I've made some room to properly get into The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin.
Sometimes the party itself isn't sure what it's doing.
Man-woman, worker-employer, government-governed.
Even when the demands of the disempowered are small, the act of making demands is, itself, a threat to the hierarchy.
The threat they see is less material than existential: if the disempowered exercise agency, they may try to keep doing so.
In both cases, the workers kept performing their jobs while striking, without bosses. (Something similar is happening with the Okayama bus strikes now.)
Most progressive movements argue that equality can only be attained by the EXPANSION of freedom from the few to the many.
And, if freedom is being given to folks on the Left, that must mean the Right will be at the bottom of the new hierarchy.
(Maybe six of one, half a dozen of the other.)
It's hard to talk about changing the political situation for women without thinking this will cause a change in your relationships to women in your life.
"Here is the secret of the opposition to woman's equality in the state: Men are not ready to recognize it in the home."
Shades of Jason Stanley's notion of "affective override."
"Slave master" wasn't just a job, it was an identity.
Abolish slavery and you abolish an entire way of life.
Even when concessions are made in government, efforts are made to keep the hierarchies in private life.
"Give women the vote if you must, but don't dare tell my wife she's my equal."
Helluva thesis statement.
It is a citizen's duty to be happy with their place in the hierarchy.
You don't try to change the bottom rung to pay as well as a higher station.
There NEEDS to be low-paid workers in order to have fast food! And who doesn't love fast food?
So, even if a conservative wants more than they have, it only means they want to better their station in the existing power structure.
"To obey a real superior... is one of the most important of all virtues - a virtue absolutely essential to anything great and lasting."
I think it's because they believe the poor NEED the wealthy.
They are wholly against any change, small or large, to the norms they feel hold society together.
Overall, he thinks a lot of this writing is valuable, but he says tends to suffer from three weaknesses:
Argues Hayek and Strauss had more influence over the Right than Arendt and the Frankfurt School had on the Left.
Robin rejects this, and says the traits we consider modern - ideology, racism, populism - have existed since the very beginnings.
Robin rejects this as well. Conservatism has always been reactionary.
"You used to be cool, man." No, they were always like this.
He's just everything wrong with conservatism only MORE.
Their rhetoric shifts as needed.
Modern conservatism is aware that it can't succeed without making use of "the masses."
Another means is to allow them opportunities for a measure of power relative to others of their station, a "faux aristocracy."
Perhaps no surprise that a reactionary ideology defines itself in the struggle against adversity.
You can't get a raise because the government raised the minimum wage, you only deserve money if you fought for a pay hike or a better job.
We here begin chapter 2 of Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind.
It claims to dislike change, but is behind many enormous social upheavals.
1) When The Old Ways are challenged, they are refashioned and remixed to suit the modern era.
2) The methods and language of what conservatism is reacting against are appropriated.
The formulation of conservatism, many scholars agree (not just Robin), was the writing of Joseph de Maistre and, especially, Edmund Burke in their critiques of the French Revolution.
Maistre called the nobility clueless and treasonous, the monarchy soft, and the clergy corrupt.
Burke was more tactful, but similarly described the regime as decadent and weak.
After the Nat Turner rebellion, Thomas Dew wrote that slaveholders were allowing abolitionist rhetoric to weaken them.
Goldwater didn't rail against Democrats, but against the weakening of the Republican establishment.
He felt the Jacobins had exactly the faith and strength he saw lacking in the old regime.
Robin argues that, despite their opposition to the Left, conservatives are often the Left's best students.
Fox News is everything the Right thought "the liberal media" was, but distilled and swung to the Right.
But rather than, "and it must change," the conservative concludes, "and it must be enforced."
"You damned fools, you stopped ENFORCING your power!"
However good they thought things were in the past, they aim to bring the spirit of that past into something new.
Wow, The First Order really is the perfect villain for modern Star Wars.
As long as there were slaves, everyone who wasn't a slave was nobility.
As long as Black slaves do all the menial labor, all whites are the bourgeoisie.
(Yes, even though they constantly accuse the Left of this.)
Robin says, "nothing is ever so cherished as that which we no longer possess."
It's always focused on regaining something it feels was only just taken.
Progressives often seek to right generational wrongs, meaning they must create a system that has failed to exist in living memory, possibly ever in history.
People prefer the devil they know.
Probably why some keep looking for new fights while the others get complacent.
Lucky for you, I took notes with pen and paper.
In practice, conservatives are far more militant than the Left, but they are, on paper, against violence.
