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Showing posts tagged corey robin

For whenever liberal intellectuals are confronted with political extremism, the knotty social intelligence that normally informs their work unravels. The radical is reduced to a true believer, his beliefs a litany of crazy proverbs, his personality an inscrutable paranoia. Whether the cause is communism or the Black Panthers, feminism or the abolitionists, the liberal resorts to a familiar ghost story—of the self, evacuated for the sake of an incoming ideology—where, as is true of all such tales, the main character is never the ghost but always the teller.
Corey Robin, quoting an older article he wrote that’s also relevant to the media fuss over Edward Snowden’s motives.


guatepolitics:

sihubogenocidio:

U.S. President Ronald Reagan meets with General Ríos Montt after he came to power in 1982 via a U.S.-backed military coup.

Ohhhh, Ronnie… Many Latin@s remember Reagan as the father of IRCA, which regularized immigration status for many Latin@s in the US. South of the border, though, he was kicking it with Ríos Montt and hand-waving at (correct) allegations that the US was supporting a genocidal military dictator.

I reblogged this photo not too long ago, but I’ll do it again to direct everyone’s attention to this review of Greg Grandin’s The Last Colonial Massacre (which I haven’t managed to find a copy of, but I’ve seen enough of Grandin’s work to feel confident in recommending it) by Corey Robin. The opening paragraph makes a great caption for this photo:

On 5 December 1982, Ronald Reagan met the Guatemalan president, Efraín Ríos Montt, in Honduras. It was a useful meeting for Reagan. ‘Well, I learned a lot,’ he told reporters on Air Force One. ‘You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.’ It was also a useful meeting for Ríos Montt. Reagan declared him ‘a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy’, and claimed that the Guatemalan strongman was getting ‘a bum rap’ from human rights organisations for his military’s campaign against leftist guerrillas. The next day, one of Guatemala’s elite platoons entered a jungle village called Las Dos Erres and killed 162 of its inhabitants, 67 of them children. Soldiers grabbed babies and toddlers by their legs, swung them in the air, and smashed their heads against a wall. Older children and adults were forced to kneel at the edge of a well, where a single blow from a sledgehammer sent them plummeting below. The platoon then raped a selection of women and girls it had saved for last, pummelling their stomachs in order to force the pregnant among them to miscarry. They tossed the women into the well and filled it with dirt, burying an unlucky few alive. The only traces of the bodies later visitors would find were blood on the walls and placentas and umbilical cords on the ground.

guatepolitics:

sihubogenocidio:

U.S. President Ronald Reagan meets with General Ríos Montt after he came to power in 1982 via a U.S.-backed military coup.

Ohhhh, Ronnie… Many Latin@s remember Reagan as the father of IRCA, which regularized immigration status for many Latin@s in the US. South of the border, though, he was kicking it with Ríos Montt and hand-waving at (correct) allegations that the US was supporting a genocidal military dictator.

I reblogged this photo not too long ago, but I’ll do it again to direct everyone’s attention to this review of Greg Grandin’s The Last Colonial Massacre (which I haven’t managed to find a copy of, but I’ve seen enough of Grandin’s work to feel confident in recommending it) by Corey Robin. The opening paragraph makes a great caption for this photo:

On 5 December 1982, Ronald Reagan met the Guatemalan president, Efraín Ríos Montt, in Honduras. It was a useful meeting for Reagan. ‘Well, I learned a lot,’ he told reporters on Air Force One. ‘You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.’ It was also a useful meeting for Ríos Montt. Reagan declared him ‘a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy’, and claimed that the Guatemalan strongman was getting ‘a bum rap’ from human rights organisations for his military’s campaign against leftist guerrillas. The next day, one of Guatemala’s elite platoons entered a jungle village called Las Dos Erres and killed 162 of its inhabitants, 67 of them children. Soldiers grabbed babies and toddlers by their legs, swung them in the air, and smashed their heads against a wall. Older children and adults were forced to kneel at the edge of a well, where a single blow from a sledgehammer sent them plummeting below. The platoon then raped a selection of women and girls it had saved for last, pummelling their stomachs in order to force the pregnant among them to miscarry. They tossed the women into the well and filled it with dirt, burying an unlucky few alive. The only traces of the bodies later visitors would find were blood on the walls and placentas and umbilical cords on the ground.



