recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : toqueville   3

Austin Kleon — Morris Berman, Why America Failed: The Roots of...
"Picked this up off a tip from @mattthomas​ — it’s a “post-mortem” of our nation, the third in a trilogy about the Decline of the American Empire (part one is The Twilight of American Culture, which I’m reading now, and part two is Dark Ages America). It’s a bleak portrait, one which I’m not sure a lot of people want to read about around the holidays, but for some perverse reason, I found it very enjoyable and oddly comforting — in the first book, Berman says “I’ll do my best not to entertain you,” but he fails.

The big idea here is that the dominate mode of America is a kind of “technohustling”—America is a “hustling” culture (“American English contains more than two hundred nouns and verbs referring to a swindle”) that believes in endless technological progress (“technology is not neutral”) and it’s left us with a hollowed-out nation —economically, spiritually, emotionally — in which a few have much and many have very little.

Berman points to a long “anti-hustler” tradition of people such as the Transcendentalists, Herman Melville (he sees Moby-Dick as maybe the greatest book about America), and Lewis Mumford, that culminates with Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech he delivered in 1979, which Berman regards as the tradition’s “last stand.” Here’s Carter:
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

Berman sees very little that the individual can do to escape the “American Nightmare,” other than flee (he went to Mexico) or pursue what he calls the “monastic option” (which he explores in detail in the first book): “resisting the dominant culture and trying to do something meaningful with your life as opposed to living the mass dream.”

Made up a good reading list of books I’ve wanted to check out for a while:

• Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
• A General Theory of Love
• Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America
• E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
• Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization"

[See also: "How America's 'Culture of Hustling' Is Dark and Empty: Results-obsessed perspectives overlook meaning — and leave little room for creativity, pleasure, or accepting the importance of sadness."
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/how-americas-culture-of-hustling-is-dark-and-empty/278601/ ]
morrisberman  consumerism  jimmycarter  austinkleon  2016  2014  toread  hustle  hustling  hermanmelville  moby-dick  transcendentalism  us  culture  society  self-indulgence  consumption  materialism  technohustling  monasticism  cv  efschumacher  leismumford  barbaraehrenreich  toqueville  meaning  meaningmaking  sadness  emptiness  results  creativity  pleasure  leisurearts  artleisure  mobydick 
december 2016 by robertogreco
The ‘Libertarian Moment’ Is Really An Individualist Moment
"What we can call the utopian eugenics of our time inevitably has “statist” implications. If it becomes possible, for example, to upgrade physically and cognitively human embryos through medical technology to make their lives much longer and safer, we really won’t be able to allow people to choose against that upgrade for their children. It, of course, will require separating the sexual act from reproduction; embryos will have to be implanted into natural or artificial wombs. Mormons and Catholics might want to continue to have sex the old-fashioned way and hope and pray for the best. That won’t be allowed. All those dumb and diseased Mormons running around would be a nasty and easily avoidable risk factor for us all. Today, people claim to be pro-choice on abortion for health and safety, but their opponents, say, rightly that there’s a contradiction between choosing for health but against life. Soon enough, maybe, choice will disappear for the same reason, for what will be a genuinely coercive culture of life. When I called this possibility to the attention of the libertarian sort-of transhumanist Ronald Bailey, his response was that, well, no reasonable person would choose not to be enhanced with security in mind."



"Surely we have to conclude that lots of libertarians, from today’s pampered young to the high theorists of economics and Silicon Valley, have security issues that keep them from embracing unreservedly the freedom given to each of us by God and/or nature as beings born to know, love, and die. Because the Mormons (for example) are so confident that the security of their personal beings is not in their own hands, they have what it takes to be firmer libertarians for more practical purposes. They’re not about to surrender authentic sexual freedom with the unprecedented maximization of health and safety in mind.

Too many libertarians are indifferent to the effects technological progress has on our relational lives. Indefinite longevity surely would destroy the relationships between generations, continue exponentially our creepy trend toward a world without children, and make lifelong marriage just about impossible. But it still, on behalf of the individual, can seem to be a choice worth making.

