Welcome Corey Robin (CoreyRobin.com) and Host Rick Perlstein (RollingStone)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

Cory Robin and I go way back. We were in a political discussion together where the hot topic was the WTO protests in Seattle—the “Occupy” movement of 1998. Since then, I’ve always been a deep admirer of his essays; if he’s saved his emails from the intervening fifteen years, I’m sure he’d find a bunch from me praising his various pieces from the London Review of Books when they came out. I was thrilled to learn he was collecting his pieces into a book. I was even more thrilled when I read it and saw how he was able to link them together into a coherent argument which—well, read my blurb on the book:

“Corey Robin’s extraordinary collection, constantly fresh, continuously sharp, and always clear and eloquent, provides the only satisfactory philosophically coherent account of elite conservatism I have ever read. Then there’s this bonus: his remarkably penetrating side inquiry into the notion of ‘national security’ as a taproot of America’s contemporary abuse of democracy. It’s all great, a model in the exercise of humane letters.”

Humane letters: Corey is a humane writer. I think of a piece that’s not in this book, Lavatory and Liberty: The Secret History of the Bathroom Break, which jumps off a description of how many American workers are denied a right to the most basic of bodily functions while on the job to a deeper examination of the startling fact that for most of its history “the American workplace remained a feudal institution. Not metaphorically, but legally. Workers were governed by statutes originating in the common law of medieval England, with precedents extending as far back as the year 500…judges exclusively administered these statutes treating workers as the literal property of their employers. Not until 1937, when the Supreme Court upheld the Wagner Act, giving workers the right to organize unions, did the judiciary relinquish political control over the workplace to Congress.”

And now that those rights to organize have been so badly attenuated, the workplace has headed back to feudalism again. In fact, Corey himself has taken part in the struggle for labor rights himself, as an organizer for the graduate student union at Yale in the 1990s. Not sure if he’s in the mood to talk about that, but he definitely has some stories to tell about the consequences of that—stories that do not reflect well on one of the leading lights of political science.

He’s humane, and he’s always breathtakingly thorough. When he took it upon himself to study the intellectual history of conservatism, he read its foundational texts so deeply that he was able to find in them a continuity that no one had noticed as sharply before; but which, once you see it revealed, is hard to deny. The argument is this:

“Since the modern era began, men and women in subordinate positions have marched against their superiors in the state, church, workplace, and other hierarchical institutions. They have gathered under different banners—the labor movement, feminism, abolition, socialism—and shouted different slogans: freedom, equality, rights, democracy, revolution. In virtually every instance, their superiors have resisted them…. Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty, agency, the prerogative of the elite.”

I say it’s hard to deny. Though smart people have been denying it. Corey’s book was subject to furious reviews in the New York Times and New York Review of Books. The latter piece, by political theorist Mark Lilla, was particularly enraged by the work The Reaction Mind does to undo the notion that today’s variety of conservatism is more vociferous than, say, the one represented by William F. Buckley. Lilla’s arguments, however, were thin—and I think Corey easily dispatched them in his response. The question remains: what is the source of this resistance to Robin’s arguments from these more establishment voices? What nerve has he touched in them? I don’t have a good answer for that. I’d be interested to know if Corey does.

I’m not satisfied with everything in the book. I’m not convinced that the movements and tendencies against which reactionaries react are all best described as “revolutionary.” And in my blurb, I single out the book as a great read concerning “elite” conservatism; but I’m ambivalent about the way Corey extends his argument to the old, frustrating Tom Frank question: why it is people who are not members of genuine elites identify with conservatism. Though Corey has fascinating things to say on that subject too. I’ve really enjoyed arguing with them in my mind. I hope you will, too.

Ladies and gentleman, Corey Robin.

239 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin”

BevW February 25th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Corey, Welcome to the Lake.

Rick, Welcome back to the Lake and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Nice to be here.

dakine01 February 25th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Corey and welcome to FDL this afternoon. Rick, welcome back.

Corey, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question. Why do you think so many of the so-called Conservatives seem to live in a time that existed only in their fantasies?

As an aside, I saw a ‘poster’ on I think it was Facebook earlier that had three pictures – a zygote identified as a “person,” a corporation (WalMart specifically) identified as a “person,” and a hard hat worker identified as a “corporate asset.”

Kelly Canfield February 25th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Greetings! I have been looking forward to this salon for quite a while as I just loved the book.

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Hi, friends and neighbors. Hi, Corey!

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I’m a history moron in the sense that I remember nothing from my survey courses. Only if I have read a book on a particular subject do I now know a little about it.

That is background for the following Q. The reactionaries in power in the U.S. (and it looks like you have to include Merk & Sark in Europe) are the worst I’ve seen in my 3 score & 7.

Have there been anyone like the mean, antiintellectual, uncultured, anti science, coarse boorish group that now prevails among the U.S. PTB? If so, identify them and how did the U.S. recover from their onslaught?

Kelly Canfield February 25th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

One of my favorite chapters is Garbage and Gravitas. It opens:

“Saint Petersburg in revolt gave us Vladimir Nabokov, Isaiah Berlin and Ayn Rand. The first was a novelist, the second a philosopher. The third was neither, but thought she was both.”

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:06 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

The reason they live in what seems to be a fantasy of a time past goes to the heart of what conservatism is all about: utopianism. Utopianism, in its literal sense, means “no place.” Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that what conservatives want is turn back the clock to 100 years ago. But think about what that means: jumping across a century’s worth of time. If you’re preferred society existed that long ago, that’s not that different from saying you want to jump forward 100 years in time. Your question points to the radically utopian dimension of all conservatism.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:06 pm
In response to Rick Perlstein @ 5

Hey Rick. Thanks for the intro!

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Corey and Rick, thank you both for visiting with us, today.

DW

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 6

I’d say Joseph McCarthy was pretty grim. As was John Rankin. George Wallace was no cup of tea. I think every generation believes its enemies are the worst ever. I’m not really persuaded this generation is all that different. What is different is that their power is much greater. There’s much less opposition.

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 8

Are the reactionaries more prone to utopianism than bleeding heart liberals?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 12

I’m not sure what you mean by bleeding heart liberals. I’m just trying to make a point that we often think of utopianism as something that resides on the left. And that’s simply not the case. It resides on the right as well.

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Greetings to both Corey and Rick, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today at FDL.

Being born and raised in Arizona, and spending most all of my life here, I have seen a pretty eventful evolution of “conservatism”, which you both have written eloquently on. It is funny though, the crazy I see here in the state “conservative Republicans” and the national ones as embodied in the GOP Presidential field bear little resemblance to so much of what you both have chronicled – or so it seems. What in the world do you think when you see today’s version?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 7

Thanks! I like that chapter too.

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

About the Conservative mind it seems to me at least a way to rationalize being rich as people are homeless.
It also seems to be about divide and conquer and teaching the lower classes learned helplessness which every now and then is directed at an enemy internal or external to reduce societies pressures.
My question is how many conservatives know all this and are knowingly evil. Vs how many are just stupid?
Next question the stupid seem to dismiss facts that don’t support their ideas with cognitive dissonance blanking, the truly evil pretend to blank is there any way to tell the difference between these 2 groups?

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Corey and Rick! Have LOVED the books that both of you have wrote…

Corey,

We like to talk about how conservatives wish to go back to some time in the past, the 1950s or the 1850s or whenever…is this just a recent phenomenon? I mean if they could be magically transported to the 50s, wouldn’t they just want to go back further? What would their true utopian society look like? If they could have everything they wanted?

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 11

What is different is that their power is much greater.

That was what I was getting at. Sorry my Q was not clear. As someone I know well, put it, there is no left left. As I put it, after the 70s, the reactionaries are well prepped for what the real people are trying to do, and they have much more money and much more power. Are there historic analogies in the U.S., like gilded age?

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 8

So, are you saying that reactionaries are just the flip side of Revolutionaries? They see a Utopian world in the future like some place that was perfect in the past and revolutionaries see a world that rejects all the bad things they see now and in the past and project a Utopia in the future without them?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to bmaz @ 14

I’ll let Rick speak for himself, and certainly he knows the history of postwar American conservatism much better than I. But when I read his histories of conservatism in the 60s and 70s, I don’t see that much of a difference between then and now. The main difference, which he charts so brilliantly in the first book on Goldwater, is that conservatism was an insurgent movement then, a marginalized and reviled disposition that had to build from the bottom up. Today’s conservatism is, well, getting past its prime.

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:12 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 13

You answered by Q precisely.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I’m very leery of classifying conservatives as evil or stupid. Part of what I’m trying to do is to restore the genuinely intellectual dimensions of conservatism — and to show that to them, the vision they have of the world is deeply moral. They genuinely believe — at least the ones I’m talking about — that the world is a better place, more beautiful and more excellent, when the right people are in command of the others.

