"politics are personal"....

Qvist

Active Member
Towards the end of this old thread about David Cameron liking The Smiths ( http://www.morrissey-solo.com/threa...ons/page6?highlight=the+personal+is+political), we got into a debate about the adage "all politics are personal". We approached that as an 80s phenomenon. However, I'm just reading Christopher Hitchens' memoir "Hitch 22", which contains the following passage that I am unable to resist sharing:

As 1968 began to ebb into 1969 however, and as "anticlimax" began to become a real word in my lexicon, another term began to obtrude itself. People began to intone the words "the personal is political". At the instant I first heard this deadly expression, I knew as one does from the utterance of any sinister bullshit that it was very bad news. From now on, it would be enough to be a member of a sex or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic "preference", to qualify as a revolutionary. In order to begin a speech or to ask a question from the floor, all that would be neccessary by way of preface would be the words: "Speaking as a..." Then could follow any self-loving description. I will have to say this much for the old "hard" left: We earned our claim to speak and intervene by right of experience and sacrifice and work. There are many ways of dating the moment when the left discarded its moral advantage, but this was the first time that I was to see the sellout conducted so cheaply.

That to me perfectly expresses many of my own misgivings about the concept, but more to the point fixes the late 60s rather than the 80s as the moment of its rise to prominence. Doesn't it rather change things that it grew out of the requirements of late 60s radicalism, rather than as a forced response to an 80s reaganism that was culturally ascendant?
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Towards the end of this old thread about David Cameron liking The Smiths ( http://www.morrissey-solo.com/threa...ons/page6?highlight=the+personal+is+political), we got into a debate about the adage "all politics are personal". We approached that as an 80s phenomenon. However, I'm just reading Christopher Hitchens' memoir "Hitch 22", which contains the following passage that I am unable to resist sharing:

As 1968 began to ebb into 1969 however, and as "anticlimax" began to become a real word in my lexicon, another term began to obtrude itself. People began to intone the words "the personal is political". At the instant I first heard this deadly expression, I knew as one does from the utterance of any sinister bullshit that it was very bad news. From now on, it would be enough to be a member of a sex or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic "preference", to qualify as a revolutionary. In order to begin a speech or to ask a question from the floor, all that would be neccessary by way of preface would be the words: "Speaking as a..." Then could follow any self-loving description. I will have to say this much for the old "hard" left: We earned our claim to speak and intervene by right of experience and sacrifice and work. There are many ways of dating the moment when the left discarded its moral advantage, but this was the first time that I was to see the sellout conducted so cheaply.

That to me perfectly expresses many of my own misgivings about the concept, but more to the point fixes the late 60s rather than the 80s as the moment of its rise to prominence. Doesn't it rather change things that it grew out of the requirements of late 60s radicalism, rather than as a forced response to an 80s reaganism that was culturally ascendant?
Hello Qvist.

I'm not suprised that Hitch thinks political correctness and identity politics came out of the Sixties. It's one of the central arguments put forward by Allan Bloom, among others, and I consider Bloom (very loosely) connected to Hitch's intellectual circle, Saul Bellow being its hub. In the Fifties and Sixties seeds were planted, in the Eighties we saw the harvest. (Actually, if you swallow Bloom's-- and Leo Strauss's-- whole line of reasoning, the seeds were actually planted by the wave of German writers and academics who fled Europe in the Thirties, before World War II; they actually draw a fairly straight line between Weimer Republic liberalism and the Rolling Stones.) It's no coincidence Reagan was an actor. He was just the face the Right chose for its decade-long counterattack against what it saw as the dangerous liberalism of the Sixties. I don't think it changes much about the debate; Hitchens' response is totally unconvincing to me because, typically, he's setting his own standard for who is allowed to protest and who isn't. Who exactly decides who has "put in the work" to qualify as a revolutionary?

I also think that Hitchens is (again, typically) making a straw man argument. Nobody doubts that there are fatuous, superficial "revolutionaries" who think they've earned the right to protest merely because of some personal trait or other, but there were, and continue to be, many within the identity politics crowd who are completely legitimate in both their aims and their tactics. Indeed, the irritating thing about Hitchens is the way he keeps ignoring the lessons of his idol, George Orwell, one of the most important ones being that in any large bloc of politically-engaged citizens at least half of them are going to be charlatans, idiots, or both. Hitchens has betrayed his former comrades by pretending only one side has its share of odious nitwits. But that's always the way with entrenched power, isn't it? In the eyes of power it's the other guy, the outsider, who has to explain every last one of his mistakes and shortcomings and withstand superhuman levels of scrutiny.