Our hyper-technophiles also celebrate the screen on all our smart devices as quite the democratic achievement. Virtually all Americans get to see the same virtual stuff—from great texts to great games to great porn—on the screen. I’ll leave it to you to add all the obvious costs the screen has had to our personal lives, to our ability to be together in love in the present and to be serenely alone with our thoughts in our disconnected rooms. Those who use libertarian means for non-libertarian ends, of course, are becoming increasingly adept in judiciously employing the screen by subordinating the techno-“how” to humanly worthy, deeply relational “whys.”

What we sometimes called libertarianism might better be called non-foundationalism. There’s no foundation for thinking that anything trumps the imperative of keeping the people alive right now as secure and as free as possible. The trouble with foundations—such as God or Nature or History or ideology or nation—is that they get people killed for no good reason. So today we just say that everyone has “human rights,” and nobody has to or should try to explain why.

It’s All About Me

Libertarianism so understood might better be called “individualism.” Individualism, Tocqueville explains, is the mistaken judgment that love and hate are both more trouble than their worth and turn each of us into suckers. So my relationships with others should be carefully calculated, based as much as possible on contract and consent. I go wrong when I think of myself as part of a whole greater than myself—as a citizen or a creature or even a member of a family. All such thinking is “collectivism,” which diverts me from the truth that the individual—me—is the bottom line. Liberty, in this view, is a kind of intellectual liberty that separates clear thinking from relational deception. It’s a kind of liberty that easily makes the individual obsessed with the contingency of his being, and, Tocqueville predicts, all too ready to surrender liberty for the security of “soft despotism.”

All the confusion we have with trying to figure out why our libertarian convergence is so selective when it comes from libertarian principle dissolves when we think of individualism as the self-understanding on the march in our time. Maybe one piece of good news is that the selective statism of most of our young isn’t to be confused with socialism. Socialism is a kind of civic devotion to a national or international community progressing in egalitarian solidarity through the cooperative efforts of government. Nobody these days can believe that people once died for socialism or Communism, and for our young the point of statism is to spare the individual from self-sacrifice or personal discomfort. Hardly anyone these days thinks of himself as ennobled by being part of the whole called History moving toward an earthly paradise. No individual will allow himself or herself to be regarded as mere “History fodder.” In the absence of any faith in God and History, I’m stuck with myself. And nothing is more securitarian than the thought that when I disappear, being itself is extinguished.

Another piece of good news is that our young aren’t fascists, either, thinking of themselves as part of some racial or national whole. They don’t even think of themselves as citizens ready, if need be, to be citizen soldiers. We can conclude by wondering whether even libertarian or securitarian concerns can be addressed adequately in the absence of citizenship, to say nothing about those connected with genuine self-government. Our hope remains with those who counterculturally work to deploy libertarian means for non-libertarian ends, with those with enough experience of personal love (and, yes, often hate) not to make the misjudgment of individualism or wallow in self-obsession. These days especially, citizenship depends on the prior experience of being a creature, being a “localist,” and being embedded in a fairly loving and functional family."
futurism  ethics  health  2014individualism  libertarianism  libertarians  security  religion  sexuality  peterlawler  toqueville  safety  ronaldbailey  securitarianism  freedom  individuality  via:ayjay 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Joe Bageant: The Sucker Bait Called Hope
"we go into a new year with millions of Americans still clinging to The Audacity of Hope...we are victims of learned helplessness, learned from the cradle...rocked by the foot of the Capitalist consumer state. Sure we can hope for movement away from domination of the weak by the arrogant, away from ecocide and genocide toward a better world. What the hell, hope is one of the few free activities in this society. We don't even have to put down the remote and get off our asses to do it...But the fact is that when we encounter in-the-flesh examples of any merciful movement...we blanch and erect a wall of denial and excuses for our refusal to support that thing....We have no genuine concept of common good...Toqueville observed that 170 years ago. He said that in America, no man owes another man anything. Nor is he owed by any other man. Where does that leave any movement toward the common weal requiring the cooperative efforts of more than one man? We all know the answer -- The Gubbyment."
us  future  crisis  environment  healthcare  education  universities  colleges  change  hope  barackobama  government  politics  consumerism  capitalism  progressive  toqueville  joebageant  via:cburell  helplessness  sustainability  generations  sacrifice  gamechanging  finance  history  society 
december 2008 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read