Exploring the Eclipse of Equality

Posts Tagged ‘ideology’

Inclusive Ethnocentrism: The political logic of the Tea Party

In Class and Social Stratification, Domestic Politics, Media and Politics on April 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm

It has been hard for most of us not to pay attention to the Tea Party movement. This fascinating right of center and middle American rejection of the activist politics of economic crisis is just colorful and controversial enough to have become the talk of the town in a mid-term election cycle. In 2009 the group, which broke onto the national scene with shouts of (T)axed (E)nough (A)lready in a national mall protest on tax day, managed to garner even more attention in their 2010 rally. The semiological savvy of the group is profound and there is more to expect from it, but this weekend witnessed a sea change in group’s narrative that will stick until the November elections. As Peter Beinart argued, in the wake of a New York Times/CBS News poll on the group, the Tea Partiers are widely regarded as phony populists,  and that is what they will stay until we have a real test of their electoral power. With the demonstration of power, everything can change, but for now, the conversation has turned.

I assume that most people have read accounts from the poll I mention above. There are plenty of discussions about it to choose from. Just today, E.J. Dionne weighed in with a gloss that he has spoken much of already on air: the populism of the privileged. Charles Blow had a devastating piece over the weekend as well. The arguments are not appearing by chance. The New York Times poll was surgically targeted to expose the true face of the movement at a crucial moment in the current political opportunity structure.

The findings were devastating for the group on two counts. First, the movement has been shown to draw on relatively well off citizens and not the lower classes. This is important because the greatest fear the democrats face is that false consciousness will drive their “natural constituency” of voters with an interest in activist government on economic matters toward the Right. If the class structure is working as traditional class voting hypothesis would predict, then there is little reason for the Democrats to worry and Read the rest of this entry »

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The Endogeneity of Might and Right: “Uncle Mo” and American Politics

In Domestic Politics on March 29, 2010 at 10:07 am

Just before the big health care vote on Sunday, I wrote about the famous Clinton line from 2002 in which he said that the American people occasionally prefer someone who is strong and wrong to someone who seems weak and right.

Let’s call this the endogeneity of might and right problem. It works like this, if I don’t know how the world works, I have to rely upon signals from others. Much of what I mean by the word “works” is that it produces practical effects that are better to those that now obtain. Although I might prefer the optimum, I would prefer the better to the worse. This means that right action in practical life depends on what is possible. What is possible is a function of power or might.

This gets us to the endogeneity of might and right problem. Endogeneity here just means that we have a chicken and the egg problem. It is hard to know which one causes the other and what one would be without the other. They are related to one another in iterative cycles. Something is right if it works; it works if we recognize the virtue in its conception.

Although the power to produce effects is the most crucial, the power to frame them might matter nearly as much. This is why the right is so eager to work the refs Read the rest of this entry »

There are Four Lights: Paranoia target as ideological clue

In Domestic Politics on March 7, 2010 at 5:00 pm

There is a famous episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation in which Captain Picard is tortured and psychologically manipulated in an attempt to break his will (yes, I realize that I have outed myself on the status of my pop-cultural taste). The  episode is really quite nice as a placeholder for a kind of heroic recalcitrance in the face of ideological manipulation. There are times when I feel the need to state the obvious –to channel my inner Picard.  Not to overdramatize the situation, but this feels like one of those times. Whatever others might like us to believe, the recent set of violent attacks on the government have something in common. These are not isolated tragedies.

The anti-government violence seems to be getting closer to home. We now have another terrible story of a young man who decided to attack the Pentagon single handedly in support of his idiosyncratic worldview. I am sure that this poor soul was not well. This may be something that we keep in mind when we judge other terrorists as well. In this case, we had the warning  of the family, who suggested that the man had purchased weapons and was in the grip of a set of ideas that could prove dangerous. This reminds me most of Abdulmutallab who would have downed a jet on Christmas. His effort was the last word after the passage of the health care bill in the Senate and before the Scott Brown victory. Association is intriguing if potentially spurious at times.

I think it is important to think historically about the form of American extremism. Remember the major finding in the political science literature that there is little ideological constraint in American public opinion. Just because you hold one idea, does not mean that you hold others that are logically associated with it. This holds at an individual level, but not necessarily at the group level. This means that we can find a set of ideas that characterize the ideal type of a group’s mind without finding much coherence in the individuals who comprise it. The more extreme the group, the more variable the correlations of disparate ideas one should expect to find, but the group may a kind of coherence of idiosyncrasy even of the  individuals are simply incoherent.

This would fit for the New Left of the 1960s, whose members espoused a variety of eclectic leftish views, many of which would not make sense to espouse together.  The lack of coherence of such views led to the creation of hippie tourism (the summer of love had tour buses), the remnants of which are with us today. It is fun to ogle others with whom one disagrees when the other’s views do not make much sense. Recently Jaywalking with Leno has much the same feel.

Read the rest of this entry »