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

bmaz, my take on that question is that the conservatives as revealed in the above-the-radar media certainly seem stranger and fiercer now than the ones “back in the day.” But if you see how they reveal themselves in the documents the past leaves behind, the below-the-radar stuff, all you see are continuities, including in the strangeness and fierceness. that’s the difference Corey is getting to, I think, when he points out that they find less resistance today: since conservatives are in power, you simply see in public an ugliness that was always there, but used to be mostly buried, because they had much less power and voice.

Bluetoe2 February 25th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 11

Welcome. Why is it the conservative “movement” seems to be prone to violence up to and including assassination. Is it an expression of their “commitment”, the recognition that they are at war, or the fact that the conservative movement would seem to attract sociopaths?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 17

That’s an excellent question. I don’t think in the end what conservatives want can be captured by any moment in time, any specific society. Because the kind of society that they think of as a good society — one where the excellent man commands the less-excellent man — is not one that can be frozen in time, not even in their own heads. It’s one that is tumultuous, constantly churning, and producing new elites and superior men. So I think the real point to emphasize in the conservative imagination is not time — i.e., we want to go back to year x — but hierarchy and privilege.

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 20

Yeah, hard to disagree with that generally. I had the privilege of knowing Goldwater from the day I could walk and talk to the day he died. I can flat tell you, he saw and felt a disconnect by the end; although, to be fair, I think a good deal was him evolving in different directions too.

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 22

“They genuinely believe — at least the ones I’m talking about — that the world is a better place, more beautiful and more excellent, when the right people are in command of the others.”

When defining ‘conservatives’ are we really talking about people who belive in and value hierarchy?

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 11

Yes, it is the additional power which is worrisome, and the fact that “conservatives” control the “dialogue”, to the extent that they obviously do, always finding ready means to urge the so-called “center” to the more extreme “right”.

As well, the “loyal opposition” seems equally intent upon “building up” the unitary executive, thus intentionally diminishing the other two “branches” …

DW

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to seaglass @ 19

I think both revolutionaries and reactionaries are trying to be rid of present-day society and to construct a new society. The difference between them comes down to the question of equality and hierarchy: I think the revolutionary (and here I’d generalize to the broader left) believes that talent and excellence is broadly distributed in different forms and that we don’t need inequality of the kind the conservative believes in in order to have a good society. The reactionary believes the opposite.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 22

I’m very leery of classifying conservatives as evil or stupid.

Me too. I pick evil.

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 22

Humans are alpha male by evolutionary standards. As you pointed out earlier, both sides think that humans are better off when the “right” leaders are in charge.

The issue of defining morality seems much more murky in today’s U.S. The reactionaries seem to define it in the puritan sense that if you’re moral you’re rich. The left seems to define it as r2p, i.e. if you don’t bomb them for humanitarian reasons, you are not moral. Both seem antimoral to me.

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Welcome, Corey, I really enjoyed the book.

You write

People on the left often fail to realize this, but conservatism really does speak to and for the people who have lost something. It may be a landed estate or the privileges of white skin, the unquestioned authority of a husband or the untrammeled rights of a factory owner. The loss may be as material as money or as ethereal as a sense of standing. It may be a loss of something that was never legitimately owned in the first place; it may, when compared with what the conservative retains, be small…. “All conservatism begins with loss,” Andrew Sullivan rightly notes, which makes conservatism … the party of the loser.”

Many white men lost when equally or more competent women and African-Americans became serious competitors. Plenty of white guys really did lose something; even really smart and competitive men lost out to smarter and better Others.

What, if anything, can the left do to respond with charity to that sense and still move things forward.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to Bluetoe2 @ 24

I suspect sociopaths are pretty evenly distributed throughout society, and don’t just exist on the right. I do think there is a deep commitment to violence on the right. Conservatives see violence as a proving ground for greatness and excellence, the place where the real man demonstrates his mettle. The left also has its own discourse of violence, but it’s quite different from that. I have a lengthy chapter in the book called “Easy to Be Hard” which is all about the commitment on the right to violence. And its deep philosophical roots.

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to seaglass @ 19

Heh. Don’t know how Robin will answer, but that’s my take.

Kelly Canfield February 25th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 22

Indeedy. Where I had always that of their mindset as hypocritical, and to some extent still do, I’ll also buy your conclusion that they have a “supple” mind as well.

The illustration you make of Burke’s Sublime and the Beautiful convinced me.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 27

Yes.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:20 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 28

Though I argue at the end of the book that having this monopoly of power is a problem for conservatism. Especially conservative ideas, which as people like Hayek and Frank Meyer acknowledged, tend to thrive when they are embattled. When conservatism is too powerful, its ideas get stale. And when its ideas get stale, it’s only a matter of time before it begins to lose power.

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I don’t know if this is a question for Corey or Rick:

Why do you think today’s left or even left-of-center has such a difficult time competing with conservatives? It seems like even when all of the facts are on our side conservatives can and often win an issue!

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 37

That process does not seem to be happening at a rapid enough pace….

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 29

I’d point out that the rhetoric on the right is that market oriented economies and rep republics reward effort and that’s all that’s needed for a better society.

The defeat of the real left, communism (which I do not favor) left the whole field open to righter and righter moves to the right.

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:23 pm

As Edmund Burke wrote of the thinkers of his time:

“Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason.”

Great minds once found merit in the “prejudices,” or inherited wisdom, of a people, as a spur to virtuous behavior. Again, Burke:

“Prejudice is of ready application in an emergency. It previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, skeptical and unresolved.”

In our new society from which traditionalists are seceding, many ruling ideas are rooted in an ideology that is at war with Burke’s “general prejudices.”
http://www.unionleader.com/article/20110705/OPINION02/707059983

Is Pat Buchanan using Burke in the right context? Do all conservatives put prejudice above facts? I assume they only use the prejudice that supports their classes interest.
Conservatives seem to embrace the common man’s prejudice when it supports their ideas when facts don’t support them.
This is when the Conservatives start attacking us as elite intellectuals when we mention facts. But when the common people start getting these same ideas they then start attacking the common people too.
Charles Murray went from hating African Americans to hating poor and middle class Whites too in his last book.
What happens to conservative thought historically when they start fearing the 99% and start treating them like they treat their traditional scapegoats the poor, the different etc?
What happens historically when this happens?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to masaccio @ 32

That’s an extremely difficult question to answer, and I don’t know that I have the answer. I think the left has to do two things, which it’s not particularly good: basically walk and chew gum at the same time. It has to acknowledge these losses are real. Some on the left don’t want to do that. But it also has to defend the legitimacy of the politics that produces those losses (i.e., civil rights, affirmative action, etc.) Others on the left are not so good at that. If we can do both of these things, then we need to start looking at the distribution of power in society in more fundamental ways to see if there isn’t a way for more people not to lose. Vague, I know, but I’m not a policy guy.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 38

I’ll leave that to Rick!

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 38

All the facts are on our side. All the emotion is on theirs. In politics, emotion trumps facts. Which certainly doesn’t make things hopeless for liberals; our history is full of emotional narratives as richly satisfying as anything the right can offer (look at how successfully Obama tapped some of them in his campaign, back when we thought he was liberal–in fact, he exploited the emotional resources of liberalism at its best to get into power).

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 33

Of course, in public, the conservatives claim that violence is merely “human nature”.

And the more-thoughtful opposition is, too often, not able to counter this false argument very well.

On the other foot, the human plight is both common and increasingly ubiquitous “across” the conventional “lines”, which “leaders”, on both right and left try, very hard, to keep in place.

Do you imagine that any sort of “common cause” among the people, generally, might move beyond this too “easy” demarcation?

DW

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 37

monopoly of power is a problem for conservatism

Ding.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to bmaz @ 39

Read Rick’s book. It took conservatism 16 years from the moment it came out in a visible way, in 1964, to finally defeat the New Deal/Great Society. Politics, as Max Weber said, is the slow boring of hard boards. Ain’t no way around it, I’m afraid.

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 22

I’m very leery of classifying conservatives as evil or stupid. Part of what I’m trying to do is to restore the genuinely intellectual dimensions of conservatism — and to show that to them, the vision they have of the world is deeply moral. They genuinely believe — at least the ones I’m talking about — that the world is a better place, more beautiful and more excellent, when the right people are in command of the others.

Deeply Moral when the Right People are in command of others? They are of course the Right People and their idea of whats right should be imposed on the rest of us?
When has a conservative chosen principle over their particular vice of choice?

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 29

Do you think polices like “Affirmative action” have given Conservatives a boost in popularity these last 3 decades that might not have had other wise, since there have been arguments made that they make Liberals / Progressives who believe in equality before the law and equality generally look like hypocrites?

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 37

Shades of Buckley’s …”repetitious”, perhaps?

;~DW

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Your take on Burke is a fairly common one. In my book I try to offer an alternative account of Burke, which really challenges your view. If you want a quick preview of that alternative, revisionist account, check this out: http://coreyrobin.com/2011/09/27/revolutionaries-of-the-right-the-deep-roots-of-conservative-radicalism/

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 47

I have, and I know; just griping along the way….

