second, he has struck up some sort of intellectual alliance with R-feminism here – especially in its more genteel incarnations such as the noted philosopher Martha Nussbaum. And as a result, he is now plumping for some variant of the Gramscian Project and Agenda here, in an interesting flow-back of Gramsci’s thought from a culture and economy that actually does bear some resemblance to the world Gramsci faced but that now washes back toward the world of modern America which hardly bears such resemblance at all. (Which, of course, didn’t stop the R-feminist spear-heading of the Gramscian or Mouffian Project and Agenda here over the past 40 Biblical years.)
Specifically, Sen gives the game away here.
He is thinking about how you can effect change in a Culture that needs change but also has a Constitution.
He can think of several avenues of approach.
First, you can formally doubt that “natural rights” arise from any ‘nature’ or ‘Nature’ at all, but rather stem from a consensus that comes ‘naturally’ – so to speak – to Correctly thinking persons. Which is a bit of the old Rawls play, now being run by someone with not only hefty intellectual creds (he won the Nobel Prize a while back, for his economic work) and possesses the additional cachet of being from a non-hegemonic ethnic background (shall we say), but also has a Professorship at – waittttt forrrr itttt! – Hahvahd (which was Rawls’s old stomping ground before he shuffled off this mortal coil to … whatevvvverrrrr).
Second, you can go for ‘legislation’. Although, he coyly wonders, “If the case for new laws arises from moral or political priorities to which legislation should cater, should not those same values be pursued, if feasible, also by means other than legislation?”. Which is a polite, tastefully-gloved way of insinuating the alternatives espoused by Gramsci via Mouffe and others. And the methods of the Identity Politics which I discussed above (so long ago, it might seem, I know).
But – and here he actually veers delicately close to what might appear to be un-Correctness – perhaps even with the “far-reaching ethical and political relevance of human rights” yet it might “not be sensible to make this human right into a ‘coercive legal rule’ in one form or another”. Which kinda pulls the rug out from under the regime of Beltway imposition that has proven quite useful to the Gramscian-Mouffian Project and Agenda here, especially since the inception of ‘governance feminism’ under the Clintons’ two administrations.
But he recovers the Correct theme quickly enough.
“The reach of law”, he innocently opines, “also depends on the interpretation of existing laws”. Thus “The legal route of incorporating considerations of human rights that have come to carry political conviction may not invariably involve new legislation”. [italics mine]
Of course, that they “have come to carry political conviction” is a nice euphemism for describing the organized outrage, demands, and deal-bought political clout and pressure I described in the advanced levels of ‘advocacy’ at the beginning of this Post.
But that conviction-pressure opens useful avenues of approach (or – to use Gramsci’s imagery - assault).
He looks, thus and thirdly, to the courts and the judiciary. This is where a noisy battle has been going on between the ‘originalists’ who want to stick to the text of the Constitution and – ummmmm – those who seek to “bring about changes in the application of existing laws through the legal interpretations reflected in their judgments”. These latter folks would just sorta like to “make more room for the here-and-now” in judicial interpretations of the Constitution.
In other words, the Gramsian-Mouffians wish to have it known that ‘we’re here, we’ve got the pols and the elites in our pocket, so get used to it’ and, of course, give us what we want. Which, of course, is merely an immediate ending of any oppression, dominance, and hegemony as it may be enshrined in laws or, of course, in that Ur-pact with Oppression, Dominance, and Hegemony mulishly known by its fetishizers as the Constitution.
Slyly, Sen professes that he ‘cawn’t think why’ any decent person would see anything wrong with any of this. After all, he shrewdly points out, what would have happened if the country waited for majority approval of the Citizenry to give women the vote?
But of course, he has selected a right that was given to women in 1920 when the XIX Amendment was ratified. Which bestowed a right that was in a conceptual sense genuinely native to the Framing Vision: the political equality of ‘the vote’ was one of that Vision’s keypoints. (As opposed to the vast and burgeoning menu of pre-vote rights – espoused especially by such public intellectuals as Sen and Martha Nussbaum – which, it is claimed, must be provided by the government before any of the marginalized can use their voting power. The satisfaction of which claims and accompanying demands has turned out to be an endlessly receding horizon, with the government expending treasure, common sense, and legitimacy as it continues to stumble drunkenly ever deeper into the swamp in pursuit of this will o’ the wisp.)
