Saturday, February 27, 2016

Melancholy Science by Gillian Rose


Adorno starts from the assumption of a split and antagonistic reality which cannot be adequately represented by any system which makes its goals unity and simplicity or clarity. He shared Nietzsche’s program of a ‘transvaluation of all values.’ ‘Morality’, ‘values’ and ‘norms’ do not imply a moral dimension distinct from other dimensions but characterize the construction and imposition of ‘reality’.  Adorno and Nietzsche refused complicity with that world, they rejected the prevalent norms and values  in their day on the grounds that they had come to legitimize a society that in no way corresponded to them – they had become lies. Adorno shared Nietzsche’s epistemological aim to demonstrate that the apparent fixity of the world or values arises from the systematic debasement of dynamics aspects of reality in our thinking and philosophy.

Adorno states repeatedly that society and consciousness of society have become increasingly reified. In places, he says that they have become completely reified. To say that society is ‘completely reified’ is to say that the domination of the exchange process has increased to the point where it controls institutions, behavior and class formation in such a way that it prevents the formation of any independent and critical consciousness. To say that consciousness is ‘completely reified’ is to say that it is capable only of knowing the appearance of society, of describing institutions and behavior as if their current mode of functioning were an inherent and invariant characteristic or property, as if they, as objects, ‘fulfill their concepts.’ [It is to believe, for example, that global markets  actually reflect the concept of ‘free’ when they are actually circumscribed by innumerable restrictions in the form of tariffs, subsidies and tax haven; that markets are competitive when the laws and institutions of State, modes of production and social relations serve more and more to reduce competition; that the individual is autonomous when]  the increased fragmentation of the division of labor has not only continued to make men into parts of  the machinery of capitalism but has induced them to become tools to themselves, to recognize and treat themselves as means rather than ends.  This leads to a situation in late capitalist society in which there is too little organization where organization should be necessary, in forming the material conditions of material life and the relations between men depending on them, and too much organization in the private sphere in which consciousness itself is formed. Complexity in the private sphere does not reflect autonomy but, confusion and uncertainty



  To say that consciousness of society is completely reified, however, implies that no critical consciousness or theory is possible. It is to say that the underlying processes of society are completely hidden and that the utopian possibilities within it are inconceivable. The mind is impotent; the object is inaccessible. The thesis of complete reification is therefore unstatable because if it were true it could not be known.  Adorno employed strategies to avoid such a paradox. He affirms that there must always be a possibility of what he calls non-identity or critical thought, however latent it may be in certain times and circumstances. Adorno’s account of reification and of identity thinking [ that is the composing of false equivalencies between the objects of consciousness or , conversely, contriving differences where none exist]  explain how the mind works on the meaning of received concepts without implying that it devised those concepts in the first place. According to his account, society imposes concepts on us, which we re-impose on society. The systematic mis-recognition of the relation between concepts and the underlying social reality (illusion) is due to a social process, the production of value in exchange. Concepts do not match the objects to which they refer, “Meaning’ thus becomes opaque.

Adorno’s idea of a ‘Negative Dialectic’ is intended to cut across the conventional distinction between theory and practice by delineating theory as a form of intervention which combats prevalent modes of identity thinking, without in turn setting up a new identity between concepts and reality. Concepts never represent reality in a perfect or ideal sense, constellations of concepts do a better job but not in the sense of representing a totality or achieving universality.

“If thinking teachers itself that part of its meaning is what, in turn, is not thought then its prison has windows.”

Adorno’s melancholy science is not resigned, quiescent of pessimistic. It reasons that theory, just like the philosophy it was designed to replace, tends to overreach itself, with dubious political consequences. The social reality of advanced capitalist society is more intractable than such theory is willing to concede, and Adorno had a fine dialectical sense for its paradoxes. He was planning a work of moral philosophy when he died. His ‘morality’ is a praxis of thought not a recipe for social and political action.




Friday, February 19, 2016

The Future of National Liberation by Michael Walzer


In October 2004, the socialist magazine Janata reported on a conference in New Delhi on the condition of Muslim women; the conferees included feminists activists and (male) members of the Muslim Personal Law Board.

Naturally, the two groups disagreed, but what was most interesting was that ‘numerous women participants argued . . .from within the Islamic paradigm, quoting verse after verse from the Qur’an and citing traditions attributed to the Prophet to make their case for gender justice.” These women were a new force, says the Janata reporter; they had the “moral authority that feminists who are seen as alienated from their societies and traditions lack.”