Sweet. It’s nice to actually know that I didn’t completely misinterpret Corey’s ideas.

In case you missed my post.



Ross Douthat, reactionary NY Times columnist, is concerned about what will happen if the working class doesn’t have bosses to keep us in our places

So, Ross Douthat, current holder of the “junior conservative columnist” sinecure at the New York Times, had one of his typical pieces lamenting the decline of family values and all that in this Sunday’s paper. This column, “A World Without Work,” sees Douthat wringing his hands over the existence of “a kind of post-employment, in which people drop out of the work force and find ways to live, more or less permanently, without a steady job.”

Now, one inclined to think about things from a structural perspective might think that this trend has much to do with the fact that employers have increasingly eliminated benefits and any notion of stability in working-class jobs. We live in a world where many of the options available are short-term and part-time, often with hours changing on a weekly basis. So people who need the money to survive managed to cobble something together. Peter Frase has a much better explanation of the politics of a post-work economy and what Douthat gets wrong than I could possibly write. Also, on the same theme is Freddie deBoer.

Go read those to for more on post-work economies. I’m more interested in a different angle. Just to be clever, I’ll segue with this quote from Freddie’s piece:

I imagine other people are out there writing blog posts and Tweets and Facebook comments and assorted about Douthat’s post, and will receive no money for doing so. To the ones who are expressing skepticism: why are you participating in that labor if it accrues no material benefit to you? 

Well, Freddie, my purpose here is use the article to discuss Corey Robin’s theory of conservatism, as his book on the subject, The Reactionary Mind, is now available in paperback for those put off by the price when I’ve plugged it before. Briefly put, Robin’s thesis is that throughout history, conservatism is “a meditation on—and theoretical rendition of—the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.” I have to agree with Mike Konczal that “after reading it, it is hard for me to view conservatives without using its terms, models and ideas.” Ross Douthat is just today’s example. This will simply concern the book’s introductory chapter, much of which is reproduced, with some more topical material, as this essay. So you can follow along.

Douthat writes of the prospect of people exercising their “right not to have a boss”:

[S]hould it really trouble us…?

The answer is yes — but mostly because the decline of work carries social costs as well as an economic price tag. Even a grinding job tends to be an important source of social capital, providing everyday structure for people who live alone, a place to meet friends and kindle romances for people who lack other forms of community, a path away from crime and prison for young men, an example to children and a source of self-respect for parents.

This really gets at the heart of the entire synthesis of free-market ideology and social conservatism that makes up today’s Republican Party, and that many liberals have difficulty understanding. Robin’s book makes sense of the alliance between the two. Referencing Milton Friedman, he writes that “when the libertarian looks out upon society, he does not see isolated individuals; he sees private, often hierarchical, groups, where a father governs his family and an owner his employees.” It is these groups, and the hierarchical nature thereof, that Douthat seeks to defend from a society where the proletariat aren’t tied to their employers.

The Douthat article is especially interesting in its fusion of somewhat more libertarian-oriented beliefs in workplace hierarchy and communitarian values (with a side helping of disappointment in those of us not fucking the way the Pope would like). That might be relatively rare today, but Robin quotes Edmund Burke fretting similarly about the French Revolution:

The real object [is] to break all those connexions, natural and civil, that regulate and hold together the community by a chain of subordination; to raise soldiers against their officers; servants against their masters; tradesmen against their customers; artificers against their employers; tenants against their landlords; curates against their bishops; and children against their parents.”

The concept here is something Robin refers to as “the private life of power.” He writes of the historical trend:

Historically, the conservative has sought to forestall the march of democracy in both the public and the private spheres, on the assumption that advances in the one necessarily spur advances in the other. Still, the more profound and prophetic stance on the right has been to cede the field of the public, if he must, but stand fast in the private. Allow men and women to become democratic citizens of the state; make sure they remain feudal subjects in the family, the factory, and the field. The priority of conservative political argument has been the maintenance of private regimes of power—even at the cost of the strength and integrity of the state.

