Friday, July 1, 2011
Meanwhile, 17 years later....
This book was written eighteen years ago, published in 1994. I just went back and started to read it for the first time in at least 15 years and was struck by the very first page and how much what we were describing then seems like, with very few changes of names and places, a perfectly lucid description of today.
I'm not at all sure of my point here, I don't think it's anything as simple as "nothing changes" since there is clearly an abundance of evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it is more in keeping with what has become one of my favorite Mark Twain quotations: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes."
"There is an unmistakable irony in watching the United States offer itself as role model to the various projects of democratization unfolding throughout eastern Europe even as the very activities inherent to notions of participatory democracy (e.g., voter turnout, literacy, etc.) continue their steady decline inside our borders. For those striving for social change, there is an experience of tangible depression in witnessing the growing power of neoconservative ideology. The borders and boundaries of this ideological cultural formation are marked by numerous signposts: the renewed attacks upon the hard-won rights of women (in the holy name of morality), racial and ethnic minorities (in the name of a mythological meritocracy), and gays and lesbians (in the timeless name of nature); the steady increase of corporate and state power; the continued melding together of the state, the market and the media, and the corresponding erosion of an ever-diminishing democratic public sphere; the conflation of the corporate and the public into one vague and amorphous collective philosophy of money and nostalgia; and the declamation that recent gains in multicultural education represent little more than the thinly veiled virus of political correctness (which in a twisted Orwellian logic has as its goals the restriction of free discussion and the subversion of a stable and coherent canon of Western culture). Finally in the face of all of this, the political left has been weakened by a spiraling fragmentation and factionalization into a complex yet redundant theoretical melange of suffocating identity politics and reactionary and nihilistic postmodernisms" (p. 1).