Ohio Barbarian February 25th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I haven’t read the book; guess I’ll have to correct that some day. But the question has always been a simple one: who should have the power in a society? Conservatives usually think that those who currently have power should continue to hold it, and come up with all sorts of rationalizations to justify that. Be it kings by divine right, philosopher kings, oligarchies, or aristocracies conservatives always rose to their defense.

Reactionaries usually want to return to an order that either no longer exists or never really existed at all. Liberals and reformers want to either give some power to those who don’t have it or make sure that those who do act fairly or justly. Revolutionaries want to throw the whole kit and kaboodle out, and thus transfer the boodle to another group, be that a particular class or “the people” as a whole.

It always boils down to power.

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 47

Not to mention that lefties are always competing against the people who have all the money & all the power. So battle is asymmetric.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 45

I don’t think the demarcations between left and right can be eliminated — though ever since they were invented, there have been many who have hoped to overcome them. I’m completely skeptical that that is possible. On the question of violence, or war to be more exact, there does seem to be some common cause that can be made with some more libertarian-ish conservatives. Though again I’m skeptical as to how far that can go.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Zizek says it’s impossible to explain bureaucratic society in a psychological framework, e.g. Hitler and Fascism cannot be reduced to psychological motives.

Hayden White says you can’t capture the narrative of the Holocaust from details (as in Alltagsgeschichte) but only in a moral allegory (can’t remember the word he uses).

How would you say your book might address this dichotomy?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

We on the left have a very hard time imagining that there is a coherence and integrity to the conservative worldview. I think that’s a big problem. One can acknowledge that coherence, that it is a morality to its beholder, without agreeing with it. I don’t see what’s gained by pretending it’s not a morality. And I see a lot that can be lost by pretending it’s not.

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

What I have always found interesting and something that both Rick and Corey talk about in their books is how the language of the right appeals to the downtrodden and oppressed of society…it seems so DIS-empowering to everyone but the elite when I hear it!

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Conservative thought always seems to be don’t be like them they are immoral. We are better than the Caddy Driving Chicago Welfare Mothers. Can a Conservative ever win elections without going negative on some group? Do they always need an enemy to keep the poor divided?
Can Conservatives ever win without claiming God as an authority or their own wealth as an authority?
Conservatives never seem to want to help people. They never want to make things better for the common people.
Are there any exceptions to this rule?

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Corey, in your conclusion, you note that while many conservative agents are

“concerned about the state of conservative ideas”…”most of these attempts at self criticism seem motivated by a simple fear of defeat at the polls”.

Do you think that is simply a transition stage in the gradual evolution you alluded to above, or the sign of a movement that will simply extinguish itself over time?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to seaglass @ 49

Good question about which scholars really disagree. My grad school adviser Rogers Smith is now making the arguing that the notion of color-blindness, which was forged in opposition to affirmative action, was absolutely critical to the binding/founding of the conservative movement. I’m skeptical of this argument b/c I think the backlash against civil rights preceded affirmative action and I doubt affirmative action or color blindness in the end played that kind of binding role. But there are many out there who do make the case.

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 51

Its not my take its Pat Buchanan’s I was asking if he had the right take on Burke.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Ohio Barbarian @ 53

Quick response: my take is that all conservatives are in fact reactionaries. Often they don’t want the current power-holders to have power b/c they either think those power-holders are the grubby masses or they think the established wealthy elites who have the power are decadent and will soon betray the overall hierarchy. So there is always an effort to find new power-holders on their part — but not to undo deep forms of hierarchy and rule.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 57

I don’t see what’s gained by pretending it’s not a morality. And I see a lot that can be lost by pretending it’s not.

With all due respect, I see it precisely the opposite.

TomR February 25th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Thank you Rick and Corey for this book salon!

Corey, do you think many conservatives get their sense of self-esteem by feeling like they are better off than others who have it worse than them? Is this what drives them to make sure government isn’t dedicated to helping those they consider lower than themselves?

Also, what differences do you see between authoritarian conservative leaders and their followers?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 56

I’m not sure I understand the question. Could you rephrase it? I’d definitely say mine is not a psychological approach to understanding conservatism. But I’d say I think a focus on everyday details — for instance, the power of a plant manager in a factory, or a husband in a family — is very important to conservatism. I call it “the private life of power” and I think in the end that is what conservatism is really trying to defend.

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

“We on the left have a very hard time imagining that there is a coherence and integrity to the conservative worldview.”

I think the conservative worldview often seems so opportunistic, I mean, with something like the Iraq War. A few years earlier we weren’t supposed to be involved in ‘nation-building’ and then after Iraq I started hearing conservatives bragging about schools being built in Iraq.

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

On the appeal of conservatism to the less-privileged, Corey, can you briefly sketch out your take on why that happens? I’m interested in your point, for instance, that the American workplace has so many gradations that someone always has dominance over someone else, and so can identify with an ideology of dominance.

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

they think the established wealthy elites who have the power are decadent and will soon betray the overall hierarchy

Perhaps this is a reference to Mitt Romney?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

All politics involves, at some level, going negative. FDR railed against the economic royalists. Lincoln railed against the slaveocracy. Jackson railed against the Monster Bank. Conservatives don’t have a lock on negative politics.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 2:38 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 55

I agree, Corey, that the issue of war is as close to “common ground” as may be seen now, at this moment, however, my experience is that many who style themselves “conservative” are also concerned about the crumbling infrastructure …

A temporary alliance, perhaps, to check the national security, surveillance state?

It does seem to come down to brain-chemistry … and “socialization”.

DW

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Why have conservatives seem to have lost their creativity many of the new ideas they push for now are ideas they were talking about when Reagan was in power or Newt. Its been decades since they reinvented themselves the Dems seem to be Conservative lite under Clinton and Obama the lesser evil.
But on the blogs the Left has many new ideas and on the issues voters care about the majority of voters are to the Left of Obama.
The tea baggers were suppose to be a new Conservative movement but their ideas are retreads of old GOP think tank arguments.
They are also less popular than Muslims in America.
So where are the new Conservative ideas? Where will they come from?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Well, I don’t know his take, but I disagree with the take you offered in your post, whoseever it is.

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 57

We on the left have a very hard time imagining that there is a coherence and integrity to the conservative worldview. I think that’s a big problem. One can acknowledge that coherence, that it is a morality to its beholder, without agreeing with it. I don’t see what’s gained by pretending it’s not a morality. And I see a lot that can be lost by pretending it’s not.

Bingo. And I think that is one of the great takeaways of your book, the lesson the analysis of the conservative right can teach ourselves, putatively the progressive left, about the fallacy of too deeply falling into a self-reinforcing mindset and demonization of the other side to where failure to understand and integrate rela people and real ideas becomes antithetical, if not impossible. You can see the mark with increasing frequency – or at least I do – and it is destructive.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to TomR @ 65

Again, my book is not a psychological account of why individuals believe in conservatism and find it appealing. It’s an account of what is conservatism as a worldview. One part of that worldview however holds exactly what you say in your question: that people like to believe they are better than others (again, I’m not saying that’s why they believe in conservatism; I’m saying that’s a critical part of the conservative worldview). I discuss this more at length here: http://coreyrobin.com/2011/10/17/1157/

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:42 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 70

Blaming the have nots and the unpopular for societies failure’s is like blaming a wife for why her husband hits her.
Blaming the people in power who have the power to change society is holding them accountable.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:42 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 67

I hear you. I’d take a look at my chapter “Easy to Be Hard” in the book where I show how integral that war was to the conservative worldview. Also my chapter “Remembrance of Things Past” and “Protocols of Machismo.” Sorry, didn’t mean to hand out reading assignments!

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 56

“it’s impossible to explain bureaucratic society in a psychological framework, e.g. Hitler and Fascism cannot be reduced to psychological motives.”W. Reich wouldn’t have agreed. In the “Mass Psychology of Fascism”he says just the opposite. He saw the authoritarian family as the key to understanding the Nazis and the Communists. He was tossed out of the KPD for writing the book and fled Germany with the Nazis in hot pursuit. His book was so controversial that the US banned it in the 50′s and arrested Reich.

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 73

Well, I don’t know his take, but I disagree with the take you offered in your post, whoseever it is.

The words were Pat’s not mine explaining Burke I disagree with Pat too.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

A worldview can have an internal coherence and integrity and still be amoral to its holder and beholder. IMO

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 57

Excellent, powerfully correct and important observation, Corey.

I hope it is well-noted, here, and taken into ongoing consideration.

DW

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 73

Well, I don’t know his take, but I disagree with the take you offered in your post, whoseever it is.

The take was from Pat Buchanan those were his words not a word was mine. I was looking for reasons why Pat’s take is wrong.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 66

Yes, the “power” … INDIVIDUAL power OVER others … if not events.

