Thursday, October 28, 2010

Politics? Culture?

Interesting commentary from R R Reno.

...Today as we shift toward a seemingly ever-increasing interest in the machinery of partisan politics, we’re becoming Marxists by default. Marx held that economic realities are fundamental, and questions of culture are epiphenomenal.

To use the technical terms of Marxist theory, the struggle for economic power functions as the base of social reality, while literature and poetry, music, and the arts are part of the “superstructure” that is determined by the base. Thus the primacy of politics, for whoever controls the levers of state power can influence and guide economic affairs, and thus control everything.

That, v. the 'older' method:

...the capacity to talk about Jane Austen or T.S. Eliot or James Joyce was once seen as clear indication of a highly developed and socially relevant mind. Literature, theater, film, the visual arts—a certain acquaintance with and command of these domains made people intellectuals. For Lionel Trilling and Jacques Barzun and their readers, debates about novels and poetry seemed more fraught with public significance than the ins and outs of current electoral politics.


...across the board we assume that politics is about power—getting it and wielding it. The question, asked by Plato and Aristotle, as well as Augustine and Aquinas, “What is politics for?” is irrelevant, and indeed uninteresting.

This tacitly Bolshevik mentality is mistaken. Yes, of course people vote their pocketbooks. “It’s the economy, stupid,” as Bill Clinton reminded his campaign in 1992. But we also vote in order to forestall what we fear, and to achieve what we hope for.

And, of course, that's a reductionism which is short-sighted AND which leads to problems.

This is why the most potent force in political life is the human imagination, not control over the levers of state power. Utopian fantasies and exaggerated dreams of national greatness agitated millions in the twentieth century, providing legitimacy to communist and fascist regimes

The rhetoric of "Hope'n'Change'.

But of course, the reductionism works the other way, too: the Dickensian State is not all that admirable.

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