(Intellectually) Leggy Blond

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Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    First Peter MacKay and now this. David Orchard must be having a conniption.Report

  2. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Very interesting, Chris. Back to this later…Report

  3. Avatar DivGuy
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    In terms of Fraser’s critique–tyranny–I think the communitarian response to the tyranny critique would be simply to throw back in the face of the accuser and question whether it isn’t the dominant form of market-driven liberalism that isn ‘t in its ways tyrannical (see the anti-terror statues passed in Britain under the New Labour banner). Or the extension of drone attacks by the US Democratic President deeper and deeper into Pakistan clearly against the democratic will of that country, given the old wink-wink nudge nudge by a government the US basically installed in that country. Or say the Torture Memos. Liberalism, de-tyrannize thyself maybe is the proper retort.

    I think you’re badly underselling the radicality of the Red Tory critique – or, at least, its radicality when articulated in the way I’d like to see it articulated.

    Your last sentence is on point, your examples are off point, I think. “Liberalism, de-tyrranize yourself” shouldn’t refer to warrantless wiretapping – or, at least, warrantless wiretapping should be a minor form of tyranny found in liberal states. Rather, the tyranny is precisely the world of the free market, which strips us of basic humanity and sends us out into the world objectified and alienated, working not as a person with full dignity, but as a quantified bit of matter in a larger machine with a particular value produced in and only in exchange. There are values beyond exchange value, and the inherent value of the human person created in the image of God is being slowly stripped away by the working of the market.

    This is, of course, clearest along class lines – it is the poor and working class who are oppressed and stripped of their human dignity in the most severe ways by the working of the market.

    Now, you may disagree with this as a critique of capitalism – and I don’t know if I articulated it that well, I’m not actually radical orthodox, I’m just trying to ventriloquize here – but I think that it’s very important to see that the critique of liberalism and capitalism in Red Toryism runs all the way down. It’s not about certain contradictions in liberalism, even constitutive contradictions, but about the basic unjust and ungodly nature of capitalism.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Say what you will about Pol Pot, but at least he was trying to return his people to an authentic Rousseauian existence where they wouldn’t be alienated from the fruits of their own labor.Report

  5. Avatar DivGuy
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    says:

    Say what you will about Pol Pot, but at least he was trying to return his people to an authentic Rousseauian existence where they wouldn’t be alienated from the fruits of their own labor.

    Yes, to critique a human institution is equivalent to endorsing every evil act performed by those who also critique that institution.

    Or, I think the same critique that condemns the market for stripping away human dignity would nonetheless be incapacitated by the need to condemn mass murder. How can a Christian condemn murder? It’s a mystery!Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Hey, you don’t have to tell me! I say something like “I prefer decentralized control of the economy” and people accuse me of being a corporatist!Report

  7. Avatar DivGuy
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    says:

    Oh, ok. cool, then. though it appears we disagree quite fundamentally about economic justice, at least we agree about the relative purchase of various arguments by analogy.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “When I was young, I prayed for justice. As I grew older, I started praying for mercy.”

    That’s sort of where I am on the economic front.Report

  9. Avatar DivGuy
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    says:

    To return to my original point – whether you agree with the sketch of a critique of capitalism or not – I think it’s important to distinguish a liberal critique of “illiberal” liberalism from a full-blown external critique of liberalism and capitalism. Issues about wiretapping and international interventionism are important, but these are issues on which a lot of liberals of the broadly pro-capitalist and anti-communitarian variety agree with critics of liberalism and capitalism. The real meat of the critique lies elsewhere than Iran-Contra, elsewhere than terror detainees.Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I see the meat as being very much a question of “where do we no longer have a right to tell other people how they ought to be living?”

    Do we agree that we don’t have a right to force Iran to recognize gay marriages?

    How about Texas?

    What’s the difference? It can’t be that one is not “our” culture and one is because, if they were “our” culture, they’d already recognize gay marriage.

    Is it less wrong to force Texas to accept gay marriages than Iran? Is it merely easier for “our” culture to impose its will on Texas than Iran?

    Or am I misapprehending and Iran is a place where we need to impose our will as well?

    Now substitute “democracy” for “gay marriage” in the above. Or “capitalism”. Or “a socialism that respects the individual”. Or “Starbucks”. Or anything at all.

    Is there a point at which our ability to say “you should stop living like this and start living like this” ends? Where is it?Report

  11. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto
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    I think using the national security state as an example of “liberalism” to critique is a bit misguided insofar as that sort of state structure was created primarily (at least in the last 20-30 years) as a sort of Straussian alternative to “common good” communitarian values. Ultimately Blond’s critique of liberalism and the atomization of individuals harkens back as much to say the critiques of liberalism by Leo Strauss (and his eventual neoconservative intellectual progeny) and as a consequence it might be helpful to see how the responses articulated there have managed to bring about the current state of affairs.

    In fact, some of the “tyranny” issues which you point out could be linked to the liberal state are partly as a result of the desire to create a “national myth” narrative to counterbalance the atomizing done to individuals and the erosion of common identity. For example surveillance regimes vis-a-vis domestic surveillance are predicated on the existence of some “other” that is a vital threat to the existing way of life. This is clearly meant to be a response AGAINST the “liberal project” of subjectivism rather than a result of that same project. I think it’s a bit disingenuous to try to link tyranny in this form with liberalism.

    Viewed on the greater social level then, there runs the risk that as we’ve already gotten to the point where individual autonomy is taken for granted, any form of communitarianism may itself become simply another way of creating a solidifying “myth” in order to keep the cohesion of society together in the face of individualism. Now whether or not this is necessarily a bad thing I think is dependent on WHERE the myth is generated.

