Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Ed Rooksby – Review of Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: A Counter-History

Link to a review by Ed Rooksby of Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: A Counter-History (2005; 2011 trans.).  Losurdo’s counterpart book War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century (2015) should also be considered here, because it is arguably a better written (or better translated) book with a better exposition of its central argument.

“Liberalism: An Ideology of Exclusion? (Part 1)”

 

Selected quote:

“How do we make sense of this paradox at the heart of liberalism – the simultaneous invocation of liberty on the one hand and the justification and promulgation of severe forms of oppression on the other? The key to all of this, Losurdo argues, is to grasp that liberalism is founded on an implicit logic of exclusion. Only once we have understood this can we start to resolve the seeming inconsistencies. Liberalism has always pivoted, Losurdo argues, on drawing a dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – those who are worthy or capable (morally, intellectually, biologically/racially) of the gamut of rights and liberties we associate with liberalism and those who are not. Liberalism was always, of course, centrally concerned with the condemnation and limitation of despotic power and the corresponding assertion of rights to self-government, autonomy and so on – but this struggle was always waged by, and on behalf of, an exclusive section of humanity – what Losurdo terms ‘the community of the free’. The history of liberalism is thus in great part a history of how the particular specification and location of the boundary line between ‘the community of the free’ and the excluded has evolved and shifted.

“With this exclusionary logic in mind we can make sense of the paradoxes of liberal slavery, liberal empire and liberal authoritarianism towards wage labourers and the poor. In each of these three apparent paradoxes we are, in fact, confronting particular instances of the opposition between the justly free and the justly unfree. It is not that the brutal world of slavery, for example, represented a failure or negation of proclaimed liberal values, or revealed the hypocrisy of contemporary liberals, it is that the ‘community of the free’ in which the sphere of liberal rights and freedoms applied did not, and was not intended, to encompass black people. Liberalism, for Losurdo, was never a doctrine of moral universalism. We can see now, how racism and class contempt operated as necessary ideological supports for this system of exclusion. Slavery and colonial expropriation and domination was justified on the grounds that non-white peoples were by definition uncivilised, in a condition of ‘nonage’ (Mill), not fully human or even ‘savage beasts’ (Locke) and were thus rightly excluded from the ‘community of the free’. Similarly, workers and the poor in the metropolis were not intelligent, morally developed or, again, human enough to be admitted into the sacred space of the free community of liberals.

“It is not just that liberalism was long characterised by exclusion for Losurdo – it is also that, to a great extent, the liberty of the community of the free has depended on the exclusion and oppression of the unfree. That is, the relationship between the community of the free and the excluded has been one of exploitation in which the privileges of the former have been rooted in the expropriation and coercion of the unfree. It is here that class relations come into play.”

 

Bonus links: Critical Moral Liberalism: Theory and Practice (“liberal theories often serve as ideological cover for oppression of one group by others.”) and Against Liberalism and “François Furet, 20 ans après”

Joseph Ramsey – Does America Have a Gun Problem… or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?

Link to an article by Joseph Ramsey:

“Does America Have a Gun Problem… or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?”

I find it much harder to look past the problems with Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, but Ramsey offers some extremely interesting observations that don’t really depend on even seeing the film.

Bonus link: “When Liberals Go Wrong”

Jeffrey St. Clair & Alexander Cockburn – King of the Hate Business: Inside the Southern Poverty Law Center

Link to a reprint of an article by Jeffrey St. Clair & Alexander Cockburn:

“King of the Hate Business: Inside the Southern Poverty Law Center”

Bonus quote: “PC anti-racism is sustained by the surplus-enjoyment which emerges when the PC-subject triumphantly reveals the hidden racist bias on an apparently neutral statement or gesture

Good Social Science

A major contribution of (good) social science is to uncover and articulate implied meanings, as well as to refute false denials of meaning.  This is to say that human beings are often disingenuous in their explicit statements.  While that statement is hardly shocking (or original), it nonetheless stands in marked contrast to the work of a large swath of academic studies that rely on surveys and take all survey responses at face value, for instance.  More useful is an analysis — often statistical — that largely disregards (or diminishes) stated intents and rationales and instead draws out hidden motivations and benefits.  Take for instance accusations of discrimination, like racism.  Many racists deny that they are in fact racist (often because they rationally understand that such admissions are treated with derision and, sometimes, are prosecuted/redressed), frequently relying instead on a professed mantra of individual choice (or “states rights”, etc.).  These are often subtle attempts to re-frame the discussion away from the kinds of statistical analyses that would show how those purportedly benign personal choice in fact rely upon and support discriminatory “social constructs”.  In a broader sense, this ties in to reliance on a very binary analytical system of individual subjectivity vs. scientific/observable fact that is overly simplistic.  More pernicious are things like “implicit bias” theorizing, which is really a characteristically Liberal response to this issue, and which still accepts the basic individual choice framework (largely side-stepping analysis of “social constructs”) but admits to errors of isolated individuals in order to leave the pre-existing (and unexamined) “social constructs” in place.  Well, and the outright hostility to the very idea of “social constructs,” to wit Margaret Thatcher’s infamous quip, “There is no such thing as society.”

Selected illustrative links: See “A Southern City With Northern Problems” and “Marx’s ‘Capital’ at 150: History in Capital, Capital in History”

Edward S. Herman – Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies

Link to an article by Edward S. Herman:

“Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies: The New York Times, 1917–2017”

 

Bonus links: “Evidence of Google Blacklisting of Left and Progressive Sites Continues to Mount” and New York Times eXaminer and Liberalism: A Counter-History and War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century and “How the ‘Fake News’ Scare Is Marginalizing the Left” and “Twitter Bans RT and Sputnik Ads, Who’s Next?” and “Who’s Afraid of Corporate COINTELPRO?” and “The Rise of the New McCarthyism”