Friday, October 07, 2005
Thinking Through the Neo-Conservative Challenge
Sidney Blumenthal in Salon has done a fine job of chroncling the tangled web of conservative malfeasance which effectively constitutes the Republican party as we know it today. I especially admire his insight into the corrupt and exploitative relationships between lobbyists, corporations, conservative religious organizations, and political players. This is indeed, as he puts it, a "pay to play" game. I don’t entirely agree with Blumenthal’s assessment that this type of conservatism is an entirely new political and economic entity. It bears more than a passing resemblance to a crime syndicate, of the type which controls politics throughout much of the developing world. This leads to an important and often misunderstood point: organized crime is not chaotic. To the contrary, it is intensely bureaucratic. Such pseudo-political institutions always mirror the bureaucratic nature of their host systems. They are a repressed instinct of capitalist societies. To argue that the Bush administration represents an entirely new way of "doing business" in America ignores the instrumental role that organized crime has historically played in American economics and politics (for a wonderful literary example, read Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.) It was Max Weber who argued that the twin impulses of revolution and bureaucracy co-exist at the unsteady core of capitalism. What we are witnessing in the rise of neo-conservatism is the validation of that argument, the fulfillment of a capitalist impulse towards bureaucracy which, if completed, might rival the great Prussian and Stalinist regimes of the past three centuries. Liberals (of all types) are liable to be confused and frustrated if they operate under the mistaken belief that their government remains in the broad stream of the liberal tradition: deliberative, representative, transparent, responsive and accountable to the public (not to be confused with populist, which the Bush administration definitely is.) Thus to view the Bush administration in the light of its true lineage explains a great deal. Like any bureaucracy, its goal is to build the party of the future by monopolizing resources. Loyalty to the party determines access to these resources and to the lucrative schemes which advance the party’s agenda. The proprietary stance taken by the Bush administration towards information which would be considered public in a liberal society – the records of Vice-President Cheney’s energy task force, to take one obvious example – indicates that it simply does not regard itself as accountable to the public in any traditionally democratic sense. Rather, the party is fueled by populist sentiment (as for instance in the 2004 elections) which is generated through grandiose nationalistic pageants, suppression of information, strategically timed threats, official investigations of sexual impurity, and concealed propaganda distributed through the quasi-state outlets of the conservative media. Likewise, the Bush administration does not operate in the deliberative manner of a liberal government, i.e., one founded on a consensus of publicly verified facts. Instead it has waged a determined campaign to undermine and distort scientific findings whenever they come into conflict with the party ideology. Again, this infuriates the scientific community and the grass-roots democratic activists whose political credibility is staked on the premise of their research, but the Bush administration simply will not budge. It is a wholly political animal, and as such its founding principles of hierarchy, loyalty, and organization stand in sharp contrast to the objective correlate philosophy of empirical science. Finally, I would like to expand on my earlier comment that the true goal of the Bush administration, consistent with its principles, is the creation of a new social class, a "new man," as it were. I envision this man of the future as being raised and educated in strict conformity with the mandates of the party. He will show in his beliefs and his attitudes a deep loyalty to the party upon which his livelihood and reputation entirely depends, and an equally deep suspicion of potential heretics. In all likelihood he will work in a corporate office overseen by quasi-government officials and dependent on government favors for its continuing share in the market-state. He will be of the official denomination of the Christian faith, which is simply another manifestation of allegiance to the party. He will depend throughout his life on a network of patronage and graft which he will simply take for granted as the hallmark of respectable society. He will be a man made in the image of the party founder, George W. Bush.
Posted by weazoe at 5:35 PM