Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The overlooked intelligentsia?

I had an interesting conversation with a left-wing acquaintance the other day. He suddenly blurted out his fears that Australia was going to get crushed by the forces gathering around it. He thought the Asian powers like China and India would continue to develop whilst Australia would fall behind. He also complained about stagnant wages and the high cost of housing in Australia.

I thought his comments significant because liberals have traditionally staked their politics on the idea of progress. And perhaps it was once possible for liberals to seriously believe in progress. There was a time, after all, when the liberal Western nations were ascendant in the world and when the average man could look forward to rising wages and a shorter working week. In these circumstances, people might have imagined that liberalism was delivering on its promise of progress.

But my acquaintance no longer held out much hope for this. He clearly thought things were going backwards. Hopefully, this means that liberalism will seem far less attractive a philosophy for the younger generations.

My acquaintance also had a theory for the decline. He did not blame an excessive individualism, or problems in the family leading to low birth rates, or the move offshore of industry due to neoliberal economics or the effect on the economy and society of open borders. For him, the underlying problem was a lack of respect for intellectuals and intellectualism.

And in this he is stuck in an old-fashioned headspace. One in which intellectuals feel alienated from society because they don't get to rule society to the degree they think is due to them.

This despite the fact that the modern West, the one my acquaintance thinks is declining, is largely a product of a secular liberal intelligentsia.

6 comments:

  1. "There was a time, after all, when the liberal Western nations were ascendant in the world and when the average man could look forward to rising wages and a shorter working week."

    Yes I think this is right. Liberalism became ideology when the West was effectively the leading civilisation and at the height of its confidence and powers. Aside from the Cold War I don't think its really yet ever been put in a position where it could lose (most intellectuals chose of course to underplay the significance of the Cold War and personally I'm not sure the Axis powers could have won WWII although they might have). To have rising other powers would no doubt be a shock to him.

    On the point about the importance of the intellectuals, this is of course is rubbish. What do the intellectuals choose to interest themselves in in Australia? Indigenous issues, the Republic and global warming. Ridiculous non issues that certainly don't lead to our advancement.

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  2. "He also complained about stagnant wages and the high cost of housing in Australia."

    Did he connect this to the liberal policy of immigration? I mean, duh!

    "For him, the underlying problem was a lack of respect for intellectuals and intellectualism."

    I'm guessing he didn't connect this lack of respect to the relentless outpouring of craziness from the intellectual class? if you want to be respected, do something respectable.

    In your post about the Oscars you linked to Auster's comment about Avatar, in which he said: "Cameron's original intent with the movie, as he has said in interviews, was to denounce American civilization for its destruction of the Native Indian cultures, while he also added that we shouldn't feel guilty about that. He seems to see displacements of this nature as a tragic inevitability."

    That is how liberals will regard the displacement of Australia from its happy position, and the displacement of the Australian people at the hands of the much more numerous Asians - as a "tragic inevitability". Liberals will never admit that their policies brought this about, or that rethinking excessive individualism, or problems in the family leading to low birth rates, or the move offshore of industry due to neoliberal economics, or open borders, might delay or even prevent this "inevitable" process from happening.

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  3. Liberalism and related ideologies (Marxism, cultural Marxism) are so predicated on Western Supremacy, the reality gap is starting to get really weird. I hear them say things that sound as if it was still 1904, and any threat to Western Supremacy from those lesser civilisations (ie everyone else) was utterly inconceivable.

    It still kind-of made some sense in the 1990s, but in 2010?

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  4. "And in this he is stuck in an old-fashioned headspace. One in which intellectuals feel alienated from society because they don't get to rule society to the degree they think is due to them.

    This despite the fact that the modern West, the one my acquaintance thinks is declining, is largely a product of a secular liberal intelligentsia. "

    Absolutely spot on. Well put.

    Angus.

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  5. Can you all please stop putting liberalism and Marxism in the same sentence?

    This blog has had countless post and comments of people criticising all the left, liberal and Marx, in a wave of critique.

    I am a proud Marxist and a vigilant anti-liberal. I cannot stand liberalism for countless reasons; I am repulsed by Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama and John Brumby and Gordon Brown and the Clintons, all supposed liberals.

    PS: This leftwing acquaintance of yours doesn't sound very leftwing at all

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  6. As I read the first paragraph of your post, a feeling of hope arose: ah, an epiphany was in the offing! This was, of course, dashed immediately, as your acquaintance was revealed as just another brainwashed minion of corporate neo-liberalism. Alas. We're drowning in them over here - it seems every article written by someone trying to explicate the actual roots of our troubles is followed by a thousand twittering comments bemoaning "anti-intellectualism". It's pretty funny, if it suits your humor - thoroughly propagandized, fatuous, unthinking, uninformed bobble-dolls complaining about "anti-intellectualism". It doesn't suit mine; I find it thoroughly depressing.

    I believe it is true, as you say, that many a liberal's support for "diversity", mass immigration, offshoring, and generally giving away the family silver, is undergirded by an unexamined belief in the unassailable predominance of Western culture and Western nations, or at least of their own caste within Western society. Thus I assumed you were going to tell a tale of the light finally filtering through and dispelling illusions. No such luck, eh? As Anonymous@4:47 notes, your protagonist has been so thoroughly head-gamed that it's all "inevitable" to him, even though the tools of recovery are at hand, in plain sight.

    Very discouraging.

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