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Politicism: Civilization's Bane

| 10 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

While giving us a very fine 2-sentence rundown and elaboration of the 20th Century's defining developments, Glen Wishard of Canis Iratus hits a big bulls-eye as he describes "politicism". It's an excellent umbrella term for many of today's Bad Philosophies, and Glen serves up fine article that places these observations in a useful and important larger context (Hat Tip: Jinnderella):

"The rise and fall of the Marxist ideal is rather neatly contained in the Twentieth Century, and comprises its central political phenomenon. Fascism and democratic defeatism are its sun-dogs. The common theme is politics as a theology of salvation, with a heroic transformation of the human condition (nothing less) promised to those who will agitate for it. Political activity becomes the highest human vocation. The various socialisms are only the most prominent manifestation of this delusion, which our future historian calls "politicism". In all its forms, it defines human beings as exclusively political animals, based on characteristics which are largely or entirely beyond human control: ethnicity, nationality, gender, and social class. It claims universal relevance, and so divides the entire human race into heroes and enemies. To be on the correct side of this equation is considered full moral justification in and of itself, while no courtesy or concession can be afforded to those on the other."

I'll add an equally ominous corollary - politicist ideologies' "universal relevance" and definition of humans as exclusively political animals mean that by definition, they cannot allow any private space to exist outside their ideology. This makes politicism inextricably totalitarian, as well as conscienceless.

Newsflash, people: The personal is NOT political. Any revolution based on that will be an atrocity, a failure, or both. The evidence is in by the millions of skulls, which means the people behind such ideologies are NOT noble or well-meaning. Wake up, take a deep breath, and smell the coffee. If it smells like blood... it ought to. So spare me the revolution b.s., and tell me what you're going to build here, now, and in the concrete. I might listen to that.

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: December 8, 2004 3:27 AM
Politicism from Crumb Trail
Excerpt: Continuing to obsess about Blue Creationism in which Don Boudreaux was quoted: Most left-liberals are pure creationists when it comes to society and social order. For them, government is the creator of order of high wages, of safe working conditions...
Tracked: December 8, 2004 7:06 AM
Politicism from Caerdroia
Excerpt: Joe Katzman at Winds of Change, one of the best blogs around, has posted on politicism. Katzman quotes Glen Wishard:"The rise and fall of the Marxist ideal is rather neatly contained in the Twentieth Century, and comprises its central political phenome...


The common theme is politics as a theology of salvation, with a heroic transformation of the human condition (nothing less) promised to those who will agitate for it.
Indeed, this is a highly illiberal concept that brings nothing but grief. And it's been a staple of Republican rhetoric at least since Ronald Reagan's "City on a Hill", and running right through the Bush Doctrine of benevolent American hegemony and into the neo-con belief in war-of-choice as a means to democratize the entire Middle East. Liberalism is reality-based, pragmatic, and anti-millennialist. Here, in contrast, is Victor Davis Hanson (my emphasis):
There may well be even more terrible things to come in Iraq than what we have seen already, but there will also be far better things than were there before.
This is truly brilliant as rhetoric: something which is taking place right in front of our eyes "may" come, while something that his ilk has been attempting to create with great loss of life and little evident progress "will", in the inevitable (and bogus) march of Marxist-inspired but now mirror-imaged historicism take place. [I discuss this snippet further here.]

Oh, yes, millennialist thinking also infects the thinking of the far-left World International Global Socialist Labor Party. How many votes did they get, again?

What a nice essay, (the bookenders that come later even better) Thanks Joe, fer the pointer.

politicism, perhaps a better term in a more global perspective, because of the difference in what left and right means depending on the context, American vs Europe.

Conservatives in the USA do not look back to the days of kings tsars and comic opera princes and feifdoms, but are conservatives of Liberal constitutional republican democracy.

The Democrat party traded chattle slavery of blacks for marxist slavery of everyone, with a more respectable overlapping interlude in between, and today the only respectors of our original american liberties struggle on with the republicans.

Not that the republicans are all sweetness and light, both parties are infected with memebers of the globalist elite, ready to surrender all that blood was spilled to win and preserve for facistic corportism, freedoms battle isnt over with the defeat of the marxocrat Democrats.

Just like the democrats must purge the leftist moonbats out of their party if it is to survive, we republicans have to deal with our demons as well. thankfully it might be won as a contest of ideas, now that our energy might not be all consumed fighting the greater danger of the blood stained morally obtuse left.

Say what you will about us, at least we dont sleep with marxists, share the venue with marxists, or are forced to have marxist toxic planks in our platform, share an agneda thats 50% leftist evil without which there are not votes to hold office.

Pity the democrats, the ditch they are in, it would be the same as if republicans needed the votes of the KKK and the readers of stormfront to get elected.

The democrats must cater to evil and their kooks, the republicans do not.

Look for as much flames and interparty warfare in the republican party as the other side, with the left seen as less of a threat, its time to confront the authoritarians, the soft leftist RINO's and the facistic corportists.

I dont think it will be boring years to come on any side.

Glen, this is so beautifully written! My favorite part is the belief tension between science and politics. It seems we reguard science with inherent suspicion, and embrace politics as the solution for all ills. We should reverse that, trust the scientists, suspect the politicians. :)

Raymond, please take your Thorazine.

Joe, I think I'll disagree more than a little here. I think you're blending two themes - the value of the political, or public life (as expressed by Aristotle and Arendt, for example), and the notion of political life as willfully transformative - as in we can make ourselves and our society into anything we want via political action.

Aristotle wouldn't have agreed, nor would Arendt - each of them argued for a historically grounded politics.


