Both Sides In The Culture War Are Serving The Interests Of Elites

Discussion in 'Politics' started by poncho, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. poncho

    poncho
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    A number of people sent me the David Atkins piece that Rod Dreher linked to, but I think Dreher takes the discussion in a not-very-fruitful direction. Basically, he suggests that if the Left really cares about economics, they should let the Right have its way on cultural issues, and if the Right really cares about social issues, they should let the Left have its way on economics.

    Which – sure, if that were the true preferences of true entities battling for supremacy. But there is no Left and no Right. Those are abstractions according to which we choose to divide individuals.

    Here’s how I would describe things:

    - Economic elites really care about preserving their privileges.
    - Elected officials really care about reducing the risk of losing office.
    - The culture war – for both nominal Left and Right, is an extremely effective way of serving the interests of both economic elites and elected officials.

    Why? Because the culture war turns politics into a question of identity, of tribalism, and hence narrows the effective choice in elections. We no longer vote for the person who better represents our interests, but for the person who talks our talk, sees the world the way we do, is one of us. That contest is a cheap and easy one for politicians of any stripe to enter – and, usually, an easy one to win. It sorts the overwhelming majority of the population into easy-to-count-on camps who will not demand that politicians do anything for them, because they’re too afraid the hated “other team” might get into power.

    And it’s a good basis for politics from the perspective of economic elites. If the battle between Left and Right is fundamentally over social questions like abortion and gay marriage, then it is not fundamentally over questions like who is making a killing off of government policies and who is getting screwed. Economic elites may lean to one or the other side on any cultural question (they can be found on both sides), but they can maintain their privileges no matter which side wins any particular battle. So whoever they want to win, that’s the ground on which they want the battle to be fought.

    Atkins focuses on the Left-wing version of identity politics – the way in which putting so much energy into fighting for adequate representation for every tribal group has drained energy away from the fight to shift the terms of the social contract overall. It’s much easier to get corporations to agree to adopt affirmative action policies than to get them to agree to recognize a union. So if activist energy goes mostly into fighting for the former, by definition it won’t focus on the latter.

    But the same thing is true of Right-wing identity politics. If you can get out the votes by decrying the unfairness of affirmative action, then you won’t need to call for tougher anti-trust enforcement, or for patent and copyright reform, or for breaking up the mega-banks, or for reducing corporate welfare, or for a trade policy organized around moving American manufacturing up the value chain, or any other policy – and I deliberately picked policies that at various points in history have been or could plausibly be part of the Republican “mix” – that might change the terms on which our economy functions in a broad sense, rather than just jockeying for position against other groups within the existing arrangements.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/millman/both-sides-in-the-culture-war-are-serving-the-interests-of-elites/
     
    #1 poncho, Mar 16, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 16, 2014

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