But Gramsci had long before come up with this idea of pre-vote rights necessary for the marginalized to use their vote power well; Sen simply applied it to India, and not without cause. But it was slyly adopted here to fuel the erection since 1971 or so of a Gramscian-Mouffian assault Agenda on the entire national Culture (and on all world-patriarchy) – whose Citizens were precisely not in the condition of Southern Italian peasants of the 19th century or Indian peasants of the mid-20th – in order to achieve what apparently the women from 1920 to 1970 or so didn’t achieve -or perhaps ever seek to achieve: the overthrow by deconstructive assault of American and Western Culture through a Marxist-grounded derangement and perversion of national politics and any ‘deliberative democratic process’. Perhaps then there are other sources of “resourceful departure in the interpretation of the law”. How tastefully burbled.
Perhaps “the moral and religious beliefs of judges” might do the trick. Whatever those “moral and religious beliefs” might or might not be.
Or perhaps “contemporary public reasoning and the understanding generated by it” would do the trick. But this is just the old Rawlsian scam: the ‘contemporary’ bit means that only ‘public reasoning’ as it has been manipulated in the past 40 Biblical years by the vanguard elite Elect qualifies as genuinely reliable and valid ‘reasoning’.
And, of course, in terms of that ‘public’ then ‘reasoning’ doesn’t enter into it. The past 40 Biblical years have seen the public misinformed, stampeded into ‘outrage’ or lulled by soothing coos of ‘it’s only a little reform’, and finally bypassed completely through secret advanced-level advocacy ‘deals’ struck with the now-indentured pols in the non-smoking smoke-filled rooms in the Beltway.
‘Public reasoning’ is now degenerated to the point where it is mostly cartoonish repetition of mantras and almost adolescent posturing, while the academic arm of the vanguard elite Elect churns out tastefully bland and abstruse or – less frequently now – stridently hard-hitting books making the deconstructive-assaultive case.
Which the pols, having already done the deals, don’t read.
Nor do the mainstream media, who simply lap up the elite press releases along with the choicest wine or chai at A-list Beltway dinner parties to which the former scribblers are pleased as punch to be given ‘access’.
Why, asks Sen plaintively, shouldn’t “a new public recognition of the appropriateness of some putatively legal rights” thus “be reflected in contemporary legal judgments”?
I dealt with this in an earlier Post on Justice William Brennan, who – among his many other services to the Project and the Agenda – helped develop the neatly distracting kabuki where ‘conservative-originalist’ Justices and judges would do battle with the noble ‘liberal, living-constitutional’ Justices and judges over what to do with the ‘text’ of the Constitution.
Whereas in reality, as in any vaudeville magician’s act, the real trickery was going on elsewhere: neither side was really interested in the core dynamics of the Framing Vision: i.e. that The People had to be accurately informed, forthrightly consulted, allowed to deliberate, and to deliver their opinion (which should carry the greatest of weight and is not to be lightly brushed aside).
Naturally, of course, the Gramscian-Mouffian R-feminist Project and Agenda had utterly no need for such dynamics (nor did the neocon Right). After all, why consult a bunch of lumps who ‘just don’t get it’ or who can’t qualify for a security clearance or who can’t pony up 100 large for the right candidate?
You see where 40 years of that treacherous kabuki-cum-magic show has gotten Us.
And anyway, Sen piously declaims, “Something more than just the words and phrases of the Constitution must surely be involved in understanding the motivation behind a democratic and participatory constitution that tries to tries to create a legitimate space for different types of people with varying preoccupations and circumstances in a diverse society”. [italics mine]
The italicized clauses contain a steady string of euphemistic code phrases.
A “democratic and participatory constitution” clearly indicates some constitution other than the Constitution We already have. And this new one will be “democratic and participatory” in the old Gramscian sense that all of the ‘oppressed and marginalized’ will now be the power-wielders at the Center (having been magically transported in from the Periphery of the national Culture).
