Thursday, February 16, 2012
CATHARINE MACKINNON 2
Well, it’s taken more time than I thought to get back to Catharine Mackinnon (hereinafter ‘MacK’) but I most certainly didn’t want to abandon the project. The fate of the country, the quality of its political and cultural life, and even its foreign policy and its identity as a Constitutional Republic according to the Framing Vision are all ruthlessly and deeply intertwined with the ideas MacK put forth and which the Beltway has continued to put into practice, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, for the past forty Biblical years (MacK wrote her book in 1989, but proudly asserts she had been working on her ideas since at least 1971).
You can review my initial Post on her 1989 book “Towards a Feminist Theory of the State” here .*
Her ideas are important because she has been instrumental in shaping ‘feminism’ as it has become a major Identity and Advocacy today, and a vital electoral ‘base’ for the Democrats as well as exercising a powerful but still too-little (or too-sweetly) examined gravitational pull on national politics and even nowadays on US international relations and foreign policy.
MacKinnon, thus, is a rather significant part of the explanation as to How We Got Here, to the point where the country and the Culture and the polity are today.
As always, reading a book that’s been around for a bit but one whose ideas are still influential is – in my opinion – an excellent undertaking. You can read the authoress as she writes in the first blush of enthusiasm and confidence, while you also now have all the years of intervening history under your belt and can simultaneously see in your mind how her visions have actually played out.
One last point before we get to it. MacK, as I mentioned in the prior Post about her, was instrumental in having ‘feminism’ in its moderate or liberal forms kicked to the curb by both feminists and the Beltway; instead, having tossed those chicks out of the nest and over the cliff, she secured the primacy of her own ‘radical’ feminism (hereinafter ‘R-Feminism’).
(And R-Feminism is precisely the variant of feminism that is deeply grounded in Marx and Antonio Gramsci, as we shall see below in MacK’s own words.)
It is this R-Feminism that actually became ‘feminism’ as a political influence and force in the country. When I use this term, please bear in mind the following. First, I refer to R-Feminism and not necessarily to ‘feminism’ (which in its moderate or liberal versions has some very worthwhile ideas to offer). Second, I do not ‘hate women’ nor believe that females should be kept solely in church, in the kitchen, and with the kids. Third, I do not assume – as too many do – that R-Feminism either speaks for all American women or has a workable plan for them and for the American common-weal.
Her first Part consists of several Chapters under the overall rubric of “Feminism and Marxism”. (And she means R-Feminism here, of course.)
“Sexuality is to feminism what work is to Marxism” (p.1). This fundamental grounding of R-Feminism in Marxism and Marxist analysis and dynamics has never received the careful critical attention, widely and publicly discussed, that it urgently deserves (and deserved in 1989 and in 1971).
As I have said in prior essays on this site, the mainstream media collaborated in distracting attention from this vital fact such that much of the public, the Citizenry, isn’t fully aware of it, let alone of its implications and consequences.
But there was a strategic method to this treacherous madness on the part of the R-Feminists and the media. R-Feminism surfed the wave of general public national revulsion to the Jim Crow regime of the South, which was the monster that Martin Luther King so vividly and genuinely opposed in the 1950s and early 1960s. As the Southron political elites struggled against King, so the R-Feminists in the post-1965 era quickly tarred any opposition to or doubts about their agenda with the brush of Southron oppositionalism against any ‘reform’. Of course, as I have always said, the ‘reform’ King sought was profoundly rooted in a call to a more genuine American rebirth of its Framing Vision; whereas R-Feminism embodied a vision from the entirely Alien political and cultural Universe of Marxism-Leninism.
The mainstream national media, heady with the experience of having deployed cameras and commentary to help bring about widespread public outrage at the workings of the Jim Crow regime in the South, quickly adopted for themselves the concept of ‘advocacy journalism’, i.e. that the role of ‘the press’ (or as we would say today ‘the media’) was not to ‘report’ but to help ‘change’ things. To that purpose, ‘truth’ was merely a matter of how you ‘framed’ or ‘spun’ the ‘story’ and ‘facts didn’t matter’ because it’s all a matter of how you ‘construct’ the ‘story’; there is no ‘reality’ ‘out there’ to be merely ‘reported’. (And if there is no 'truth' then there can also be no 'un-truth' ... and you can see where that might quickly lead.)
As ‘work’ framed the Marxist vision of what a country was all about and how its dynamics operated, so for R-Feminism ‘sexuality’ framed the vision of how the country and culture operated. As ‘work’ was the ultimate and primary category of analysis for Marx, so too ‘sexuality’ would be the ultimate and primary category of political and cultural analysis for R-Feminism. Nothing else mattered, either to Marx or to MacK and her cohorts and cadres.
“Sexuality is for feminism what work is to Marxism” (p.3). Which means that the Citizenry is to be primarily seen as divided between males and females, men and women. (So much for any unitive primary Identity as Americans or as Citizens.)
Indeed “this division underlies the totality of sexual relations” (p.3), so you can see that this division (which in MacK’s view is inherently ‘oppressive’ and therefore hostile) is going to exercise an effect on American politics which is both fracturing and hostile. As, no doubt, you have noticed in the past forty Biblical years – and who can claim to be surprised? It was built into this thing from Day One.
And “sexuality is the process through which social relationships of gender are created … creating the social beings we know as women and men … and their relationships create society” (p.3). So you can see that her analysis is going to reduce all of ‘society’ (reinforced by ‘culture’) to a matter of sex and gender. There is nothing else of primary relevance for her.
This is as reductionistic and simplistic (as well as hostile) a definition of society as Marx’s equally simplistic reduction of all human society and culture to matters of economics and ‘work’. And yet, ironically, it will be R-Feminism that will seduce the Beltway pols into allowing the Productive industrial-based economy and culture of the immediate postwar era to leak away – a frakkulent tack that served the R-Feminist goal of ‘deconstructing’ the macho, patriarchal ‘industrial’ culture of males in order to construct the Knowledge-and-Service economy that would be more ‘sensitive’, less ‘oppressive’ and far more appreciative of ‘women’ and their own approach to things. Cue Reagan’s borrowing and turning the US into a debtor nation in order to masquerade as ‘wealth, Clintonian neoliberalism, out-sourcing, off-shoring, credit expansion to masquerade as ‘wealth’, Bubbles, and the government’s now hopeless indenture to the F.I.R.E (financial, insurance, real-estate) sector as being both a ‘progressive’ service to Big Identity and as a service to Big Money.
And there is no Sense of any Larger Purpose or Nature to the nation’s Culture or politics or common-weal here in MacK – as there wasn’t in Marx (let alone Lenin and Gramsci).
As Marxism highlights “lack of power” so too does R-feminism (p.5). Where Marx sees the ‘workers’ (she carefully avoids the tell-tale Marxian term ‘proletariat’) deprived of control over “work relations”, so too R-Feminism sees ‘women’ deprived of control over “sexual relations”. Hence “the specificity of Marxism and feminism is not incidental” (p.5).
And so you can see that national politics and political discourse – courtesy of a pandering Beltway and mainstream media – will be reduced to ‘sex’ (and Productivity – genuinely defined – is kicked thereby to the curb). Somehow I think you can sense the loss of national ‘seriousness’ and gravitas right in about here. Let the games begin!
