The Partisan and the Political

October 18th, 2011  |  Published in Politics  |  33 Comments

Update 10/19: I have a clarification to part of this post here.

Lately I’ve noticed some concern over the intermittent tendency to portray Occupy Wall Street, and other insurgent movements, as somehow “neither left nor right”; recently, we can see Matt Taibbi engaging in this rhetoric, and Richard Seymour found it cropping up at Occupy London. This is, I agree, an annoying rhetorical tic; maybe even a dangerous one. Digby, in the link above, attributes this framing to a quixotic desire to escape political conflict; others suggest that it reflects an unwillingness to confront the class struggle at the heart of populist “99-percenter” rhetoric. Maybe, but I suspect it’s also something else: less a product of wrong ideology than of an impoverished political vocabulary, which is the inevitable consequence of the decline of the left and of political consciousness generally. This decline has produced widespread confusion about the difference between, on the one hand, the way political partisanship operates in contemporary politics, and on the other hand, the importance of actual contests of political ideology. In such a period, morbid symptoms appear.

To summarize the thesis: ordinary people hate partisanship, and elites hate ideology. Hence the elite is constantly attempting to misrepresent the latter as the former. And the masses sometimes respond by repudiating ideology when they mean to reject partisanship.

By partisanship, I mean adopting positions or taking actions based purely on what is immediately advantageous to your “side”, party, or faction. (On the far left, this usually goes by the name of “sectarianism”.) When Republicans denounce a health care plan that they were promoting a few years before, just to make the Democrats look bad, they’re being partisan. When Democratic-aligned lawyers go from vigorously denouncing Bush’s imperial presidency to giving legal cover to Obama’s death squads, they’re being partisan. A lot of people find this kind of behavior objectionable, because it is so transparently cynical and unprincipled, motivated by the desire to win tactical–and personal–advantages even at the expense of larger ideals and strategic objectives–that is, at the expense of ideology. What this sort of partisanship ultimately amounts to is the conviction that politics is about winning power for its own sake, rather than using that power for some larger purpose. The Wall Street protests seem to have drawn a decent number of people who were disengaged from the political system, perhaps from a revulsion at this kind of cynical partisanship, combined with a vague ideological intuition that neither side of the mainstream partisan divide is actually pursuing anything that is in their interest.

I recognize, of course, that ideology ultimately requires partisanship, since principles can only become political works through the vehicle of some kind of organization or party. The attempt to permanently separate the two runs aground in an individualistic sort of anarchism. But ideology and partisanship can only be aligned in specific circumstances–as, for instance, when the political system features parties with coherent and clearly opposed ideologies. In the United States, the diminishing distance between the parties–and the total incoherence of the Democratic side–has led the ideological and the partisan to become totally disconnected. Thus we see the parties locked in ever more vicious and polarized combat, even when both sides seem to be marching to the same neo-liberal drumbeat.

So while we might wish for an organized partisan vehicle for radical ideology, we also have to deal with the reality that one does not yet exist. Hence, firm ideology often manifests itself in opposition to partisanship; Glenn Greenwald, for example, has come down hard against the lawyers who wrote Obama’s death squad opinion, just as he did against John Yoo and other architects of Bush’s torture regime. He does so because he has an ideological commitment to civil liberties, due process, and the rule of law, which supersedes partisan loyalty to Democrats or Republicans.

Many people will profess to admire principled ideological stances like Greenwald’s, even when they disagree with the specifics of the ideology. But the one group that is implacably hostile to such displays of principle is the world’s economic and political elites. That’s because they benefit from a situation in which their preferences and goals are treated as objective common sense, and alternative ideologies cannot be considered or even articulated. It’s in that light that we should consider the continual elite longing for a “centrist” or “post-partisan” leader to deliver us from the evil of political polarization. What this yearning represents is not so much a desire to escape from narrow partisan cynicism as it is an attempt to prevent the drawing of clear distinctions of political principle.

President Obama is of course an exemplary case of this kind of post-partisanship, which substitutes image for substance; the latest iteration of such nonsense is the Politico‘s new “primary”, in which Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen propose several candidates who will transcend “Washington and conventional politics” and “harness the public’s hunger for something new, different and inspiring”. As Greg Marx documents, the discussion of these fantasy candidates is almost entirely vacuous, characterized by “indifference to policy, an eagerness to see politicians as products to be marketed, undue deference to institutional authority, a fetish for ‘centrism’”. Thus it’s tempting to dismiss the whole exercise as the effluvium of political horse-race journalism and its fatuous, intellectually bankrupt culture; but this kind of posturing is, in fact, satisfying someone’s “hunger”–just not the general public’s.