War isn't desirable, it's merely necessary.
Burke says humans CRAVE the sublime. All other pleasures are transitory, will inevitably lead to stasis, loss, and malaise. Only the sublime truly invigorates.
This experience is not pleasurable, exactly, but Burke feels it's vital.
"The time for revolution is now so we can return to the calm and comfort we used to have."
"Once Y has been returned, we can go back to the way things were."
But "the way things were" was saying the same thing about getting X returned.
Someone throw Edmund Burke's bones in a sex dungeon.
War demands that you kill or be killed.
I think that interesting, but also kind of a reach?
"Since [citizens] pay more attention to what is below them than to what is above, domination becomes dearer to them than independence, and they consent to wear chains so that they may in turn give them to others."
Once something has submitted to you, it no longer challenges you. It can bring you pleasure, but not the sublime.
They want to conquer, not to have conquered.
They want it to be true.
Due process over cowboying up; litigation over legislation; diplomacy over war; restraining power through judicial oversight.
When 9/11 happened, they could blame it on the Democrats.
"By being soft, you let this happen."
A crime requires due process. A war requires us to bend or suspend the rules.
Moreso it was about redefining America as a society that broke rules when it saw fit.
It is thrilling to send people to war to get shot; actually getting shot is less thrilling.
War itself is often just miserable for everyone involved.
How do you make monarchy popular with people in the process of revolting against monarchy?
Robin says the conservative is "forced to straddle historical contradictions."
Many would argue you can't call Hobbes a counterrevolutionary because the English Civil War wasn't a revolution, but what matters is that Hobbes disagreed.
In the 1640s, this was a relatively recent notion.
Also, people yearning for democracy aren't interested in a social framing where only God and the king matter.
Consent argued that the public "created" their sovereign, and that democracy couldn't work because there were so many dissenting opinions that no one would ever find agreement.
England free because they had laws and a Parliament. You were better off in England than in a kingdom that had neither.
At the time of the Civil War, no king in fifty years had claimed to believe in this argument.
If you say laws and collective governance are good, people are inevitably going to ask why they should have a king.
You have only appetites and aversions. You have no control over either. What you call your rational will is just whichever one you choose in a given moment.
Only involuntary acts, like being dragged on a chain, are against the will.
God, this is like Orson Scott Card's argument that illegalizing gay marriage isn't discriminatory because gay men are just as free to marry women as straight men.
After all, you still have to obey them.
The second argument says that any decisions we make for ourselves are free. The second says we need a ruler to make our decisions for us.
He is assuring revolutionaries both that they are free and that freedom is overrated.
That's it for today. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
Robin says Burke was the first conservative.
England took this seriously, knowing food riots were how the French Revolution began.
Burke worried that British counterrevolutionary sentiment was diminishing now that the war was ending, and he wanted people to rededicate to anti-Jacobinism.
A couple of Whigs who sympathized with the French Revolution called him the fuck out for this.
The French Revolution was a challenge to the idea of subordination to aristocracy.
What confers value on one's labor or the things their labor produces?
This is likely unavoidable when a hierarchy is challenged.
Presumably this is was his argument against a living wage: labor has no intrinsic value, so a guaranteed wage was nonsense.
Whether buying or selling, the person with economic power sets the price.
He argues elsewhere that labor's value rises and falls with demand, but that part of the demand is that the person with money deserves a profit.
The worker may take a loss, never the aristocrat.
Smith argued REAL value was determined by labor.
When we think of conservatism as staid and old-fashioned, remember the first conservative was a radical.
For one, there are always fewer employers than employees, which means it's easier for them to unify as a solid block.
Also, obviously, capital has capital.
Also capital tends to have the law on its side.
The poor getting to eat framed as a gift, not a right.
But this is never considered "meddling."
Labor is abstract and quantifiable.
The higher you are in the hierarchy, the more you profit and the less you produce. This is just.
And he decided that one's station should be earned through the free market.
The birth of conservatism.
So you not only believe in a hierarchy, but you have an image in your head of what it would look like if things were fair.
They talk about "earning," but if anyone they don't respect "earns" a high status, they don't recognize it as legitimate.
Burke deserved it. The others didn't.
(I won't deny writers deserve compensation, but this is the guy who says people tilling fields don't.)
I actually read part of this chapter a month or more ago, but didn't have any way to tweet about it, so I will recap what I read from memory:
A core facet of his beliefs was that the only real purpose of society was to produce Great Men, i.e. artists and philosophers.
Their books were Princoples of Economics, Theory of Political Economy, and Elements of Pure Economics, respectively.