Didn't Morrissey describe it perfectly, with respect to the music industry? If you're a stooge serving the interests of the big companies, nobody says a word against you. But if you step out of line, show an ounce of intelligence and independence, you have to answer for it every second of your life. It's the same in politics. Power never has to come down from its tower to plead its case to the rabble. Power decides who gets a voice. Power calls one man a citizen and another a criminal. Power calls a college student camping in a quad to protest fee hikes a "threat to national security" but calls a gaggle of dunderheaded fascists "legitimate GOP presidential candidates". Hitchens has been an apologist for power for many years now, and the excerpt you've quoted shows that very clearly.

I don't know if this answers your question, but I suspect you just wanted to nudge a conversation into existence. :rolleyes:
 
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Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
That to me perfectly expresses many of my own misgivings about the concept, but more to the point fixes the late 60s rather than the 80s as the moment of its rise to prominence. Doesn't it rather change things that it grew out of the requirements of late 60s radicalism, rather than as a forced response to an 80s reaganism that was culturally ascendant?
As usual, Worm nailed it. That is, indeed, the evolution of "all politics are personal"; it is a phenomenon that was fully realized in the 1980s, when the seeds planted in the '60s finally reached mainstream consciousness. Out of those hard-won successes was born the Reagan revolution, and the steady march back to the 19th Century. Reagan was the avatar of a backlash against a democratization of power. Reaganism, trickle-down economics and the rise of the Religious Right are all an attempt to transfer power back to the hands of the traditional ruling elite: monied interests and entrenched religious institutions.

"Identity politics" is a term used to delegitimize the claims of the politically/socially disenfranchised, particularly those on the left. Although it has its roots in the civil rights movement of the '60s, and it is often applied to advocates of feminism and gay rights, I think that it applies universally at this moment in history (at least in our decadent, Western democracies). Hitchens' distaste for the narcissistic possibilities of the movement are justified, and his romantic attachment to the notion of purely abstract, altruistic political revolution are laudable (ah, the purity of the classicists), but the fundamental flaw in his thinking is evidenced in his siding with the Neocons, and their calamitous notions of violent democratic intervention. The lessons of the Iraq war should have put an end to this nonsense once and for all.

Didn't Morrissey describe it perfectly, with respect to the music industry? If you're a stooge serving the interests of the big companies, nobody says a word against you. But if you step out of line, show an ounce of intelligence and independence, you have to answer for it every second of your life. It's the same in politics. Power never has to come down from its tower to plead its case to the rabble. Power decides who gets a voice. Power calls one man a citizen and another a criminal. Power calls a college student camping in a quad to protest fee hikes a "threat to national security" but calls a gaggle of dunderheaded fascists "legitimate GOP presidential candidates". Hitchens has been an apologist for power for many years now, and the excerpt you've quoted shows that very clearly.
So well put: of all of Morrissey's many pop-cultural observations this is one of the wisest, and should never be forgotten: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

Power makes no apologies, and the fact that peaceful protesters who are putting the only thing that they have (their bodies) on the line for social and economic justice are being beaten and maced in the face by police in full riot gear is just the latest evidence that Reagan's "shining city on a hill" (and the notion of American Exceptionalism so touted by the right) is dead. The fact that the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square offered the Occupy Movement advice and support is both beautiful and fantastically sad.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Reaganism, trickle-down economics and the rise of the Religious Right are all an attempt to transfer power back to the hands of the traditional ruling elite: monied interests and entrenched religious institutions.
I think it's hilarious that you actually distinguished between "monied interests" and "religious institutions". :lbf:

"Identity politics" is a term used to delegitimize the claims of the politically/socially disenfranchised, particularly those on the left.
On this point, my basic opinion about identity politics was strongly informed by a reading, many years ago, of Luce Irigaray's "This Sex Which Is Not One". Her reading of Freud is devastating, and whether or not one feels she has debunked the quack of Vienna altogether, if nothing else it's an instructive case study in how an entire group of people can be delegitimized by the use of ideology masquerading as scientific/empirical facts. Just as Freud mistakenly held women to a false objective standard (they are not viewed as women, but as "not-men", and judged with predictable harshness), Hitchens evaluates many on the left by an unfair and obviously subjective standard (i.e. whether the protesters in question appear to be like him or not).