VandeHei and Allen are careful to avoid attributing any kind of ideological substance to their proposed candidates. Instead, they describe them with empty signifiers like “authentic outsider”, “a combination of money, accomplishment and celebrity”, “a strong leader [voters] can truly believe in”, and “someone who breaks free from the tired right-versus-left constraint on modern politics”. But that doesn’t mean there’s no ideological agenda here. There is, and it leaks through in their profile of erstwhile Deficit Commissioner Erskine Bowles: “The most depressing reality of modern governance is this: The current system seems incapable of dealing with our debt addiction before it becomes a crippling crisis.”

It’s hardly worth pointing out anymore that there is, in fact, no debt crisis; on the contrary, sensible observers are wondering why the government is bothering to collect revenues at all, when the cost of borrowing is hitting zero. By now, everyone who cares has realized that fear-mongering about the debt and the deficit is a trick used opportunistically by those who want to reorient government around their particular priorities. And the priorities of the deficit scolds, judging by the work of creatures like Pete Peterson, are to dismantle what’s left of the welfare state and transfer even more money to the already wealthy. Ranting about the deficit is merely a means to this end, if it facilitates goals such as the elimination of Social Security and Medicare.

Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen probably don’t consciously believe that they are ideologically committed to immiserating the working class in order to further enrich themselves and their ultra-rich friends; as career journalists, they have no doubt internalized the bizarre conceit that they are merely objective chroniclers with no political orientation whatsoever. Nevertheless, defending plutocracy is, functionally, their ideology, for it is the ideology of the elite–and by promoting the fantasy of non-ideological “bipartisanship”, they further the agenda of those who are already powerful. If the reporters themselves actually believe in their centrist platitudes, so much the better; as the philosopher Costanza once remarked, “it’s not a lie if you believe it”.

But by conflating partisanship and ideology, elite discourse tends to discredit the latter; thus, just as elites tend to cloak their ideological program in the veil of post-partisanship, contemporary popular movements sometimes attempt to do the same. But they, too, are ideological whether they want to be or not. Some of this is on display in the Occupy Wall Street protests: these have been characterized by an almost obsessive desire to avoid specific ideologies or even specific demands, in a way that tends to grate on those of us with more traditional leftist sensibilities. Doug Henwood recently commented on this in a post where he lamented the ideological confusion of the protesters, and quoted a 25-year-old photographer stating that the protests were “not about left versus right” but about “hierarchy versus autonomy”.

The uncharitable reading of this is that it reflects a naive avoidance of politics and the worldview of, as Doug puts it, bourgeois individualism. But a more generous reading is that this man is simply partaking of the same collapsing of ideology and partisanship that pervades the society he grew up in. If you’re 25 years old, there’s a good chance you haven’t had much or any contact with what remains of an actual “left” in this country; instead, your experience of politics will be one in which “left versus right” is used interchangeably with “Democrats versus Republicans”. In other words, a discourse in which ideology is reduced to an empty, symbolic partisanship. Rather than an attempt to deny ideology and politics, we can see statements like the one I quoted as an attempt, however confused, to reclaim them from the clutches of the major parties and their hack apologists. Because whatever they might say, Occupy Wall Street has an ideology, even if it is still an inchoate and jumbled one. Mike Konczal has done some excellent work trying to extract that ideology from the protests themselves and the “We are the 99 percent” Tumblr; meanwhile, the right clearly recognizes it as an ideological challenge as well, which is why their polemicists are producing counter-programming like We Are the 53 Percent.

That’s not to say that the obsession with centrism and post-partisanship hasn’t infected the masses to some degree as well. The other day I was listening to an NPR call-in show about Occupy Wall Street, and I heard the kind of infuriating caller you often get on these programs, who lamented extremism and polarization and said that we need to work together with Wall Street to solve our problems, blah blah blah. But positions like that are only tenable in the wake of the elite campaign to efface all conflicts of interest or ideology, and replace them with the illusion that there is some technocratic compromise that would equally benefit the 99% and the 1%. Barack Obama’s latest move on behalf of that campaign is his bizarre argument that the democratic socialist Martin Luther King “would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there”. But this is no time to shrink from a bit of demonization. The best thing leftists can do to combat this sort of nonsense, then, is to help draw out and clarify the implicit class ideology of the protestors, rather than condemn them for not drawing political demarcations in the way we would prefer; as the young Marx put it, “We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.”

