Down with the therapeutic left and the managerial right! (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
In his scholarly yet surprisingly sharp-edged book, Beyond the New Right (1993), professor John Gray (then at Oxford, now at LSE) sketched out "An agenda for Green conservatism." He was not the first to notice that true ecology and true conservatism share many things in common (as is already prefigured in language in the term, "conservationism").
That which many reflective persons object to is the subsuming of all political realities in the "capitalism vs. socialism" (said to be equivalent to "right vs. left") debate. Interestingly enough, Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto had sharply pointed out what they saw as the radical cutting-edge of capitalism.
Marx and Engels clearly considered that within the societal tumult generated by capitalism, lay the possibility of an opening for what they called socialism. Indeed, capitalism could serve as an ice-breaker for socialism. ("Communism" in Marx's theorizing was usually envisaged as the final phase of human development, the pink haze of light, creative labour for everyone, where it was famously claimed that the state would "wither away".)
Today, in the wake of the horrific crimes of regimes claiming to be socialist or Communist, of the emergence of a hedonistic, consumerist society in most of the West and some other parts of the world, and of "billionaire socialists" like George Soros, the categories of what could possibly constitute "socialism" are rather difficult to ascertain.
Today's capitalism, too, has become what is termed "late capitalism" – where the proprieties which some term as "old bourgeois", i.e., family, nation, and traditional religion, have been mostly thrown into the garbage can of history. Ironically, it is only in the wake of the 1960s that the deconstructive edge of the capitalist system – propelled also by "counter-cultural" left-wing activists -- blasted with full force into American and other Western societies. Today, we have reached a situation in most Western societies where it is the person who continues to believe in the old verities of traditional family, nation, and religion who is "counter-cultural" – and indeed, frequently deemed to be dangerously "anti-social." One of the main outlooks today is of the so-called "bourgeois bohemians" – roughly speaking, people who are socially liberal -- and fiscally conservative (at least in terms of sharply looking out for their personal economic interests).
It can be seen that today, late capitalism and social conservatism are mostly at war with each other. It could be argued that it is mostly injurious to real conservatism when capitalism- and consumerism-boosting economic or fiscal issues take precedence over the social. However, there is now the possibility of even further decline. Now, when the Conservative Party of Canada has been forced to abandon fiscal conservatism (which was virtually its only remaining, salient, so-called conservative element), in the wake of the current economic crisis, it could be perceived that Canadian conservatism as a whole has been reduced to virtually nothing.
In conclusion, it may be stated that the tempering of the excesses of late modernity by certain traditionalist and localist aspects would be highly salutary. Indeed, it might be the only thing that would keep society from descending into various forms of dystopia. Many reflective persons are opposed to what George Grant (following Jacques Ellul) called "the universal, homogenous world-state". The managerial-therapeutic regime has its own versions of Left and Right (generally-speaking, left-liberals and neoconservatives). Serious social critics are eclectic in their own placement on the spectrum. The debate between the "official" Left and Right often has little meaning. However, honest, reflective critics of "the system" or "the regime" – that is, "the anti-system opposition" -- should not flinch away from each other because of too-quick preconceptions about what a given political outlook is said to represent.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!