And of course, historically grounded politics is exactly what politicism seeks to do away with, a fallacy that would later be repeated in the business world and called "Re-engineering".

I'd add that saying the political life is valuable, even noble, is not the same thing as including all of life in the political set - or making political life a supreme value.

That's the connection you missed, the bridge between a certain valuation of politics and fantasies of total transformation. If politics is supreme, then life serves politics rather than the reverse. That's wrong. If politics is the entire set, then you have totalitarianism. Inevitably. Paging Dr. Zhivago...

That mistake has been the subtext of the slogan of your youth, "the personal is political", as it played out through the New Left. You can see its current fruits in our universities, which have become one-party states lacking basic freedoms or due process, and featuring frequent attempts at thought control rather than critical thinking. This is NOT a coincidence - it is the logical consequence of an animating politicist slogan and accompanying agenda.

In your Bad Philosophy posts you talk about the problem of romanticism, and the idiocy of valuing commitment and passion with no reference to the content of that commitment. Well, yes.

But of course, that isn't exactly true - only certain commitments actually receive this dispensation. Read Glen's post again, because it gives you a missing piece of your puzzle, explaining both the chain of reasoning behind this dispensation and the causal connection to terrible outcomes.

jinnderella - "... the belief tension between science and politics."

I really do think that history will look back on the 20th century as the absolute low point of human history - as bad as anything the Dark Ages offered, without any of the excuses. All of of us who were born into it - those of us who are remembered at all - will be looked on with some suspicion because of that. The way you might look at the portrait of a 15th Century German burgher, and wonder how many witches he burned back in the Good Old Days.

What science did during this time, though, was to create a sound and sustainable philosophy of itself. It realized that it was not a revealed religion, competent to speak on all subjects (Heisenberg, Godel). It realized that it was not a super-human process that was immune to human failures (Kuhn, Popper). It recognized that many of its propositions were provisional and subject to revision, so it was not a matter of discovering the truth once and for all, but a process of continually discovering and practicing truth. In this way, science avoided absolutism on the one hand and relativism on the other. (I elaborate some more on this in a little post about the 21st Century - Two Futures.)

Politicism, on the other hand, makes free use of both relativism and absolutism. In a sense, they're both the same thing: contempt for truth. For the politicist, Utopia is whatever is left after you've reviled and smashed everything that everyone else has worked so hard to build, and "truth" is whatever is left after all dissent has been silenced.

[JK: COMMENT DELETED. Troll warning sent.]

I read Politicism as another, perhaps better (? newer, anyway) phrase for Secular Fundamentalism.

Related to the source of Human Rights -- either from God, or from some human institution/ government. Without God, the gov't can redefine Human Rights, in full accord with Gg Protocol, Scientific Mx, or Nazi common-sense -- whatever.

Andrew #1 is wrong: the Reps don't use politics as salvation -- they use religious salvation to justify their own politics, RECOGNIZING original sin/ imperfect humans.

The City on the Hill is a target for improvement, but with less/ smaller gov't.

True, Bush seems to spend too much -- but I don't recall the Dems pushing any spending cuts, just more rich-bashing tax increases.

So, this system of government, enslavement, whatever you want to call it, has brought us thus far, to civilization, to computer chips with blazing speeds, robots, transportation, and yes, even cars, blessing and curse though they may be, It is our means of transport, and not just bodily, Our minds are transported too, to knowledges Socrates only dreamed of, and truly he did, dream of it, as I imagine in our new 'age of enlightenment' many dream of it still, but change in the form of politico, as you say, is just a devil usurping a devil, and this whole grassroots nonsense. or truly is that what it is. nonsense. grassroots. I don't know, the grass seem to cover the earth in greater number than we, in many forms. Alas we are catching up. So it brings me to this. No one has an answer. period. we send troops in the thousands to pharma-schools, for money, for glory, for good, for worse and worse and worse, and yet there is no answer. I say the answer is exactly that, our 7 billion people have created their own paradox. everyone desires. desires, desires. comfortable things, things to make 'life' easier, but only at the cost of a harder life, for simple examples, we have cars, refrigerators, clothes 'Made in China', and it's all 'affordable. hah, i hope you all scoffed too. but to go to "grassroots" truly.. it means to give up those amenities. that comfortable couch that vibrates, and reclines with 6 cupholders. at least not for 600$, but what would we pay 6000$, well maybe 10 years ago , but now its old news.. it better be a name brand one for 6000$, am i right? It is not going to happen, not en masse. but would we take the hand carved wooden chair for a loaf of bread and our most precious goat, and send 5500$ to the poor people of taiwan barely holding themselves together stuck on that little island of paradise, of prison, you'd have to ask them what they call it, of course it depends on who you ask. so tell me, and this is the question I put to All: where is the answer, we squibble and squabble over the unimportant. well friends we've gone way too far for that, marx had an idea for change, let it be what it was, a spark. it should have set off thousands of sparks.. upon thousands of thousands. well, where is it? the sparks? the change? if we can devote careers "Ph.d.'s" to the number of change in isotopes from nuclear fallout to year's past, of which we're all trying to clean up, some differently than others, than where is the one Ph.d. devoted to humans as a species, a peoples, a thing alive and in domination of a niche we call Earth. weve come from 1 billion to 7.. and if some dont understand fully. I say again. WE HAVE COME FROM 1,000,000,000 TO 7,000,000,000 in a blink. my grandfathers grandfather saw a time where 1,000,000,000 was far too large. think. what will my grandson's, grandson be thinking about our pittance? I TELL YOU AN ANSWER IS COMING. shhh(when you hear it, listen.)

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