Responses

  1. ‘Ordinary People Hate Partisanship, and Elites Hate Ideology; Hence the Elite Is Constantly Attempting to Misrepresent the Latter as the Former’ « Gerry Canavan says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 10:44 am (#)

    [...] respond to Alex’s concerns about the Matt Taibbi piece linked yesterday, Peter Frase argues we must reassert the difference between partisanship and ideology. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  2. jkd says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 11:28 am (#)

    Excellent analysis, Peter. I’ll only quibble with one of the starting points (that I don’t think especially detracts from the argument overall):

    “…the diminishing distance between the parties–and the total incoherence of the Democratic side – has led the ideological and the partisan to become totally disconnected.”

    As a point of fact, it doesn’t really stand up. Post-Civil Rights Act, the parties have become more coherent and, as such, the ideological distance between both median members and the leftward (Republican) and rightward (Democratic) edge has increased. There used to be liberal Republicans, and a substantial part of previous Democratic majorities relied on very, very conservative Democrats – this just isn’t the case anymore (Ben Nelson has nothing on, well, Strom Thurmond).

    It is also the case that the leftward pole of mainstream or “acceptable” discourse has drifted much further to the right – as has the rightward pole. But this is in addition to (and perhaps in part as a consequence of – I won’t speculate on this point) the increased coherence of the parties. That the Democratic Party does a poor job of representing or including further Left opinions is (in my view, and I suspect in yours) a Bad Thing, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that over the last generation+, it has represented a much more coherent set of views, as has the GOP.

  3. Dana Blankenhorn says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 11:30 am (#)

    I can’t disagree with a word of this, even the use of the philosopher Costanza. (Good that you got the spelling right.)

    In defense of Democracy (as opposed to democracy), it is always true that ideology is wrung out of a party during its long losing streaks, while ideology increases during a party’s winning streaks.

    Thus Republicans became increasingly non-ideological from 1936 until Goldwater, while Democrats were increasingly non-ideological from 1968 until Dean.

    Back to 2011. A crisis leader never sees himself as leading an ideological effort. He always uses the language of conciliation. He waits to be pushed. “Make me do it.”

    This would be a different Presidency, in other words, if Obama were being pushed from the ideological demands of his time (as FDR was with ginormous congressional majorities) than from the other side (as Nixon faced Democratic majorities).

    Presidents, by the nature of the office, can’t get out too far ahead of the people. (See Carter, Jimmy.) Even people running for President can’t do that. (See Gore, Al.) They have to surf the beliefs of their constituents, riding the waves of popular opinion in their chosen direction.

    If OWS can become an ideological bulwark that pushes the President in the direction he wishes to go (the direction of his rhetoric) it’s important. So far, that’s what it is doing. And it’s up to him to surf it. But he can’t make the wave, he can only ride it.

  4. Rich Puchalsky says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 11:39 am (#)

    “year-old photographer stating that the protests were “not about left versus right” but about “hierarchy versus autonomy”.

    The uncharitable reading of this is that it reflects a naive avoidance of politics and the worldview of, as Doug puts it, bourgeois individualism. But a more generous reading is that this man is simply partaking of the same collapsing of ideology and partisanship that pervades the society he grew up in”

    Really, that’s the generous reading? When that person said something about hierarchy vs autonomy, you couldn’t hear him saying anything ideological at all — just a meaningless noise that, under a generous reading, means that he’s a dupe?

    You may not see it, but you’re doing the exact same thing that you (accurately) say that the neoliberal elite does. Of course, they have power, so when they do it it’s horrible; when you do it it’s merely funny. The Marxist left and the people who you dismiss as individualists have a long history of ideological conflict going all the way back to Marx and Bakunin and the First International. The systems that the hierarchical left built failed miserably, everywhere. And now that a non-hierarchical left movement is building, there are quite a few leftists willing to emerge and say that this is all bourgeois individualism and that naive these people will make fine cadres for Marxism once they’re educated in class ideology.