The same claim can be made by members of Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), a feminist organization founded in the 1980s by women from a number of Muslim majority countries, including Algeria, whose work has reached to India, where Muslims are a very large minority. The members of WLUML are both religious and secular, and one of their central goals is to provide reinterpretations of Muslim laws relating to the status of women. The plural form (‘Laws”) is important to their project. They insist that there are different understandings and different enactments of what is always called Qur’anic law, not a single authoritative version delivered by learned men, as religious zealots insist. The plural for means that women can join the argument, and by joining the argument rather than standing outside it, they hope to win at least a hearing from religious Muslims, men and women alike. If they are learned, as many of them are, they can also be authoritative.

Amartya Sen lays claim to the same kind of moral authority for democrats and pluralists when he argues that the ideas of public debate and respect for religious differences have roots in ancient Indian thought. He provides many examples. Her claims that important modern ideas aren’t modern inventions; they were expressed long ago, though in different idioms. They are part of a common heritage that may have to be selectively rejected but that can also be selectively reclaimed. Western ideas about liberty and equality can be naturalized in India. It may well be true that the best arguments for gender justice and for democratic pluralism are secular and philosophical in character. But philosophy doesn’t rule the day here, the best moral and political arguments are ones derived from and connect with the inherited culture of the people who need to be convinced. Engagement with that culture is what Nehru’s critics mean by “negotiation.” They argue that secularization in the West derives from a political negotiation with Protestant Christianity, so they imagine internal arguments that might produce Hindi and Muslim versions of secular doctrine – and also of democratic, egalitarian, and feminist doctrines.

The feminist scholar Uma Narayan has worked out a theoretical version of these arguments in her book Dislocating Cultures. She takes on the charge that demands for gender equality represent “a capitulation to the cultural domination of a colonizing Western culture.” As Marx’s articles on India show, this charge can also be a boast: all good modern ideas come from the historically advanced countries of the West. It is certainly true that any leaders of the national liberation movements were Westernizers - I have provided many examples. But Narayan submits two important caveats here, with special reference to what was once called the “woman question.” First, when the liberation movements began ( in India in the late 19th century), gender equality was hardly a dominant ideology in the West, and second, Indian feminists can plausibly argue that their struggle for equality “is no less rooted in our experiences within “our cultures,’ no less ‘representative of our complex and changing reality than the views of Indians hostile to feminism.”

Liberation is a reiterative process: it doesn’t happen all at once for everybody inj the world; it happens again and again. But that doesn’t mean that each successive struggle is nothing more than an imitation of the struggle that went before. Yes, many Indian feminists did learn their feminism in the West but they also made in their own in the course  of their engagement with their Indian sisters.

Narayan’s book goes well beyond claiming that feminism has Indian roots. She argues for the cultivation of those roots and makes a very strong case for a connected and naturalized feminism – that is, a feminism embedded in national narratives and religious traditions. She helps us understand that liberation is always  the liberation of a particular group of people confronting a common history. Let me quote one summary statement of her position, which comes very close to the position I defend in this book.

It would be dangerous for feminists . . . to attempt to challenge prevailing views of “religion” and “religious tradition” purely by resort to “secularism.” Many religious traditions are in fact more capacious than fundamentalists adherents allow. Insisting on humane and inclusive interpretations of religious traditions might in many contexts be crucial . . . in countering the deployment of religious discourses for problematic nationalist ends.

This isn’t an argument about stooping to conquer. Narayan writes movingly about the importance of national and religious commitments in the everyday life of ordinary men and women; these commitments shape their sense of who they are and their understanding of the social world. She is proposing an honest and compassionate engagement with these men and women. They are pragmatic, political reasons for such an engagement: refusing it will “marginalize progressive and feminist voices whose . . . political interventions into the discourse of nationalism seem increasingly crucial.” There are also democratic reasons. Narayan quotes Virginia Woolf’s antinationalist lines from 1938: “As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” (Woolf must have been reading Marx on the working class.) Narayan argues that on the contrary, women do have a country; they share a fate with their fellow citizens, who need to hear their voices.

Particular engagements with particular cultures and histories, engagements of the sort Narayan calls for, produce particular versions of secularism and modernity. Most of the militants of national liberation imagined that they were struggling towards a single universal vision, with minor variations reflecting national/ cultural difference. Their visionary ideal was not different from that of the 19th century liberal nationalists like Giuseppe Mazzini, who saw each nation having its distinctive part in the universal orchestra – which would be playing one symphony. Marxists had a more radical singularity in view: the orchestra would consist of individual men and women liberated from both nationality and religion and playing in beautiful, spontaneous harmony. In  Capital, Marx described a factory operating on the same principle, engaged, of course, in universal production. But if modern, secular liberation is ‘negotiated’ in each nation, in each religious community, a highly differentiated universe is the necessary outcome. The orchestra might be cacophonous, requiring negotiations not only within each nation but between and among  them, too, but that is a subject for another time.