This is why the Occupy movement, whatever its faults, has succeeded wildly: merely by existing they are angering the establishment, because the establishment simply cannot tolerate anything existing outside its strict ideological framework. In the reactions on FOX News and other outlets you can see that it's more than disapproval or disagreement. Some of them are having nervous breakdowns; nearly all of them are short-circuiting on an epistemic level. This is the one valid claim made by the various factions in the realm of identity politics: it is a strong and legitimate protest merely to call attention to your existence, as a woman, a homosexual, a Muslim, and so forth, not because it accords to the rules of political activism as handed down by George Orwell, but because in the dominant Western ideology just to be any of these makes one a bug in the programming, a system-crashing anomaly, very much a flavor of poison in the human machine. The response to OWS is typically some version of "A tent city is not a political program, what do they want?" This ignores the obvious fact that all political opposition within the system has already been co-opted and neutralized before the fact. To stand apart, even mutely, is, today, the only starting point for real change.

It reminds me of that classic exchange in one of the James Bond films. Established power asks OWS, "Why won't you go through the accepted channels of dissent? By camping out here, do you expect me to change? Do you expect me to reform?" To which OWS responds, "No, Mr. Banker, I expect you to die".

Qvist is going to knock me about the head with a sock full of pennies for this one. :)

Incidentally, I should add that I always enjoy reading Christopher Hitchens. I hope he's around for many years to come. I just don't always agree with him, and I definitely see the limits of his thinking about various topics.
 
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Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
I think it's hilarious that you actually distinguished between "monied interests" and "religious institutions". :lbf:
The only real difference between the two historically is the assumption of spiritual authority. It's good to separate the godly from the godless, however, if only for conversational purposes.

On this point, my basic opinion about identity politics was strongly informed by a reading, many years ago, of Luce Irigaray's "This Sex Which Is Not One". Her reading of Freud is devastating, and whether or not one feels she has debunked the quack of Vienna altogether, if nothing else it's an instructive case study in how an entire group of people can be delegitimized by the use of ideology masquerading as scientific/empirical facts. Just as Freud mistakenly held women to a false objective standard (they are not viewed as women, but as "not-men", and judged with predictable harshness), Hitchens evaluates many on the left by an unfair and obviously subjective standard (i.e. whether the protesters in question appear to be like him or not).
I can hardly wait to see Cronenberg's take on Freud, Jung and Sabina. Mmmm, sexy...

But back to the point: the subversion of empiricism to validate ideology is as dangerous as the subversion of spirituality or nationality toward the same ends. The ongoing attempt to establish a scientific basis for morality, however, is fascinating: Sam Harris' continuing attempt, for instance, to fuse neuroscience, philosophy and ethics leads us into yet another interesting quagmire.

This is why the Occupy movement, whatever its faults, has succeeded wildly: merely by existing they are angering the establishment, because the establishment simply cannot tolerate anything existing outside its strict ideological framework. In the reactions on FOX News and other outlets you can see that it's more than disapproval or disagreement. Some of them are having nervous breakdowns; nearly all of them are short-circuiting on an epistemic level. This is the one valid claim made by the various factions in the realm of identity politics: it is a strong and legitimate protest merely to call attention to your existence, as a woman, a homosexual, a Muslim, and so forth, not because it accords to the rules of political activism as handed down by George Orwell, but because in the dominant Western ideology just to be any of these makes one a bug in the programming, a system-crashing anomaly, very much a flavor of poison in the human machine. The response to OWS is typically some version of "A tent city is not a political program, what do they want?" This ignores the obvious fact that all political opposition within the system has already been co-opted and neutralized before the fact. To stand apart, even mutely, is, today, the only starting point for real change.
Yes, the pundits' heads are exploding: they're stymied by a genuine, street-level populist movement. The faux-populism of the Right has been so vocal these last few years that when the genuine article rears its head, the chattering classes don't know what to do. Thank goodness that the Occupiers have finally succeeded in steering the national conversation: the anti-war movement of the naughts was widespread and tireless, and they made many of the same points; their message, however, went unheard.