  5. iNewsView » The Partisan and the Political :: Peter Frase says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 11:49 am (#)

    [...] The Partisan and the Political :: Peter Frase Talking Points Memo 2011-10-18 11:47 Ratings: 5.2/10 Lately I’ve noticed some concern over the intermittent tendency to portray Occupy Wall Street, and other insurgent movements, as somehow “neither left nor right”; recently, we can see Matt Taibbi engaging in this rhetoric, and Richard Seymour found it cropping up at Occupy London. This is, I agree, … http://www.peterfrase.com/… [...]

  6. Donald Gecewicz says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 12:13 pm (#)

    Unfortunately, the use of the word “hierarchy” (versus autonomy) seems to me to come from a different source than what commenter 4 attributes it to: It isn’t as if the young person had grown up on a diet of Gramsci and could also add in “hegemony.” Instead, and it is a definite factor in the decline of the left in the United States, the use of the good/elite universities as finishing schools for the haute bourgeoisie is more than evident in those choices of terms–the attempt at so many schools to use a leftoid language of freedoms without the class analysis of just who is oppressing whom. Naturally, the young person quoted thinks that the problem is hierarchy (having been taught so in his cultural criticism and gender studies and blah blah blah classes, in which patriarchy, Freud, gender roles, and assimilation are the great evils rather than, oh, oppression of workers, Potemkin elections, and delegitimating the state through misuse of power and torture).

  7. Pat Hayes says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 12:23 pm (#)

    Very thoughtful analysis. I’m a retread from the 60s civil rights and antiwar movements. I’ve been talking to people at the Occupy Kansas City site and attending marches and rallies here.

    There is, among some at the encampment, a remarkable confusion about ideology. I find an inchoate mix of libertarian and progressive ideas among many of the young protesters. This all reflects the poverty of the political discourse in America during the time these young people were growing up.

    There is also a fierce battle for the hearts and minds of those young participants between the Ron Paul forces on the one hand and progressives on the other.

    For these young people, looking either to Democrats or Republicans seems to many a futile exercise. I think that is at the root of the rejection of ideology.

    Looking at protest signs, the focus seems to be on corparate dominance of the economy and political system. Speakers who denounce the Citizens United decision get a warm response.

    Right now, minds are open in a way they have not been in a long time. The left — broadly defined — needs to be out with these young people both listening and talking. What I sense — I think what we all sense — is the opportunity to turn the country away from the disasterous course it’s now on. We shouldn’t blow it.

  8. Rick Schaut says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 12:31 pm (#)

    I’d offer an alternate thesis by observing that partisan politics is where ideology meets reality and reality loses; that partisanship requires adherence to a representative ideology regardless of what the facts and history tell us.

    I think the OWS movement is really asking for a bit more empiricism in our politics, one that doesn’t necessarily require that partisan groups relinquish their associations, but does ask that we take notice of the fact that trickle-down concepts are bankrupt or that, despite our desire to achieve universal health care coverage, rising medical costs is a trend that must be stemmed if we are ever going to achieve that goal.

  9. Dan Miller says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 12:54 pm (#)

    I just want to chime in and echo jkd–you’re usually pretty sharp, but that bit about the distance between the parties is completely off. That’s not to say that the Democrats are acceptable or represent a left viewpoint, but they’re more of an ideological party now than they were at any point in the past (not a high bar).

  10. Rob says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 1:21 pm (#)

    Great post — reached a point in the US where political sensibility — a subjectivity (to risk using language that might that cause the Henwoods of the world to tune out) that recognizes political action as intuitively plausible and normal — must be rebuilt from nothing on scorched earth. The paradox is in why this rebuilding would begin by abjuring demands, but demands will be incoherent or ineffectual or easily twisted without the generalized existence of ongoing engaged political sensibility to comprehend the problems, understand the solutions being offered and how they would be implemented, and to guarantee that there would be actual follow through on them

  11. What does Green Mean? » The Language Problem says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 1:23 pm (#)

    [...] InteRESTin’, as the boy says: [...]

  12. Edward Moore says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 1:31 pm (#)

    “sensible observers are wondering why the government is bothering to collect revenues at all, when the cost of borrowing is hitting zero” What happens when interest rates go up and the government has to roll over all that debt that it racked up? Since we’re spending all the money we’re borrowing now we can’t just give it back, we’ll have to borrow at higher rates to pay off the low rate loans coming due at that point. Since there’s a limit to how much you can take from the citizens, that means you’re going to have to hurt the people you’re helping now when you cut their checks to make all those interest payments.

