Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chris Bertram on the Varieties of Leftism

Chris Bertram offers a brisk taxonomy of leftism which might be sound-byte-summarized as "market," "populist" and "pastoral."  He might have added another class: the cohort which take it upon itself to classify and evaluate the other classes.  I hope I do not seem snide here, for I would certainly have to include myself in that additdional  class.  As such, I'm impelled to point just how much normative appeal one may find in all three varieties  Chris' the chart.  That certainly includes the "market" variety, however sullied it may be from consorting with capitalism  People like making choices; moreover the enterprise of rational choice is uniquely definitional of the human endeavor and by corollary, any polity that encourages it must be worthy of commendation.  "Normative appeal" also extends to the "populist" variety, however dangerous its potential for flirtation with fascism.  Lefties know better than anybody that relationships define who we are: I am my mother's son, the last of the just, the man who knew Coolidge, etc.  But nobody has yet come up with a scheme of communitarianism tht is not exclusionary ("all humankind" is not a community, it's a cop-out).  And one could certainly note the normative appeal of the third class which Chris calls "the eco-left," aka  "the greens."  One might say that green leftism is too new for evaluation but I think this view is blinkered; seems to me that eco-leftism bespeaks a tendency that goes back to Theocritus, if not the garden of Eden.  As a human instinct, it is almost inescapable; as a political program it never seems to get off the ground.

Chris also mentions a fourth class--"The old Leninist hard left," which he dismisses as   "washed up, marginal, authoritarian and unappealing."  Agreed, agreed and agreed, with the qualifier that I can't imagine how anybody (including its sponsor) ever mistook it for leftism in the first place.  It's just an authoritarian program for industrial development and lucky for all of us, its time appears to have passed. 


Ebenezer Scrooge said...

If you like green leftism, you could call it "Garden of Eden." If you don't, you could call it "Rousseauvian" or (if the authority of big-shot Frenchmen is unpopular these days) plain old hippy-ism.

I don't like green leftism.

Nuveen said...

the food chain sustainability movement, to the extent that it hasn't become just another yuppie pastime, I think, is a mellowed version of green leftism that very easily gets off the ground