DW

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Rick Perlstein @ 68

I offer at least three different reasons why I think conservatism appeals to the less privileged. But the one that I think is probably the most potent — and the one you’re referring to here — is what I call “democratic feudalism.” This is the idea that rather than hold all power at the very top, conservatism has been very astute about multiplying ranks and privileges at middle and bottom. It can do this in many ways: in the factory, as you note, it can create all sorts of middle and lower tiers of management (a few years ago, there was an economist who argued that the US has the most highly supervised/managerial workplace of any advanced industrial economy in the world); in the family, it can give fathers/husbands quite a bit of power over their wives and children; in a racially stratified society, it can give one group (whites) power over blacks. I call this democratic feudalism for two reasons. First, b/c the domination involves this ever finer multiplication of ranks and privileges (feudalism in its later years did the same thing, only it multiplied the ranks at the top; now it does it at the bottom). Second, because those ranks and privileges are made widely available. To my mind, this makes the appeal of conservatism to the downtrodden rational: people get something for that petty power and privilege. So that’s why I’m in disagreement with Tom Frank’s thesis in What’s the Matter With Kansas. He thinks conservatives distract their downtrodden followers with the culture wars; I think they give their downtrodden followers a taste of lordly power, however petty and small it may be.

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 77

Such a professor that way!

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to masaccio @ 69

Bingo!

oldgold February 25th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Does your book address Richard Hofstadter’s observations concerning American conservative’s penchant for paranoid politics?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more. The main reason there are no new conservative ideas is that conservative ideas thrive in reaction to a real democratic movement of the left. When the left is threatening to dispossess the powerful of their privileges and powers — that’s when you get the right reinventing and reimagining the basic categories. (Again, Hayek and Frank Meyer have some good comments to that effect, which I cite in my conclusion.) So when the left really begins to threaten the powerful — not just Occupy, but with real action that takes their power away — you’ll see a right that has to go back to the roots.

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to oldgold @ 87

Everything seems to be a ‘slippery slope’ to hell…:)

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 84

He thinks conservatives distract their downtrodden followers with the culture wars; I think they give their downtrodden followers a taste of lordly power, however petty and small it may be.

With all due respect, those are one and the same.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 66

Let me try another angle: What are the key disconnects between conservative morality and the realities of a capitalistic bureaucracy?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Rick Perlstein @ 85

You can take the boy out of the classroom…

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

One can’t help but notice that Conservative thought has been wrong about 2 wars and the economy for ten years and despite tons of facts pointing this out they are not changing their minds.
Jared Diamond has pointed out that when the ruling class is insulated from the costs of their mistakes societies fail.

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 88

I could not agree more the Dems are no opposition to strive against they are to be fair both lazy and not challenging each other a 2 party system works best when they challenge each other actively.

themisfortuneteller February 25th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Some useful definitions:

“Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with new ones.” Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Conservative: Someone who cannot bear to think that anything might happen for the first time.

Conservative: One who fears losing what he has stolen from his fellow citizen or native aboriginal.

Conservative: authoritarian (with himself as the authority).

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

“Let me try another angle: What are the key disconnects between conservative morality and the realities of a capitalistic bureaucracy?”

YES! This is something that I have seldom understood. Capatalism is one of the biggest forces that turns morality and society on its head and throws things out of whack and yet conservatives are so supportive of it!

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:54 pm
In response to oldgold @ 87

Indirectly. In my first book, Fear: The History of a Political Idea I addressed his ideas more thoroughly. Basically I don’t like the psychological approach he offers. But what I do think he’s onto with his theory of status anxiety is that there is a deeply hierarchical worldview at the heart of conservatism. I re-read the theory of paranoia as less a pscyhopathology and more an ideology of permanent warfare.

ThingsComeUndone February 25th, 2012 at 2:54 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 88

Agreed! interesting insight

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 96

Conservatives don’t support capitalism; they support capitalists.

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 96

Galaxy, one of the most powerful things Corey’s book reveals is that conservatives are frequently glad to turn morality and society on its head–they get off on it.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 84

This is what I capture in “domestic compradors”. This is not just a conservative failing.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 91

Well, one key disconnect is that the conservative valorization of capitalism envisions the marketplace as a kind of heroic battlefield, where genius warriors (called entrepreneurs) destroy their enemies, create new worlds, destroy old ones, and so on. And that everyone can be engaged in this Darwinian struggle — and wants to be engaged in it. But the reality is that we all live and most of us work in deeply bureaucratic institutions, where there is not much room for that kind of action. Nor would we want to live in such a world. So I think there’s a romance in conservatism (not just about capitalism but also about war, I might add) that doesn’t quite fit with the reality of contemporary economic life.

cmaukonen February 25th, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 97

But what I do think he’s onto with his theory of status anxiety is that there is a deeply hierarchical worldview at the heart of conservatism. I re-read the theory of paranoia as less a pscyhopathology and more an ideology of permanent warfare.

And authoritarian as well.

“Because I said so, that’s why”

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 96

Again, that part of capitalism — how it throws society on its head, overturns all ways of being, etc. — is something that conservatives actually are quite partial to about capitalism. They like it (Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy is the classic text to look at. But rather than seeing that as in contradiction with conservative thought and politics, I try to show how that is deeply in synch with conservative thought and politics. Going back to Burke. In other words, what you need to do is get over the idea that conservatism is about conserving things, about tradition or stability. It’s not. It’s about inequality, and the greatness that comes from inequality.

dakine01 February 25th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Corey,
Again forgive me if you address this in the book, but where would you put the fetishization of Ayn Rand and “John Galt” in the Conservative mind-set?

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

It seems like in one way, the left won the intellectual war: neocons, like Kristol agree that there is no ultimate meaning, and that humans make our own meaning, a thought which must horrify huge numbers on the right.

You report that Bill Kristol is dissatisfied with the idea that free markets are sufficient as the foundation of a society. He drew the conclusion that we need national greatness or something similar, inspired by war or areté or some past form of meaning. The left offers absolutely nothing. It’s as if we are frozen by our own conclusions about the meaning of life.

Do you think there is a left view on the meaning of life?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:02 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 105

I do have a whole chapter on Rand in the book, and it’s hard to summarize. At the risk of shilling for my own book: buy my book!

BooRadley February 25th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Outstanding discussion. Thanks to Corey and Rick.

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 3:02 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 104

But what happens when in the tumult conservative ‘values’ are destroyed?

Tammany Tiger February 25th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

What has puzzled me for years is that prominent Democrats are such atrocious communicators. Here is a political party that has the support of most of the country’s trial lawyers–people who make a living arguing cases to 12 fellow citizens–yet party leaders and elected Democrats can’t refute the weakest Frank Luntz talking point.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 102

Ah yes, the true and honest warriors of the ether myths, the struggle for the prize of ancient Galt.

The “cleansing” power of war and exalted economic prowess …

You channel one of my first Con Law Professors, Corey.

Right down Memory Lane …

DW

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 107

Can you give us a hint? Thumbnail sketch? Thanks

TomR February 25th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

What are your thoughts about the fact that most conservatives get their television news from one source whereas independents and liberals get their news from several sources? What role does this play?

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 107

Buy his book.

galaxy101 February 25th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 104

But conservatives never seem to come to grips with the fact that in the tumult conservative ‘values’ also can be demolished.

themisfortuneteller February 25th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Apropos of those noting the conservative — i.e., privileged — elite’s exploitation of the lower classes upon whose labor they typically poach, George Orwell had a good analysis of that phenomenon in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937):

“… It greatly confuses the issue to assume … that social status is determined solely by income. Economically, no doubt, there are only two classes, the rich and the poor, but socially there is a whole hierarchy of classes, and the manners and traditions learned by each class in childhood are not only very different but – and this is the essential point – generally persist from birth to death [emphasis added]. Hence the anomalous individuals that you find in every class of society. … you find petty shopkeepers whose income is far lower than that of the bricklayer and who, nevertheless, consider themselves (and are considered) the bricklayer’s social superiors; you find board-school boys running Indian provinces and public school men touting vacuum cleaners. If social stratification corresponded precisely to economic stratification, the public-school man would assume a cockney accent the day his income dropped below £200 a year. But does he? On the contrary, he immediately becomes twenty times more Public School than before. He clings [emphasis added] to the Old School Tie as to a life-line. And even the [“H”-less] millionaire, though sometimes he goes to an elocutionist and learns a B.B.C accent, seldom succeeds in disguising himself as completely as he would like to. It is in fact very difficult to escape from the class into which you have been born [emphasis added].