Hence “the prime moment of politics” revolves around who is ‘dominated’ and who is ‘subordinated’, “in which some f**k and others get f**ked” [she spells that word out in her text] (p.5). In a world-class irony, in pursuing R-Feminism’s ‘improvement’ upon Marxism, the Beltway actually re-created the gross economic imbalances among the population which originally moved Marx to outrage in the first place. Funny how the revolutionary night moves.
R-Feminism is also about women’s awareness that “attitudes and beliefs and emotions are powerful components of social relations” (p.5). Thus the insidious introduction of emotionalism and appearances into political discourse as the primary fuel and substance thereof, while in the corollary macho, male and patriarchal skills such as reason and thinking are kicked to the curb because they limit and oppress in their rigidity, their structure, and their insensitive and unfeeling insistence upon ideas rather than stories.
A dynamic that was intended to serve the nascent Leviatha but also – ach! – reawakened and released Leviathan.
But she has not simply taken Marx and replaced ‘proletariat’ with ‘women’ in the texts.
She also indicts Marx (p.5) for being male-oriented in theory and practice. He is, after all, concerned with practical matters of the economy – so brutishly realistic – while R-Feminism is concerned with the feelings, excitements, stories, and illuminations of those who ‘get it’. And, but of course, the “working class” is notorious – in R-Feminist analysis – for being oppressive to women, brutish, lumpish and violent.
So she will improve upon Marx – who clearly didn’t ‘get it’ although he did complete a lot of the spade-work: Marxism, Leninism, revolution, a brutal and engorged Leviathan terraforming a people and their culture not on the authority of some monarch’s divine authority but rather in the name of the very people whom its cadres and intellectual fellow/sister-travelers will ruthlessly drag into the bright new vision of the New Order and the New World.
Marx also had little use for the feminisms of his own day: irrelevant, he thought, to the prime task of getting bread on the table of the working-class and their families (families will be another prime target of MacK and R-Feminism, as we shall see further on).
So both Marxism and (liberal) feminism “accuse each other “ of seeking “reform” when really “a fundamental transformation is required” (p.6).
MacK is no half-way type. No half-measures. Total transformation is required, and immediately if not sooner.
But of course, the American political Universe is precisely designed to prevent government from undertaking such an intrusive, invasive, and frankly ‘religious’ program of imposing and directing complete inner transformation (the old theological term is metanoia).
Especially when such a transformation would have to be an ‘interior’ one; i.e. the government has to get into the business of judging and changing the interior lives of its Citizens: imposing the ‘knowledge’ that is Correct and punishing those who ‘just don’t get it’. Which was pretty much Lenin’s conception of his responsibilities as the prime implementer of Marx’s bookish ideas.
But Lenin’s Universe – even as refined by Gramsci and the 1970s-1980s Eurocommunists and R-Feminists – is hardly compatible with the American Framing Universe. In fact in relation to the American political and cultural Universe, the Marxist-Leninist vision constitutes precisely an anti-Universe. It is anti-matter to the Framers’ matter (and you know what happens if you try to mix matter and anti-matter).
Nor, slyly, does MacK actually use the term ‘revolution’ – sticking to the queasily spiritual term ‘transformation’. She will continually ensure that she downplays any term that reminds you of Marx’s rather substantial connection to Communism (the C-word); part of ‘getting it’ is making sure that you do not make certain connections even though they are staring you right in the face, and also making sure that nobody else makes the connection or – if they do – making sure that they are hooted off the public stage and kept out of the public discourse.
Which would have suited R-Feminism’s Beltway enablers just fine, since the pols (and later the bureaucrats) would not want themselves widely seen as collaborating with what is essentially not only the imposition of an Alien Universe, but a Communistic anti-Universe as well. And the mainstream media signed on in their role as ‘makers’ rather than ‘reporters’ of facts, events, and history generally.
(Remember, she publishes this book – courtesy of Harvard University Press – in 1989. By 1991 the first Bush is desperate to pander to R-Feminism in order to secure the female vote in his iffy re-election campaign, and by January 1992 the Clintons come in and inaugurate the era of ‘governance feminism’, which is a tasteful code phrase to describe the implementation of MacK’s ideas and agenda whole-hog by the Beltway in all its Branches and agencies.)
For Marxists and R-Feminists “powerlessness” is imposed upon victims from outside the person, by the Culture and the governmental regime that presides over that Culture (and Universe) (p.7).
Nor is R-Feminism comfortable with classical Liberalism, as exemplified in Mill. He still seeks to extend to women the responsible freedom for self-development, but that is already a bankrupt and insufficient goal for R-Feminism because women are so thoroughly ‘oppressed’ by ‘Culture’ that they need to overturn that Culture first in order to secure some operating space. (Which, in this country, was where the Beltway came in: collaborating, aiding, and abetting this Objective of taking apart the national Culture (and the Framing Universe) in order to give its new fancied female demographic all the space the R-Feminists demanded.)
Which is why there is a huge, lethal, and ominous difference between ‘Liberalism’ as classically understood and MacK’s version of ‘liberal’ as it applies to post-1972 American politics. It was in that year, you may recall, that the Democrats unveiled their new Party of Women and were rejected in a national election 49 States to one (Massachusetts, where the Teddy Kennedy machine held a fat and ruthless thumb on the electoral machinery and also enjoyed the illusion that ‘Democrats’ would never abandon ‘the working class’).
Half of the Citizens – even though they had had the vote for half a century – were ‘oppressed victims’ and nothing more. What hope was there for the ‘deliberative democratic politics’ when half the Citizens were merely oppressors of the other half, and when even a whole lotta that victimized half also ‘just didn’t get it’ and didn’t even realize what MacK and her sister-cadres of both sexes Knew with the sure and certain Knowledge that they were right and had discovered an oppression hidden since the beginning of recorded human history?
The female half had largely ‘internalized’ their oppression and come to see it as Good and Normal and had ‘consented’ to it all (a Gramscian trope lifted right out of his work).
What you were most certainly not going to be allowed to do was to ask the Question: how and why did one-half of the species manage to pull it off for just about all of recorded human history?
Why, for instance, did women prove so susceptible to what MacK calls (p.8) the urge to merely make themselves attractive to males?
The Evolutionary theory answer might be that since she was wired to nurture the long-needy development of the human child she bore, the female was going to be looking for a good male to provide protection and sustenance over that long 20-or-so year haul. But that was not Correctly acceptable to R-Feminism because it led to thoughts of there being a female ‘nature’ somehow different from the male ‘nature’ (although both would share a same primary human nature – which was also not Correct). The idea – as it became popularized and filtered into the various channels of national life – was that women could do anything men could and (deploying the outcome-based thinking of the Supreme Court in that era’s race-discrimination cases) if the outcome was that women were not proportionally represented in ‘male’ jobs, then clearly there was presumptive proof of patriarchal oppression.
R-Feminism therefore had to explain ‘women’s situation’ without allowing consideration of any alternative explanations that deviated from the Correct spin: women were clearly oppressed by patriarchy and patriarchy – and its Culture and its Universe – must be destroyed.
Because as MacK saw it, women had simply been “pampered and pacified into non-personhood” (p.8).
Although, as things would mutate in the age of ‘governance feminism’ as it blended with Victimism, they also had been victimized and subdued through world-class levels of sexual and domestic violence. Which would require police-state levels of government imposition (about which see more further on).
