My liberalism page has generated some good feedback, including interesting stuff to read. I’ll highlight some of these, starting with this essay by James Livingston: “How the Left has Won.” Also see this exchange between Livingston and Tim Barker in which the idea is clarified.
His basic idea: capitalism was a 400-year-long transition which had highlights (and setbacks), but no coordinating committee, no mass movement, no cabal or group behind it. It was a messy, long, organic process, and kept going largely because it was a more efficient way of doing things. Events had a capitalistic bias, you could say.
And, he says, socialism works the same way. It doesn’t need a socialist party, or a revolution. It isn’t incompatible with capitalism– it’ll be thoroughly mixed up with it just as capitalism coexisted with aristocracy. It doesn’t disappear when socialist parties or countries have a setback. Any socialization of a society or economy or institution is part of socialism. (He has some provocative paragraphs on how the US Army is a bastion of socialist practice amid a capitalist landscape.)
Now, I think some of you are going to be just infuriated by the piece. Maybe especially his targets– socialists who lament the lack of a proper socialist party in the US. You can picture him as the smug, calm, extremely smart guy at the cocktail party where you can’t decide if he’s pulling your leg or talking bullshit or being brilliant.
But, well, people often say they want to hear new ideas, and this is what new ideas feel like. The right mindset is that this is a really interesting way of looking at things. I feel like my mind is expanded… I don’t know if he’s right, and I’m sure he’s wrong on some of it (psychoanalysis, ugh). But I’m glad I read it, and I think there’s something to his broader perspective.