At the close of his article, Douthat warns that what is really in danger from “the slow decline of work” is nothing short of “human flourishing.” I it takes a special kind of asshole to sit at his well-paid keyboard job pronouncing from the pages of the nation’s paper of record that it is our bosses that enable us to flourish by working for them at whatever shitty job we may have. But that’s the essence of conservative philosophy. To justify as necessary and essential and proper, what are basically feudal relationships.

When done well, there is a a certain appeal to conservative arguments. Duothat’s column isn’t really a case of that. It could easily be said that he’s simply a hack (and I’ll say it, he is), but an essential element of Robin’s thesis explains why this seems unusually muddled, intellectually speaking:

Conservatism is about power besieged and power protected. It is an activist doctrine for an activist time. It waxes in response to movements from below and wanes in response to their disappearance, as Hayek and other conservatives admit.

Here in 2013, after a long, steady decline in the power of the working class within our workplaces, the prospect of a few people falling out the bottom of the workforce is hardly “power besieged.” Conservatism as an intellectual force has been on the wane as conservatism as a political force has been on a winning streak. Perhaps the logic we see here is well out in the vanguard of a future reaction, or perhaps it shall find itself on the ash heap of history before the paper it’s written on makes it to the landfill.

 


I don’t want the state to pardon Aaron Swartz

coreyrobin:

I completely understand why some would want the state to pardon Aaron Swartz. But something about that move — and the wording of this petition — doesn’t sit right. It grants the state too much: not just the power to pardon Swartz but, effectively, the power to pardon itself. As my friend Michael Pollak pointed out to me, “Under our laws, Swartz was still innocent. Therein lies the crime of what the state did to him. This would remove it.” I want the death of Swartz, and the prosecution that helped produce it, to hang around the neck of the state for a very long time. If the state wishes to remove it, let it start by curbing its prosecutorial zeal, of which Swartz was sadly only one victim.

Corey’s longer remarks are here.

I have to say, I think I agree with this. I saw the White House petition to pardon Aaaron over the weekend, and the idea of signing it didn’t feel right for some reason. So I held off then, and I think that’s correct. A Presidential pardon, at this point is simply a way for the government to wash its hands of the matter. It certainly doesn’t help Aaron Swartz, who’s dead. And it doesn’t help the next victim of a prosecutor that feels entitled to use the justice system to break people. It focuses solely on the particular case, not on the system that makes cases like Aaron’s an inevitability.

There’s another petition, to remove the US Attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, from office. This one I think does something more useful. Sure, it’s focused again on the particular individual. But a big part of the systemic problem is that we, the populace in general, reward tough-on-crime prosecutors and look the other way when they abuse the wide discretion they have. It’s a small step, but it is a step in the correct direction.

 


George Allen, one of the most loathsome creatures…

coreyrobin:

…in the country, will not be joining the Senate, one of the most loathsome institutions in the country.

Haha. But now you’re making me feel guilty for helping send Elizabeth Warren, who does seem like a mostly decent person, to the Senate.

 
3 notes

Posted at 11:14pm
Reblogged (Post reblogged from coreyrobin)
Tagged politics corey robin

 


Hayek on The New Inquiry and Jacobin

coreyrobin:

“There are few greater dangers to political stability than the existence of an intellectual proletariat who find no outlet for their learning.” (Constitution of Liberty, p. 506)

Discovery of the day: Corey Robin (of whom I’m a fan) is now on Tumblr. Also, this quote is amazing. If there’s one thing I am, it’s an intellectual prole with only a Tumblr account as an outlet for this sort of thing. I mean, have you tried discussing politics on Facebook?

Also, the quote above is on page 383 in my copy of The Constitution of Liberty. I was really into Hayek many years ago, but never actually read more than a couple pages of it, due to how cheap the typesetting in it is. Literally difficult to read. Looks like they’ve fixed that problem, as the fact that recent economic history has shown Hayek to be completely wrong has led to a resurgence of interest in his work, and the book’s got a fancy new edition.

 






mohandasgandhi:

I get really excited when other people realize what a complete creep (and douchelord) Antonin Scalia is. I apologize. I’ve had so much fun reading his legal opinions in my studies and have had very few people to share my enthusiasm with.
Let’s keep this anti-Scalia energy going. It may re-energize my enthusiasm for Tumblr.

