Category Archives: Fukuyama

The Neoliberal Inevitability of Vegetarian Hegemony

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It’s a tofu taco bowl. Sure it is.

The election of Donald Trump may signal a slap in the face for our neoliberal orthodoxy, but it’s certainly not a death blow. It remains to be seen how effective he will be in disrupting the stasis that has gripped western liberal democratic governance for much of the past quarter century. That it requires disruption is certainly true; reform, at least. But it remains unclear what will replace it other than a ball of resentment and anger. Just as Rick Page declared that ‘hope is not a strategy’ in 2001, the same can be said of anger. But what has that got to do with vegetarianism? Stick with me.

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Neonihilism and the Failure of Liberalism

Do the disaffected know what they want? Agency is one thing: leadership and direction is another.

Do the disaffected know what they want? Agency is one thing: leadership and direction is another.

Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times declares our time a crisis for liberalism, the left having ‘lost its way’, in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. It’s been a popular theme. In 1969, Ted Lowi declared the end of liberalism, in favour of interest group liberalism, in part a kind of elaboration on Eisenhower’s theme of the military-industrial complex. The liberalism of which we speak has long been defined in terms of economics and economic goods, how the distribution of resources and the freedom that comes with fair access to those resources, can allow mankind to flourish. Friedman’s classic Capitalism and Freedom from 1962 defined the concept, which was ultimately routed in eighteenth century enlightenment thinking, and in particular the French Revolution. Its progression through International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the twentieth century brought at its end an essential global consensus: Liberal Democracy was it. This was the end of history. Continue reading

Trump/Brexit: Popular Legitimacy and the Rule of Law

Morten Morland's cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

Morten Morland‘s cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

The New York Times ran an editorial yesterday on what it called ‘a coup’ against the Supreme Court. The death of Antonin Scalia earlier this year, and the Republican Party’s refusal to entertain a replacement has rendered the previously nine, now eight judge court unable to resolve some important cases, split evenly as they are between four generally liberal and four generally conservative justices. The GOP Presidential Nominee, Donald Trump, has recklessly attacked other institutions in his scorched earth strategy that followed his poor showing at the debates, including the Military, the FBI, the President, the Federal Reserve, and the Media. Early on in the campaign, he attacked a judge who ruled against him, claiming the judge was biased because he was Mexican-American. He has threatened to jail his opponent if he wins, he has consistently attacked and undermined the electoral process itself, and encouraged voter suppression.  Every pillar of democracy in America has been weakened by Mr Trump’s candidacy whether he wins or not, and people love him for it.

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A New Troika: Inequality, Sovereign Decline and Democratic Deficits

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Serge Halimi: Considered Outrage

Serge Halimi is the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, a kind of internationalised politico-philosophical publication from LeMonde featuring articles on international affairs and globalisation.  He is unrepentantly left wing, and in his May column, he unloads both barrels into what he perceives as a global elitist hegemony, The Tyranny of the One Per Cent.  His analysis is unusual in one respect, however.  It is an attack on a system, rather than its people; it is not lamenting greed (a kind of anti-Gordon Gekko) and is not so much bitter as it is critical.  Throughout the piece he constructs a compelling argument in the French Republican tradition – that eighteenth Century revolutionary philosophy that has – perhaps unintentionally – led us all to where we are today.   Continue reading

Sovereignty, Poverty and Interdependence

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Seán Lemass, Taoiseach of Ireland 1959-1966. Lemass believed Ireland had given up its sovereignty to the International Community in the years after World War II.

Ireland has had a well documented, rather turbulent recent economic history.  Following on from the bursting of the property bubble and the attendant banking collapse, an extraordinarily myopic political decision to nationalise the exposure of the banks led to a sovereign debt crisis, and, ultimately, a bailout from the troika of the IMF, ECB and European Commission.  Apart from the loss of money, there was plenty dramatic wailing about the loss of National Sovereignty, and references to the War of Independence and the heroes of 1916 and ‘is this what they died for?’ rhetoric.  There was even a nuance to the sovereignty question, in that the country had lost her economic sovereignty, whatever that meant.

Now, politics has always had an uneasy alliance with the propriety of language, bending it to its will as any situation may have seen fit.  The distinction between economic sovereignty, and other sovereignty, one supposes, is that while we’re not necessarily allowed to award pay rises to civil servants, we are still permitted to invade England.  At least we have that, I guess.   Of course, the extent to which we are – truly – permitted to invade England is limited in exactly the same way as our freedom to spend money has been limited.  It is not a flat prohibition on action through coercive or other power that has limited what Ireland as a State can do; it is the threat of exclusion from international systems upon which we have become irrevocably dependent that limits our action.

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Systemic Issues: Marx, Python, Equality and Capitalist Doom

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Karl Marx. The man had his moments.

Charles Moore’s article in the Telegraph yesterday caused something of a stir. Equality, he said, was not really a good thing at all. What’s that you say? He must be an elitist! How uncool is that! Well, essentially he was arguing that in the context of women in the army, and in particular on the front line of the army, that it was one step too far. Women just are not as strong as men, and therefore shouldn’t be there. His argument weakened when he extended it into civil partnership, defining marriage in terms of the legal structures for its dissolution, which appears to me to be something of a non sequitur. In essence, Moore misses the point that ‘unconventional’ couples are not seeking access to the institution, but rather to its attendant rights; indeed, they are seeking to fundamentally alter the institution, and make it more inclusive, rather than simply more equal.

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Church and State; Law and Legitimacy

Trundling along through Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, we have surged through the Chinese and Indian experiences, pushing past Islam and on to Christianity before moving into the Rule of Law in Part Three.  I had not really to this point considered the extent to which law and religion are part of my considerations; at least certainly not the law.  In thinking through the impact on state legitimacy of technology, it is most likely my view that the changing nature of identity is more important, and that that, by extension, undermines the state (insofar as identity is constructed substantially by associations with non-state or super-state groups).  To put it more simply, people associate less with community and nation, and more with brand and interest group, connected through globalised technology.  Identity is also being changed by the decline in religious tradition, at least outside of Muslim states.  However, I had a problem connecting that aspect of religion to my thesis, as it seems only peripherally attributed to the rise in technology.

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Fukuyama – Homo Economicus and Perfidious Albion

I’m reading Fukuyama’s intriguing “The Origins of Political Order” at the moment, which is a little preachy and even excessively researched, but certainly worth the investment.  Two things caught my attention this morning.  First, in his discussion on legalism versus Confucian thought in China(p.119-120), he explains that Confucianism relied on family, kinship, and the patrimonial social order where the family was central.  Legalism rejected tht approach, seeing mankind as homo economicus, binding citizens to the state on an economic, self-interested basis.  It struck me that much of the socialist / capitalist, left-wing / right wing, US Democrat / US Republican, UK Labour / UK Conservative divide that we see today (and even Irish Labour / Irish Fine Gael, who are in coalition government together) mirrored that distinction from almost three thousand years ago.  There are no new ideas, it would appear.

The second thing that piqued my interest was a reference to perfidious albion – in his assessment of why Europe did not develop in the same way as China, he cites geography (mountains, seas etc.) but also the presence of a large and (it would appear) disproportionately influential Britain, who “acted for much of European history as a deliberate balancer that tried to break up hegemonic coalition.”  Plus ca change then.  I started writing about this today in an attempt to explain current Euro zone goings on, but it descended rather rapidly into polemic, so I posted it on my political / opinion / rant blog over here.

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