Friday, March 12, 2010

New left paradigms. . . .

One of the problems with human society in general and our modern complex society in particular is the degree to which human emotion influences how we seek to organize ourselves. Unfortunately for any kind of objectivist philosophies, it seems pretty obvious that humans are not guided by some fundamental process of rationality, and it is not clear that they ever could be. In his theory of Communicative Action, Habermas divides human claims into three categories: claims to fact, normative claims, and dramatological claims. Despite centuries of human philosophies, it is not at all clear that claims to fact can be meaningful guides to normative claims. Normative claims involve the states of being that we think 'ought' to prevail and as Hume taught us so effectively, we cannot derive an ought from and is. It seems clear to me that as humans we hold certain basic values as important which are not derived from any kind of rational discourse or investigation. All of this suggests that there are certain inherent limits on what we call 'rationality.' 

Why am I saying all of this? Well lately it has occurred to me that political processes are increasingly dominated by an effort to sway people's emotions. And I think inherent in this effort is not only to 'sway' peoples' emotions but to form emotional responses that have little to do with what is going on in the world. The order of the day seems to be to feed on peoples' most basic fears or prejudices in order to create an agenda which victimizes societies more vulnerable people while at the same time fostering a system of extreme (often unnoticed) power for unaccountable large corporations. The problem is that in an increasingly complex society technology becomes a remarkably effective method of spreading such emotional responses. The problem is that the right-wing has an inherent advantage in such circumstances as illustrated by their recent focus on a crime wave that doesn't exist. Other areas where the Right-wing has fairly simple advantages in this process is the fact that feeding fear is much easier than creating confidence. Thus you will constantly hear, even today, Conservatives red-baiting etc in order to actually shut down political discourse rather than actually fostering genuine debate. 

The problem is entropy. Destruction is always easier than creation. It is much easier to lead people down the path of anger and fear (welfare bums are ripping us off, criminals are lurking around every corner, teenagers are getting away with murder etc) than up the path of goodness and encouragement. In his novel The Reivers, William Faulkner makes a very astute observation, the gist of which is that 'if you are out to do bad in the world people will come out of the woodwork to help you, but if you are out to do good, you are usually on your own.' The only area of fear that the left could even feed on if they wanted to would be in relation to corporate power, but how do you do this effectively when the very corporations you are being critical of own the mediums by which you relay that message? 

It is becoming clear to me that the Left, if it is ever going to be effective, needs a new methodological paradigm. What will that paradigm be? Let me know if you come up with it....

No comments: