Death of the Liberal Class, inverted totalitarianism, and Chris Hedges

Newshoggers has a fine, if depressing, introduction to Chris Hedges and his new book, Death of the Liberal Class. It’s depressing in that there seemingly is little reason to hope for change. But in reality, many socities througout history have been through far more repressive times, only to rise up in their various ways to depose, kill, or replace their former overlords.

However, Hedges does zero in on some cogent points.

Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d’état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

No. It’s never over. Mandela walked out of that prison one day and in a bloodless revolution became the leader of the country that jailed him for thirty years. I’m sure there were times he and his supporters thought they were all doomed. But they kept on pushing anyway…

The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.

Much of the outrage expressed about the court’s ruling is the outrage of those who prefer this choreographed charade. As long as the charade is played, they do not have to consider how to combat what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of “inverted totalitarianism.”

But charades don’t last forever. You can see the cracks in the facade already appearing throughout our society. In part, that’s what the Tea Party is about and they do know how to throw a punch. Liberals, who often are connected with the government, NGOs, NPOs, or party apparatus, don’t really want major change, they just want their faction to have more power.

“A liberal is the guy who leaves the room when a fight starts,” said Wobbly organizer Big Bill Haywood, and it’s just as true now as then.


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