The continuing media trope that OWS does not have a clear ideology beggars belief: the Tea Party incoherently demands that the Federal Government keep its hands off Medicare, and the media genuflects. OWS demands an end to corporate money in politics, and they're all a bunch of smelly hippies who don't have a clue. It's beautiful to watch Frank Luntz desperately try to rebrand the dialogue on the Right. Progress. :rolleyes:

As for minority status being a fly in the ointment: Americans in particular should have taken up the mantle of "E Pluribus Unum" and run with it. That was the handshake heard around the world.

Qvist is going to knock me about the head with a sock full of pennies for this one. :)
Qvist gives as good as he gets. :)

Incidentally, I should add that I always enjoy reading Christopher Hitchens. I hope he's around for many years to come. I just don't always agree with him, and I definitely see the limits of his thinking about various topics.
Christopher Hitchens is one of the most compelling speakers out there, and he's never shied from the role of public intellectual, which I admire. His firm, eloquent embrace of atheism in the face of almost certain, fairly imminent death is inspirational. I often don't agree with him, but he's a marvelously well-informed thinker, and will be greatly missed.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
Sam Harris' continuing attempt, for instance, to fuse neuroscience, philosophy and ethics leads us into yet another interesting quagmire.
As quagmires go, it's interesting. I'll give you that. But Harris' positions still constitute a quagmire. Also-- if anyone can be trusted to drag dear old Oscar into a debate, it's me-- I thought one of the points about, y'know, being human and stuff is to be "as artificial as possible". Humans are higher creatures because they can go against nature when they need to. Empiricism may help me "succeed" as an organism, but it's not always reliable in helping me act like a human being. Ethics can't come from a laboratory. Queer penguins and mutually cooperative tiger sharks don't tell me anything about how to live a good life. One or two human beings have, and they've tended to disrupt the natural order of things, not validate it. That's why the symbol of one of those people is a line intersecting another line at a perpindicular angle, not a circle.

the anti-war movement of the naughts was widespread and tireless, and they made many of the same points; their message, however, went unheard.
I wish I could give the OWS movement all the credit. Cherchez l'argent: if more people than ever are listening to these protests it's because, at last, the 99% are being nailed in their pocketbooks. The disastrous wars fought by the United States in the Aughties didn't appear to cost much at the time-- they were just cool video games, after all, or maybe a mildly compelling reality TV show starring a lovable chimp and his humorless handlers, and in any case gas was cheaper, all thanks be to Christ-- but when a global depression squats squarely in people's living rooms they're going to look up from their Playstations and see what's going on. Well, some of them are.

Americans in particular should have taken up the mantle of "E Pluribus Unum" and run with it.
They did, at least for awhile. That's why I still love the place. Past glories can still thrill me, on occasion, despite the current dismal state of...uh, wait, am I still talking about the U.S., or Morrissey? :rolleyes:

Christopher Hitchens is one of the most compelling speakers out there, and he's never shied from the role of public intellectual, which I admire. His firm, eloquent embrace of atheism in the face of almost certain, fairly imminent death is inspirational. I often don't agree with him, but he's a marvelously well-informed thinker, and will be greatly missed.
Absolutely, although, again, I think his atheism is sometimes painfully limited by the fact that he often loses his way in his own polemical fireworks. He'd rather win a debate than arrive at a truth. But I think he's done a lot of good on that score.
 
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Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
As quagmires go, it's interesting. I'll give you that. But Harris' positions still constitute a quagmire. Also-- if anyone can be trusted to drag dear old Oscar into a debate, it's me-- I thought one of the points about, y'know, being human and stuff is to be "as artificial as possible". Humans are higher creatures because they can go against nature when they need to. Empiricism may help me "succeed" as an organism, but it's not always reliable in helping me act like a human being. Ethics can't come from a laboratory. Queer penguins and mutually cooperative tiger sharks don't tell me anything about how to live a good life. One or two human beings have, and they've tended to disrupt the natural order of things, not validate it. That's why the symbol of one of those people is a line intersecting another line at a perpindicular angle, not a circle.
See, the passion and the crucifixion are real...