Traditionalist worldviews can’t be negated, abolished, or banned; they have to be engaged…

Consider now the Zionist case, the case with which I am most engaged. In Israel it seems clear that the negation of exilic Judaism has failed and that the leap to the biblical past and other efforts to find usable bits and pieces of the tradition serve only top produce a Jewish kitsch, which cannot compete with a revived Judaism. The claim to radical newness gives rise, inexorably, to a radicalized oldness. With Judaism as with Hinduism and Islam, the old oldness may have been more pluralistic, more accepting of difference (in practice if not doctrine), than either the secular liberationists imagine or the religious zealots admit. Maybe. But I don’t think that nostalgia is any more attractive in  Israel than in India.

Much needed to be, and still needs to be, negated: the fearfulness and passivity of traditional Judaism, the role of the court Jew, the dominance of the rabbis, the subordination of women. But alongside the ongoing work of negation, the tradition has to be acknowledged and its different parts ingathered, as the poet Bialik argued: collected, translated, incorporated into the culture of the new. Only then can traditional Judaism be pulled apart, its most important features – laws and maxims, ceremonies and practices, historical and fictional narratives – critically appraised. Only then can those features be accepted, or rejected, or revised, only then can they become the subject of ongoing argument and negotiation.

It is argument itself, with its varying outcomes, that constitutes the Gramscian equilibrium, not any single or final balance of acceptance or rejection. A person can be a radical critic of the religious tradition, as I would be, while still  ‘taking account’ of its value for the Jewish people (or the Indian or the Algerian people). But the commitment top ‘take account’ means a commitment to learn something about the world of one’s opponents. Giving up negation doesn’t mean acceptance, it means, again, intellectual and political engagement.

Writing from a religious perspective, David Hartman has made what might be called an equal and opposite argument: that Jewish Orthodoxy must ‘take account’ of the work of liberation and join the ‘universal struggle to uphold human dignity.’ That will not happen, he writes, until people who “view the Jewish tradition as the natural context in which to express their concerns’ commit themselves to “egalitarianism, human rights, and social justice.” A commitment of that sort would be as innovative and revolutionary as any that the secular Zionists envisaged; it would produce a revised Jewish law and a very different rabbinical leadership. Hartman’s project is one to which Zionist liberation has made a substantial contribution. Perhaps this gift relationship can work both ways. The recognition of tradition as a “natural context” for political engagement is missing in early Zionism (as we have seen); today, I want to argue, its time has come.

Since Zionism is a political movement, the most obvious area for engagement is politics itself. But Zionist negation was first of all a denial that there was a Jewish politics in the exile – or even a collective history. “Since our last national tragedy” – the suppression of the Bar Kochba rebellion in 1235 CE – “we have had ‘histories of persecution, of legal discrimination, of the Inquisition and pogroms, of . . .martyrdom,” but, wrote Ben-Gurion, “wee did not have Jewish history anymore, because the history of a people is only what the people create as a whole,” and, he insisted, the Jews created nothing in the centuries of exile.

In fact, the internal politics of the Jewish Diaspora, through which the people as a whole sustained itself, in scattered communities, without coercive power, for many centuries, is one of the most remarkable stories in the political history of humankind. Exilic politics was in its decadence when the Zionists arrived on the scene, and it had never been valued within the tradition itself. Committed to deference and deferment, dreaming of a distant triumph, the rabbis had little to say about the success of the semi-autonomous communities of the Diaspora, and they took no interest in the political lessons that might be drawn from it. This history could have provided an opening for Zionist writers, but they found the decadence of Jewish communal life a more useful subject and made no effort to overcome their ignorance of better days. For some of them, ignorance of exilic history, since it wasn’t a “real” national history, was a matter of principle.