  13. Stefan says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 1:43 pm (#)

    I think this is largely spot on. And I think Obama is an excellent example. His key mistake(?) has been to fall for the idea that there is no ideological division in American body politic that cannot be overcome by a commitment to technocratic common sense. I hold out some hope (perhaps, naively) that he really was simply mistaken rather than insincere and that he is coming to realize that there are insurmountable ideological differences out there. (Plus the further hope that he is siding with the more egalitarian set). Similarly, my view of the Democratic party is that it has among its ranks those who recognize this difference and are on the right side of things; howver, these actors face constant temptation with weak institutional mechanisms that enforce principled egalitarian behavior. I’d also add that another media tic plays a similar role to the one you identify: Namely, the tenet (in the name of “objectivity”) that one must present both sides of a debate without critical analysis, no matter how transparently false and self-serving a particular view might be.

  14. Sandwichman says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 1:44 pm (#)

    I’ve got no quarrel with class struggle, partisanship or ideology. It seems to me, though, that the labels of right and left, derived from the seating of factions in the French National Assembly and modified in contemporary usage to indicate “free market” vs. “state socialist” factions is archaic and misleading.

    There is not a dichotomy with a spectrum in between. Instead there is an array of possible institutional arrangements that need to be comprehended and experimented with.

    My own proposals for institutional innovation and renewal, for example, do not fall “somewhere on a spectrum” between the free market and state socialism. In fact, I see both of those poles as deeply flawed Utopias. Isn’t it absurd to conceive of reasonableness as a mid-point between polar delusions?

  15. Barrie Cowan says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 3:10 pm (#)

    The most important point made in the piece is that partisanship and ideology refer to two essential descriptions of the same set of events: the effort to describe one necessarily refers to the other. The belief that one is real and the other only illusory involves the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

    Every contested proposition involves: (i) a logical subject, which involves selection of the most relevant facts from among all the facts there are; and (ii) the abstraction from those selected facts of formal characteristics, aiming primarily at evaluation.

    It must be plain that the standards of relevance according to which the selection of the facts forming the logical subject of a political proposition will be those which are deemed most important in the social-political context in which the proposition is being assembled. This is the partisanship side of things, because the constraints which determine the selection are those which constitute the shared general political point of view of the persons by whom and to whom the proposition is addressed.

    The predicate side is the ideological component, in which the aesthetic preoccupations of the persons involved – say, fairness and justice on the left; strength and prosperity on the right – dominate the selection of values which selected facts forming the logical subject are claimed to exhibit – all for the purpose of promoting one set of values to exclusion of other values which may really be incompatible.

    I have long thought the left owes much of its current ideological weakness to the DLC’s (New Labour’s in Britain) abjuring or subordinating the ideological component of the left’s core political proposition in an effort to assemble a political majority among prosperous people. It was bad judgment based on a misunderstanding of how fundamentally ideology functions in political life.

    While the DLC surrender to the right’s ideological supremacy did seem to succeed for a time(Clinton and Blair) it was at the expense of the ideological strength and ability to ward off the blandishments of the Bob Rubins and Larry Summerses, who really did (and do) think that deregulation and low taxation of financial elites somehow “raises all boats.”

    The result has been unsurprising, in a way, but difficult for the left to justify: It was on Clinton’s watch, after all, that Glass-Steagall was thrown overboard along with welfare “as we know it” (and as it might have been improved).

    What if instead of presiding over a complete capitulation to financialization of our politics, the left had been reduced for several years to an electoral minority honing its message for when the inevitable crash would occur. Would that have been the disaster as preached against by the DLC?

    Now we face a situation in which we have nothing but “pragmatism” masquerading as “reason” with which to answer white-hot demands for something radical to be done. I am reminded of the old joke about the University of Chicago professor chiding his students, “That may be fine in practice, but how could it possibly work in theory?”

    Theory may be dangerous and unpalatable at times; but it cannot be banished from practice. Those who think it can may rightly be accused of hiding their real motives, as poor Obama has discovered.

  16. Andrew Splane says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 3:18 pm (#)

    @Rich: I think you have given the least generous reading of the you man by describing him as a proto-Bakuninist. Whatever mistakes and errors he made, Marx was a revolutionary democrat through and through. Bakunin was an anti-Semitic, authoritarian intriguer. He wrote, for example, in an 1871 letter to his supporters:

    “Well now, this whole Jewish world which constitutes a single exploiting sect, a sort of bloodsucker people, a collective parasite…this world is presently, at least in great part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand and of the Rothschilds on the other…. Jewish solidarity, that powerful solidarity that has maintained itself through all history, united them.”