I wish I could give the OWS movement all the credit. Cherchez l'argent: if more people than ever are listening to these protests it's because, at last, the 99% are being nailed in their pocketbooks. The disastrous wars fought by the United States in the Aughties didn't appear to cost much at the time-- they were just cool video games, after all, or maybe a mildly compelling reality TV show starring a lovable chimp and his humorless handlers, and in any case gas was cheaper, all thanks be to Christ-- but when a global depression squats squarely in people's living rooms they're going to look up from their Playstations and see what's going on. Well, some of them are.
Yes, OWS is succeeding because these are awful, dreary, angry times, and like the man said: "When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose."

The Naughts were ruled by war, which stifles dissent. What an unholy nightmare that was.

They did, at least for awhile. That's why I still love the place. Past glories can still thrill me, on occasion, despite the current dismal state of...uh, wait, am I still talking about the U.S., or Morrissey? :rolleyes:
Yes, indeed: I'm still living in an America of revolutionaries, frogpondians and wild-eyed poets. I cannot let it go. As for Morrissey, he's still got the pipes, so I'll hang around: we owe the poets that much.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
The Naughts were ruled by war, which stifles dissent. What an unholy nightmare that was.
Well, the wars aren't totally over, and in any case they bankrupted the United States. One way or another we're not out of the nightmare.

Yes, indeed: I'm still living in an America of revolutionaries, frogpondians and wild-eyed poets. I cannot let it go.
Ah yes, Walt Whitman's America. Levi's commercials notwithstanding, that was a pretty good America, wasn't it? Many of the ideas live on.

As for Morrissey, he's still got the pipes, so I'll hang around: we owe the poets that much.
Yes, and in this case we owe the poet because the poet owes. :rolleyes:
 

Qvist

Active Member
Worm, Anesthesine;

To stand apart, even mutely, is, today, the only starting point for real change.
That's fine, presupposing you eventually do get around to the actual real change part from that starting point. The ability of the Occupy movement to do that (or to enable someone else to) will be the test of its relevance. I'm not holding my breath. ;) Besides, I doubt many americans are up for really radical change. I’m not either, for that matter. Perhaps it will be most useful as a reminder that it’s not only the right that can throw up idealistically driven mass movements.

Incidentally, I should add that I always enjoy reading Christopher Hitchens. I hope he's around for many years to come. I just don't always agree with him, and I definitely see the limits of his thinking about various topics.
Oh, I don’t nearly always agree with him either. It's interesting, this combination of 60s radicalism and propensity for buying into the Neocon thing. Its the same with PJ O'Rourke, though Hitchens retains some vestige of general radicalism. It is tempting to speculate in some underlying common reason.
Anyway – I am unable to share the positive view the pair of you take of identity politics, or whatever we choose to call it, though I can appreciate how under circumstances it can be forced upon you. That being said, I see identity politics as something that today is even more a characteristic of the right than of the left. Immoderate conservatives are claiming the right of definition by force of who they are and what they represent, not through force of argument. It might in some sense and under certain circumstances be a political statement to be a lesbian – it certainly is to be a christian fundamentalist, when one insists on employing the norms that go with that position as the standard for the whole country and everyone in it. What could more perfectly express the core of identity politics than the existence of Fox News – the idea that “we” need our news given from “our” angle. Unless it’s the racially-tinted nationalism of the new european right with its rigid dichotomy of “European” and “multicultural” culture, and intellectually bankrupt notion of “Eurabia”.

All this might be thought to smack of the ivory tower when regarded against the pressing exigencies of contemporary politics, but if you look back at the last century or so, do we really see a lot of causes that ultimately proved worth compromising one’s intellectual integrity for ? (or, perhaps more to the point, that would in the end have been helped by doing so) :)

I had some original point or other about how the timing in the emergence of the concept mattered, in that it essentially had to have grown out of the inner requirements of late 60s radicalism if that is when it was coined, but it probably wasn’t a very good one since I am unable to recall it. :)
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
I hesitate to join a thread with contributions from the triumvirate of brainboxes on Morrissey solo but I will be brave and add my thoughts.
In the eighties when the personal and the political were being mixed most visibly I recall 2 salient viewpoints:
1) If you didn't fit the normal template, the way you were treated (racism, sexism or whatever) forced you to be political. If you are a victim of a racist attack, you're only affective response is a political one.
2) The way you behave in your everyday life has a political aspect. The way you treat your workmates, use language, enage with bureaucracy etc and it behoves us to be aware of this and act accordingly.
In retrospect, I see nothing wrong with these positions.
 

Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
I hesitate to join a thread with contributions from the triumvirate of brainboxes on Morrissey solo but I will be brave and add my thoughts.
In the eighties when the personal and the political were being mixed most visibly I recall 2 salient viewpoints:
1) If you didn't fit the normal template, the way you were treated (racism, sexism or whatever) forced you to be political. If you are a victim of a racist attack, you're only affective response is a political one.
2) The way you behave in your everyday life has a political aspect. The way you treat your workmates, use language, enage with bureaucracy etc and it behoves us to be aware of this and act accordingly.
In retrospect, I see nothing wrong with these positions.
I think the second point is terribly important, and gets lost in any conversation about the notion of the personal being political: it's not necessarily who you are, but what you do that is important. "Meat is Murder," for example, was the perfect song for its time. The message resonated not just emotionally, but with the notion that our personal choices were political acts. Reagan's America was a place where a certain generation felt that we had to take matters into our own hands because our government had abandoned us and discrimination was being openly institutionalized. When White House officials made statements about AIDS being "nature's's revenge on homosexuals," everyone in the creative community knew that every day was going to be a battle. Everything became politicized. In that kind of climate, every act becomes one of defiance.
 

Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
Well, the wars aren't totally over, and in any case they bankrupted the United States. One way or another we're not out of the nightmare.
No, we may never wake up from the nightmare, but the days of being completely ignored are over (for now).

Ah yes, Walt Whitman's America. Levi's commercials notwithstanding, that was a pretty good America, wasn't it? Many of the ideas live on.
Actually, Emerson is my favorite "frogpondian." He may be my favorite American. It's interesting to note that he held considerable cultural sway at least until the 1970s - an impressive run. His relative fall came with the anti-intellectual backlash of the Reagan revolution, another pointless American casualty of those blighted times.

An interesting sidenote: it was another one of my favorite Americans, Edgar Allan Poe, who coined the term "frogpondian" to ridicule the Transcendentalists. What a fascinating conflict between two of the most important, innovative minds that this country has ever produced.
 

Black Cloud

Case Sensitive
Towards the end of this old thread about David Cameron liking The Smiths ( http://www.morrissey-solo.com/threa...ons/page6?highlight=the+personal+is+political), we got into a debate about the adage "all politics are personal". We approached that as an 80s phenomenon. However, I'm just reading Christopher Hitchens' memoir "Hitch 22", which contains the following passage that I am unable to resist sharing:

As 1968 began to ebb into 1969 however, and as "anticlimax" began to become a real word in my lexicon, another term began to obtrude itself. People began to intone the words "the personal is political". At the instant I first heard this deadly expression, I knew as one does from the utterance of any sinister bullshit that it was very bad news. From now on, it would be enough to be a member of a sex or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic "preference", to qualify as a revolutionary. In order to begin a speech or to ask a question from the floor, all that would be neccessary by way of preface would be the words: "Speaking as a..." Then could follow any self-loving description. I will have to say this much for the old "hard" left: We earned our claim to speak and intervene by right of experience and sacrifice and work. There are many ways of dating the moment when the left discarded its moral advantage, but this was the first time that I was to see the sellout conducted so cheaply.

That to me perfectly expresses many of my own misgivings about the concept, but more to the point fixes the late 60s rather than the 80s as the moment of its rise to prominence. Doesn't it rather change things that it grew out of the requirements of late 60s radicalism, rather than as a forced response to an 80s reaganism that was culturally ascendant?
You can make this mean all sorts of things, but I think Hitchens is taking a swipe at the Carol Hanisch-style feminist rhetoric that prevailed at the time, and has become endemic of the Left since. Hanisch did write that essay "The Personal is Political," and we do know that Hitchens has a history of mysogynistic statements. Prior to the rise of feminism in the late Sixties, the Left (especially in Britain, where it is synonymous with Labor) was the province of big tough sweaty angry Bolshy boys, and many of them still resent that their movement was co-opted by a bunch of women. Ha ha.