As prosperity declines, social anomalies grow commoner. You don’t get more [“H”-less] millionaires, but you do get more and more public-school men touting vacuum cleaners and more and more small shopkeepers driven into the workhouse. Large sections of the middle class are being gradually proletarianized; but the important point is that they do not, at any rate in the first generation, adopt the proletarian outlook. Here am I, for instance, with a bourgeois upbringing and a working-class income. Which class do I belong to? Economically, I belong to the working class, but it is almost impossible for me to think of myself as anything but a member of the bourgeoisie. And supposing I had to take sides, whom should I side with: the upper class which is trying to squeeze me out of existence, or the working class whose manners are not my manners? It is probable that I personally would side with the working class. But what about the tens or hundreds of thousands of others who are in approximately the same position? And what about that far larger class, running into millions this time – the office-workers and the black-coated employees of all kinds – whose traditions are less definitely middle class but who certainly would not thank you if you called them proletarians? All of these people have the same interests and the same enemies as the working class. All are being robbed and bullied by the same system. Yet how many of them realize it? When the pinch came nearly all of them would side with their oppressors and against those who ought to be their allies. It is quite easy to imagine a middle class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready made Fascist Party.”

Any thoughts on how well or poorly this analysis applies to contemporary corporate crypto-fascism — i.e., “conservatism” — in America today?

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to masaccio @ 106

Well, a bit jejune with the “meaning of life”. I mean, some alternative view to offer instead of machismo, the great struggle, etc.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to masaccio @ 106

That’s a very tough question re the left. If by meaning of life, you mean “that there is a human good, something we all want and share, that we agree on” I’d say no, the left doesn’t believe there is a meaning of life. Or at least doesn’t agree about it. But I do think the left believes a version of what Thomas Rainsborough said during the Putney Debates of the English Civil War (these were these incredible debates that happened at the church in Putney among a group of army officers and soldiers, all of whom were battling against the king): “really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he.” Now we on the left would like to see the elimination of those differences between the “poorest he” and the “greatest he.” But beyond that, we believe that each of us has as much of a life to live as the greatest he, that we probably only get one chance around on this earth, and that it should be a pretty good ride, not one filled with misery and penury and difficulty (beyond those difficulties that are inevitable part of the human condition).

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 110

It’s a good point. I think though it’s symptomatic of a deeper problem: good trial lawyers have a case to argue. Most Democrats don’t have a case to argue, and they haven’t for a long while. It’s not a problem with communication skills; it’s the lack of a coherent ideology, a sense of what they’re doing.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to masaccio @ 106

neocons, like Kristol agree that there is no ultimate meaning, and that humans make our own meaning

I think they have an ultimate meaning, in the sense that there is a story which humanity is doomed to … a battle of tribes.

In fact this is their justification of hierarchy as a necessary defense.

RickPerlstein February 25th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Friends, I’m going to jet. Thanks for a stimulating discussion. RP

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to TomR @ 113

I tend to think that’s overrated. Most people’s ideologies are set at a certain point in life — and overwhelmingly their ideologies reflect their parents’ (at least acc. to all the political science literature) — and they tend to view the world through that lens.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 118

I’d say no, the left doesn’t believe there is a meaning of life.

Really? Isn’t this enough?

…we believe that each of us has as much of a life to live as the greatest he

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Wow, I had totally — and I mean totally — forgotten that passage from The Road to Wigan Pier. Read it ages ago, and it so captures how I think about these things. Thanks! I now have my homework assignment.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Thank you, Rick, for stopping by.

A pleasure.

DW

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 125

x2

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Take care, Rick, and thanks for hosting this!

p654321 February 25th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I think that its a very big mistake not to acknowledge and understand the moral component of the Conservative world view. The deep emotion of this moral sentiment is what permits the Conservative to ignore fact and logical argument. The ‘Liberal’, as we have seen, miss this truth at their own peril.

Someone once said that a Conservative is someone ‘who’s afraid that somewhere, someone, is having a good time’. Well that’s a funny joke,
but I think if you modify it somewhat you come up with something close the moral heart of Conservatism.

I think the core moral belief of the Conservative mind set can can be expressed something like this:

A Conservative is someone who’s afraid that that someone, somewhere, is gaming the system and the hierarchy and getting a free ride off their own hard honest work. The Conservative’s answer to that problem is to double down on hierarchy and power structure, to ‘stop the crooks’.

The irony is of course that its in large part by manipulating this, highly moral concern through levers of racism, sexism, and religious and geographic tribalisms of all kinds, that the nominally ‘Conservative’ elite are able to steal a free ride from their own Conservative constituents.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

It is quite easy to imagine a middle class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working class in sentiment …

Yes, it is.

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Do you think Kristol and Buckley agree that meaning comes from us humans? I certainly got that impression from your description.

BevW February 25th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Rick, Thank you for kicking this discussion off.

Corey will have a lot of questions to answer from our readers.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

So basically conservatism is a detached narrative? Not too encouraging now that Liberalism has lost it’s capitalist engine.

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

The work of both Robin and Perlstein seems to support the conclusion that much of modern conservatism was crystallized by the forces unleashed by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Do either of you see such a parallel turning point legally in the foreseeable near future? For instance the equal protection status for sexual orientation, which although coming in several different cases, is coming as a focused argument to the Supreme Court? I don’t think the ObamaCare cases truly could rise to that level, nor Citizens United in any redux iteration, but I suppose they are lesser possibilities. Frankly, I am not sure I see such a crystallization point on the social issue radar, but that is the only possibility. Thoughts?

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to bmaz @ 133

Do your think there could be a reprise of Brown since, for instance, schools are highly re-segregated?

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to masaccio @ 130

Are you asking me? I’m not sure I get the question. Certainly someone like Frank Meyer who was hugely influential in fusing the social and economic conservative wings of the movement thought that you had to have a free society in order to make sure that the religious and culturally conservative beliefs people held were truly their beliefs and not imposed on them. Now that’s not a notion that humans create meaning, but it’s a notion that we are meaning-oriented animals, whose lives need to be lived from the inside, as it were. But I get the sense you’re asking something slightly larger or different.

solerso February 25th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 42

I think the only way to resolve that problem is to create some kind of civic culture, which dosent preference ANY particular human traits, including race or Gender, but also “excellence” or or someone else’s notion of it. “Excellence” isnt a trait humans possess anyway, or rather, all of us possess it times, and none of us posesse it at other times. Also, what dosent concern civic life should not be part of the civc debate at all.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Corey, does your book deal with the evolution of conservatism with capitalism?

Scarecrow February 25th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Can you discuss how the current group of GOP candidates fit in with the thesis? e.g., how do we account for the religious/puritanical views of a Santorum? Or the privileged views of a Romney? Or the “I am the victim” of a Gingrich. Each of these is different from the others, yet are they all within your framework?

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to RevBev @ 134

No, cannot see that. Interesting you ask that though, just this last week, SCOTUS took cert review of a large affirmative action case, Fischer v. University of Texas, that may well spell the end of affirmative action in the educational sphere. I think that is as close as it will substantively get.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:24 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 138

None of their views have “coherence, integrity, or morality.” IMO

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to bmaz @ 133

I can’t speak for Rick, though I think he would agree that the conservative the modern conservative movement is sparked in reaction to the New Deal. That’s certainly where all the scholarship is now heading (think of Kim Phillips-Fein’s book Invisible Hands or Jennifer Burns’s biography of Ayn Rand. But we also think that the backlash against the civil rights movement really added something to the conservative movement, as did feminism and the backlash against that. Think of modern conservatism in this respect as an avenging army that masses sometime in the 1930s, gains followers in the 50s and 60s and 70s from the anti-civil rights and anti-feminist protests, and marches onto victory in 1980. Now where I know Rick and I disagree is that I think conservatism has really peaked. Its high point was the administration of George W. Bush. And the reason it has peaked is, in part, b/c it essentially achieved the bulk of its aims. If it’s true that conservatism is a reactionary movement — as I believe it is — then it needs to have a real movement to react against. Aside from the gay rights movement, I don’t see that movement around. Certainly OWS hasn’t become that movement yet. Now to me the really itneresting thing is that conservatives haven’t in the end gotten that much mileage out of the backlash against gay rights. Some elections here and there, but nothing like what they got from the backlash against civil rights and feminism. I’m not sure why that is.

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to bmaz @ 139

Thanks…I had heard some Fischer coverage; sounded like that to me.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 137

It does deal with it, but not systematically. Certainly not systematically enough. Funny you should ask b/c that’s my next project: to look at the origins of modern free market conservative politics. How conservatism came to terms with capitalism. I’m writing a long piece for The Nation on Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty which will be my first crack at that question. Stay tuned!

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 141

Can they get anywhere on Immigration? Seems to me they have been able to slow action/the debate.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
In response to bmaz @ 139

Beyond ending affirmative action, might the likely decision open the door to claims of “harm”, in some “retroactive” sense, bmaz, as the agitation to overcome AA is nothing new, or uncommon?