That “tries to create” hides the Method of the Gramscian subversion by means of siege and assorted sly and secret assaults, sustained with gimlet-eyed determination over time, assisted by whatever alliances might be struck and bargains made with whatever traitors inside the gates can be induced to smooth the attackers’ path.
That “legitimate space” means ‘legitimate’ only in the Correct sense, and implies – as Gramsci said – that in any attack on a Western Culture and political system you have to always maintain the veil of ‘legitimacy’, burnishing it just as soon as your planted agents can start a drumbeat of approval for your actions going. (I wonder: when Hitler decided that the only way to gain power against Weimar was to get himself legitimately elected or appointed to power … had he read Gramsci?)
And that “space” means empty voids that were once occupied by the structures, institutions, principles and morals of the (hegemonic, dominant, oppressive) targeted Culture.+
And that “different types of people with varying preoccupations” means the entire pandemonium of Identity Politics, each with a well-watered trademark 'outrage' and consequent menu of demands, as it has been erected and sustained and allowed to metastasize here in the past 40 Biblical years.
And that “circumstances” means the entire pandemonic panoply of newly erected (or ‘recognized’) ‘oppressions’ – political, economic, sexual, biological, ethnic, racial, physiological, cultural, orientational, emotional or what have you.
And that “diverse society” means the Secularist-Multicultural dampdream that you can have all sorts of people living in the same territorial space who – however – do not share any first principles and many of whom are quite ready to deploy Gramscian-Mouffian assault strategies the minute they don’t get what they want and feel they have to have right now.
Well, that’s my take on Habermas, Mouffe, and a bit of Sen.
Overall, I’d say that Mouffe and the more recent variants on Marx and Gramsci – whether styled as ‘socialists’ or ‘radical democrats’ – are still merely trying to run the same old Gramscian gameplan (to which, alas, the Beltway has now indentured itself and thus enmeshed – and I would say betrayed – the entire American Culture and polity).
Thus there is nothing here that is ‘progressive’ as much as it is regressive. The Framing Vision, which relies upon the Citizens coming together to speak as The People and thus act as the ultimate arbiters of American life and policy, and as the final protectors of the Great American Experiment in free Citizens governing their government and themselves, has been hugely undone.
And undone precisely by the dynamics of the lunacies of the French Revolution, imported here in the form of Marxist-Leninist thought as re-jiggered by Gramsci and further re-jiggered by Mouffe and her ilk, and supported by such publicly recognized luminaries as Sen. Which lunacies the Framing Vision of 1787 was perfectly suited to preventing from infecting this nation and its Culture.
Nor can anyone forget Solzhenitsyn’s famous observation that Shakespeare’s baddies pretty much amassed no more than a dozen or so corpses in the process of their various malefactions because they didn’t have an ideology. But contrary to all the burbly, happy-faced spin that Gramscian-Mouffian ‘critical theory’ is not an ideology but only a ‘critical method’, Gramsci and Mouffe and all the rest of that pandemonium have indeed embraced and erected an ‘ideology’ to the extent that they require a) the dogmatic presumptions that Western (and American) Culture are fundamentally and primarily nothing but a ‘dominant, oppressive, hegemonic’ engine of those three evils and b) all the corollary and consequent axioms in regard to what must then be done to combat and indeed ‘crush the infamous thing’.
Sen joins Gramsci in trying to make a vision conceived in a hugely different place, culture (and in Gramsci’s case, time) applicable to a matured Western democracy with a capable if not perfect Citizenry.
Only Habermas has had the wit or decency and integrity to reconsider his earlier enthusiasms and dial them back, returning thereby to a more proven and long-practiced stance toward the very fundaments of human-being and human existence, in contrast to the superheated pipedreams of these many wannabe makers and shapers of the Future who, like unripe but ambitious architects, have truckloads of blueprints but not a successful construction to their credit. Although their blueprints have generated a file-case full of world-class catastrophic failures.
There is much to be done.
You could do much worse than to watch that segment of the 1970 film ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’, putting yourself in the position of, say, Admiral Kimmel, looking out at the smoking catastrophe of Pearl Harbor that morning of December 7, 1941 and realizing to himself: My God, it has happened here, we've let it happen to ourselves, and now what do we do?
