Get Real II: Real Progress Comes From Movement & Agitation, Research Time, 15/10/2015

Continued from last post . . . There's a unique conservative world-view that’s coalesced as its mainstream since the Thatcher and Reagan eras. Its attitude is a tense, dynamic mixture of brutality, the cruelty of indifference, and naïveté. 

Because jail isn't just about free meals, a decent gym,
and good-quality dope. It's also about poverty and the
daily indignities of the social causes of incarceration.
Of the Big Four thinkers of modern conservatism, Francis Fukuyama is the most openly naïve. His The End of History will probably become (if it hasn't already) the first of new conservatism’s landmark works to be buried. The first one to start digging the grave was Jacques Derrida at the conference whose keynote became Spectres of Marx.

He starts with a point that a lot of academics see. For someone who depends so much on Hegel for how he understands history, Fukuyama has a ridiculously oversimplified version of Hegel. He sees certainty where the text is enigmatic. Clear pronouncements where Hegel himself was extremely ambiguous.

Those philosophical enigmas are why Hegel became a legend in the tradition. The ideas are clearly significant, but there are so many ways to understand him.

But Fukuyama's missteps (mis-thoughts?) are much more profound than this. His whole point is a terribly naïve conclusion that we’ve achieved the perfect form for human society. And it's the capitalist liberal democratic state. 

Why is it perfect? Because human nature is essentially to seek status and dignity among people. Capitalist liberal democracy ends conflict over social status by enshrining each of us as having the highest, equal dignity before the law in our civil rights.

These words feel like nonsense to me. I may as well have written “Staple booger quack-quack cauterizes flagellum footstool Doctor Tulip O’Snap.” 

Because when Jacky from Algeria starts shit with you,
you better look out.
Fukuyama completely ignores that the dignity of equal standing in civil rights isn't enough to preserve you against the material indignity of extreme poverty. It isn't even enough to secure you the material defence of your civil rights if you can't afford to hire a competent lawyer to defend you from a crown prosecutor.

Derrida says it himself, that people's material indignities are intolerable. They're only worse now than two decades ago.
“Never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of Earth and humanity.”
Yet there’s an even deeper, more profound oversight here. One that shows what a clear eye Derrida had, despite his (sometimes deserved) reputation for obscurity in his writing.

It's an obvious fact today. So obvious that it's hard to think of this as having been news in 1992. But it was. 

Fukuyama's most naïve, blind mistake was to take for granted that the whole of people's political lives was their relationship to their state and its laws. This way of thinking doesn’t understand that the political actions that most speak to people's hearts lie beyond the relationship of an individual with her institutions.

There's a giant social field whose movements stretch beyond the boundaries of states. Even international institutions can get at best a limited grasp on this field. It’s the whole of humanity.

Most protest movements are, in some very important dimensions, about the relationship of people to their state, laws, government, and institutions. But the need for such a movement has other roots. Take an example. 

Black Lives Matter has a comprehensive political program to change the policies, rules, techniques, and daily habits of police officers so they genuinely serve citizens and protect their civil rights.

But talk of civil rights and institutions doesn’t capture everything that happens in a social movement. It doesn’t capture their actual drive – the reasons, causes, and motives that lie deep within each activist’s character and soul, which all move them to take part. 

The politics of the state and its institutions isn't enough to meet all the challenges of human ethics.

Another one of Fukuyama's major concepts is the essential role the human drive for recognition – for status, for dignity – has in our nature. But running your state institutions on the ideal of equal civil rights isn’t enough to secure human dignity against all possible violations.

No comments:

Post a Comment