Saturday, April 02, 2005

A radical realignment

At Topmost Apple, bls points us toward this article by John Coleman, writer of the always-thoughtful blog Ex Nihilo, on libertarianism. Bls conjectures that John at Ex Nihilo is working towards a distinctly Christian libertarianism, and, as I read him, notes that the time is ripe for democrats to harness the libertarian disaffection with the Republican Party.

To put it plainly: I think bls is dead-on. For a while, democrats have been stumbling in this direction through some of their positions: support of gay rights is easily and frequently cast as a question of personal autonomy, and the Clintonian democrats' fiscal conservativism as a decision not to be put at the mercy of foreign treasury bond holders. Both of these are classically libertarian, in that they favor greater, not less, self-determination. It's high time that Democrats' rhetoric explicitly foregrounded this.

I'd like to point out that this libertarian movement on the left is met by an equally counter-intuitive movement to Marxism on the right. John notes that libertarianism "is a political philosophy designed to protect personal philosophies." This, then, is the source of the notion that libertarianism is a non-political political philosophy: it carves out spaces from which politics are exiled.

Being a good marxist (in the sense of fidelity, rather than skill), this is the part where I observe that the decision to exile politics from a given sphere is itself a political act. In fact, as the constitutive moment of politics, it may actually be the political gesture sine qua non. Interestingly, the Christian Right has picked up on this, and used the analytical tools of Marxism quite effectively. As good marxists do, they've pointed out that there is no such thing as a depoliticized space. For example, the vanguard of the Religious Right, homeschoolers, have made a huge stink about the absence of God from public schools. While people say that this simply maintains neutrality, the newly-minted marxists of the Christian Right counter that the pose of neutrality is itself a deeply political decision. ("Failure to adopt an explicit world view in a philosophic position is in itself a world view.")

Neutrality also comes under attack in the sciences. Picking up where Thomas Kuhn left off, they theorize that science isn't a neutral method by which Truth is attained. Rather, science is a vast repository of values and politics. Just as feminists, post-structuralists, and marxists before them, the Religious Right collapses the difference between the "order of justification" (methods of attaining truth) and the "order of discovery" (the institutions in which science occurs). Why is evolution true? Because, the ID proponent tells us, evolutionists control the institutions - the tenure track committees, editorships at journals - that generate truth.

Roles have reversed in truly weird fashion. When one man decides to marry another man, it's the Religious Right outside the church with placards, screaming "The personal is the political!", while people on the left object that, no, the personal is just the personal, and the political machine shouldn't be brought to bear on another's personal decisions.

These are strange times.