But marginalist thought lent itself to anti-Marxist purposes, and was employed thusly by the Austrian School.
Raw materials come from the earth and only labor turns them into objects of value, and value can be quantified by how much labor was expended on the object.
Nietzche liked this thinking, as he longed for an aristocracy that freed Great Men from labor, because it meant value could be bestowed on anyone.
Nietzsche's response was to question morality itself.
The market was the proving grounds for ethics.
That's the market, and that's life.
Thus, the market *forces* us to bestow value on things.
Like, yes, you can't separate your economic needs from your "normal life" needs. And, yes, limited resources compel you to make priorities. And, yes, this subjective valuation is probably the same way we determine our ethical values.
It's a bit naive about how much free choice one has under capitalism, frankly.
If people were no longer noble by birthright, they must become noble via proving grounds of some sort.
The marginalists and the Austrian School argued it should be the market.
Capitalism is how the new hierarchy would be ordered.
Schumpeter lionized the entrepreneur, flatly describing them as "the nearest approach to medieval lordship possible to modern man."
Most of us know how to use a computer, but few of us know how a computer works, beyond general knowledge about electricity and code. We certainly couldn't design one from scratch.
Hayek would argue that the freedom of that engineer should matter more to us than our own freedom.
We should LET these people disproportionately influence the market.
Me: "This is bunk."
The dividing of society into The Few who should lead and The Many who are built for following.
This has been #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
"Saint Petersburg in revolt gave us Vladimir Nabakov, Isaiah Berlin, and Ayn Rand. The first was a novelist, the second a philosopher. The third was neither but thought she was both."
Rand clearly believed herself such a person, and yet she was adored by millions.
People who didn't deserve their station.
Robin says what made her remarkable was her ability to convince others she was remarkable.
"Not by being great, but by persuading others, even shrewd biographers, that she was great."
Kant said virtue was was the product of a complex code of ethics, where Aristotle believed virtue was the result of a human who lived the right life. Provided you lived well, virtue would occur naturally.
Literally everything you do is life and death, and whatever is life is virtuous.
Fascists always frame their way of life as existentially necessary, with annihilation as the only alternative.
She believed, in either scenario, you lived on your wits.
That the exalted Great Men are worth more than the masses, and that the masses benefit more by the existence of Great Men than the Great Men benefit from the masses.
Nietzsche and Rand were both lifelong atheists. And Nietzsche's opinions on religion - especially Christianity - were... negative.
They invented religion to tell themselves they were the masters' equals.
There was a passing reference earlier to how this Nietzschean thread of thinking can only go in two directions: libertarianism or fascism. I hope Robin elaborates on that later.
This has been #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
This is a fairly short chapter that, breaking with format, doesn't seem to be about any one thinker.
They always talk about being mistreated, robbed, on the verge of losing everything.
And this is weird, right? Robin says, "...if the main offering a prince brings to the table is that he's really a pauper, why not seat the pauper instead?"
"The rulers are victims to" is a means of speaking that language.
The Right faces a task more suitable to them.
Valar dohaeris, indeed.
When the Left says that, lacking a union, workers don't have the leverage to make demands, the Right says high taxes do the same. Does money not confer agency in much the same way as a union?
It's taking a freedom that is earned in order to bestow a freedom that isn't needed.
Likely helped pave the way to modern "white genocide" rhetoric.
Good little proles who knew their place.
This chapter's on 9/11 and... eesh.
"What's the point of being the greatest, most powerful nation in the world and not having an imperial role?" - Kristol
9/11 changed all that.
I am Jack's banal prosperity.
Jesus, it's the exact same shit every conservative from Burke to Goldwater had said.
With "the fall of Communism" (ha), the US had, in Robin's words, "a surfeit of power," and weren't sure what their foreign policy, military policy, or role as a world leader should be.
This is, unfortunately, apparently not as sexy.
We describe a future of scarcity, famine, and enormous death tolls, and the conservative thinks, "That sounds energizing."
Carbon taxes aren't sexy but post-apocalyptic wastelands are.
A war that drags on quickly becomes normal, even boring. Whatever complacency existed before the War on Terror quickly returned, if a little poorer and a little more anxious.
Militarily, conservatives believe in imperialism, craving war and domination.
Domestically, they believe in tax cuts and low government spending.
This is a conflict of rhetoric, though I'll point out it's less of a conflict in practice. Conservatives only *claim* to be against government spending.
I guess the question there is whether China would bankroll loans for an American empire.