Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Conservative Post-Fusionism Quo Vadis?

Here's a very short excerpt from a speech given in Baltimore a short while back by Darren Beattie.

...When I say that movement conservatism is dead I mean that the circumstances that once provided a certain coherence and viability to the three chief components of the movement conservative coalition no longer exist. More specifically, the so-called fusionism that attempted to reconcile socially conservative religious traditionalism of the Kirkean [Burkean] variety with a generally libertarian free market capitalism only made sense within a now defunct or non-existent Cold War context. It is no accident then that this coalition proved most successful during Reagan’s presidency, which oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Fusionism was so called because it was able to construct a narrative that fused together traditionalist Burkean social conservatives and religious Christians, firstly, Cold-War hawks (Cold Warriors), secondly, and free market economic types (including libertarians like Friedman), finally, together. My central claim with respect to fusionism is that the tripartite coalition to which it refers makes no internal sense by itself, but rather it borrows its coherence artificially not only from the geopolitical threat posed by the USSR, but also from its reactive opposition to communist ideology as such....

His central claim is true.  There is very little cohesion between social/religious conservatives and free-market economic types; in many ways, their philosophies are at loggerheads.  There is some limited overlap, of course, foremost being "property rights" about which there is almost no dissent.  That said, almost any other topic will produce friction, then smoke, then live fire. 

Fusionism was a creation of Frank Meyer and Wm. F. Buckley, and was (is) the mainstay of National Review.  Paul Ryan was a fan, too, which may be the reason that Ryan no longer has a future in the Republican Party.  The Bush Boyzzz (pere et fil) were able to defeat Pat Buchanan, who didn't believe that the Libertarian streak was good for the country, but Donald Trump (a philosophical descendant of PJ Buchanan) stepped all over the Bush/Ryan/Walker/Boehner (etc., ad nauseam) parade, didn't he?

Trump has probably killed Fusionism, although its writhing corpse still holds plenty of reactionary power--see, e.g., the Nattering Nabobs of Never-Trumpism, not to mention that corpse's hold on many (R) politicians who simply do not grok Trump's appeal.  (Not hard to find them, by the way:  in Wisconsin, there's Scott Walker, Glenn Grothman, Ron Johnson, and Brian Steil, for starters.)

Fusionism is dead.  So what emerged as a successor?

[Fukuyama's] characterization obscures the actual situation of the post-Cold War West in which the dominant “global” paradigm seems to be characterized by an unexpected and still not adequately explored connection between a certain masochistic religion of identity politics, global multinational capitalism, and the military industrial complex.

Beattie then makes a somewhat startling assertion.

...My insight into this horrifying development is that it makes sense structurally in terms of a certain confluence of Nietzschean and Marxist factors. The Marxist side of what’s going on—that is, the side that accounts for certain social and class developments on account of underlying economic or material developments, has to do with the increasingly questionable role of the middle and working class under contemporary conditions governed by the underlying radical logic of economies of scale that characterizes the development of our integrated techno-corporate-global system. For example, with technological automation, integration, and economies of scale, the threshold for becoming a truly productive and valuable contributor to the economy is increasing dramatically—a process by which we little people become mere trivial zeros in the grand scheme of a rotten globo-corporate elite’s proprietary zeta function. What results is an ever increasing number of middle class Westerners who are shut out of the elite and economic relevance of the productive economy generally, and an increasing jealousy on the part of those in the elite to guard and protect their status....

What he just said seems to be this:  the Koch Brothers and their class, including Zuckerberg, Google, Apple, and  some other industrialists, merchants (think Amazon) and bankers, are now actuating a certain counter-action found in Marxism.

Hmmmmm.  So then Trump arose from the ashes of Buchanan, Burke, and Kirk....

....the increasing number of working-class, middle-class, upper-middle class, and even wealthy but not ultra-wealthy and connected pose a distinct problem, because unlike the imported masses from the developing world, they have a proven capacity to organize politically, and certain historical expectations regarding liberty and self-government. Whereas the Cultural Marxists may have resented the bourgeois on account of the bourgeois hindering the progression to a Marxist utopia, and resented the working class for not previously universally mobilizing against the bourgeois as was expected and predicted by Classical Marxists, the Corporate Marxists resent the bourgeois for preventing the natural progression toward a system like Brazil, in which a vanishingly small wealthy, gated, insulated elite lords it over hordes of easily controlled helots....

And there you are!!  This analysis certainly explains the confusion and fears of the "Establishment" Republicans who know where the money comes from (the 'corporate marxists') but also have to get actual, countable, votes, those from the helots.  Hmmmmmm!!

In the end, the Professor knows not what will happen.  Maybe he's being prudent--nobody really knows 'what will happen.'  But he has a few words about the future anyway:

...What does this have to do with the emergence of an oppositional intelligentsia? Well, much is said about the importance of the working class in the politics of anti-globalization, precisely because the economic model of globalization has the effect of casting more and more people out of the middle class. This is true, though I would also argue that very similar forces are leading to an increasing group of extremely intelligent young people who will be either unemployed or underemployed. The easy middle class existence that helped keep the Boomers so pleasantly docile in the face of the nation’s transformation doesn’t exist as a possibility for many my age and younger. So the opportunity cost of defection is diminishing. As defection accelerates, parallel institutions are formed that in turn diminish the marginal cost of future defections. There is a logic of a cascade effect at work.

Problems exist on the side of the elite as well. One of the paradoxes of our time is Mittleschicht verschwindet mittelmaessigkeit herrscht. That is, middle class disappears and mediocrity reigns. Competition is so intense in the academic world and the winners are less impressive than ever. My explanation for this is precisely that the reigning paradigm is a bubble, and this means that just as available jobs diminish so do the desired qualifications for the jobs change. More important is that the job be used to sustain the lie behind the bubble, which requires intellectual mediocrity or timidity, usually both. So in conjunction with the increasing incentives for defection is the possibility that young, ambitious smart people have less and less of an obvious place in the ever shrinking number of jobs sanctioned by the dominant system....

OK, then.  Clear?

It would be worth a $10.00 ticket to watch this guy and Patrick Deneen discuss 'The Political Shape of America in 2025,' don'cha think?

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