But don’t get too cocky. It’s not 1941 now. And now We have much more to fear than fear itself.
*Let me repeat here a few introductory points about my use of ‘feminism’ and ‘radical feminism: As noted in the MacKinnon Post, I use this term (R-feminist) to denote radical-feminism. A couple of points to clarify at the outset: A) R-feminism is different from moderate and liberal feminism, which MacKinnon and her cadres helped kick to the curb in American politics in the 1970s; B) when I refer to R-feminism I am referring to it as a political phenomenon; thus C) I am not ‘against women’ (who, in my book, are human beings made in the Image of God and you really can’t get a higher encomium than that); which foregoing presumes D) that I don’t think R-feminism is demonstrably the representative spokesthing for all women.
**All of which brings back to mind the curious historical reality of the many ex-Communists who suddenly became the most dedicated members of the Nazi Party, which on the surface would appear to have been clearly their worst enemy. But a hegemony-seeking Party is a hegemony-seeking Party whether of the Left or of the Right. Thus Roland Freisler, Hitler’s favorite judge, who simply traded in his hammer-and-sickle armband for a swastika armband early enough and rose to become the most monstrously rabid Nazi judge in a Reich full of rabid monsters. There was almost no psychological difference between the radicalism of Communism and the radicalism of Nazism – and the willing secular fundamentalist could embrace the one as easily as the other if push came to shove or if the winds began to blow differently.
***The character of Captain Loomis Birkhead, U.S. Army, played by Tim Matheson, in the 1979 WW2 comedy “1941”. Which I recommend to everyone. Along with the Marx Brothers in 1933’s “Duck Soup”.
****His books tend toward the complex, but for openers I can especially recommend the article entitled “What Hope Remains?”, by Peter E. Gordon, that appeared in the print version of ‘The New Republic’, issue of December 29, 2011, pp.35-9. The link brings you to a paywall on the TNR site.
*****Just to expand a bit on the role of the Church in the formation of Western culture, let me add the following.
The Greeks and Romans made their own contributions (greatly different from each other) to Western Civilization. But it was the Church that found itself the only authority in the West after the Fall of the Roman Empire. And it was in the centuries following that Fall that Western Civilization as we know it was actually formed, using the materials from Greek and Roman civilization but then adding and (in the case of Aquinas especially) synthesizing those insights with the specific contributions of the Judeo and Christian heritages.
So the Church not only preserved in the monastic libraries much of the extant writings of the Greeks and Romans but also then (again especially through Aquinas) made use of the rediscovery of Aristotle through interactions (fractious as they were) with Islamic civilization where those works had survived the Fall and assorted barbarian sackings that destroyed so much of the tangible and written heritage of the Greeks and Romans.
But also: its philosophy provided a broad and comprehensive Vision that added tremendously to the Greek and Roman heritage (which had little use for the ‘supernatural’ or for any dimension or Plane of Existence except this earthly one). A short list of concepts would include a) the dignity of the individual based not on participation in the city-state (Greek) nor mere Citizenship in the Empire (Roman) but rather in the dignity of the individual as made in the Image of God; b) the Higher Law to which all earthly governments are answerable (grounding the Framing Vision of the US); c) the synthesis that saw the value of the civil, societal realm as being of equal or greater standing as the governmental realm; d) and the grounding of all human activity under the guidance (‘judgment’ if you want to use the term carefully) of the Purpose that was automatically included in the fact of humans being created in the Image of God … these are all insights that came to the West only through the Church.
And for that reason Enlightenment ‘secularism’ or the fragmented assortment of illuminations that the various Reformation thinkers considered as sufficient substitutes (or improvements upon) the Great Vision have proved themselves over recent centuries to be precisely just that: partial and fragmented illuminations incapable of either grounding human culture and society or of satisfying constructively and comprehensively the abiding human need for greater Meaning than anything on this Plane of Existence is able to provide.
Any sort of fundamentalism skews the human in one way or another, and radically so – this includes both religious fundamentalism and the secular fundamentalism of Communism; and secularism – meaning the insistence that this-dimensional existence can provide sufficient Meaning and Ground for human beings as individuals or societies or communities or polities – is utterly insufficient to the task.
Indeed, my thought is that while the Framers were able to declare a separation of Church and State, they could do so only because they presumed the benefits – I would call it the Afterglow – of Christendom’s contributions: they could reliably presume that all Citizens were somehow already grounded in the Great Vision of human-being even before they came to the role of Citizenship in the Great American Experiment in democracy. (A ‘democracy’ which to the Greeks merely meant a this-dimensional participation in the politics of this or that city-state.)
It was the Church that synthesized the barbarian tribes’ insistence on freedom, the Roman genius for order, and the Greek insistence on reason and political participation.
I can’t see how any of that can legitimately be ignored.
Food for serious thought, I submit, during the season of Christmas and New Year, especially when the Framing Vision is in such dire straits due to the combined assaults of fundamentalisms and secularism (especially as it was skewed so monstrously by the French and Soviet Revolutions).
******Again, I make reference to a TNR article that is behind an online paywall. The article is entitled “Rights, Words, and Laws”, by Sen. It appeared in the TNR print edition of October 28, 2010, pp. 24-9.
+Sen’s espousal of Gramscian (and modern French) secularism as both a weapon against the religion that Marx saw as an opiate drug embraced by the masses and as the major source of cultural unity in the New Order constitutes a double risk of stunning proportions: a) the Culture in its religious aspect must be attacked in order to Flatten it into the Mono-Plane (and the masses must be ‘educated’ out of their stubborn addiction to religion – which seems to me equally an ‘attack’) that justifies itself merely by the secularist expectation that b) secularism will be able to provide a sufficient cohesive (and Mono-Planar) bond to keep the culture united.
I can only wonder how this will ultimately work in India, whose Culture has evolved since its ancient beginnings not under the aegis of a common government but rather on the deep embrace of ‘religion’ (albeit not the Judeo-Christian tradition which nurtured the West). Even if Sen’s urging of such secularism in India might initially succeed merely because of its novelty and such ‘changes’ as it would bring, will it in the long run avoid destabilizing the religiously-bereft population?
As has been seen here, the attack on the Afterglow of religion, as a consequence of the secularist need to Flatten the citizenry and the Culture into the Mono-Plane, has somehow resulted in a massive expansion of the government whose seemingly endless intrusive legislating and regulating has turned out to be the only ‘bond’.
Nor am I optimistic that this ominous and Constitutionally-deranging development is merely ‘transitional’; in Gramsci’s well-intentioned pipedream, there would be some other ‘bond’ that would develop once the masses were weaned off their addiction to ‘religion’ and came into the full use of the human powers (conceived Flatly by Gramsci); in Schmitt’s pipedream it was precisely “the political”, presided over by the Sovereign Authority of the government, that controls all and binds all from the get-go. Neither of which pipedreams, nor Mouffe’s perpetual and multiple “antagonisms”, offer much hope for a robustly and richly Grounded life-experience for the Citizens (or ‘masses’) as individuals, as a society and Culture, or as a democratic and deliberative polity such as envisioned by the Framers.
As just one – though a serious – example of why all of this will not merely be ‘transitional’, but rather cannot but have profoundly lethal effects on the Framing Vision, I refer to this new Study that has discovered that the majority of high-school students either don’t know enough to have an opinion on the value of the First Amendment OR ELSE are of the opinion that it goes too far.
The Study falls far short with its conclusion that this indicates a “lack of education”.
To me the attitudes of the students do not indicate a lack of education. Indeed, just the opposite: why bother to learn about an outdated and doomed Constitution that is nothing more than a pact with Hegemony, Dominance, and Oppression (which, by the time they are just a little bit older the vanguard elite Elect will have Correctly done away with)?
Or why bother to allow free speech to those ‘who just don’t get it’ and are actively collaborating – through ignorant enthrallment or near-demonic desire for dominance – with Hegemony, Dominance, and Oppression? It was the Frankfurt School’s Herbert Marcuse (insisting that the US in the mid-1960s and Hitler’s Germany of the mid-1930s were substantively similar) who claimed that a “liberal intolerance” of un-Correct ideas was not only necessary but desirable.
The students, I am saying, have indeed picked up exactly the ‘knowledge’ that underlies the worldview of the educational and cultural vanguard elites.