Ahad Ha’am* at least acknowledged the better days. The sages, he wrote, “succeeded in creating a national body which hung in mid-air, without any foundation on solid earth, and in this body the Hebrew national spirit  had its abode and lived its life for two thousand years.” But the true achievement of exilic Jewry – “marvelous and unique,” Ahad Ha’am said – was to lose the singularity of “this body” and still survive in scattered fragments, “all living one form of life, and all united despite their local separateness.” These fine words were apparently not inspirational; I have not found in the literature of Zionism any discovery of the old Jewish communities, any extended effort to understand of exilic politics worked, or to honor the people who made it work, or to value the achievement. The laws, customs, practices ,and implicit understandings that made communal life of the exile possible – surely this is material for “ingathering”, and then for appreciation and critique, by a movement aiming at a new birth of communal life. Indeed, the experience of exile and then of emancipation-in-exile might well teach contemporary Israelis something of great importance: how different Jewish communities could coexist within the framework of a secular state, alongside other forms of difference, other (non-Jewish) religious communities. The new Israeli majority might learn a lot from the experience of the old Jewish minorities. . .

The liberationist position of the Zionists was clear in the new nation-state, there would be gender equality- even, as Herzl  predicted, equality in national service  (though the actual standing of women didn’t and doesn’t  always accord with the ideology). I have already described how religious revival challenges the very idea of equality and how surprised and unprepared the liberationists were for the willingness of many women to return to Orthodoxy and accept a version of the old subordination. They are almost equally surprised by the fierceness of the religious zealots’ attack on gender equality wherever it exists – even in the Israel army.

Egalitarian arguments will seem obvious to many readers, but simply reciting  the argument isn’t sufficient .Today religious women in every denomination of Judaism argue for equality in the language of tradition – and write wonderfully subtle and intellectually engaging reinterpretations of both the Bible and the Talmud. It may be a sign of the polarization produced by the secularists and zealots in Israel that a great deal of the early interpretative work was not doe there but in the Diaspora, especially in the United States. Indeed, much of the religious energy among American Jews today comes from woman, who make up a growing number of scholars in Jewish studies and, even more important, of ordained rabbis. Nothing similar is going on in Israel, where secular Jewish women aren’t interested in becoming rabbis and religious women wouldn’t dream of it (though some, I think, are beginning to dream.). . .


I haven’t meant to argue that the traditionalist counterrevolution could have been avoided, the paradox of national liberation overcome, had the Zionist, say, fully engaged the tradition from the beginning. But a full-scale engagement early on might have made for a stronger response to the counterrevolution than anything forthcoming today .It might have provided Zionism with a more elaborated, a more interesting, and a more democratic culture. And it might have improved the odds - it might still improve the odds – for the eventual success of Jewish liberation






*Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg (18 August 1856 – 2 January 1927), primarily known by his Hebrew name and pen name, Ahad Ha'am (Hebrew: אחד העם‎, lit. one of the people, Genesis 26:10), was a Hebrew essayist, and one of the foremost pre-state Zionist thinkers. He is known as the founder of cultural Zionism. With his secular vision of a Jewish "spiritual center" in Israel, he confronted Theodor Herzl. Unlike Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, Ha'am strived for "a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews".

About Jewish relationships to the native Arabs, a disappointed Ha'am wrote

We must surely learn, from both our past and present history, how careful we must be not to provoke the anger of the native people by doing them wrong, how we should be cautious in our dealings with a foreign people among whom we returned to live, to handle these people with love and respect and, needless to say, with justice and good judgment. And what do our brothers do? Exactly the opposite! They were slaves in their Diasporas, and suddenly they find themselves with unlimited freedom, wild freedom that only a country like Turkey [the Ottoman Empire] can offer. This sudden change has planted despotic tendencies in their hearts, as always happens to former slaves ['eved ki yimlokh – when a slave becomes king – Proverbs 30:22]. They deal with the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly, beat them shamefully for no sufficient reason, and even boast about their actions. There is no one to stop the flood and put an end to this despicable and dangerous tendency. Our brothers indeed were right when they said that the Arab only respects he who exhibits bravery and courage. But when these people feel that the law is on their rival's side and, even more so, if they are right to think their rival's actions are unjust and oppressive, then, even if they are silent and endlessly reserved, they keep their anger in their hearts. And these people will be revengeful like no other.

Ahad Ha'am also saw a bleak future for the nascent new state. He wrote:

[But if things continue the way they are] ...the society that I envision, if my dream is not just a false notion, this society will have to begin to create itself in the midst of fuss, noisiness and panic, and will have to face the prospects of both internal and external war...]


