Friday, November 01, 2013


READ THIS PIECE BY ADAM CORNFORD, people. You can't go wrong. The first two paragraphs are below, but go to his blog and read it all up.

Apart from the issue of corporate money, I think there are deep historical reasons for the collapse of conservatism American-style as an ideology. They have to do with the senescence of possessive individualism in the age of global human cooperation and massive human impacts on the biosphere. Possessive individualism as a worldview originated with the hyperacquisitive English gentry class in the later seventeenth century and was codified into philosophy by thinkers like Adam Smith. It is worth remembering that the wording Madison wanted for the opening of the Declaration of Independence was “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Property.” Possessive individualism has been the ideological foundation of capitalism ever since.

Now, however, it is obsolete, for two reasons, both global in scope: the rise of the transnational corporation, and the advancing ecological crisis. Karl Marx long ago described the joint-stock corporation as “capitalist communism” and believed that its global development would unify humanity, but in a coercive and destructive way, dragging the world into deeper and deeper cyclical crises that would result in mass unemployment, hunger, and war. He therefore anticipated a point at which the working people of the world, recognizing their own transnational unity and practical interdependence, would collectively overthrow capitalism and establish what he called “the free association of the producers” in which “the full and free development of each depends on the full and free development of all.” This, not state ownership, was Marx’s vision, founded on the notion of the “social individual” for whom the freedom of others is not the limit of her own, but its expansion. In other words, socialism offers a fundamentally different vision both of freedom and of the individual. This vision was eclipsed both by authoritarian state capitalism masquerading as “socialism” in the USSR, China, and elsewhere, and by the enormous postwar boom that was actually premised on a greatly enlarged public sector. As that boom collapsed, the response of the ruling elites, especially in the US and the UK, was to promote possessive individualism with a vengeance (as “conservatism”) through a vast and well-funded network of foundations, think-tanks, media outlets—and churches.

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