The Study is right to fear for the future of the polity when so many soon-to-be-voters are now enthralled to the idea that the founding and Framing form of their government and their Culture is rotten and needs to be done away with as soon as it can be managed.
But the Study fears to name precisely the source of this potentially fatal prospect: a Correct elite ‘liberalism’ that is actually and deliberately nothing more than a rehash of Marx and Lenin, modulated by Gramsci and Mouffe and her well-placed ilk, thus distributed to cohort after cohort of youth approaching voting-age through both the educational milieu and the general tenor of what is fatuously and fatally taken to be a ‘liberal’ cultural ideal.
Let me add here some reflections on this article by Robert Boyers in ‘Harpers’ (July 2006, pp.89-94) reviewing the now-late John Updike’s then-new novel “Terrorist”.
I recall Stephen Pinker saying (in an interview in ‘Reason’ recently, I think) that “if the impediment to a better world is some defined group of people” (I’m working from memory here), then the defining-group is “justified in unlimited outlays of violence”.
He’s going for the idea that fundamentalisms are by nature going to start ‘defining’ this or that target group or culture as ‘evil’ and thus – at least in their own minds – justify the violence they are about to impose.
But this strikes me as precisely the dynamic involved in the Gramscian-Mouffian assault on Western and American Culture (because most of those Citizens can be primarily defined as ‘just not getting it’). And – because America is one of those Western democracies Gramsci (and Lenin) realized could not be attacked outright – the ‘violence’ here is not physical but is rather conducted through Gramsci’s insidious ‘war of positions’ against the Culture through the derangement of its politics (which are corruptly and evilly sustaining Oppression, Dominance and Hegemony) and its Citizens’ very ability to conduct any sort of deliberative and democratic political discussion. After all, why allow those Citizens and The People to do all of that when, of course, ‘they just don’t get it’ to begin with?
Which also leads me to think, as I have said in prior Posts, that the real historical significance of the Watergate scandal so hugely trumpeted against Nixon (for whom I hold no brief) in 1974 was primarily necessary in the view of the budding ‘liberal’ elites in order to reverse and discredit the presidential election results of 1972 – when all but one of the States in the Union rejected the Democrats’ New Order Party vision that embraced the R-feminist gameplan.
In fact, I wonder if on some intuitive level a large number of Citizens sensed even back then that there was something fundamentally Alien in the whole vision, although they did not at that time a) have the vocabulary or full conceptual awareness of what was being busily spun as merely a continuation of MLK’s profoundly impressive unitive Vision and b) could not at that point in history even imagine that the federal government would actually embrace what is essentially a Marxist schematic that for all practical purposes abandoned the Framing Vision.
(Nor am I here shrilly going for a the-government-is-Communist bit. What the Beltway embraced was Marxist, and Eurocommunist, but not to all appearances Communist as that monstrous ideology was known in the USSR and all its satellites.)
Boyers observes of Updike’s anti-hero that his faith was “a rottenness of certitudes” – about the West, about the evil of Western civilization (and I would include Culture here), about the great threat that Western and American civilization posed to the world and its peoples, and about what a noxious affront such an outrageous Thing was to decent and right-thinking people.
And does that not sound rather familiar in light of everything that Gramsci, Mouffe, R-feminists, and the whole pandemonium of fellow/sister-travelers and ‘useful idiots’ claim about the macho, patriarchal, dominant, oppressive, hegemonic American Culture and its enabling document, the Constitution?
But – I note – not Updike, not Boyers, not Pinker go there. Which omission is itself a commentary on the state of intellectual discourse in the country nowadays. And largely has been for the past 40 Biblical years.
The terrorist anti-hero of the novel notes that Westerners “brag of freedom” but it is “a freedom to no purpose”. We are instantly brought back to first principles when confronted with this observation, which is actually touted as one of the great cutting-edge aspects of postmodern, post-democratic, post-Liberal politics in the ‘liberal’ New Order: no individual has to consider him/herself bound by any preconceived notion of what the purpose of his/her life is, since s/he is ‘born free’ and is not burdened or constrained by any ‘essence’ or by any Higher Authority or Being that/Who might have imbued human beings with such a confining and restricting load.