 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahad_Ha%27am




Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Heritage and Character of American Social Theory by Geoffrey Hawthorn

[The author is an English snob, many of his subordinations are unnecessary and awkward, meanings opaque and arguments incomplete. I have taken liberties to ‘clean up’ some parts of  the text. All the comments in brackets are my own. Still, it's an interesting hypothesis. Social theory on both sides of the Atlantic are a bust. To me its an argument for democracy: ‘start cooking, recipe to follow.']


 It has often been said that the prevailing assumptions of Americans have been those of John Locke; it has also been said that Locke’s direct effect on the promoters of the new republic is exaggerated, the point has a certain force. The paradox is resolved, however, by the fact that the conditions under which this kind of thinking came to pervade America were quite different from those under which it was first proposed in England. The intentions of the Americans in using Locke and other Whig theorists to the extent that they did were quite different than the theorists’ own.

Like the younger Mill in the 19th century, Locker in the Two Treatises on Government was taking for granted the dense and complex structure of constraint and obligation that existed in his own society.  He was merely, or you could say, subversively insisting that such a structure did not give any  man the right to dispose of any other, that on the contrary, each man, whatever his station, was epistemologically free to decide for himself the limits under which he would live. He was arguing against the restoration of an absolute monarchy, and against the absolutely hierarchical and immutable paternalism of Robert Filmer. But as de Tocqueville implied in the 1830s, Americans had been able to take such intentions a-historically. There was no native feudalism, no patriarchy, no Filmer to defend  it [at least not after the Tories were driven to Canada.]

The American Revolution was not a revolution against the kind of order that was being criticized and attacked in Europe. It was a revolution to secure what had already begun in an historical vacuum [ a ‘howling wilderness inhabited by savages’ as they saw it.] The radical rhetoric of the European Enlightenment was there deployed for what were literally conservative ends.

This had three profound effects. Speaking generally [ the author here omits some obvious qualifications], There was nothing in the new country to correspond to the European estates and there was no established Church. There were merely individuals, with or without property, and government. Of course, there was slavery, and in the attempt by Southerners later in the 19th century to maintain it the slaves were compared to a traditional European estate but they were more usually conceived as just an extension of the property of individuals. The prevailing religious mode was a pluralistic sectarianism in which the most prominent, the New England Puritans, were entirely at one with the Calvinism implicit in Locke himself.* This history meant and has continued to mean that Americans have no firm grasp of what from England to China has always been taken for granted, the notion of what sociologists would now call ‘social structure, enduring complexes of institutions; institutions that do not merely serve to constrain individuals, but by virtue of the individual’s membership in them from birth to death serve in good part to constitute and defined  him or her as a person. The language of institutions pervades American thinking as it does in other societies; but there, the meaning has always been more restricted.

The second effect of the conservative consolidation of Lockean liberalism in America was an inducement to conformity.  This has continued to be both practical and ideological. Practically, no man could dare to consider himself or could bear to consider others as in any way above or below any other. Ideologically, after the abolition of the property franchise there could be no grounds for any man claiming by virtue of any characteristic whatsoever that he was privileged with exceptional insight, or that he was by virtue of experience or affiliation or by right qualified to direct others. The radically egalitarian spirit of Protestantism, which had done so much to affect philosophical and political thinking in England and Germany, in America met no opposing institutions or ideologies by which it had to be tempered or on which it had to compromise. In the name of liberty and equality there thus developed there a most persistent pressure to conform.** A pressure that on occasion has amounted almost to a panic about those who do not and produced popular persecutions in the name of the ideals they appear to deny. This has made Americans characteristically vulnerable and anxious. Unable to flee into any institution and thereby pass to it responsibility for his beliefs and actions, a man is exposed to the pressure of popular opinion and so forced to examined himself as an individual, alone, to a degree that he is not in any more highly structured society.

The third effect of the uniquely unhistorical [?] consolidation of a liberal  society in America has been to produce a very special sense of time. The characteristic European sense of the arrangement of events had derived from the Christian view that in one way or another improvement, even perfection, lay in the future. The notion of progress dates in its secular form from the Enlightenment, but the hope that lies beneath it is an ancient one. It was such a hope that informed not only the puritans in the New England settlements but also many other sects that spread across the country and came to constitute the distinctive character of American faith, the character that so impressed Max Weber when he came to America in 1904. Yet in the break from England and the establishment of the new republic, in part inspired by these sects, America seemed already to have reached perfection. The past has been consolidated in a future whose integrity lay in remaining as much like the present as possible. This, in Holfadter’s phrase, has been the ‘nub of the intimate American quarrel with history’: how can a people progress if they have started near perfection?’ A simple answer but an answer that many Americans have implicitly given, is that although society itself may have no distance to progress, there have been and continue to be virtually infinite possibilities of material improvement and technical advance within it. If such  a progress was not necessary to the society, no more was it inimical to it. Indeed, it could be held to be a natural concomitant and consequence of its liberty. This firm faith in one of the residual principles of European progressive thought has, however, generated one of the most persistent of al dilemmas in American society, the dilemma of how to reconcile the effects of spectacular material accumulation and technical advance with the established ideal of a perfect society  [generated] in  a state of markedly primitive innocence. It was a dilemma in the 1840s, it became a matter of absorbing concern in the years before 1914, and it reappeared in the 1960s. All the while it has driven primitive populism in the South and west against the trusts and banks and politicians of the east.