  17. Molly Freeman says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 3:36 pm (#)

    Brilliant exegesis, however, …. we of the ‘older left’ need to be open to altering our perceptions and concepts emergent with the experiences of younger generations as well as developments in social theory and economics. For example, you cite Doug Henwood’s lament re the ideological confusion of the protesters, and quoted a 25-year-old photographer stating that the protests were “not about left versus right” but about “hierarchy versus autonomy”.

    Another frame that addresses common flaws in capitalism and socialism is to think in terms of patterns of domination and patterns of partnership. Both capitalism and socialism have been and are practiced on a continuum between domination and partnership. The “traditional” left to which you refer does not have all that stellar a past on such a continuum…. Let us hope we and the Occupy movement can improve on our past.

  18. Suzanne Rosser says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 4:46 pm (#)

    The “Left isn’t disappearing, it’s became mediocre. Thus it has faded and merged into the Mainstream fabric of America. This is what many thought was the righteous end game goal.

    Mediocracy is always death of the soul, the corroding aspect of the general consensus. Mediocracy is a suffocating dispersing of energy until there is no life force.

    The progressive, liberal Left has always known this and never ascribed to it but we were demonized for always trying to elevate the status quo. Or of ‘never being satisfied’.

    The so called 1% just took advantage of that situation as it is in their nature to do.

  19. Kevin D. says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 5:16 pm (#)

    Digby has used the term “tribe” where you use the term “partisan”. I think the connotations of primitiveness that come with the term “tribalism” make it better suited for use in your excellent argument.

  20. Grr says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 6:38 pm (#)

    Karl Marx? It’s 2011, and you’re concluding with Marx (young or old), at marxists.org? C’mon.

  21. Peter Hamlin says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 7:47 pm (#)

    There has always been a third party, which is often the majority party, which I will deem the party of Anomie. It is the party of the disenfranchised, who for a variety of ideologies and personal convictions, find the political process repugnant and insidious. They remove themselves from the national political stage to seek meaning, growth, and community on more actionable levels.

    The franchised, on the other behalf, create ideological facets to portray the ideal that there is choice and mobility in the American caste system. Their arguments are about whether to wear brown shoes or black. Their ultimate reason for existence is to self assign the assets of the general welfare.

    It is only at points when they self-assign ALL of the current and future assets in the General Welfare to themselves AND hold the disenfranchised responsible for the losses that the disenfranchised become franchised for a moment. This is such a moment.

    There was another at the turn of the last century when the Bohemian Anarchists strolled by the industrialists homes and asked for bread. The industrialists responded by arranging a global war, not to much different than the current one, and marched the disenfranchised up hills like the Somme, where they were slaughtered wholesale. The silver lining was that the industrialists made enough out of armaments sales to pull the nation out of its deflation and debt.

    All ideologies have sociological roots; but some are deeply sociopathic at their core; such is the logic that fuels “Shock and Awe”, Predator Drones, and Credit Default Swaps. We are, through sins of omission and commission, all weapons of mass destruction (including our own).

  22. Sandwichman says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 8:46 pm (#)

    Grr: “Karl Marx? It’s 2011, and you’re concluding with Marx (young or old), at marxists.org? C’mon.”

    What Grr has perhaps not grasped is that the bulk of contemporary “conventional economic wisdom” is a throwback to the popularized classical political economy from the 1830s and earlier. In that context, the Marx of the 1840s is remarkably advanced.

  23. Sandwichman says:

    October 18th, 2011 at 9:30 pm (#)

    I should have mentioned that the conventional wisdom is a half-remembered throw-back to the ancient theories whose premises have been forgotten.

  24. guest says:

    October 19th, 2011 at 1:53 am (#)

    “Post-Civil Rights Act, the parties have become more coherent and, as such, the ideological distance between both median members and the leftward (Republican) and rightward (Democratic) edge has increased. There used to be liberal Republicans, and a substantial part of previous Democratic majorities relied on very, very conservative Democrats – this just isn’t the case anymore (Ben Nelson has nothing on, well, Strom Thurmond).”

