[Marxism] liberalism and class war

urban fear urbanfear75 at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 24 17:52:03 MDT 2004

I'm new to this list.  However, I've recently come across 2 articles that seem directly relevant to this discussion of social liberalization and reactionary economic policy.  The links and clips are below for those interested in checking them out.  

My own thoughts on the subject are this:  The US IS somewhat unique amongst the imperialist countries in that economic liberalization has been coupled with a reactionary social agenda.  And well US residents needn't look as far as New Zealand to to see an example of this.  In Canada for the last 20 years, a country that was arguably far more socially conservative than the US 30 years ago, neo-liberal economic restructuring has taken place hand in fist with rapid and drastic social liberalization.  

If we are talking about anything from the relaxation of mores around sexuality, gay and lesbian marriage or the legalization of marijuana or reparations and reconcilliation with aboriginal nations.  Drastic economic restructuring has paralleled drastic social restructuring in Canada.  

Interestingly, the 1st link below suggests the culture wars in the US have been won by social liberals and this social liberalization has reinforced neoliberal economics.  I would partially agree with this.  Though it has been far more uneven in the US as compared to other countries. The US has experienced mostly defacto social liberalization.  Certainly it hasn't been codifed to the degree it has in other countries.  Also the rabidness of socially conservative forces hides what social liberalization has taken place.

Putting aside my belief that this social liberalization has little to do with anything resembling a liberatory tendency, it is a facinating question why the US has run so obviously counter to trends in other imperialist countries.

I've seen the question raised numerous times in leftist websites and listserves.  Rarely seen any compelling analysis that hoped to explain it.  Maybe the closest would be from the 2nd link below.  "What's wrong with Kansas?"  I haven't read the book.  Only know from 2nd hand the contents of the book.  I have a sneaking suspicion his only real inquery is how does the US Democratic party re-coopt the working class away from social conservatism.  Though I am interested in reading the book.  The author's notion of a backlash politics does seem to go further than most in explaining this unique phenomena in the US.  

But why the US is mostly unique in this might have to do with it being the most paranoid and schizophrenic society and culture on the planet.  It is far more demographically diverse than for example Canada or New Zealand.  And social conservatism has played a major if not decisive role in disciplining the working class in the US.  And I think that is what is unique about the US.  How the working class has been controled, pacified and disciplined through the use of social phobias and intrenched bigotry during a process of deindsutrialization, economic restructing and downward mobility.  

It's arguably true that the threat and danger of economic collpase and widespread working class revolt was most acute in the US between the period of say 1965 and 1980.  But a hugely diverse working class and one that was internally antagonistic lent itself to this form or disciplining by the state and capitalism. Obviously not the only way the working class in the US was contained and conrtol.  

Feel free the rip my points apart.

<a href="http://www.dissidentvoice.org/May2004/Furuhashi0504.htm">Winning the Culture War, Losing the Class Struggle</a>

The Democratic Party successfully harnessed the liberalization of social mores to the political and ideological power of economic neoliberalism during the Bill Clinton years. The best example of the Democratic Party's success in marrying social liberalism and economic neoliberalism is welfare reform. The partial victory of the women's movement made new assumptions dominant: the assumptions that able-bodied women ought to work for wages rather than bear and raise children as the primary duty of women, and that mothers and fathers should bear equal financial responsibilities for their children, so fathers should pay child support instead of making mothers depend on the government. The assumptions are not so much feminist assumptions per se as liberal petit-bourgeois feminist assumptions in particular. In any case, the Clinton administration effectively exploited the newly dominant assumptions and abolished AFDC: poor women should work and make the fathers of their children pay and
 become economically independent of the government (or so went the ideology). 

<a href="http://www.dissidentvoice.org/June04/Frank0614.htm">What's Wrong With Kansas?</a>

The same thing that’s been the matter with America for so many years: the culture wars. The cloud of inexhaustible right-wing outrage that hovers over so much of the country. Kansas, like many places in America, once had a tradition of progressivism and outright radicalism. Today, though, like many other places, the state’s political center just seems to move farther to the right in response to events. During the Nineties the state erupted in a sort of right-wing populist revolt, tossing out its old-school pragmatic leaders and replacing them with the most conservative Republicans available. It made national headlines when anti-abortion activists descended in massive numbers on Wichita in 1991, and it made world headlines when its State Board of Education took up the battle against evolution in 1999. Today Kansas is the sort of place where the angry, suspicious worldview typified by Fox News or the books of Ann Coulter is a common part of everyday life. So I went there to study the
 indignant conservative mindset up close. 

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