I don’t think the whole thing is online, but I think Corey Robin’s essay “Affirmative Action Baby” is one of the best things I’ve read about Scalia:

More than coloring outside the lines of the Constitution, it was the Court’s “Mr. Fix-It Mentality,” in Scalia’s words, its “mission to Make Everything Come Out Right,” that enraged him.
Scalia’s mission, by contrast, is to make everything come out wrong. A Scalia opinion, to borrow a phrase from New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot, is “the jurisprudential equivalent of smashing a guitar on stage.” Scalia may have once declared the rule of law the law of rules—leading some to mistake him for a stereotypical conservative—but rules and laws have a particular frisson for him. Where others look to them for stabilizing checks or reassuring supports, Scalia looks for exhilarating impediments and vertiginous barriers. Where others seek security, Scalia seeks sublimity. Rules and laws make life harder, and harder is everything. “Being tough and traditional is a heavy cross to bear,” he tells one reporter. “Duresse oblige.”

mohandasgandhi:

I get really excited when other people realize what a complete creep (and douchelord) Antonin Scalia is. I apologize. I’ve had so much fun reading his legal opinions in my studies and have had very few people to share my enthusiasm with.

Let’s keep this anti-Scalia energy going. It may re-energize my enthusiasm for Tumblr.

I don’t think the whole thing is online, but I think Corey Robin’s essay “Affirmative Action Baby” is one of the best things I’ve read about Scalia:

More than coloring outside the lines of the Constitution, it was the Court’s “Mr. Fix-It Mentality,” in Scalia’s words, its “mission to Make Everything Come Out Right,” that enraged him.

Scalia’s mission, by contrast, is to make everything come out wrong. A Scalia opinion, to borrow a phrase from New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot, is “the jurisprudential equivalent of smashing a guitar on stage.” Scalia may have once declared the rule of law the law of rules—leading some to mistake him for a stereotypical conservative—but rules and laws have a particular frisson for him. Where others look to them for stabilizing checks or reassuring supports, Scalia looks for exhilarating impediments and vertiginous barriers. Where others seek security, Scalia seeks sublimity. Rules and laws make life harder, and harder is everything. “Being tough and traditional is a heavy cross to bear,” he tells one reporter. “Duresse oblige.”



Today, American conservatism has degenerated into an intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology. It offers nothing more than bumper-sticker slogans that pander to the prejudices and ignorance of the lowest common denominator in order to enrich and empower an oligarchic elite. Angry, cruel and sneering, it is exemplified by the carnival barkers on talk radio and Fox News. High in volume, but devoid of substance, it has no long-term future because it lacks credible solutions to the range of very real problems American society is facing. Indeed, what passes for “conservatism” today is actually nothing of the sort. Modern American conservatism has forgotten its rich legacy and betrayed its best traditions. It has become infected with a virulent strain of extreme libertarianism heavily influenced by the thinking of Ayn Rand.

A Phoenix Rising: Common-Good Conservatism (via azspot)

Conservatism is, first and foremost, a defence of (and deference to) the existing class structure and the hierarchy implicit in that structure. Historically, American conservatives may have seemed more calm and reasonable, but this type of reactionary backlash isn’t necessarily new - I hesitate to say this “conservatism is nothing of the sort”. These ugly strains have appeared, disappeared and reappeared throughout the history of conservative thought.* This isn’t to say that modern conservatives aren’t obstructionist fuckwits, just that this isn’t a novel instance in American history or in the history of reactionary politics.

*See Corey Robin’s book “The Reactionary Mind” or vist his website, coreyrobin.com for much more eloquent discussions of this idea.

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity)

Nice to see Corey Robin’s ideas gaining more support. I think we’ll be much more effective at fighting for left-wing causes if we stop thinking of conservatism as a once-noble intellectual tradition that just happens to have gotten degraded recently, and start thinking of it is the perpetual enemy of democratic progress, which may have gotten a bit intellectually moribund lately due to a lack of any recent democratic progress to oppose.

See also Rick Perlstein, “Why Conservatives Are Still Crazy After All These Years.