In the United States liberalism was only ever a critical principle in arguments against the European. It was established with the new republic  but criticisms of its own progress have always been in its own terms. Not only was patriarchy in any form exactly what the country has set itself against, but also, because of the absence of any nostalgia for the virtues of its reputed solidarity and mutual obligations, socialism, which in Europe has always  drawn strongly upon such nostalgia, has at best seemed irrelevant and at worst an insidious stalking horse for the kinds of collective restraint and institutional domination evident, to liberals, in patriarchy itself. This is the paradox of American intellectualism.


In Europe to be an intellectual was to criticize not merely the ways in which various groups  sought to achieve their ends but also, and much more importantly, to criticize the ends themselves. In America, the ends had been given, given in both the ideological sense and also, much more forcefully, in the very constitution of the society itself. To mount an argument against them has been to mount an argument against America and thus, to mount an argument that immediately disqualifies itself from serious consideration as a relevant argument at all. Only the means have been at issue in America, the means of recalling the society to its original and unquestionable inspiration, original in the historical sense and unquestionable in the sense that to question it is to question not merely one view, and one group  in society but the very society itself. American intellectuals are deprived of part of the normal apparatus of modern European thought, the assumption that one may locate one’s critical principles in some more or less imaginary future state, a state yet to be realized but never-the-less conceivable by virtue of the inexorable passage of the past into the future that since the Enlightenment all Europeans have been able to take for granted.

In Europe The once-vaunted promise of salvation in the next world was translated, with much confusion and dispute [bloody wars and revolutions], it is true, but without great intellectual difficulty [Ha!], into the promise of salvation in this. In America since 1776 such translation has been impossible. With the old sectarian faith, the colonialists could still hope. Without it, the citizens of the new republic could not [ though they have developed a remarkable faith in ‘the power of positive thinking’, which has, of course, its own attending evils and is essentially anti-intellectual]. Secularization had an ironical twist to it. Moreover, even such criticisms as they have made, American intellectuals have been persistently crippled by the dogmatic and fearful egalitarianism of their native liberalism. Although European intellectuals have been troubled by just this sort of attack, as were the  ecclesiastics before them,  even when defending what they have taken to be the side of the oppressed and the uninformed,  they have been able to exploit the deference that the latter have always grudgingly if mistakenly given to their ‘spiritual betters’ .French intellectuals get a free pass for all sorts of nonsense, and the sheen they receive often travels well across the Atlantic. The peculiar difficulty of the American intellectual is that his status  has always been in question [ outside the halls of academia: ‘pointy-headed intellectuals’ etc.]. His own criticisms come from within the native liberal establishment., and it is from within that establishment where he is mostly challenged [ otherwise his theories ignored or misrepresented].

No-one has ever shown that anti-intellectual sentiments are more common in America than elsewhere. It is simply that they have been more often expressed [often in ingenious ways], for they have always been more legitimate. The intellectuals themselves, aware of and often defending this legitimacy, have thus often been driven into agonize impotence [ going so far as to chain themselves to doorways and blocking bulldozers in some cases or just becoming drunks]. Where they have not been undermined by others, they have furnished the grounds for their own immolation.

This is the heritage and character of American Social thought, often vigorous and critical and even radical, but in its very radicalism literally conservative.


*https://backwoodspresbyterian.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/john-calvin-vs-john-locke-on-natural-law-or-reason/

** the subject and the predicate here are both true but I’m nor sure how easily one follows the other at this point in his discussion i.e. pressure to conform is produced by unopposed notions of liberty and equality. Prosaically  it might have something to do with ‘keeping up with the Jones’’. If everyone is putatively equal and free then the ‘natural’ or customary stratifications of patriarchal society are re-produced in the results of material conquest: conspicuous  consumption, hence ‘a rat race’ which has an analog in ideology.