Saturday, February 14, 2009

Not with a Bang but a Whimper

Two quick points:
First, it is utterly surprising to me how quickly the language around the economy and politics has changed. For years, even decades, we have heard not only that "free markets" could regulate themselves, but that they were the key to regulating anything else, to fixing any social ill, from health care to social security. Now this seems to be very much in question. Of course the charges of socialism, first against Obama and now against the stimulus package, are hyperbolic and hysterical. The hysteria is, however, a symptom, a symptom of profound unease around the once fundamental justifications of neoliberalism and capitalism. Something has changed, but what?

Second, all of this has taken place with very little popular revolt and uprising, at least in this country. There was the much discussed incident at Republic Doors in Chicago, but not much aside from that. There have been large protests in Europe, but in the US "the left" has not even managed to put pressure on the stimulus package. Of course there has been a vague sense of anger and bitterness, manifested primarily in terms jokes about bankers.

The question then is how do these two things combine? What, if anything, will fill the void left behind by the fantasies of the market? And when, if ever, will people take to the streets?

1 comment:

Will Roberts said...

Frankly, it seems as if every form of organization on the left was funneled into electing Obama (which is itself a statement about the lack of independence of the left in the US), and now that Obama has been elected, the people who elected him do not have a center of gravity apart from his policies. So, instead of the president defining the middle of the road, with political pressure arrayed on either side, the left is entirely behind Obama, and so he only gets pressure from the right. Not a good dynamic, for sure.

I'm actually pretty sympathetic to Obama's theory that movements need charismatic leaders--Obama's Leninism, since we've entered the world of discourse in which all positions are positions within socialism--but if Obama is to be the tribune of the people then he needs to connect the dots for folks. In lieu of that, we need alternative organizations.