Scalia’s mission, by contrast, is to make everything come out wrong. A Scalia opinion, to borrow a phrase from New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot, is “the jurisprudential equivalent of smashing a guitar on stage.” Scalia may have once declared the rule of law the law of rules—leading some to mistake him for a stereotypical conservative—but rules and laws have a particular frisson for him. Where others look to them for stabilizing checks or reassuring supports, Scalia looks for exhilarating impediments and vertiginous barriers. Where others seek security, Scalia seeks sublimity. Rules and laws make life harder, and harder is everything. “Being tough and traditional is a heavy cross to bear,” he tells one reporter. “Duresse oblige.”

Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind (an excerpt from this chapter, “Affirmative Action Baby,” is here)

I think this really clarifies a lot of the discussion of the healthcare reform case over the last couple of days during oral arguments. Basically, rather than looking at the case law, the justices have been peppering the lawyers with questions about a “limiting principle” that would, for example, prevent the Commerce Clause from being used to allow the government to require people to eat broccoli for their health. Those whose experience with the court goes back to a previous era, such as Reagan’s Solicitor General Charles Fried, seem surprised that the Court would take this approach, especially considering that they could craft their own damn rule if it’s that important to them.

I think it’s a demonstration of the extent to which Scalia’s approach, as described above, has become the dominant one. Sure, Kennedy might come up with a limiting principle that allows an individual mandate. But either way the fact is that it seems like it will be decided that way, rather than using Fried’s logic of “health care is interstate commerce. Is this a regulation of it? Yes. End of story.” The Court now considers its highest function to be nailing down where a couple hundred year old text erected some sort of “exhilarating impediment” to Congress solving one of the nation’s biggest problems. They don’t consider themselves serious unless they can construct a neat line dividing the impermissible from the permissible without regard to the thirty million uninsured who will be affected. I mean, what’s the purpose of having a Commerce Clause if not to prevent the government from helping people, right?





It’s often forgotten that one of the main catalysts for the rise of the Christian Right was not school prayer or abortion but the defense of Southern private schools that were created in response to desegregation. By 1970, 400,000 white children were attending these “segregation academies.” States like Mississippi gave students tuition grants, and until the Nixon administration overturned the practice, the IRS gave the donors to these schools tax exemptions. And it was none other than Richard Viguerie, founder of the New Right and pioneer of its use of direct-mail tactics, who said that the attack on these public subsidies by the Civil Rights Movement and liberal courts “was the spark that ignited the religious right’s involvement in real politics.”

Corey Robin, “Birth Control McCarthyism” which is a pretty interesting piece about Arizona’s proposed legislation to allow employers to question their employees about their contraceptive use. He makes three main points, each relating to a theme that he’s discussed on previous occasions, about the bill in question:

  1. “The private life of power” – The bill reinforces private hierarchies, both in employer/employee relations and in gender relations.
  2. “Fear, American style” – Robin discusses the American method of having the private sector take care of keeping people in line. The direct comparison he uses is with employers taking McCarthyism into their own hands, but he notes the general tendency being described a hundred years earlier by de Toqueville as well. (I’ve blogged before about a post of his along similar lines)
  3. “Whose freedom?” – This is where the quote above is found. This relates to the one line of Robin’s that I find the most useful for explaining so many things in politics: “[C]onservatism adapts and adopts, often unconsciously, the language of democratic reform to the cause of hierarchy.” The right reframes a position in favor of keeping people down so as to claim that it’s about “freedom.” Thus, allowing bosses to pry into their employees’ reproductive health choices is presented as something that would increase the religious freedom of the bosses. “Religious freedom” was the same argument, and just as bullshit then, that was used to try to defend the “segregation academies.”


The existence of the Occupy movement is the movement’s “one demand”

It’s been a while since the “should Occupy Wall Street makes demands” debate has reared its head. I suppose it’s a sign that there’s still life left in the movement that the New York Review of Books rehashes it. And Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic has a blog piece up about their article in which he comments on the comparison between OWS and the Civil Rights movement:

To my mind, Occupy’s greatest contribution was placing the wealth gap on the radar. But the Civil Rights movement didn’t merely seek to put segregation “on the radar.” It sought to end it. To merely highlight the problem, and then to refuse to engage would have been everything the Civil Rights movement wasn’t. It would have been cynical.

The position he takes on this bugs me.

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