Rosa Luxemburg, early 20th-century European socialist organizer is recalled (p.9) for her spin on Marx: women deserve the right to be “productive” for society. Luxemburg's concept of ‘productivity’ was, however, ‘male’ (how could she avoid it, being Marxist?) in that she defined ‘productivity’ only in terms of Marxist-male work and money. To Luxemburg the idea of society deriving huge benefits from the ‘work’ of nurturing and raising children was not attractive. (Which eerily connects to Christina Hoff Sommers’s reflection in her 1994 book ‘Who Stole Feminism’ that the whole radical feminist movement had/has an oddly lesbian sensibility about it.)
R-Feminism’s central issues – and its targets – were “family, housework, sexuality, reproduction, socialization, and personal life” (p.11). You can’t avoid noticing that any political agenda that was going to take under its guns such basic structures as family, sexuality, reproduction, socialization and personal life (housework is a decidedly tertiary target in terms of its significance relative to the others) was going to be creating major difficulties for any Culture and political Universe that was targeted. (And that’s all before you imagine the Beltway pols aiding, abetting, and collaborating with the whole scheme.)
A government that turned so violently and abruptly on its own Culture and Framing Vision must surely be one of the more stunning scenarios in recorded human history. And will only become even more so as the protective aura of Correctness wears away and folks can seriously Kick some Tire here.
Nor will MacK accept Marx’s own thought that women ‘work’ by bearing and nurturing children (p.12). In a profound incoherence, R-Feminism opposes ‘patriarchal culture’ yet seeks for women precisely those elements that are most notably described in their theory as ‘male’. Go figure. But don’t expect to stay on Correct A-list dinner party circuits if you do.
“A theory is feminist to the extent that it is persuaded that women have been unjustly unequal to men because of the social meaning of their bodies … feminist theory is critical of gender as a determinant of life chances, finding that it is women who differentially suffer from the distinction of sex” (p.37).
As it stands here, this insight is certainly worthy of examination, deliberation, and policy changes. And had that been allowed to take its course in the normal processes of deliberative democratic politics then who knows how that might have played out?
There would have been more than a little questioning, no doubt. To what extent is that “social meaning” of women’s “bodies” imposed by a patriarchal culture and to what extent is it an element of human civilizations simply building on the inalterable actualities imposed by Nature and Evolution, as the Great Wall of China or Hadrian’s Wall followed the landscape rather than trying to flatten every mountain along the route? Is the practical recognition of such ‘differences’ ‘unjust’ and does it constitute ‘unequal’ treatment? And – later on – when MacK brings Family and Marriage and Commitment under her guns, what then?
Because once the genuinely ‘feminist’ insights blended with Postmodern literary Theory there were then added to the brew the insidiously and utterly corrosive concepts that there is no ‘reality’ and that human societies and cultures and individuals ‘construct’ reality (rather than construct their understanding of reality) and so there are no ‘facts’ at all in the first place and hence no ‘thinking’ is necessary since there is fundamentally nothing to think about.
There is rather, only the task of grabbing as much political power as you can and imposing your vanguard-elite Knowledge on the lumpen-masses.
But then too, ‘feminism’ in its original form was precisely what MacK has helped kick to the curb. In favor of her own R-Feminism. And R-Feminism differs radically from ‘feminism’ in both Content and Method.
In Content R-Feminism insists that it offers not simply a new ‘take’ or ‘point of view’ but rather an entirely new, world-class, culture-shaking Knowledge that must be accepted forthwith as given and as right and good and true. Deliberation doesn’t enter into it because this is all so obviously ‘real’ (if you ‘get it’) that no self-respecting human culture or civilization could reject it any more than the humanity of the 17th century could reject Newton’s Law of Gravity.
And in Method (of implementation) R-Feminism is inextricably committed to not only Marx’s theoretical analyses but to Lenin’s insistence that such Knowledge is far too vital and esoteric for the average lumpen-citizens to ‘get’ and therefore must be imposed by ‘vanguard elites’ who do ‘get it’.
And to Antonio Gramsci’s early20th century visions of how to adapt Lenin to attack Western Culture and the democratic polities of the West (as opposed to the Russian ‘East’) where Citizenries were far too politically influential in the constitutional monarchies and parliamentary democracies and (in the matter of America) constitutional democracies: they are all ‘Liberal’ and thus give too much political power to the lumpen-masses who ‘just don’t get it’ and the Liberal idea of allowing Citizens to determine their own political governance is – to Gramsci as to Marx and Lenin – utterly useless for the purpose of erecting this new Knowledge into government policy and law.
Gramsci’s own vision retained a certain humanist concern for allowing the masses to become educated (through the efforts of the vanguard-elite cadres) and then the masses themselves would change their Culture.
But R-Feminism here (especially once the Beltway demonstrated its willingness to put the entire power of the government behind this noxious Project) quickly took Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ route and simply ‘imposed’ change, on the conceptual presumption that since the masses so profoundly didn’t ‘get it’ then their ‘education’ would require the government to impose and terraform the national Culture through law and policy simply to get the masses to the point where they would acquiesce in whatever was loaded upon them.
Any objections, neatly, were spun as merely the same type of ‘backlash’ that the Southern Jim Crow racist folk deployed to try and stop the feds ending Jim Crow.
But as I have been saying in recent essays, the R-Feminist Project was not a continuation of Martin Luther King’s efforts to recall all Americans to an ideal that would yield for all a ‘new birth of freedom’. Rather than King’s call to bring the American Cultural and political Universe toward a new birth of awareness of its genuine ideals, R-Feminism was grounded in the anti-American Universe of Gramsci and his forebears.
And to have one’s doubts about the wisdom of injecting that into the national bloodstream was not - I would say - ‘backlashing’ or some fuddy-duddy refusal to accept – as some did back in the 17th century – the obvious and demonstrable accuracy of Newton’s Law of Gravity. Rather, to have one’s doubts was to demonstrate a poignantly insightful sensibility that somehow what the government and the R-Feminists were up to was verrrry iffy and hugely undemocratic and may well be ultimately unworkable even if – a huge IF indeed – the agenda was accurately grounded in reality in the first place.
And R-Feminism clearly required ‘Identity Politics’, meaning that Americans were divided along the ultimate and utterly primary fracture line of Identity (Gender, in R-Feminism’s own vision) and thus possessed no primary common Identity as Americans. Nor should any concern for any national common-weal hold any legitimate grasp on Americans’ self-consciousness since that consciousness was fundamentally wrong to begin with.
Like the Southern ‘justifications’ for secession a century before, R-Feminism insisted that its agenda was non-negotiable and had to be accepted … or else. And not simply accepted, but declared by all to be right and just and Good. And like the Southern 'justifications' for slavery, their odious scheme must not simply be accepted, but rather must be declared by all American Citizens to be right and good.
Like the abolitionists of a century before, R-Feminism insisted that in the face of such a demonstrable ‘evil’, there could be neither negotiation nor delay, but rather immediate and complete eradication of the evil. Anything less would constitute continued cooperation with the ‘evil’ and if the country were to be ripped apart in the process, well … it would be better to have no America than to have an America tainted by its ‘pact with Hell’.
‘Liberal’ feminism retained a concern for the individual; R-Feminism (tinged with the Marxist reduction to ‘class’) insisted that ‘women’ were a “group” (an Identity) and in the service of that “group” (she avoids the Marxist “class” term) any concern for ‘individuals’ was grossly inadequate and indeed illegitimate (p.40).