I hold no brief whatsoever for the anarchist or terrorist idea that the only way you can impose your political vision is by gratuitous or calculated violence.
But I also hold no brief for the lethal Gramscian-Mouffian assurance that a well-established democratic polity and its Culture only serve the forces of Oppression, Dominance, and Hegemony and that on that basis that polity and that Culture deserve – and can only be dealt with by – the “antagonistic” “war of positions” which has been slyly waged – with the Beltway’s full aiding and abetting – for the past 40 Biblical years.
This is the secularist ‘space’ created by simply erasing any possibility of human purpose (except if a particular individual personally chooses to accept such a restriction – and even then s/he can change his/her mind any old time).
But it should not be too hard to see that such a neat political ploy, rhetorically (and demagogically) shrewd, is also profoundly destabilizing to any human sense of Meaning and Purpose.
What I fear is that the more addled the Citizens become because of so profound a lack of large and solidly-anchored Meaning and Purpose, the less able they will become to withstand the growth of Leviathan (the National Security State) and Leviatha (the National Nanny State), which two profoundly anti-American monstrosities are now revealing their essential sameness as they metastasize with impunity into some intrusive and (in a nice symmetry) monster-government unbounded and unrestricted by any Framing ‘essence’ or ‘nature’.
About the anti-hero’s terroristic ‘politics’, Boyers observes that the young terrorist is not actually interested in politics at all. And that his “political ideas” are merely a hash of “platitudes and warmed-over certainties”.
But what is the Gramscian and especially Mouffian ‘philosophy’ (embraced by R-feminism, MacKinnon, Nussbaum, Sen and – up until recently – Habermas) except precisely just such a hash of old Marxist and Leninist categories and prescriptions, re-jiggered but nothing more?
A hash of mantras, presumptions, dogmas and slogans which – if you’ve gone into hock to put your kid(s) through college any time in the past twenty-five years – now passes for ‘elite cutting edge education and Knowledge’.
And in a remarkable bit in the novel, when the character of an assistant to the Director of Homeland Security is asked by his boss why terrorists do all this bad stuff, he gives the answer: “Because they hate the light”.
Let Us pass over in silence the fact that this almost a word-for-word replication of the Israeli Realm’s single primary justification for the opposition that remains so stubbornly alive to it in the Middle East six full decades after its erection as a sovereignty.
Let Us rather recall that this assertion is also precisely the single primary ‘explanation’ George W. Bush gave for the 9/11 attacks: the terrorists hate us because of our freedom. (A freedom which, a decade later, very very few on either Left or Right deny has somehow slipped away in the choking, miasmic brouhaha raised by the unleashed dogs of war.)
And in the Correct argot that means that any Citizens who oppose or doubt the ‘Knowledge’ of those who ‘get it’ are merely backlashers and fetishizers of the Constitution (that pact with Oppression, Dominance, and Hegemony cooked up by patriarchally macho, oppressive, dominant, hegemonic dead white males).
Boyers notes that Updike tries to demonstrate that to be encased in such an ideological shell simply cuts the ‘believing terrorist’ off from reality. But let Us not be distracted by the red-herring of ‘belief’ here: the secularist Gramscian-Mouffian cadres of the vanguard elite Elect are just as much ‘believers’ as the – in this case, Islamic – terrorist. The elite cadres are secular believers – meaning that they do not base their beliefs in any other Plane of Existence – but they are believers just the same and just as ruthlessly (and, thus, just as whackulently).
Boyers goes on to observe that “the new Islamic fundamentalists are frightening principally because they have so little attachment to the things of this world”, a world that is “ugly and deceitful, a world filled with defilement and shame”. And it is “the devil’s playground”.
And, one could only add, the Western and American world is nothing more than a blivet filled with the truly Evil devilry of Oppression, Dominance, and Hegemony. (You can consult your search engine for it if it isn’t a familiar term.)
(Why weren’t Americans frightened of all that sooner? As I said above, perhaps because they simply couldn’t grasp or imagine that the Dems (and before long the Republicans for their own purposes) were going to smooth their way forward by inviting the shades of Marx and Gramsci – dressed perhaps in a Mouffian wig – into the very heart of the American polity and Culture. And yet The People sensed something back there in the presidential election of 1972.)