    That might be true for gay rights or other social issues. But economically, the limousine neoliberals have completely abandoned the working classes. Take for example the Dem’s most recent attempt at addressing US unemployment with 3 free trade agreements. How Orwellian was that? That’s up there with BushCheney’s greatest hits. Those differences on social issues are nothing but a fig leaf hiding the fact that the elected D’s and R’s have the same agenda for doing the bidding of the same fat cats, including dismantling of the New Deal.

  25. Derrick Gibson says:

    October 19th, 2011 at 9:23 am (#)

    Love the post, would have loved more an explicit call for action in the conclusion, but how can you argue with a simple quotation of Marx – after a walk that leads the reader inexorably to that point?

    To the commenter concerned about rising interest rates and inevitable punishment when the day of payback arrives: please note the presence of the 30-year bond. Bond buyers are bellying up to the bar to buy these by the bucket-load; a government that does not take advantage of that reality is a government which commits malpractice.

  26. Peter Hamlin says:

    October 20th, 2011 at 9:49 am (#)

    I would suggest that a government which employs proactive forces to create such cheap and risk insensitive bonds is committing malpractice.

    I see everywhere a condescension, typically from warm armchairs, for the lack of sophistication and focus for those whom are protesting. What shocks me most is the lack of knowledge and outrage regarding the privatization of financial markets and the evolution of financial instruments which have allowed the exploitation and predation of sovereign wealth. The most intelligent people I know have no knowledge of the way in which the markets were liberalized in the past decades to allow credit default swaps, dark pools, high freguency trading schemes and commodities derivatives transfer wealth.

    It is unlikely through a social dissent that we will accomplish the disintegration of the genes responsible for greed or conquest without enhancing those attributes in ourselves. We do have the capability through focused social action to sublimate those genes in the name of higher social goals. It is the relapse of those powers of sublimation, many inherent in the post depression securities legislation, which has created the present debacle. The most strident took a decade to be placed…and the result was decades of relative stability and prosperity.

    The true costs, and they will be real, of the past decades orgy of greed, have been deferred. They will be the impetus for concerted action and new voices we can only imagine. The materialization which has been both source and sustenance for our alienation will be transcended. We have been at this juncture before, almost on a bi-generational timeline, in our uneasy path between feudalism and socialism.

    As this evolves I am focusing my actions on making legislators accountable for opening Pandora’s box and educating those whom I can on the perils of so called ‘free markets’.

  27. What’s wrong with ideology? « Jonathan R. Walton says:

    October 20th, 2011 at 1:56 pm (#)

    [...] politics, and on the other hand, the importance of actual contests of political ideology.” Read on. We often reject ideology (the beliefs, values, and opinions that shape our understanding of the [...]

  28. Have Coffee Will Write » Blog Archive » RUSSO LIKES: THE PARTISAN AND THE POLITICAL… says:

    October 22nd, 2011 at 11:15 am (#)

    [...] Peter Frase writes: [O]rdinary people hate partisanship, and elites hate ideology. Hence the elite is constantly attempting to misrepresent the latter as the former. And the masses sometimes respond by repudiating ideology when they mean to reject partisanship. [...]

  29. General Strike Links, General Links, 11/2/11 | Rortybomb says:

    November 2nd, 2011 at 12:09 pm (#)

    [...] case you missed it before, Peter Frase on the way elites blur ideology and partisanship.  Great post (he’s been on a roll lately).  Also Gordon Lafer on Why Occupy Wall Street Has [...]

  30. Voting on 3 Quarks Daily’s Best Politics and Social Science Blog Writing Prize is Underway | Rortybomb says:

    December 8th, 2011 at 10:56 am (#)

    [...] blog should be on your must-read list; his recent post on partisanship and ideology is equally [...]

  31. Yes, we need leadership — but what kind of leadership? « Olympia Views says:

    March 27th, 2012 at 9:22 am (#)

    [...] David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo linked to an essay by sociologist Peter Frase.  In “The Partisan and the Political,” Frase argues that political debate in this country suffers from “widespread [...]

  32. The Partisan and the Political | HAPGOOD says:

    April 21st, 2012 at 10:07 pm (#)

    [...] The Partisan and the Political [...]

  33. The Partisan and the Political | Making Fair Comparisons says:

    April 21st, 2012 at 10:23 pm (#)

    [...] The Partisan and the Political [...]

Leave a Response