I ask this question as it relates to the very interesting article in Vox about Richard Rorty (linked below).
That he seems to have predicted the coming of an authoritarian strongman has put this philosopher into some new found notice in the infosphere of late. The quote of note is as follows:
What Mr. Rorty was concerned about was that the left went from being reform minded, during the period of the early 1900's to the sixties, to being primarily culturally oriented; which is to say they went from concerns of primarily economic equity to those of the inequities of certain social attitudes, as in race and gender relations, to name a few. And he felt this was a big mistake, even though the latter issues were of significant moral importance.
The article's author does make it clear that this is something of a simplistic distinction, especially given how one side things here overlaps into the other, but there is still an important point to be made here.
What we are looking at here may well be a big part of the substantive foundation that made reformist Liberals what they still are today, and why they still cling to the idea that the economic system can be reformed by practical minded people. And in that reform lies the best hope for "Achieving Our Country."
The problem for me in this, recognizing that, in the beginning of Capitalism's great movement of material gain across the globe (actual gain for a lot of people, but attained at a terrible costs), effective reform was still possible. And more to the point, was achievable and did a lot of what it was supposed to do. But in that success was also the seeds for a growing sense that reform was the only alternative.
The problem here is that both Capitalism, and the environment in which it operates, changed in ways hardly anyone could have anticipated with the advent of both electrified experience retrieval, and the onset of globalized commerce writ large. Not only has the former changed the nature of work (putting into great question its validity as a human born commodity), but it also made the globalization much more dynamic than it could have possibly been otherwise. The kind of dynamics that put not only competition into turbo electric overdrive, it made shifting production to where ever vastly more practical than it has ever been since. As such what we have now is a mutated version of the Capitalism once envisioned by Adam Smith. A system so much more complicated, and which now works at the inhuman speeds of processors doing billions of operations a second. Thousands upon thousands of processors doing billions of operations a second.
Trying to reform this sort of complex system is now a fool's errand of the highest degree. It's like trying to put improvements into a piece of software that, starting out at millions of lines of code, and then having a decade or more of changes made to it, now presents the problem that any further efforts to introduce further changes only serves to create more problems than what was initially intended to be fixed in the first place.
So now you have that problem, as well as the problem that this particular economic operating system simply cannot handle equitable distribution of outputs. Perhaps even worse than that, however, is that is also cannot properly handle the creation of meaningful priorities for virtually any level of government. A quite lethal problem now that the world has become so desperately complex in the new swirl of increased market competitions, depleting recourse competitions, and a planet that will no longer allow us to kick true costs down the road any longer.
And if all of that weren't bad enough, you have one more issue that is a real kick in the ass all by itself: The fact that information, now a commodity of the first rank, is played with by every side against the middle; which used to be an ability to reach a consensus on what is the current social reality. A consensus that has never been easy to achieve at any time given that power has always had an ability to fuck with it, but now far worse when even a few folks with some compromised servers can dick with it in comparative ease.
The left has to come to understand this. The sooner the better. Anyone who would champion populist politics has to understand this. The sooner the better. The fact of the matter is that true reform now has to be a new alternative that blends a better balance between Libertarianism, and Socialism, which, poor though my efforts may have been so far, is what I have been trying to do for the last fifteen or so years (part time for most of that, but full time now that I'm retired). And when you think about it, why shouldn't social and economic reform be led by a reluctantly bred systems analyst?
Why Richard Rorty’s critique of the left is as relevant as ever.
As always, check out the introduction video here: