Occupy Wall Street redux: the poverty of a political culture

16 October 2011

Unless one were to change “Americans”, little can be changed about US politics. Ill informed, lacking an education in political theory and history, suspicious, covetous, and displaying symptoms of the narcissism of small differences towards any group that appears to be making social and/or economic progress (first Catholics, then Irish, then Jews, then Blacks, then Women, then Gays, then Mexicans, etc.), Americans are a sorry lot. Claiming practical knowledge bred of healthy exposure to the “real world”, they are as gullible as the most benighted country bumpkin: ready to believe the worst and fear the best, they sell short when they should hold out for long. In the defense of “Americanness”, they act “un-American”. In the defense of liberty, they act illiberally. Worse yet, the American electorate has given rise to a political class that is scandalously inept. The carnival barker, the circus impresario, the sales huckster, and the soap box demagogue are still models of political comportment and representation, which is why money and policy are interchangeable entities in American politics. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the task the 99% demonstrators have set for themselves is daunting: it is not simply to change a banking system or create a chimerical people’s capitalism but rather to change an entire form of subjectivity.

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