Each individual ‘woman’ existed primarily as an instance of the Identity called ‘women’ (so much for individualism); this Identity was “collective” and it was “socially constructed” (thus not ‘real’ in the sense of corresponding to any ‘reality’ other than what might be constructed by whomever grabbed the power to do the constructing).
It all revolved not around a discussion of “sex roles” but rather of “sex power” – as in: which sex would have the “power” to define its sex role. It was – as it was with Marx and Lenin – all about “power”; anything else was secondary and distracting. Hence, grabbing power had to be the primary objective.
(A necessity made much easier to achieve when the Beltway signed itself on, bringing the full faith and credibility of the government as the buy-in to the game.)
And the ‘game’ would not be to deliberate on “disparity” but rather to “overthrow” the entire rotten system of “sexual subordination” and the sooner the better.
Nor was “biology” relevant at all; “sex is political” and that’s all there is to it. “Hierarchy” (and “dominance” and “oppression” and “hegemony” – all Gramsci’s terms) defines “gender politics” (p.41).
Beyond the huge questions and possible doubts about all these foregoing assumptions and assertions, there is the even more stunningly ominous Question: what sort of government will it take to rapidly and thoroughly impose such an agenda and its ‘philosophy’ on a constitutional democracy? Surely not the government whose limits were envisioned in the Framing Vision.
Lincoln himself, whose objections to slavery were more profoundly held and grounded than any other American of his era, realized that he couldn’t simply adopt the abolitionists’ simplistic Either-Or demand without b) wrecking the country and a) wrecking the limits on government power without which the great American Experiment in democracy could not survive. (His wisdom is perhaps more obvious today than it was forty giddy Biblical years ago.)
Looking at John Stuart Mill’s mid-19th century proto-feminism, MacK follows his thought that the subordinate role of women derived purely from “the value men attached to women” (and had nothing to do with any biological reality about the need for males to protect women if the kids were to have a chance at growing up nurtured). It was a purely “selfish” gambit concocted by “men”, and a gambit based in an “instinctive selfishness” in men due to the fact that men cannot “tolerate the idea of living with an equal” (p.42).
So it all comes down to a deliberate and ingrained male selfishness and fear of living with an equal. (Of course, if this were indeed the only causal factor then the male regime of “patriarchy” would be pretty much akin to American slavery – and it cannot be a coincidence that Mill wrote the work that MacK quotes in 1869, just after the American Civil War over slavery and built his essay (“The Subjection of Women”) on a simple analogy between slavery and the oppression of women.)
Men, thus, are the white slave-owners and masters seeking for their own selfish purposes to enslave women, who in Mill’s scripting are merely the ‘Negro’ slaves. And – of course – since females are a full half of the human species, then gender-slavery is an even greater outrage than race-slavery. Neat.
Whether Mill’s analysis is anywhere near sufficient is a very good question. But MacK rather thinks it’s “the most compelling, sympathetic, subtle, perceptive, consistent, coherent, complex and complete statement” of the matter (.p.41). But of course.
Nor is there any discussion of the fact that between 1869 and 1928 women got the vote in both the US and the UK. And yet somehow in 1972 or thereabout R-Feminism announces to the Beltway (and the Beltway agrees) that in effect having-the-vote has accomplished nothing and sharper methods must be employed. Which fact, in addition to raising some serious questions as to why ‘the vote’ achieved so little (allegedly) for them, raises the much larger Question: if having-the-vote and achieving political equality did so little, then what was left for a democracy to do?
The answer, alas, was and should have been recognized as: Clearly ‘democracy’ is not the solution to women’s issues. (Precisely the realization that the South came to in 1861 in regard to its own issues.)
But, MacK adds, Mill's is the bestest statement “of the liberal feminist argument for women’s equality”. (However one defines ‘equality’ in this context.)
R-Feminism, however, goes far beyond ‘liberalism’ as a solution, asserts MacK, and in five basic conceptual areas (pp.45ff).
In the matter of ‘individualism’, liberalism grounds itself in the uniquely distinct human individual, whereas R-Feminism sees the individual woman primarily as merely an instance of a ‘group’, who constitutes herself not primarily through a personal, unique, existential self-discovery and development but rather by embracing her “womanhood as identity”.
At a stroke, here, the basis of the Western and specifically Christian concept of the human individual is done away with – as Marx had done. The human is merely an instance of a ‘class’ (or MacK’s sly “group”).
In the matter of “naturalism” liberalism grounds itself in the belief that there is indeed an objective nature (and Nature) and indeed epistemologically that there is some ‘reality’ that is ‘out there’ and also that “the body originates independently of society or mind”. R-Feminism insists that “the condition of the sexes and the relevant definition of women as a group is conceived as social down to the somatic level [!] … only incidentally, perhaps even consequentially, is it biological”. And thus the most important 'realities' don't exist of themselves, but rather are constructed by people and groups (especially Identities); an eerie precursor of the Bush 2 era assertion that the American government doesn't 'follow' history, it 'makes' history.
At a stroke, here, humans (especially females) are imagined as incorporeal even in their existence in this dimension, such that ‘mind’ actually imposes itself and may even constitute corporeality. (Which is a characteristic of life-forms – very advanced life-forms – occasionally encountered by the crew of the USS Enterprise, led by Kirk and Spock … which makes you wonder to what extent some of this stuff in the R-Feminist agenda didn’t come from wayyyyy too much uncritical TV-watching.) R-Feminism is becoming detached not only from ‘reality’ as an idea, but from actual physical reality. And the Beltway bought it all and dragged America’s Culture and politics and the Framing Vision along with it.
In the matter of “idealism” liberalism treats “thinking” as a “sphere unto itself” and “as the prime mover of social life … reason becomes a transhistorical logic that motivates persuasion independent of surroundings, advocacy, or audience [a TV type term again]”. Whereas R-Feminism has a theory of consciousness “that sees thoughts as constituent participants in conditions”.
In other words, R-Feminism is trying to de-throne ‘thinking’ and ‘Reason’ as useful human tools in Shaping individual and social life. (And who can deny that it has succeeded in that bit of its agenda?) In place of any comprehensive Vision that might inform and Shape and Ground human activity – and assess that activity – R-Feminism seeks a dependence on whatever seems to be the thing to do at the time, with an eye to one’s “audience” and the demands of this or that “advocacy”.
And the line of descent from these assertions to the ‘symbolic’ and ‘deal’ politics that have now wracked and wrecked so much of American Culture, politics, political discourse, and the seriousness and competence of its governance, should be as clear as a bell here.
Worse, MacK continues that “intricately connected to its idealism is liberalism’s account of correct thought: moralism … rightness means conforming behavior to rules that are abstractly right or wrong in themselves”.
So there is no right or wrong, at least not ‘out there’. But she also simplistically analyzes how humans come to an idea of right or wrong. If the manufacturer recommends to airlines that the aircraft you have just purchased should not be flown in reverse, and the airlines so instruct their pilots, this is not quite some arbitrary or abstract imposition and some arbitrary demonstration of ‘dominance’ just for the hell of it: the airline and the manufacturer have come to formulate this concept of the ‘right’ way to fly the aircraft and the ‘wrong’ way after comprehending the dynamics of the aircraft and how it will and will not operate properly.