For the record, I'm neither a feminist nor a Hitchens fan. They're lost.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
The ability of the Occupy movement to do that (or to enable someone else to) will be the test of its relevance.
They won't. But they will be the first of a series of shocks to the system which may, eventually, dislodge certain bad actors from their seats of power. If I were in Las Vegas, putting money down on what I think it will take, I predict that only a cluster of massive natural disasters, on a global scale, will topple the current power structure. Nuts in tents are only an amusing prelude.

Besides, I doubt many americans are up for really radical change. I’m not either, for that matter.
I'm hardly a radical myself. Matters are getting out of hand, though. At some point it is appropriate and necessary to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater.

Oh, I don’t nearly always agree with him either. It's interesting, this combination of 60s radicalism and propensity for buying into the Neocon thing. Its the same with PJ O'Rourke, though Hitchens retains some vestige of general radicalism. It is tempting to speculate in some underlying common reason.
I don't remember who said this-- Robert Conquest?-- but I've always loved the line about neocons: "Liberals mugged by reality".

I think people like Hitchens are easy to explain. Disillusion with what he followed as a younger man (in his case, Trotskyite communism) caused a fall straight into the arms of neoliberal ideology, which has superficially co-opted the best and the brightest of the last three or four hundred years of post-Enlightenment thinkers to further the pursuits of the elite. The signals are scrambled. Neocons are not true conservatives; neoliberals are not true liberals. It's a bizarre intellectual bubble in which everything is probably the opposite of what it seems. Look at it this way. We might ask, how can Hitchens support a guy like George W. Bush? But if you toss aside all the labels and soundbites, and get beyond the scary pandering to the Republican base, we might instead ask why Hitchens wouldn't support a President who was a big-government, big-spending, big-idea do-gooder who wanted to use American exceptionalism to bring freedom and democracy to the world. I'm not saying that was the truth about Bush, of course. I'm saying that Hitchens, and others of his ilk, were understandably deceived and therefore aren't as crazy as they seem when we examine them more closely. Bush was a liberal, in some very important senses of the word (just as Obama, for his part, is a classic Reagan Republican).

That being said, I see identity politics as something that today is even more a characteristic of the right than of the left. Immoderate conservatives are claiming the right of definition by force of who they are and what they represent, not through force of argument. It might in some sense and under certain circumstances be a political statement to be a lesbian – it certainly is to be a christian fundamentalist, when one insists on employing the norms that go with that position as the standard for the whole country and everyone in it. What could more perfectly express the core of identity politics than the existence of Fox News – the idea that “we” need our news given from “our” angle. Unless it’s the racially-tinted nationalism of the new european right with its rigid dichotomy of “European” and “multicultural” culture, and intellectually bankrupt notion of “Eurabia”.
It's all explained by another phenomenon, which is the postmodern turn in the culture. It's not so much that "conservatives" are now adopting tactics once favored by the left-- though they are, and you are right to say they are-- so much as the fact that everything is now meaningless and groups of people need only make a lot of noise to make politics work in their favor. What we're seeing isn't a clash of beliefs, values, and philosophies. It's just noise, chaos, pandemonium: distractions. Politics on both sides are vacant. Civil society is now a subspecies of advertising.

All this might be thought to smack of the ivory tower when regarded against the pressing exigencies of contemporary politics, but if you look back at the last century or so, do we really see a lot of causes that ultimately proved worth compromising one’s intellectual integrity for ? (or, perhaps more to the point, that would in the end have been helped by doing so) :)
Ha ha. Good question! For my part I would prefer to question my own intellectual integrity, first, before deriding any causes "out there". Usually doesn't take long for me to spot the flaws in my reasoning. :)

I had some original point or other about how the timing in the emergence of the concept mattered, in that it essentially had to have grown out of the inner requirements of late 60s radicalism if that is when it was coined, but it probably wasn’t a very good one since I am unable to recall it. :)
Well, we're all chatting again, so there's that. :rolleyes:
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
It's interesting to note that he held considerable cultural sway at least until the 1970s - an impressive run.
In the fullness of time, when historians look back on when America's soul perished, they will mark the early 70s as the time of death. If so, the claim that Emerson stood for the true America would be even stronger.