DW

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 143

Excellent.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I think conservatism has really peaked. Its high point was the administration of George W. Bush. And the reason it has peaked is, in part, b/c it essentially achieved the bulk of its aims. If it’s true that conservatism is a reactionary movement …

They’ve just begun.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 138

Yes, they all fit within my framework. But what’s interesting about them is that each of them only represents a piece of the conservative puzzle. No one seems able to embody the full picture. I think there’s a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with the liabilities of any of the individual candidates. It’s that conservatism lacks a left to mobilize against, and without that disciplining force, it splinters into a thousand different directions. I know conservatives talk about Obama as if he were the second coming of Mao — Kenyan Muslim Socialist and all that — but their actions speak louder than their words. If they truly believed that, they’d have lined up behind a front-runner long ago. That we are at this late stage of the game so uncertain about the outcome of the election, about who the frontrunner or his main challenger even is (it changes from week to week, day to day), is telling. They just think Obama is the kind of threat that FDR or LBJ or even Fritz Mondale once seemed to be.

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 141

Yeah, I pretty much agree with that completely. And with the quite possible zenith and decline without a rallying point to be the tip of the spear. The best one I see is using gay marriage/gay equality (their terms not mine), and that is going down the dumper fast as a forceful action point. I don’t see another sufficiently big one on the horizon.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to RevBev @ 144

They can, but remember: conservatism is not about battling a random “other.” It’s about battling an emancipatory movement from below. If there were a genuine progressive movement empowering immigrants — particularly Latino/a immigrants — to fight for their freedom, the conservatives would be able to get a lot more mileage out of this. But the mere presence of the undocumented — that alone can only get you so far.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 147

Perhaps, it has simply morphed into a new version of “embracing conservatism”, with the ascendancy of neo-liberalism, econobuzz?

DW

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 145

Maybe, but I don’t think so. It likely depends on how the economy stabilizes and pans out over the next decade. If it stabilizes then, no, not at all. If it blows up again, and the next time could truly be devastating, then that type of class/race friction might could take root. I would not bet on that though.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 151

They don’t need a progressive movement to rebel against. They want to reverse all of the progress that has been made. To think otherwise is just incredibly naive to me. But YMMV.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 147

Because they’ve not achieved their aims or because no one else now can??

Scarecrow February 25th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I don’t find it very reassuring that intellectually, the conservatives have reached their peak because they’ve run out of groups to oppose. I see rather a steady stream of victories in which they are systematically dismantling democratic/egalitarians threats. Hence, the attack is against public unions as the threat against employer hierarchies, against Planned parenthood as the threat to male dominance, against voting itself, against financial reform or anything that would threaten the hierarchy of wealth and even against the middle class as a representative of some egalitarian “middle.”

There is still enormous damage being done and still to be done — why shouldn’t we see them as just beginning a long path of destruction?

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 155

And why don’t liberals get a more spirited defense?

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 155

x2. You put it better than I did.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 153

You’re conflating two things here: what their desires as individuals are, what enables them as a movement to come into being and succeed. On the latter front, there’s no question that mobilizing against progressive movements is what brings conservative politics into being and that the end of those movements is what marks its demise.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 158

We disagree. But I thank you for the response.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 155

In my book, I say they’ve read their peak, and that they’re on their way out. But I also am careful to add: the only question remains is how long it will take them to go, and how much damage they will do on their way out. Which can be considerable. So I quite agree with you on that score. I didn’t say any of this to be reassuring. I’m not in the reassurance business.

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 147

It’s scary but, I agree. The rise of Rick Santorum pts. directly at this fact. These folks are not just reactionaries, they are also a fanatical variety. They’re starting to smell a lot more like totalitarians.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 159

What evidence do you have for your position? And while we’re on the topic: what is your position? I’m not clear what it is you’re trying to argue.

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 155

“There is still enormous damage being done and still to be done — why shouldn’t we see them as just beginning a long path of destruction?” Your so right! They have just begun and they have the money and orgs. a plenty to get the job done.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 153

Well, that is my point, econobuzz, the “neo-fuedalism” that neo-liberalism must bring about by depoliticizing so-called democracy, which is neo-liberalism’s essential intent, creates a “serf” class whose every aspiration becomes a “major” threat, so “authority”, whether “perceived” as “left” or “right” moves, in lock-step, to repress and beat down, there being, essentially, NO other “plan” among the political class, which includes the media, the “in” power group, who “represent” monied “interests”, what we, here, often term the MOTU, and, despite what some may claim, such “interest” is always reactionary.

DW

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to seaglass @ 161

Again, some historical perspective is in order and would be helpful here. People like Santorum are no more fanatical than John Rankin or Theodore Bilbo or Parnell Thomas was. Read Rick’s book Nixonland to get a sense of what we’re talking about. There’s often a Golden Age sensibility that informs these discussions, and I think it’s not helpful.

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 135

I appreciate that answer.

You write that the neocons “aspire to the epic grandeur of Rome, the ethos of the pagan warrior — or moral crusader — rather than that of the comfortable bourgeois.” I interpret that to mean that neocons, like Kristol specifically, do not find meaning in religion. And, of course, Rand was an outspoken atheist.

There is a certain sort of grandeur in Religion: the sense that God cares about each person can be intoxicating, just as an example. Once that goes, what is there to replace it of equivalent grandeur?

For Rand, the equivalent struggle was between the Great Man and the moochers. For Kristol, it is something menacing abroad, or the imperative of Leadership of the Enlightened Elites of the US. But both accept the premise of secular left philosophy, that meaning comes from humans.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 162

Thanks for asking. I don’t agree “conservatism” as practiced is in decline. I don’t think, as practiced, it has coherence, integrity, or morality. And I don’t think Fox News or right-wing radio cares about Edmund Burke or feels that there’s nothing left to destroy. Just a black guy in the WH drives them bat shit crazy.

But I respect your views and I may be wrong. It has happened before.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to masaccio @ 166

Ah, yes, I see what you’re saying now. And yes I agree. To that extent I think most of modern conservatism is Nietzschean at its core.

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to seaglass @ 163

Seaglass, I wonder if some hope may be in your previous comment. I sort of wonder if the fanaticism holds the seeds of demise. Not sure, of course.

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Corey – I mentioned above that there are lessons for liberals/progressives to learn from the decline and fall of golden conservatism. Without going too deep into the wiring differences of, say Schreiber’s Red Brain/Blue Brain analysis, do you see modern liberalism as being as susceptible to not having the focal reactionary point that conservatives are? Or do you see the broader spectrum as somewhat innoculating them from that decay?

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to galaxy101 @ 96

Militant liberalism: white man’s burden, bomb them for humanitarian reasons too, r2p.

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 165

Oh , I agree about Rick. I was just trying to make the pt. that for such a well known radical reactionary like Ricky boy to rise so high on the Nat’l scene is an event worth noting. He’s scaring the hell out of the rest of his party and that’s a good thing. Are there more radical folks out here? Tons and far more radical then Rick.

Scarecrow February 25th, 2012 at 3:52 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 160

Fair enough. No reassurance.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 173

An actual LEFT?

Superb question, Scarecrow.

DW

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 164

Yes.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 167

Well, there are empirical measures of these things. For instance, party ID. I think Rick has written on this, but Republican party ID is on the decline, certainly among the younger generation. As for Obama, it certainly may drive them crazy, but again, that’s not the right measure of conservatism’s long-term prospects. There were a group of ultras in 1830s France who wanted to restore the “true” branch of the Bourbon dynasty. The July Monarchy, which they thought was a fraud, drove them insane. Doesn’t mean they could get much traction out of that. Likewise today. As for the integrity of conservatism, we have to be careful here. I define it as a view that there are some people who are better than others and that those betters ought to rule. All the rest is commentary. On that core principle, they are consistent and coherent. And it’s only an unargued premise — at least I haven’t heard a good argument to challenge it — that says that that is not a moral view.

BevW February 25th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Corey, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the conservative mind.

Rick, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Corey’s website and book (The Reactionary Mind)

Rick’s website and books (RickPerlstein.org) and RollingStone articles

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow:
John Nichols / UPRISING: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street; Hosted by Robert W. McChesney

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to bmaz @ 170

Not sure I get the question exactly. What I will say is that I don’t think left politics are at their core reactionary. They certainly are oppositional, but that’s not the same thing. But left politics are, again at their core, initiating — they begin a cycle of politics to which the reactionary responds.

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to RevBev @ 169

I disagree, I think reactionary and most revolutionary movements tend toward a kind of fanatical purity as they develop. The so called “conservative movement” in this country is nowhere near it’s final iteration yet in this regard. Under the right circumstances I expect even the Klan or the Aryan Front type orgs. could rise much higher in the political scheme of things in this country. I give as an example the Klans spectacular rise in the early 20th century. Check out the pictures of the huge rallies and marches they held in DC and other areas of the north and Midwest. My wife had a grandfather that belonged here in NJ and I asked him once why he joined? His answer was it was like the Masons or the Kiwanis back then. WTF!

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Thanks Rick, Corey, and Bev. Great discussion.

Corey Robin February 25th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks everyone! Really enjoyed it.

eCAHNomics February 25th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to seaglass @ 179

Were those rallies proportionately bigger than the half million antiwar leftie rally in 2003?