So at a stroke, here, R-Feminism rips humans and their societies and Cultures away from any solid and reliable Grounding and from any criteria or standards by which human activity can be judged and assessed. The Ferris wheel is ‘liberated’ from its restraining struts while the motor that revolves it is actually speeded up. Which, remarkably, is a pretty good image of what has happened to both the economy and the government itself in the past few decades. Funny how the night moves.
In the matter of “voluntarism” liberalism presumes that social life “is comprised of autonomous, intentional, and self-willed actions”. Whereas R-Feminism sees the individual self has having little impact on the larger society, because “conditions are not resisted without means given or seized … nor simply because women are really free beneath their victimization”.
At a stroke, here, in the all-consuming (and quintessentially Marxist-Leninist) preoccupation with imposing change, the individual – that marvelous creature in whose service Western Culture developed – counts for nothing: the ‘seizing’ of power is all, and for that you require vanguard elite cadres with the Knowledge that only comes when you ‘get it’ and their ability to get their hands on the levers of power (cue the Beltway) so that you can impose your Knowledge on everybody else (who, by definition, ‘just don’t get it’ and in the matter of Dead White European Males never did ‘get it’).
You can’t avoid seeing here that no matter what their ‘good’ intentions, R-Feminists were bound to attack, de-legitimize, and in divers ways corrode, corrupt, and undermine the fundaments of Western (and American) Culture and civilization and – not to put too fine a point on it – the Framing Vision, which required a committed and competent Citizenry involved in a deliberative, democratic politics as the means of The People governing their Constitutionally-boundaried government.
And who can’t connect the dots to the parlous condition of the American polity today, after forty Biblical years of all this treacherous dreck?
Because for R-Feminists “the division between women and men is the primary social division … not wealth or rank but sex” (p.48). A theory that grounds its comprehension of American society and people by dividing them – and in a hostile fashion at that – was bound to create at least as much damage as it sought to correct, if not indeed create far more profound damage to the Culture, The People, and the common-weal.
And because for R-Feminists “the most pertinent and fundamental consideration one can bestow upon our culture is to recognize its basis in patriarchy” (p.48). That’s all the American reality is worth and that’s all it’s really about. Nothing else really matters nor ever has or should have mattered. Or – you have to expect – ever will again.
Such progress. Such liberation.
And “the family is often regarded as the key structure for perpetrating patriarchy, modeling authoritarian social relations as it teaches sexual differentiation of social functions”. (p.48) Which, MacK agrees, “is much like the marxian account of the class division”.
That the Family has no other purpose is a recklessly simplistic analysis of so vital a human institution.
And you can hear echoes of once-trendy psychologist Alice Miller’s insistence (based on her own experiences in Europe as the Nazis rose to power) that if Europeans hadn’t been raised in such father-heavy authoritarian families they wouldn’t have been so gaga over Hitler. It was a conceit that made the careers of a number of refugee-European scholars of the ‘Chicago School’ who came here after the war and applied what they thought they had learned from the Hitlerite era and regime to American Culture and society – which required that they presume both the Third Reich and the Framing Vision and American society were all pretty much the same thing.
And once again you see MacK’s sly use of words: to avoid ‘Marxist’ she invents the less overt ‘marxian’; ‘Marxist’ might have reminded folks of just where all these ‘ideas’ were coming from. She also doesn’t capitalize the ‘M’ – as if she’s referring to something harmlessly and politely generic rather than to the verrrry specific and particular legacy of Karl Marx (and all his adherents and all those who sought to improve upon him and all his fellow/sister-travelers).
“This account of the man/woman division is much like the marxian account of the class division: a social structural response by human beings to a material condition that is essential for survival, maintenance of which is in the interests of those who have the dominant role and against the interests of those who are dominated” (pp.48-9). But in, for example, science, those who believe in Newton’s Law of Gravity or Darwin’s theory of Evolution are also ‘dominant’.
The crucial point is Why they are ‘dominant’ – not because they seek to impose an “account” for their own purposes but simply because the ideas themselves have demonstrated their accuracy in explaining and predicting reality.
MacK wishes us to presume that the only way ‘dominance’ is achieved is through a desire to dominate, and for one’s own selfish purposes. (And, not quite coherently, she then seeks not to eradicate dominance but rather to grab it for her own purposes, since politics is primarily if not only about ‘power’ and who gets to wield it.)
Gramsci had sought a ‘dominance’ or ‘hegemony’ of the ‘previously marginalized’. But in his idealistic (not to say utopian) vision those ‘previously marginalized’ would first be educated (by the vanguard elite cadres) into their possibilities and potentials as human beings and then it would be those ‘previously marginalized’ who would create their own revolution.
But R-Feminism departed from Gramsci precisely at this point and took the Leninist tack that Gramsci rejected (and perhaps feared): the vanguard cadres would create the revolution themselves since the ‘marginalized’ – while deserving of ‘liberation’ from ‘oppression’ – really ‘just didn’t get it’ and so the revolution would have to be jump-started (if not also completely conducted) by those who did ‘get it’. Which leads quickly to Orwell’s “Animal Farm” dynamic where the leading-liberators among the farm animals quickly come to lord it over all the other farm animals. And that has happened here, although – additionally – with the compliance and collusion of the Beltway, and all to the profound and widespread detriment of deliberative democratic politics and the Framing Vision and the Culture and the polity.
And this ever-present possibility was further intensified and amplified when the Clintons came in and presided in the 1990s over the era of ‘governance feminism’ – which was nothing but a polite term for the vanguard elite cadres bestriding the halls and non-smoking smoke-filled rooms of the Beltway and converting their agenda into policy and law that would be imposed forthwith on the country.
Imagine the Southern slave-holders in the antebellum era controlling all the Branches of the government in order to ensure that their agenda was erected into law and policy and – although this never really succeeded – forcing the country and The People to accept not only their agenda but also its putative rightness and goodness.
Although the Southerners of the antebellum era still had to contend with a robust Constitutional sense and a still-robust democratic process. And they didn’t have Gramsci. But they did have the Democrats back then, who sought to make whatever concessions to the Southern agenda that were necessary in order to maintain ‘agreement’ and ‘harmony’, and principles be damned.
(Interestingly, Lincoln was as committed to ‘first principles’ as were the abolitionists; but his ‘first principles’ included the maintenance of the Union and its integrity in embodying the insights of the Declaration of Independence, whereas the Democrats of that era claimed – as evidenced by Taney’s tortured reasoning in Dred Scott – that if the Founders included slavery in the Constitution in 1787 then they must have approved of it. In doing so in the 1850s they slyly and insidiously spun the Founding generation’s acquiescence in the Southern demand of 1787 (either an America with slavery or no America at all) as if that acquiescence was rather a sign of complete approval.
Of even more interest, it was precisely this gross logical error that has infected much of the post-1965 civil-rights discourse against the core of American Culture and the Founding Vision: that the Culture and the Vision were illegitimate because the Founders ‘totally approved’ of slavery and were all of them dominant and oppressive and hegemonic white males and were not interested in civil rights at all.)
And in regard to the “marxian” analysis, there is no “ultimate explanation” given as to “why women are ‘women’ and men are ‘men’” but then there is also no explanation as to why workers are ‘workers’ and capitalists are ‘capitalists’ (p.49). You just have to 'get it' in order to 'see it', and once you have then you can't question it but simply have to accept it as a given and as Correct.
