Monday, December 1, 2014

Can capitalism and democracy co-exist?

See Chris Hedges' interview of Sheldon Wolin here. A few Wolin excerpts follow:

"There's been a kind of conjuncture between the way that social and educational institutions have shaped a certain kind of mentality among students, among faculty, and so on, and the media itself, that are in lockstep with the requirements of the kind of political economic order that we have now, and that the basic question, I think, has been that we have seen the kind of absorption of politics and the political order into so many nonpolitical categories--of economics, sociology, even religion--that we sort of lost the whole, it seems to me, unique character of political institutions, which is that they're supposed to embody the kind of substantive hopes of ordinary people, in terms of the kind of present and future that they want. And that's what democracy is supposed to be about."

"Nietzsche was trying to really retrieve a notion of the value, intrinsic value, of political life. And he found it, however, only comprehensible to him in terms of some kind of dichotomy between elite and mass. [...] Nietzsche would inevitably try to turn into vehicles for celebrating or encouraging elite formations. And he simply could not conceive of a society that would be worthwhile in which elites were not given the most prominent and leading role. He just couldn't conceive it. He had the kind of 19th century sort of Hegelian notion that the masses were ignorant, they were intolerant, they were against progress, and all the rest of it. He simply, like so many very good writers in the 19th century, didn't know what to do with the, quote, people."

"The best political movement, I think, which did try to understand them in a significant way, strangely enough, was the American progressive movement, which was very much rooted in American history, in American institutions, but saw quite clearly the dangers that it was getting into and the need for really significant reform that required democratic means, not elitist means, for their solution."

"The Koch brothers purchase[d] [...] the Republican Party. They literally bought it. Literally. And they had a specific amount they paid, and now they've got it. There hasn't been anything like that in American history. To be sure, powerful economic interests have influenced political parties, especially the Republicans, but this kind of gross takeover, in which the party is put in the pocket of two individuals, is without precedent. And that means something serious. It means that, among other things, you no longer have a viable opposition party. And while however much many of us may disagree with the Republicans, there is still an important place for disagreement. And now it seems to me that's all gone. It's now become a personal vehicle of two people. And God only knows what they're going to do with it, but I wouldn't hold my breath if you think constructive results are going to follow."

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