    If the source is at the village/community level in a bottom-up approach, as you posit, as opposed to a top-down centralized national security mythos, the damage (or undesirability) of such a mythos is I think to a large degree mitigated by the organic nature of the narrative. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s possible to actually “undo” the large-scale individual autonomy we’ve come to accept as the norm (nor do I find it desirable to do so).Report

  12. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    DivGuy,

    Right (as they would say in England)…you are definitely correct that his critique goes all the way down to the core of liberalism. MacIntyre is similar in this regard in his basic (and total) rejection of modernity (which is more or less essentially equatable with liberalism…at least in the West). Though Blond is trying to work with a government and change policy. He’s more the reformer, MacIntyre more the visionary. MacIntyre simply talks about small counter-cultural groups (leaven, salt, mustard seed in Jesus’ terms) working-living within until the thing basically collapses under its own self-contradictions (in his mind). Like the transition towns movement (socially-politically if not religiously like MacIntyre would want). I’m not sure that’s Blond’s view.

    I was using, as you call them, liberal critiques of illiberality because it was in response to a liberal upholder asking about the central core held-belief of liberalism–the right to freedom. Speaking the language of the person who raised the question.Report

  13. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    N A,

    That’s an interesting point. Though if I understand Strauss correctly the myth is a noble lie. Like the way the neocons used the social cons to further their agenda. They have to get the masses to believe there is a greater story. A view stepped in an ultimately merciless view of the universe.

    Blond obviously actually holds to his beliefs. You may argue that these beliefs make the people naive and hence easily manipulated (like the US social cons). But Blond and the Radical Orthodox folks are far deeper thinker than the US social cons.

    So while on one level there critiques are similar, their proposed alternatives are light years away from each other. You might be saying when that comes out in the wash all anyone hears is “Liberalism Bad” “Myths Good” and in practice the kind of communitarianism proposed by Blond is inevitably headed to the poison of Straussianism.

    But again I think the scale matters here. [Which is why I’m sympathetic to some of Blond’s critiques but not sure about his form of activity]. Strauss’ critique grows out of the era of Big Everything–Gov’t, Corporation, Suburbia. The atomization is a result of that bigness (as DivGuy said).

    An alternate scale size kept smaller (and there’s the real rub) may not be so prone to these kinds of issues. Especially as technology miniaturizes, this becomes I think a real possibility. I think to answer Fraser’s question how does a smaller scale communitarianism not become a moral orthodoxy police? The Radical Orthodoxy folks tend to be more liberal on such social matters, but say a Crunchy Conservatism might do otherwise.

    I don’t have an answer for that one yet. Still thinking about it. Thanks for the comment.Report

  14. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto
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    says:

    I take your point that the “noble lie” vs actually believing in the communitarian ideal is an important distinction between the two intellectual traditions, and that’s definitely an important one. Critiques of liberalism seem to come in basically the same core precepts, whether it’s Strauss, or Blond, or even someone like Sayyid Qutb. The solutions on the other hand are definitely where the differences begin to emerge, if not in practice, then at least in nuance and intent, so it’s definitely right put that in there.

    On one hand I’m inclined to agree with what DivGuy says about the soul-stripping nature of large scale capitalism that’s primarily at the root cause of “atomization” but on the other hand, I’m wondering if it’s necessarily a matter of capitalism per se, or whether it’s a matter of technology and delievery methods.

    That is, is it necessarily capitalism that creates huge scale, non-distinct societal structures (big government, big corporations, mass consumption, huge generic branding, etc.) or is it that the most efficient methods of delievering capital was predicated upon technologies that made those things palatable?

    For example, arguably it’s not actually “atomization” that’s the problem with capitalism, but rather power structures that make incentives for atomizing individuals in order to maximize returns for corporations, or for government, or some other group. I think a core part of the overall individual atomization isn’t so much simply about a lack of shared values, but rather a social and economic system that’s based far too much on a hub and spoke. That is individuals are spokes, while there are entities (big government, media, corporations) that serve as hubs. The delivery system in this regard is geared towards atomizing consumers and as a result individuals not simply as a product of political philosophy (liberalism) but because of the efficacy of doing so based on technology and profitability.

    What we’ve perhaps seen in recent times is an ability to actually transcend this technological limitation and begin creating a sort of alternative method. If we wanted to use a simple analogy one could go with the legacy airline industry (with its huge hub and spoke model) as opposed to say a Southwest which flies point to point. Certainly a key component of deatomizing individuals is going to be ease of communication and interconnectedness.

    I understand that in some respects it’s much easier to view this as a geographic/community scale issue. If we could just reorganize our society to be based on local ties, we could make interconnectivity between individuals easier and thus reduced the atomization. But I think first, this is going to be flat out impossible barring some catastrophic world event. And second, I think Fraser’s concern that such a thing would become a moral orthodoxy police (given the tendency for local communities to be more homogenous) has a significant force.

    However, we’re seeing some methods of actually creating a networked model of social intercourse, and say culture development (“folk” culture in other words as opposed to “mass” culture) online through the advent of things like crowdsourcing. There’s also, I think a sense where democratizing content and culture actually makes people less atomized despite the fact that it’s still predicated on a social structure that’s based on individuals who work based on their own preferences. It seems to me the ultimate problem isn’t so much atomization, which is a symptom, but rather the delivery mechanism of things like values and cultural definitions come from.

    I apologize in advance if this seems a bit disjointed and jumping all over the place.Report

  15. Avatar Joel
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    says:

    Love the Flight of the Conchords reference.Report

  16. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    joel,

    i like pie.Report

  17. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    N A,

    great comment. still chewing on it. i think your point about the simple reality of large-scale as an outgrowth of the technology is very valid. i’m hoping to follow up on this post and your comments with another one here in the near future.Report

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