Day By Day

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Peretz and the Reactionary Progressives

Marty Peretz in the latest New Republic lashes out at the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the left; their inability to move beyond the increasingly anachronistic pieties of the sixties; and their increasing irrelevance to the world in which we live today.

Social democracy, he holds, no longer offers a solution to the problems faced by either the US or Europe [for somewhat different reasons], but the "progressives" refuse to admit it in either instance.

In race relations the old patronizing postures of the sixties, however comforting in their repetition, no longer apply. They are simply a screen for perpetual bias and institutionalized corruption. President Bush gets it [Peretz describes him as "the first president who apparently does not see individual people in racial categories or sex categories. White or black, woman or man, just as long as you're a conservative.] the "progressives" don't. Their position is, he writes, "pathetic."

In international relations liberal renunciation of force has prevented them from confronting a palpable evil -- jihadism -- and their naive faith in international organizations is worse than pathetic, it makes them complicit in evil. The UN, he writes, "is [the progressives] lodestone. But the lodestone does not perform. It is not a magnet for the good. It performs the magic of the wicked. It is corrupt, it is pompous, it is shackled to tyrants and cynics. It does not recognize a genocide when the genocide is seen and understood by all."

All in all it is a searing indictment -- one with which I largely agree. Like Peretz, I hope for a new kind of liberalism, one that has freed itself from the shackles of progressive reaction, but looking at recent trends within the Democratic Party, I despair.

UPDATE: The folks over at Cliopatria are not despairing. They are currently attempting to forge a new vision for liberalism. Check out Jonathan Dresner's vision here and follow his links to see what else they have come up with. I applaud their efforts, but do not feel that any of the anabaptist movements, not even the Society of Friends, provides a viable model.


Jonathan Dresner said...

I think you might consider trying to define what you mean by a "new liberalism." I did.

Jonathan Dresner said...

Thanks for the link, though it's not exactly a current discussion (we're busily debating the philosophy of history, mostly elsewhere, these days). To clarify, I'm Jewish, so not an Anabaptist, though it's a strain of Christianity I respect deeply.

I still don't see a positive statement from you. I'm not going to argue that the '60s is the past and we need to think about what we're doing now about the future, but what is it that YOU want to do, as a liberal?

D. B. Light said...

Hi Jon,

Unlike you I do have ties to the Anabaptists. My great grandfather was Mennonite, but broke with his family, moved to Philadelphia, became a printer, then a socialist union organizer, and finally the very respectable editor of a mainstream newspaper in Western Pennsylvania. As a kid I was exposed both to the Pennsylvania Dutch stuff and to utopian socialism [they actually have a lot in common]. My parents raised me Presbyterian. I have a lot of respect for the Anabaptists, but cannot embrace their communitarian sensibilities. Parenthetically, I might point out that George Bush is extremely popular among the "Dutch," but not among the Quakers.

Just as I reject communitarian labels, I also reject terms like "liberal" and "conservative". I watch the formulation and reformulation of the ideological camps with some interest, but am not about to participate -- just not a "joiner."