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 3:58 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 176

Can you explain what is moral about some people “lording over” others?

Before the La Civil code had a case in the Supreme Court, the Code provided that the husband is “head and master” of the community (wife, family). Even the Court recognized that is not moral. Why is it moral in a larger forum?

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 168

How do you view the assault, many-pronged, upon the Rule of Law, Corey?

I do not see this as a right vs.so-called “middle” … “divide” among the elite, but, rather, a happy, if convenient, rallying point and, for “both” neo’s “con” and “lib”, the very mechanism, the means to establish the police state mentality so very much in vogue among the political elite, including the media … especially “looking forward” …

DW

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 165

That is exactly right. Rightwing rich people have been fighting the New Deal ever since WWII ended. They want their power back, and they are willing to pay for it. There has been a steady flow of money into rightwing causes from oilmen, real estate developers, and financiers since the late 40s. Now we have Sheldon Adelson saying he would put $100 million into politics if he felt like it.

The oligarchy wants power.

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 182

Good ? I don’t know? That they paraded around in DC and on the steps of the Capitol building was pretty astonishing in any event. Imagine that happening today. Although, maybe it did when BECK’s gang showed up sans their sheets?

masaccio February 25th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I hope everyone goes out and buys this book. It will be helpful to have this perspective in our minds to keep from going insane during the coming election misery.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Thank you Corey, come again, please … sooner rather than later.

A genuine pleasure to chat with you.

Thank you, Bev, as awlays, a most excellent Book Salon.

Much appreciation to everyone!

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

FWIW, FDLers, I can’t see anything remotely moral about today’s conservatives. And I don’t think giving them the benefit of the doubt that their worldview is moral is the way to win progressive goals.

But YMMV.

Kelly Canfield February 25th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Bye and thanks – this was a great Salon!

bmaz February 25th, 2012 at 4:03 pm
In response to masaccio @ 187

I hope everyone goes out and buys this book. It will be helpful to have this perspective in our minds to keep from going insane during the coming election misery.

I agree completely with this sentiment. And Corey, thank you for spending some time with us today, it was a great conversation.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:03 pm
In response to masaccio @ 185

Absolute power, masaccio, absolute and unrestrained power.

DW

seaglass February 25th, 2012 at 4:03 pm
In response to masaccio @ 185

“The oligarchy wants power.” They already have that. I think what you mean is they want TOTAL POWER! That they don’t have, yet. However, they’re working towards it daily.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:05 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 189

It is less about the “morality” than the perceived “inner coherence”, econobuzz, that being sufficient “principle” to the exploiting class.

DW

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:07 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 194

Consider: “Greed is good”, for instance … as both license and justification.

DW

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thanks, Corey.

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 4:09 pm

OT: Does anyone else get a bit sick when you read this stuff? There was a time when I thought there was solid progress: choice for women, other progress for women, even attention to rights of children, and more….I think this conversation brings back too much of the struggle/the opposition, even the thoughts of the goals that were set out. The current direction sickens me.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 4:11 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 194

O, it’s a morality. A strong tribe morality.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 4:14 pm
In response to RevBev @ 197

Sick? No.A sense of impending doom, yes.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:15 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 198

Except that everyone is, ultimately, expendable to the most Maciavellian.

ANY means justifying the most ignoble end …

Superb questions you asked this evening, BTW, Ludwig, a genuine pleasure to watch you in “action”.

;~DW

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 4:15 pm
In response to RevBev @ 197

Yes. And they will double down. To get a good idea of what we’re in for, if you have the stomach, just listen to right-wing radio for a week.

The notion that eventually they will overplay their hand, that the pendulum will swing back our way, is insane. There will be nothing left — no pun intended.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:17 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 199

Did you see this, Ludwig?

http://therealnews.com/t2/component/hwdvideoshare/?task=viewvideo&video_id=73076.

Well worth 24 minutes of your time, if you haven’t.

DW

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 4:19 pm

You know, I really don’t have the stomach. I listened for awhile to Laura Ingraham while I was in the car. She is very mean; she cannot think of enough insults for Mrs.Obama.
Maybe Im just whimpy…I do not want to hear that kind of put-down and ugliness.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:20 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 201

It ain’t over … ’til its over.

And we have not yet begun to fight, really fight.

We have some time, econobuzz, and had best make such use of it as we, who understand and care, may so do …

Never Give Up.

Did you see what I linked to @202, yet?

DW

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 4:22 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 200

Thanks, DW. I like to be a little wide in the questions, in the hope they will provoke some passion.

Everyone is expendable to … Yes, but there are limits within the tribe to too much individual power.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 4:22 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 204

yes, great.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:26 pm
In response to RevBev @ 203

No need to go there, RevBev, your own power, which is truly formidable, you have not yet realized.

You radiate it, and it is received, loud and clear.

You and your congregation are an oasis in a desert of fear, unreasoning hatred, and appalling doubt, yet you understand the true path and share it with others, every single day. I know, I see you doing it, as does Ludwig, as does econobuzz … as do we all.

Every day more human beings come to understand, we must demonstrate both courage and steadfast resolve.

What options, really, have we, other than to stand, together?

If we fall, together, then so be it, but could we ask for better company?

DW

RevBev February 25th, 2012 at 4:30 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 207

Thank you for those very kind words…Yes, in it together…Hugs and thanks, B

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 4:30 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 202

Saw it. Hope we have more tools than grit alone, comrade.

Bluetoe2 February 25th, 2012 at 4:31 pm
In response to Corey Robin @ 22

Well, the Nazi’s thought the very same thing.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:33 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 205

@ 137, you nailed, channeled, and spot-on, “hit” the question, the further analysis that Robin seeks and sees as necessary as well.

Nicely and impeccably well done, Ludwig!

I’d be curious to hear your own analysis, if ever you’d care to share.

A diary, perhaps, or on the Diner threads, where we’ve an open field of inquiry and opportunity to share such insights.

DW

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 4:35 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 211

Conservatism, as practiced, is in favor of capitalism, as practiced.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 4:36 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 209

How about wit AND wisdom … as well as steadfast courage … and a bit of luck, my deep and thoughtful friend?

‘Taint hopeless ’til we be dead, I’d venture, once again, to say, and in that struggle others shall arise to take our place, should we fall …

Of that I am quite certain …

DW

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 4:45 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 211

I’ll think about it. I think the most interesting part of the relation is their flourishing in the decline of capitalism.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 4:47 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 214

Capitalism declined because they flourished, Ludwig.
The causation runs the other way. LOL

p654321 February 25th, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Don’t confuse the words ‘moral’ with ‘good’.

The value of any given moral, its goodness or badness, is contextual.

That’s why we can talk seriously about things like cultural progress.
Its ultimately an aesthetic question, as much as that’s anathema to most
people.

My ultimate point is, that those who don’t understand that the complex phenomenon of Conservatism is enabled by a set of deeply moral gut level prejudices, will also never understand why argument from evidence, and logic, are utterly powerless to persuade in the face of that Conservatism.

Since that is the case, strategies of opposition based only on the presentation of sound logic and crystal clear evidence, are completely doomed to failure.

If that were not the case, we would have seen a very different America
emerge from the wreckage of the reign Bush the Lesser, than what greets us today when we walk out the door each morning.

I think any strategies that don’t take the human heart into account,
are ultimately futile, and can only perpetuate an endless cycle of reaction.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 4:52 pm
In response to p654321 @ 216

… deeply moral gut level prejudices

If the term “moral” includes “gut level prejudices,” it has lost all meaning. IMO

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 4:56 pm

To econobuzz:
“Sorry, don’t agree. They sure damaged the fairy-tale version of capitalism, but, as I mentioned before, the liberal dream took a hit when the engine stuttered.

There are material conditions as well for the failure of liberal capitalist progress, one very important one being overreach. American exceptionalism did in the liberals as well

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 5:02 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 218

.. the liberal dream took a hit when the engine stuttered.

Oh, I agree. But that’s not inconsistent with capitalism declining because conservatives benefited from it.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 5:05 pm
In response to p654321 @ 216

Haidt’s disgust and five(?) foundations is persuasive. He’s arguing for some dialectic between cons and libs, a yinyang, but I sort of agree with econobuzz in this regard: his battle of moralities is immoral.

p654321 February 25th, 2012 at 5:06 pm

You’re right.

If the two terms have no common link for you,
then my argument, such as it is, is complete
and utter nonsense.

p654321 February 25th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I’m ignorant; I’ll look him up some time.

Ludwig February 25th, 2012 at 5:10 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 219

True, and I agree that they butchered it, but that was foreseeable. The liberals were too smug(?) to see the tenuous economic and political hold they had, especially since their ideology was based on a bunch of hokum too.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 5:50 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 212

But neither understands “enough!”, and both will destroy themselves.

Now, with a propitious “push” from the rest of us, “their” unbridled insanity with be fully and completely revealed.

