Sunday, July 06, 2008

The wisdom of the crowd

I've been getting some great comments on my blog in the last few days -- mostly because several great sites have linked to me and driven some really thoughtful readers to my site. I wanted to highlight one comment in particular. A while back I posted "A Progressive Guide to Framing." Recently, Soshann discovered it and commented:

Excellent thinking here. I would add my vote for using the terms Progressive & Regressive to describe two opposite sides of the political spectrum. Progressives are forward looking ie we are concerned about the effects of current actions on the future and believe that we can make a future better than the past. In order to do this we are happy to critique the past and find areas on which we can improve. Regressives are backward focused ie they venerate the past and see it as their duty to defend it and attempt to ensure it continues into the future. This gives them a very narrow view of the future as a basically Disneyfied world of sanitized replication of "traditional" values and practices.

Another useful point of disparity which can be used to positively frame the debate is the distinction between Authoritarian & Libertarian. I know that in the US this distinction has to some extent been colonised by corporate apologists arguing for liberty for corporate players but if used intelligently the terms fundamentally underpin a core distinction between the regressive & the progressive ends of the spectrum.

Progressives are generally against the use of force to impose our political views on others and we refer to rationality and reason as justifications for our policies & actions. We are naturally suspicious of the blind obedience to authority handed down from on high advocated by regressives. Liberation of the human condition from the dictates of received authority and a determination to see the world as it is and attempt to act in the interest of the greatest good for the greatest number are fundamentally good and attractive motivations to be highlighting an aspiring to for us all.

I think those are all excellent points and really helpful ways to frame the political debate.

I also want to give a shout out to Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism for linking to my last post. If you haven't read Naked Capitalism it's definitely worth checking out. It's chock full of insight, analysis, data, and thoughtful commentary on current economic news. Progressives are really good at understanding labor and social forces -- but I've often felt that we need to do a better job of understanding capital and markets. If you have any money in the market or are thinking of investing or just want to be informed about how capital and markets work -- you should definitely read Naked Capitalism. I've added Naked Capitalism to my blog roll as well.

4 comments:

Kenneth said...

I'd like to point out that the term "Progressive" wasn't just plucked out of a dictionary. In political thought, it has a specific meaning. Marx believed history is proceeding towards a logical conclusion, which is a society from which systemic injustice will have been purged. Anything that contributes towards that goal will be associated with historical progress, and so liberalism is called "progressive."

Marx's theory is based on Hegel's idea of the dialectic: for every phenomenon (thesis), there is a counter-phenomenon (antithesis), and the conflict between them gives rise to a higher-order phenomenon (synthesis). When the powers that be are confronted by a threat to their privilege, they will naturally react by fighting back in order to preserve the status quo. So the antithesis to liberal progress is conservative reaction, which is why right-wingers are often called reactionaries.

Using a term like "Regressive" as the opposite of Progressive misses the dynamic of this ongoing struggle, as if conservatives were motivated merely by nostalgia or lack of imagination.

As for the word "Conservative," it is certainly problematical as well-- post-Goldwater Republicanism has very little relationship to classical conservatism, but that, of course, is a whole other issue.

Kenneth said...

I'd like to point out that the term "Progressive" wasn't just plucked out of a dictionary. In political thought, it has a specific meaning. Marx believed history is proceeding towards a logical conclusion, which is a society from which systemic injustice will have been purged. Anything that contributes towards that goal will be associated with historical progress, and so liberalism is called "progressive."

Marx's theory is based on Hegel's idea of the dialectic: for every phenomenon (thesis), there is a counter-phenomenon (antithesis), and the conflict between them gives rise to a higher-order phenomenon (synthesis). When the powers that be are confronted by a threat to their privilege, they will naturally react by fighting back in order to preserve the status quo. So the antithesis to liberal progress is conservative reaction, which is why right-wingers are often called reactionaries.

Using a term like "Regressive" as the opposite of Progressive misses the dynamic of this ongoing struggle, as if conservatives were motivated merely by nostalgia or lack of imagination.

As for the word "Conservative," it is certainly problematical as well-- post-Goldwater Republicanism has very little relationship to classical conservatism, but that, of course, is a whole other issue.

Toby Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RFK Action Front said...

Hi Kenneth:

Thanks for you thoughtful comment.

Indeed the word progressive also has a distinguished lineage here in the U.S. as part of the "progressive movement" which brought so many helpful reforms to government.

I'm delighted to learn more about Hegel and thank you for the helpful analysis.

Cheers,
RFK Action Front