In fact the only difference I can make out between Updike’s terrorist anti-hero and the Gramscian-Mouffian pandemonium is that whereas the anti-hero entertains a “sour view of the world”, the pandemonium – cadres, fellow/sister-travelers, and useful idiots – entertain a gleefully sour view of the world: it’s so rotten that they can happily take axe to it root and branch, sawing and hacking in the sure and certain Knowledge that anything they hit deserves such a mighty transgressive and deconstructive whack.
You can kiss the American common-weal goodbye. In fact, it’s probably been left too far behind to embrace now, even for a farewell smooch. Hasta la vista, bayyy-beeeeee – to quote a phrase.
Goodbye to all that. It’s not ‘your grandfather’s America any more’, to recall a gleeful R-feminist slogan.
Boyers draws a connection between the fundamentalist anti-hero and Hannah Arendt’s characterization of “the banality of evil”, embodied in Adolf Eichmann, a man she described as possessing “a quite authentic inability to think”.
With all due respect to Boyers and Arendt, I don’t think that’s what We see in the Gramscian-Mouffian cadres of the vanguard elite Elect. What We have here is a deliberate and calculated refusal to think. Instead, they embrace their presumptions, mantras, fever-swamp excitements and visions, and slogans.
And then do their very best (with the resources of the Beltway pols and bureaucracies at their disposal and the collusion of so much of the mainstream media) to ensure that We don’t and indeed can’t think either.
Can it really be any wonder that nothing vital around here seems to work anymore?
There is no longer in Our politics – as there is no longer in the politics of Updike’s terrorist anti-hero – “the drama of contending ideas”. Instead there is nothing but a kabuki of adolescent dueling cartoons masquerading (and being accepted) as ‘political thoughts’ and ‘political positions’.
Boyers makes reference to Dostoevsky trying to wrap his capacious and sensitive mind around the reality of that actual historical figure, the bloody-minded Russian anarchist Nechaev, who sought nothing less than the extermination of – in an eerie classification – “gentlemen and Liberals and all defenders of every status quo”.
Which – and feel free to consult any ‘consciousness-raising sessions’ – is pretty much the agenda of the R-feminist Gramscian-Mouffian cadres of the vanguard elite Elect.
My take on all this in regard to Our own present situation is this: while studying the Islamic terrorist anti-hero and the dynamics that drive him to his frightful assumptions, Updike is somehow – and perhaps unintentionally – reflecting an even more lethal and insidious dynamic that has been going on right here for decades.
I know that Updike is now dead and I am not trying to stuff words into his mouth. But the similarities between the psychology and presumptions of Updike’s anti-hero and the long-espoused presumptions of the Gramscian-Mouffian cadres are simply too compelling to ignore.
And I wonder if somehow, in that now distant year of 1972, The People somehow sensed the abyss that lay at the heart of the New Order and instinctively acted to reject it and – they thought – ward it off.
But instead, the cadres of the vanguard elite Elect simply became enraged and – with the feckless ‘barons’ of the Beltway as their political enablers – simply decided that a People that “just doesn’t get it” doesn’t deserve to be heard and their ‘deliberative democratic politics’ are merely a rotten husk and ditto the Constitution that guarantees that politics and ditto the Framing Vision that undergirds that politics.
And the band played on from there.
Even though what was billed as the marquis crowning victory of American ‘liberalsim’ – a young black man as President (as JFK was a young white man as President) – turns out to be as dedicated an enabler of a profoundly anti-democratic vision as the monstrous tag-team that preceded him and the queasily greasy-glowing tag-team of husband and wife that preceded them.
Asked what should be done in the matter of the Warren Commission, half a century ago next year, homely up-by-the-bootstraps Philadelphia guy John J. McCloy – major D.C. player in the WW2 era and Member of that Warren Commission – insisted that whatever was decided, the US simply could not be allowed to be seen as “a banana republic”.
But here We are: a declining republic with – yes – no bananas and just some really big bombs.
Labels: Amartya Sen, Antonio Gramsci, Chantal Mouffe, John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas, Marxism and radical feminism, radical democracy, secularism