And humanity will recoil; and the earth rejoice.

Madness will NOT out, it will burn itself out … and, ultimately, it will perish.

I do not suggest that it will be easily or even swiftly so … but humankind is ready, after ten-thousand years, to embrace a full and meaningful change, call it the “human spring”.

Can’t you almost hear things “growing”, stirring the soul of humankind?

DW

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 6:03 pm
In response to p654321 @ 216

Excellently well considered, p6654321!!!

Much appreciated.

I hope to see more of your comments, here, at FDL, in future.

Might I suggest, that it is, yet, to soon to see the flowering of the change to which you allude, as too few, yet, understand and have the courage of conviction to share, among those who CAN hear, what you sense and perceive, as possible, even, I say, inevitable. However, it is not yet “corporeal” enough to be discerned by any but the most conscious few. And consciousness is a central issue, as time is also of central essence.

We are in it for the long haul … however long … or longer … a time which may be required for understanding, courage, and meaningful commitment to arise in the hearts and minds of our species. That these things will, so arise, I have no doubt.

DW

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 6:03 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 224

Can’t you almost hear things “growing”, stirring the soul of humankind?

Yes, but I think it may be the Vodka Martinis. LOL

wendydavis February 25th, 2012 at 6:17 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 225

My mind pictures that what may stir people to find courage, and leave behind their incredible timidity, and begin to imagine that inside of their vassal identities…is some other self that can really handle owning personal and human power; never before in their lifetimes have they felt it. They may love to read about the heroes of the first American revolution, the progressive battles against the Robber Barons, or the civil rights era…but never imagined that what drove those movements was a shared concern for a wider American humanity/empathy, which we have been urged to, and complied with…forgetting.

We’ve been told that ‘rugged individualism’ was a superior virtue; and Christianist doctrine has extolled ‘Prosperity gets ya into heaven’; material goods ownership brings power and happiness….

Come spring, summer…whenever…more of us suffer more sincerely, I hope that we will be forced to act collectively, so that we, and our neighbors…can survive while we commit to a Second American Revolution, and perform it well, and in the name of All.

marymccurnin February 25th, 2012 at 6:18 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 224

Can’t you almost hear things “growing”, stirring the soul of humankind?

I hope that is what I am hearing.

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 6:25 pm
In response to wendydavis @ 227

I hope that we will be forced to act collectively

Amen.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 6:30 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 226

Spirits, rising.

Consider a lowly potato …

Who could imagine that vodka might be contained, therein?

What “leap” of imagination of intuition must that have taken?

Who would have dared to try the result?

Potatoes have eyes, but they see not.

Consider the lowly potato … someone did.

;~DW

econobuzz February 25th, 2012 at 6:39 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 230

Thanks for that.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 6:42 pm
In response to wendydavis @ 227

We shall stand, and act … and we shall, of most dire necessity, recognize and find ourselves in each other … together.

We, all of us, the people, shall, this time, rise, honestly, together … or we shall, surely, die alone … and lost.

Tell me, wendy, lass, what images rise, unbidden, beyond the doubt, beyond the fear, in your clearest moments, when you awaken, early in the morning, when all is quiet and still, before the birds sing, before the dawn?

Are those images peaceful, are they joyous, are they loving …?

When these images reflect your truest self, what do you feel?

What does your soul and spirit know?

Namaste

DW

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 6:50 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 228

You hear your heart, you hear your dreams …

You feel the rhythm of life, of love, of the soul of human … kind

That must be so, for that is what we all “see”, feel, and know … when we think of you, marymccurnin.

That is the truth of you.

The truth of life and the promise of humanity, as yet, not fully realized, but the whole truth, the meaning of being …

Our lives are brought to us by being … for our experience … of time and place … it is but a part of the greater journey upon which we are all, together, embarked.

DW

wendydavis February 25th, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I’m under duress just now, both cognitively and physically, so that influences my waking moments, and my correspondence. I’ve unhappily been cut off frim my dreams for months and months, and I’ve long been A Dreamer. Dunno why, so I do my imagining before I sleep.

When I can, like tonight, I go out to watch the celestial show; this week it’s been a waxing crescent moon in the West, with Venus and Jupiter (and Mars way low on the horizon), all lined up in a row. Stunning, and the summer constellations are coming…tonight it was Castor and Pollux and Sirius…

And at the bedroom door, the kit grey foxes, and in the daytime the micro: the birrrrrds, of so many colors and behaviors and habits. This week it’s enormous murders of crows, speaking in so many languages I’d love to know.

At night, I say my thank you prayers to some creator I don’t believe in, but it’s the act that matters, and I try to send love out to the noosphere, to any and all who can use a little, and to the friends I’ve lost through enmity and misunderstanding.

And I do know that I really don’t admire books or discussions like this thread, or the emerging ‘brain science’ dividing us once again into two kinds of people. It gives too many chances to feel superior to others, and while I understand it…I don’t like it. Sorry; I’m grouchy and tired, and should have kept quiet until I can heal myself a little bit.

DWBartoo February 25th, 2012 at 7:24 pm
In response to wendydavis @ 234

You may be tired, you may feel grouchy, yet you touch the soul and heart, with musical deftness, of each and everyone who has the pleasure of encountering your wisdom, your peace, and your incredible strength, wendy.

May I say, I know that you are weary and that you must give yourself permission to rest, for, too often you carry more than any sage being should, your arrows fly, unerringly to the center of the greater truth … but the effort is not without price and you cannot put it off or evade it.

You, loving all and everything of this universe, must still, at times, rest, and withdraw, to recharge hope and rekindle the flame which burns so brightly within you … for without your gentle encouragement … steady, constant, and loyal to those friends who love you, who turn to your warmth like a flower turns, joyfully to the sun, this would be a far more dreary place, this world.

Rest my dear friend, take your peace and find a gentle and a sweet repose.

Do this and you shall dream anew, and those dreams will limn the future and, when you return, refreshed and renewed … then you must tell me what you have dreamed, what you have seen … for your capacity to dream is the measure of your hope, which you make manifest and real.

You know that I speak the truth.

Go, rest, dream, and when you are ready, return.

We shall be waiting.

We shall be caring.

As ye must be knowing.

Namate.

wendydavis February 25th, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I do know you’re right, and in fact, my yesterday diary (or mebbe the day before) was by way of an adios for a bit…while I got myself together, and hopefully swim my way to the surface again.

Thank you for the faith you seem to have in me, and again I’ll wonder if the worth isn’t rather in the eye of the beholder. ;o)

‘Repose’ reminded me of my favorite Wallace Stegner, ‘Angle of Repose’; a remarkable book by a remarkable man.

For a small gift, this song from ‘Memphis’ I saw last night. It touched me, and made me see that I’d been hoping, and I’ll keep it as a totem, to ‘write like I’m dancing’. Need more of the poet, but it’ll be fun to have that image as a bit of a yardstick. (lots of different ways to dance…)

Sleep well, darlin’, DW; and I’ll be resting; right now I haven’t much choice. Hopefully…I’ll come back dancin’. ;o)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR9VeBK8Lak

wendydavis February 26th, 2012 at 5:20 am
In response to wendydavis @ 234

Arrggh. Evidence of brain dysfunction.

What I was trying and failing to answer was the ‘what do you see in those moments before the birds sing in the morning’ question.

When I wake, I see a still frame from my last dream, and work to find the whole reel, and I watch it vaporize in frustration.

The times I do have access to the messages in the ether come when I get caught in a song, seriously, and I get enormous headaches and other wierdnesses, and go into some autistic reveries, seemingly under the direction of some visiting conductor giving me The Tour, and directing me to important pictures, words, phrases and…sounds. After a brain injury years ago, I began to ‘think’ in pictures, and since have had to translate them into words. But this is a whole ‘nother level of oddity. Non-linear communicating; oh, bloody hell, trying to explain it is just plain silly and probably pointless. I’m trying to adapt and…mitigate the worst of the hard parts of it (deleted the rest of the meta).

Anyhoo, if I can manage to dance through it, it might end up bein’ kinda fun; I can like some of the writing that comes afterward. If not…they’ll just come and take me away, mebbe let me make stuff outta clay or popsicle sticks. ;o)

Oh, and Ian Welsh has a good piece on realism up. ;o) I adore his tough love: ‘Yeah, Americans: you are to blame for this mess that happened while you were complacently asleep.’ ;o)

http://www.ianwelsh.net/justified-pessimism/

wendydavis February 26th, 2012 at 5:28 am
In response to wendydavis @ 237

Ian Welsh has this great piece on reality up.

His tough love is always great: Yeppers, Americans. You let all this happen while you we so complacently sleeping. ;o)

wendydavis February 26th, 2012 at 6:23 am
In response to wendydavis @ 238

Thought that edit to put add Ian’s piece didn’t work, sorry for the duplicate. Here is my last vivid dream just for fun.

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