But MacK will go beyond Marx here and offer her “ultimate explanation” – termed an “account” as if it were merely reporting an established fact as simply and straightforwardly and factually as Newton explained the dynamics of his Laws: it is “patriarchy” which has existed since the beginning of recorded human history (and thereby constitutes the longest-running conspiracy in the history of the planet).
Thus “if women’s oppression is the primary oppression, then women’s liberation must be the primary liberation” (p.49). So you can kiss the Founding of this country and the achievements of Western Civilization goodbye; they are not and never have been “primary” and never should be again.
And on the basis of this the Beltway forty Biblical years ago expected the health of the American polity to continue and even improve? Willy-Tango-Foxtrot?
And thus women’s liberation (so called) is “basic to social transformation” (p.49). But I ask: Is such ‘social transformation’, even if accurately and legitimately postulated ( a verrry big and iffy ‘if’), the primary and basic need of the Republic? Of the polity? Of the common-weal? As Lincoln saw, if the country is ripped or torn apart, then every other possible ‘good’ becomes moot.
But to the ‘revolutionary’ mindset of Gramsci and R-Feminism, as it also was to both the abolitionists and the Southerners, the country isn’t worth keeping in the first place.
And is that working for Us? Who could ever have rationally expected that it would?
“Marxists seem worried that to posit women and men as classes suggests that women must fight men for their freedom” (p.50). Well duh! Marx was concerned for the economic liberation of the workers so that they could enjoy the fruits of their labors. To initiate a ‘gender war’ alongside a ‘class war’ would simply have created far too much division – a totality of division impossible to manage – and would have fractured the masses (workers and peasants) along a second and far more lethal axis of division – and even the utopian visionary Marx realized that the only probable outcome of such a gambit would be to so divide the masses that they would dissolve and collapse as a political and societal entity. Which, you have to think, is precisely what has happened to The People over here in the past forty Biblical years. Who knew?
But MacK has to respond to actual Marxist objections to the distracting focus on gender: “If women were considered to be oppressed as a class, then Marxists should be among the last to protest recourse to the barricades” (p.50). [italics mine]
It is clear that from the outset, R-Feminism was not going to be engaging in any ‘deliberative democratic politics’ but was rather going to insist upon the revolutionary recourse to the barricades. At that point in 1858-1861 when the Southerners simply refused to discuss or deliberate any further (and prepared to secede) Lincoln ruefully but acutely observed that they were no longer committed to reasoning-together and were therefore soon going to be abandoning ballots for bullets.
Is this not precisely the political situation in 1972 and subsequently, with R-Feminism rejecting any ‘reasoning together’ and preparing for “the barricades”? Of course, there then entered an amazing new factor, unforeseen even by Gramsci and Lenin in their drunkest dampdreams: the Beltway Dems eagerly threw in their lot with R-Feminism, either because the pols thought they could co-opt the R-Feminists without too much disruption and trouble or because, as the R-Feminists insisted, the polity built on the Framing Vision wasn’t worth keeping anyway.
Marx, MacK then observes, observed that “class relations are taken as natural, hence static and immutable” (p.54). If you perform the R-Feminist substitution of gender for class, then so too gender and sex relations are taken as static and immutable. But really, she agrees with Marx, such is not the case and with enough consciousness-raising and imposed terraforming (especially, as Lenin saw, if your cadres control the government) you can make people abandon any such fuddy-duddy illusions and engage in huge, deep and broad, “social transformation” by having the government change their minds (and, nicely, collectivize their minds as Lenin collectivized their farms).
You can, as I have said in prior Posts, ‘gelatinize’ the masses’ sense of life and structures; having thus re-heated the solidified clay back into the consistency of play-dough, you can then re-mould the whole shebang into a shape more conformable to your vanguard elites’ sure and certain Knowledge and then sit back and wait for the (gender) paradise to arrive without further ado.
Oy. And has that worked out?
And who can forget that both Lenin and Mao were perfectly willing to accept ‘acceptable losses’ along the way. Eggs, after all, must be broken to make an omlette. And the breaking of the Framing Vision and the fundaments of the American polity is surely an ‘acceptable loss’ since that egg was rotten anyway.
And here We are today.
Quoting the musings of Simone de Beauvoir, MacK pinpoints women’s “biology” as a the nexus where ‘oppression’ begins: woman’s biology is “her misfortune … biologically destined for the repetition of Life, when even in her own view Life does not carry within itself its reasons for being, reasons that are more important than Life itself” (p.54).
It cannot be overlooked that de Beauvoir never married, never had children, and had a large number of female lovers, many of them so young as to suggest ephebophilia (she campaigned for a lowering of the age of consent in France). Which takes us back to Christina Hoff Sommers’s 1994 observation that there is that eerie lesbian tinge to so much of R-Feminism. And to what extent so much of the Beltway’s indenture to R-Feminism has been a make-work opportunity for non-heterosexual females is a question that will indubitably engage the interests of future historians, once the aura of current Correctness has worn away.
But although she is often touted as a ‘feminist existentialist philosopher’ it is clear that her ‘philosophy’ was lethally reductionistic: she held, as the quotation above reveals, that Life has no purposes or meaning beyond itself. (Such pre-wired purposes and their subsequent sense of Meaning would merely ‘oppress’, no doubt, and interfere with ‘total autonomy’, to use the currently Correct phrase).
Can it possibly be any wonder why R-Feminism has been so opposed to Western Civilization with its grounding in the Christian Vision of humans made in the Image of God and possessed of all the Purpose and Meaning that that Image bestows?
She was also the companion of Jean Paul Sartre – arch ‘existentialist’ and Marxist. Kindred spirits, no doubt.
As MacK then asserts, “woman’s body determines her social being as a pre-social matter … the fact of woman’s oppression is accounted for by the universal existential fact of her physiology: anatomy is destiny” (p.54).
If this is so, then what power – or authority – does an earthly government have to effectively change that? What power – or authority – does a constitutional democratic government have? Because such a government is going to have to assume powers even greater than Lenin’s and Stalin’s and Mao’s in order not only to impose a New Order on the actions of its Citizens but in order to terraform the minds and hearts of the vast majority of its population. (And you might see why there is still some enraged and embarrassed consternation among Beltway elites that as the country approaches, to use one example, the 40th anniversary of the Roe v Wade abortion case, there is still so much popular opposition to its implications and consequences.)
At a similar point in his own Project, Stalin simply eliminated entire classes of people whom he considered to be ‘counter-revolutionary obstructions’ to the New Order, an option not (yet) open to the Beltway.
Women are thus ‘oppressed’, continues MacK channeling de Beauvoir, because “if productive work had remained within her strength woman would have accomplished with man the conquest of nature … but because she did not share his way of working and thinking, because she remained in bondage to life’s mysterious processes, the male did not recognize her as a being like himself” (p.55).
Had “remained” within her strength? But what took that alleged strength away? Or did de Beauvoir simply not want to baldly state that the female did not have the physical strength that enabled the male to ‘conquer nature’? Or did human societies simply arrange themselves according to biological realities that no human power could alter? (A humility alien to the Beltway in the illusory flush of its omnipotence in the late-1960s and early-1970s – although as early as 1971 the handwriting was already becoming visible on the wall in regard to America’s continued postwar world economic dominance.)