An interesting sidenote: it was another one of my favorite Americans, Edgar Allan Poe, who coined the term "frogpondian" to ridicule the Transcendentalists. What a fascinating conflict between two of the most important, innovative minds that this country has ever produced.
Emerson was a favorite of Nietzsche's, though probably not such a major influence. Nietzsche would still have been Nietzsche if he hadn't read Emerson. But I've just finished a study of the Symbolists and it's actually possible to argue that an entire run of major French writers, from Baudelaire to Proust, would not have been the same without Poe. Bit of a stretch, but not impossible.
 

salfordladalone

New Member
Off topic!! Stop wanking over each other in the general forum what the hell has this pseudo intellectual shite got to do with Morrissey? OFF TOPIC!!
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Qvist, in looking over the original post in 2010, I think what you're getting at with your question is, specifically, Anaesthesine's contention that "the personal is the political" came along in the 1980s as a result of Reagan's rise to power and the ensuing wave of cultural conservatism. As I wrote above I think the answer is simple: Hitchens is right, inasmuch as the roots of identity politics are in the 1960s, but Anaesthesine is right, too, because these politics didn't really manifest until the 1980s, when Reagan forced a reaction.

Like you, I think the timing is interesting, though probably for different reasons ( :rolleyes: ).

I'm convinced that it's necessary to think of one's body as a battleground, as Barbara Kruger put it. She meant women, but I think it applies to men as well. To some extent you can see the "personal is political" idea in The Smiths, as well, just as Anaesthesine said. Morrissey not only had a strong interest in feminism, but wanted to bring many feminist principles into the discussion about male identity, too. What was showing up on Top Of The Pops wearing a hearing aid about, if not identity politics?

Anaesthesine is right to say Reagan and the Moral Majority creeps declared war on homosexuality, most repugnantly of all in calling AIDS a gay disease. It forced many people to form their own special interest groups to defend themselves and look out for their rights. But it's precisely in that defensive strategy that something crucial was sacrificed: broad social solidarity, the basis of democracy, "E pluribus unum". As soon as we defend our little faction, and not the social body as a whole, we are doomed. Divide and conquer: a tactic as old as the world, and we're doing it for them!

With respect to the timing, which is part of your question, it's interesting because this came about in the late Seventies and early Eighties, in lockstep with the rise of neoliberalism. The cruel irony is that the idea of individualism triumphed in the social body exactly at the moment in history when it could be used as a wedge to smash the foundations of liberal democracy. It's no coincidence that identity politics was on the rise at the same time as Reagan was busting the air traffic controllers' union and Thatcher was breaking the miners.

For me, this gets to a very interesting contradiction within The Smiths, and the political positions the band took-- mostly implicitly-- in their first few years in the 80s. Namely, The Smiths stood for the primacy of the individual (you had to be witty, charming, handsome, interesting, etc, and nobody could tell you what to do or how to act) and yet, at the same time, there was a strong message of social solidarity underlying the music and their publicity efforts (The Smiths seen as a "gang", the anonymity of the band's name, Morrissey's sweeping anger at the government, the consistent talk about what "people" should do as a group, and so on).

I've said this eighty times on Solo, but I'll say it again: one of Morrissey's smartest remarks was the one he made apropos Live Aid, that asking the average British citizen to end hunger in Africa was a ridiculous insult because the government could end poverty and hunger any time it wished, almost with the flip of a switch. I think he saw which way the winds were blowing. Politics would be reduced to the personal, which at first seemed a triumphant new way to live in the world, but in reality would ignore basic problems in government and lead to a further widening of inequality and, sooner or later, a subsequent diminishment of the individual.

This is why OWS is at least a little bit heartening. They're a collection of individuals who, for the first time, are attempting a horizontal, non-hierarchical structure of self-governance. I don't think they'll succeed in establishing anything, but as I said above it might be a fruitful experiment for future collectives that might finally break through, and in any case it shows that many people have figured out a basic truth about the movement toward "personal politics" that began in the 60s and burst forth in the 80s: the thing really worth fighting for is the commons, and we can only protect the commons as a group.
 
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salfordladalone

New Member
I repeat!

Off topic!! Stop wanking over each other in the general forum what the hell has this pseudo intellectual shite got to do with Morrissey? OFF TOPIC!!

Just use the PM function for your endless torrent of self aggrandising shite worm and qvist NOBODY is interested
 
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