The Third Estate
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What Has It Been Until Now In The Political Order?
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005
First of all, in case you heard that the Horowitz bill (via pandagon) had gone national, you can check out my old blog for a response to the "merits" of his argument. If you haven't, then follow the link and then check out my old post.

Speaking of pandagon, Amanda Marcotte made a good series of arguments on feminism, but I was surprised when she didn't focused on this fact:

The problem is that conservative Christian families have a divorce rate just as high as the rest of America.

Now this is a much bigger problem for the Theocons than Amanda seems to pick up on. The basic position of social conservatives is that the proper laws and social conditioning can create a society with "stronger families," i.e. fewer broken homes. But if social conservatives can't reduce the divorce rate among people who agree with them, then how likely is it that they can do so with the society at large? In an alternate universe where the right accepted rational argument, the Theocon position would be seriously damaged by this fact. But we don't live in that universe. So we'll have to listen to those hypocrites blithely assert their moral superiority.

Finally, I have a guest blog from Ben Ross....

False Consciousness

Your next-door neighbors, a retired couple in their seventies, tell you that they have decided to invest their life savings in a penny stock that a stranger recommended over the telephone. What are you, a sociology professor who has never given stock-market advice, to do?

You might say to yourself, "I have no right to stigmatize my neighbors' sincere beliefs as false consciousness" - and tell them that any investment choice they might make must be in their true interest as they understand it.

Or you might suggest to them that while the investment sounds very attractive, the stakes are so high that they ought to take a little extra time to make sure - and prolong the discussion until they promise not to sign anything before you get the opinion of a colleague in the economics department.

Now suppose your neighbors on the other side, a much younger couple, tell you that they want their social security contributions to go into a private account. This scheme is no more likely to yield the advertised financial returns than the penny stock. But the neighbors are convinced of its merit because, they say, the president who recommended it is a godly man.

Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? addresses fraud of the latter species. It does so, to be sure, in the language that you would use to describe your elderly neighbors' investment to your economist friend, not the words you would address to the neighbors themselves. It is this language that critics have seized upon, accusing Frank of ascribing "false consciousness" to the working class. The accusation is ridiculous.

False consciousness was a concept used by the New Left of the late sixties to explain why the working class lacked the revolutionary convictions they thought it ought to have. The function of this idea was to justify the abandonment of democratic politics - the working class has been deceived, so a vanguard of radical students must take action in its place.

Frank's point is just the opposite. He wants liberals to engage with the working class, not to bypass it — to listen to its opinions and sentiments, to champion its grievances, and when disagreements arise, as they must, to deal with them by honest argument and reasonable accomodation. This is, as Frank argues, the way to rebuilding a liberal majority — and more than that, it is the democratic way.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:36 AM
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