And surely the ‘male’ way of working and thinking was rather well adapted to conquering nature and building stuff and making stuff (Productivity was one result of that, and not as defined nowadays by a busy morning’s work tweeting, texting, and selecting or brewing and pouring exotic cups of coffee or tea.)
Yet is precisely here that MacK insists that “patriarchy was institutionalized” (p.55). But if such an institutionalization of patriarchy somehow brought with it both Productivity or Industriousness and a functioning national economy, then I ask at what price R-Feminism’s ‘success’ has been purchased in the past forty Biblical years?
And “mysterious” adds an ominous warning note. Does de Beauvoir mean simply to imply that all ‘mystery’ is only ‘superstition’? Or is there still a trace here of classical Christianity’s sense of ‘mystery’ as involving realities or Realities that are beyond or Beyond human ken because they emanate from an entire different Plane of Existence? But of course, R-Feminism, like its progenitor Marxism, reduces all of human existence to this single Mono-Plane of Existence and that’s all there is, folks.
And why, in the schematic that MacK and de Beauvoir assert, did not ‘women’ simply presume that their own way of knowing and being was ‘better’ than that of men? Why did they apparently accept that the men’s way was somehow ‘better’? And for all the millennia of recorded history until the sudden illumination of the vanguard cadres of R-Feminism in the America of 1971 and since?
And it is utterly unacceptable and insufficient to claim that, to take a major instance, Christianity did not view women as equals. All human beings are created in the Image and likeness of God: this was one of the first principles, to be found, among other places, in the very first pages of the old “Baltimore Catechism”.
There is an equal dignity, although not an ‘equality’ (‘similarity’ would be the better term here) of roles and capabilities and gifts. Fire engines and tractor trailer trucks are equally trucks and equally useful, but you wouldn’t use the fire engine to transport twenty tons of foodstuffs over a three-thousand mile haul, nor would the tractor-trailer be your first choice to call if your house was on fire. That isn’t rocket science.
And in any case, does the adjustment of the parameters bounding that reality require an abandonment of deliberative democratic politics and the insistence that half the Citizenry head for the barricades? (Or, alas, the non-smoking smoke-filled rooms of the Beltway, leaving The People to be herded or stampeded like cattle in a pen?)
If “biology” is a “tyranny” (p.56), is it then rightly ascribed to ‘men’ or to the Framing Vision of 1787?
And how would any earthly government go about ‘liberating’ from such an alleged ‘tyranny’? Deconstructing the Family and Marriage and any Multi-Planar Vision of human existence? Is that game worth the candle?
And clearly not only ‘men’ but a large number of ‘women’ don’t accept that it is – otherwise how else explain the continued resistance to the profound terraforming initiatives, policies, and laws of the past forty Biblical years?
(The Correct Answer to that, of course, is that most ‘women’ also still ‘just don’t get it’ and remain enthralled to ‘patriarchy’ – and that’s all the Correct believer needs to know and case closed. Thus there are many, perhaps a majority of, women who are ‘self-hating’, to use the widely-deployed Correct (and sly) mantra: if you are part of our ‘Identity’, but don’t agree with us, then you must be ‘self-hating’ and whatever you have to say is therefore not worth listening to and doesn’t deserve to be ‘heard’ in public discourse. Neat. And very treacherously and insidiously sly.)
So woman’s body is the “root of her oppression, rather than a rationalization or locale for it” (p.56). And yet ‘solving’ this cannot in any way be seen as some sort of ‘bridge too far’ for any earthly government. It’s just a ‘thang’ and government must solve it as easily as it builds roads and bridges, tears down old neighborhoods to erect new whatevers, and – no doubt – invades other countries in order to marvelously, quickly, and simply create ‘democracy’. Yah.
Giving a bit more of her game away, de Beauvoir – and MacK agrees – asserts that woman’s “social inequality is biologically inherent in the heterosexual sex act” (p.57). And again we are back to Christina Hoff Sommers’s observation. Apparently non-heterosexual sex acts are the best kind for women, since they do not therein and thereby re-subordinate themselves to ‘men’ each time.
Give that some thought. No wonder the Beltway saw unlimited Immigration as both politically attractive and utterly necessary beginning back in the 1970s: not only would more immigrants – and the more exotic the better – constitute a new client population for the governing elites and their bureaucracies, but they could be allowed to compensate for the expected fall-off in American birth-rates not only as abortion made its ineluctable subtractions but also as more and more women began to ‘get it’ and refrain from “heterosexual sex acts”. Yah. That’s worked so well.
Lastly, for this Section of MacK’s book and thus this Post, MacK dismisses Marx’s sentimental insistence that the Family is “not an economic sphere … but a warm personal place in which people are unique individuals, in contrast to the impersonality and anonymity of the marketplace” wherein “the family bond is said to be love, as opposed to that of the market” (pp.69-70).
So much for any locus in the world where the adult human being can find relationships based on any higher or more humanly sustaining realities than the marketplace. (But what Higher Realities or what more profoundly deeper human realities are there, really, in R-Feminism’s analysis?)
Worse, “the marxist family is rooted in bourgeois reality” (p.70). Shades of the ‘60s! Imagine James Dean’s character in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ as a female and look what you get (yes, it was a 1955 film, but the Boomers grew up with it and rushed headlong into adolescence with it).
The Family is so because it is primarily the site of women’s oppression and enthrallment. They should be paid personally for their services to give them financial independence. (An interesting idea, but it was cheaper – the Beltway must have figured – to simply help the R-Feminists ‘deconstruct’ the Family, which was a site of ‘authoritarianism’ (Alice Miller again) and ‘patriarchy’ anyway. Such strategic thinking.)
And worse even than that: “liberalism created the private and put the family in it” (p.70). MacK here refers to Classical Liberalism (which is hell and gone from today’s ‘liberalism’ after forty Biblical years of R-Feminist influence within the Beltway).
Notice that Liberalism’s concern for “the private” is merely an instrumentality of ‘oppression’. To which the solution is government imposition of itself into “the private” – effectively giving the Citizenry no refuge from government’s ‘enlightened’ terraforming. Neither Lenin nor Stalin nor Mao could have put it any better. Nor could Mussolini, who had boy babies taken from families to be raised in Fascist orphanages where the raggazzi could be raised to be good Fascists and soldiers.
Because, as Musso pithily put it: “Nothing outside the State, nothing against the State, nothing above the State”. Can any R-Feminist disagree? Can you see the cloven hoofprints of that odious reductionism all over the body of American society and Culture today? And, since the government is so enlightened and now ‘gets it’, can you see it even in Our intensifyingly invasive and impositional (but of course ‘liberating’) foreign policy and military adventures?
Well, that’s the first Section of MacK’s book.
I am not saying that ‘feminism’ is wrong or bad. What I am saying is that Radical-Feminism, R-Feminism, is – and clearly was from as far back as 1971.
I read that Section and wondered: how could any US government invite this vampire in through the front (or the back) door?
And yet that’s precisely what was done.
And now look at what’s happened?
And who can claim to be surprised?
What can be salvaged at this point? That is the Question.
*My edition is the hard-cover edition published by Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-89645-9.
Today there is a significant brouhaha going on about whether to attack (‘intervene in’) Syria.
