Links and Thoughts

January 23, 2011 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

I seem (still) to be in link-and-comment mode rather than cogent-rumination mode – no doubt a lamentable symptom of our hyperactive culture and ever-diminishing attention spans, though there have  been a number of more personally difficult events this week that have rendered writing difficult. That said, I feel (re)committed to this blogging thing and have several larger topics on the back burner for the coming days/weeks. Anyway.

Freddie deBoer is getting a lot of attention (relatively speaking) for this post delineating what he calls the writing-out of “anything resembling an actual left wing” from the political blogosphere. A cogent and nuanced rebuttal comes from EmptyWheel over at FireDogLake, who concludes that: “DeBoer suggests we need greater ideological diversity in the blogosphere, and he’s right. But what we need just as badly is some way to articulate and mobilize the needs of the working class before our failure to govern (which the narrowness of our discourse fosters) ends up in food riots.” Meanwhile Rob Horning of Marginal Utility provides a defense, both of deBoer’s article and, more broadly, of the need to keep explicitly addressing ideology, all too often negatively contrasted against some idea of political pragmatism: doing “real” policy work versus dwelling in a fantasy realm of ideological utopianism. This is, as Horning points out, a false binary: one can (and indeed should) pursue immediate political aims while continuing to address the necessity for broader shifts in the dominant paradigm; and among other things, this false contrast also conceals the very real ideology at work within the notion of “pragmatism.”

I don’t have a whole lot to add to the debate, though all three articles are thought-provoking, and well worth examining. Shockingly (considering my usual tendency towards polemics), I found myself agreeing with all three writers. I’m with deBoer that there is indeed a marginalization of genuinely left-leaning voices within the political blogosphere, though it remains an open question whether this is a result of the usual exclusionary knowledge/power metrics or is rather an accurate measure of the left’s current socio-cultural currency. (In other words, whether a “real” left is being deliberately excluded, or whether there is simply no longer a “real” left at all.) My guess is a combination of both, or rather a vicious circle: leftist positions are effectively marginalized, meaning they have no ability to reach a larger audience, and that lack of broader range in term justifies their further marginalization, etc etc. It is indeed difficult, and frustrating, to imagine how one might get out of this nasty ouroboros.

Meanwhile EmptyLake is absolutely right that an inter-blogger turf war will remain (in every sense) an academic battle until a more meaningful connection is made between professional “pundits” and working people. The inability to reach out to that broader base for whose needs radical leftists were ostensibly agitating strikes me as one of the most profound failures of the ’60s “New Left” generation. Examining that failure, and devising new ways to support and mobilize broader social movements, strikes me as, in turn, the most important task facing those of us concerned with the possibility of a future for the Left (and, indeed, the U.S.).

And Horning is absolutely right that this effort has to operate along two tracks: pursuing immediate and relevant policy change, and also laying the groundwork for the long-term development of a body politic more sympathetic to left-leaning ideology. (In this, we have a lot of catching-up to do vis the Right.)

So that all felt strangely validating. Now: Any suggestions?


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Bennett Carpenter
Leiden, Netherlands

Random musings about literature, art, politics and (occasionally) my life as a graduate student in sunny Holland. Click on the pic for more about me.


January 2011
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