The justification for such a course of action is the “R2P” (responsibility to protect) philosophy of foreign affairs: that there is no longer any such thing as ‘national sovereignty’ when governments are committing overt violence against their own people.
This relatively recent ‘development’ in American thinking is, I would say, clearly related to the ideas put forward by MacK and R-Feminism, and has since migrated into foreign policy.
MacK says (and will expand upon it later in her book, which I will take up in Posts on its other two Sections) that R-Feminism has no use for the ‘privacy’ of Citizens, as opposed to the Classical Liberal insistence upon it. This Classical Liberal insistence was shared by the Framers and actually harks back to the Vision of Christianity (in its West-shaping Christendom phase): human beings are unique and marvelous creatures and the vast majority of their potential is actualized in the non-governmental sphere of social, cultural, and economic activities. And even more importantly, it is only in those spheres that the human soul and spirit can truly express themselves and develop, as human beings interact on that profound but utterly real and vital level.
Further, of course, the Framers realized that human governments have a tendency to engorge themselves and needed to be kept boundaried so as not to invade all spheres of their citizens’ lives.
This is hell and gone from Marxism and its offshoot, R-Feminism. The government – once under the control of the vanguard elites cadres with their world-historical special Knowledge – is thus empowered to terraform all spheres of its people’s existence, including the ‘transformation’ of their minds and hearts by whatever means necessary.
Thus R-Feminism, corollary to the insistence that “the personal is political”, insists that there can be no “private sphere” (such as the Family) because it is in those deeper recesses of Citizens’ lives that oppression, dominance, hegemony, hierarchy and patriarchy are carried on and indeed continuously inculcated in the young and in the ‘victimized’ women.
Thus the government must not allow itself to be obstructed by any fuddy-duddy qualms about becoming invasive and impositional.
We saw this in the immediate post-1965 era: in an eerie symmetry with what was going on in Vietnam, where the US was drawn deeper and deeper into awesomely complicated societal and political labyrinths over there, so too the government began to terraform the Jim Crow South.
It was not enough to establish or rather enforce laws and the rule of law against that truly odious political Jim Crow regime; it was necessary to ‘reeducate’ the Southern people. And thus to ‘stamp out’ such things as ‘discrimination’ and ‘racism’ in the minds and hearts of all the Southern people. Which was a far more impositional and invasive, terraforming Project than simply dis-establishing the formal structure of the Jim Crow regime.
And almost immediately, the government saw itself as required and empowered to do this throughout the country, since ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ were everywhere, abiding deep in the hearts and minds of the Citizenry – and even if the Citizenry didn’t realize it or consciously wish it. Since the problem was everywhere and was often hidden, then the government too would have to pursue the problem into the private and even interior spheres of the Citizenry’s lives and feelings and thoughts.
All of this seemed ‘logical’ and each bit of engorgement was seen in the period after 1965 as merely being ‘the next logical step’.
And this dynamic was already well-established before R-Feminism and its grounding in that Alien Universe of Marxism-Leninism became influential in the very early 1970s. But whereas conceptually the government had to sort of ‘feel its way’ step by step in the post-1965 ‘war against racism and discrimination’, yet under the auspices (the origins slyly hidden) of R-Feminism government was given a theoretical justification, blueprint, and warrant for going at the thing whole-hog.
And since ‘sex’ is arguably even more ingrained in people than ‘racism’, the government was set on a course of a genuine ‘totalitarian’ approach.
But all for the best of motives and intentions (with, as I have often noted, the demographic bennies to the Dems who would overnight create for themselves a bottomless pool of potential ‘client-demographics’ demanding that the government ‘liberate’ them from their assorted ‘oppressions).
Thus We are where We are today domestically, with the government adapting police-state laws and regulations (sex-offense and domestic violence) but also – even more ominously and lethally – considering itself responsible for terraforming the minds and hearts of the Citizens not only in the private sphere but their interior lives.
Because ‘prevention’ is the best form of ‘protection’ and the government had the responsibility, it suddenly discovered, to do all of that.
This migrated to foreign policy (which in American praxis so quickly means military action) as early as the challenges in the Balkan troubles that re-ignited once the Communist governments dissolved in the early 1990s. And then came 9/11 and Iraq was instantly declared to be eligible for such ‘humanitarian intervention’ (although great gobs of other justifications now known to have been inaccurate and false were also larded onto the cake like frosting).
And despite the stunning failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the so-quickly exposed Libyan adventure (where not only have the justifications already been proven false, but the frightful complexities of local politics have simply raised up new horror-shows to replace the deposed and deceased Qadaffi).
And now – even with the Iran Problem simmering ominously toward the boil – there is a push by the government to exercise its R2P ‘authority’ against Syria.
Worse – but hardly surprisingly – the ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ are as war-mongering as the old neocon jingoists. If you read the articles linked-to here, you will see that numerous ostensibly ‘progressive’ apparatchiks and ‘scholars’ – so many of them women – are leading the charge for R2P.
But of course. They are soused and have been raised with tenets of R-Feminism and the ground-rules of that Alien Universe: once government ‘gets it’ (meaning that the cadres are salted liberally throughout its elected and appointed offices) then no power or justification can be immune to government’s attentions (paging Il Duce and the omnipotent – if, alas, not omniscient – State!).
Since domestically there is no longer a ‘private sphere’ then internationally there is no more ‘sovereignty’ that since 1648 has assured individual nations that they need not remain ever on a war-footing to repel attacks out of the blue by other nations. Just as oppressive patriarchal males will no longer have ‘privacy’ as a place to hide, so oppressive patriarchal nations will no longer have ‘sovereignty’ as a place to hide.
What R-Feminism has enabled and driven the US government to do domestically, it is now enabling (and driving) the government to do internationally.
Worse even than that, the other link reveals a recent Pew poll in which a majority of those polled think R2P is a good idea. After forty Biblical years of Correct terraforming of adults and children (many of whom are now well on towards middle-age) the American Citizenry itself is now soused with all this dreck.
Nor is any concern for the American common-weal given primacy over their feel-good acquiescence in ‘liberation’ and ‘prevention’ and ‘protection’.
Nor is the ability to think even back as recently as the Iraq War debacle and critically reason through things in evidence. Apparently, Iraq was well-intentioned and, fer shure, we’ll do it all better the next time around. (Afghanistan? Libya?)
So I would say that in addition to replacing the Framing Universe with the that Alien Universe of Marxism-Leninism, R-Feminism has also greatly contributed to a derangement and degradation of the essential civic infrastructure of political and practical rational competence without which there can be no effective People to govern the government (which would suit the vanguard elite cadres just fine, since they have been saying all along that ‘the masses’ can’t be trusted with government because ‘they just don’t get it’ anyway).
In another eerie symmetry, just as the physical infrastructure of bridges and highways was allowed to decay, and the economic infrastructure of production-facilities was outsourced and off-shored, so the civic infrastructure has been hugely corrupted, deranged, contaminated and corroded.
This is precisely the deepest danger of all. If there is no longer a competent People, then there need be no Framing Vision, no Constitution, and no democratic republic. And the vanguard elites will truly and overtly assume the role of Orwell’s pigs in “Animal Farm”.
And We will wind up as the cattle scripted in the old Western movies to graze, moo, or stampede as required. And in any case, to acquiescently follow the new fencing on the way to the desert trail, the cattle-cars, and ultimately the abattoir.
There is much to do, and so little time left.