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August 28 2012

Grand Old Marxists

Timothy Snyder

Friedrich Hayek, Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand

A specter is haunting the Republican National Convention—the specter of ideology. The novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) and the economist Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) are the house deities of many American libertarians, much of the Tea Party, and Paul Ryan in particular. The two thinkers were quite different, subject to much misunderstanding, and, in Hayek’s case, more often cited than read. Yet, in popularized form, their arguments together provide the intellectual touchstone for Ryan and many others on the right wing of the Republican Party, people whose enthusiasm Mitt Romney needs.

The irony of today is that these two thinkers, in their struggle against the Marxist left of the mid-twentieth century, relied on some of the same underlying assumptions as Marxism itself: that politics is a matter of one simple truth, that the state will eventually cease to matter, and that a vanguard of intellectuals is needed to bring about a utopia that can be known in advance. The paradoxical result is a Republican Party ticket that embraces outdated ideology, taking some of the worst from the twentieth century and presenting it as a plan for the twenty-first.

Romney’s choice of an ideologist as his running mate made a kind of sense. Romney the financier made hundreds of millions of dollars in an apparent single-minded pursuit of returns on investment; but as a politician he has been less noted for deep principles then for expediently changing his positions. Romney’s biography was in need of a plot and his worldview was in need of a moral. Insofar as he is a man of principle, the principle seems to be is that rich people should not pay taxes. His fidelity to this principle is beyond reproach, which raises certain moral questions. Paying taxes, after all, is one of our very few civic obligations. By refusing to release his tax returns, Romney is likely trying to keep embarrassing tax dodges out of public view; he is certainly communicating to like-minded wealthy people that he shares their commitment to doing nothing that could possibly help the United States government. The rationale that Ryan’s ideology provides for this unpatriotic behavior is that taxing rich people hinders the market. Rather than engaging in activist politics, such as bailing out General Motors or public schools, our primary responsibility as American citizens is to give way to the magic of the marketplace, and applaud any associated injustices as necessary and therefore good.

This is where Ryan comes in. Romney provides the practice, Ryan the theory. Romney has lots of money, but has never managed to present the storyline of his career as a moral triumph. Ryan, with his credibility as an ideas politician, seems to solve that problem. In the right-wing anarchism that arises from the marriage of Rand and Hayek, Romney’s wealth is proof that all is well for the rest of us, since the laws of economics are such that the unhindered capitalism represented by chop-shops such as Bain must in the end be good for everyone.

The problem with this sort of economic determinism is that it is Marxism in reverse, with the problems of the original kind. Planning by finance capitalists replaces planning by the party elite. Marx’s old dream, the “withering away” of the state, is the centerpiece of the Ryan budget: cut taxes on the rich, claim that cutting government functions and the closing of unspecified loopholes will balance budgets, and thereby make the state shrink. Just like the Marxists of another era, the Republican ticket substitutes mythical thinking about the economy for loyalty to the nation.

The attempt to add intellectual ballast to Romney’s career pulls the ticket downward into the slog of twentieth-century ideology. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, which in its better passages is a paean to modesty in economics, is read by leading Republicans as the formula that intervention in the free market must lead to totalitarianism. This is a nice confident story, with a more than superficial resemblance to the nice confident Marxist story that a free market without intervention would bring revolution. Like Marxism, the Hayekian ideology is a theory of everything, which has an answer for everything. Like Marxism, it allows politicians who accept the theory to predict the future, using their purported total knowledge to create and to justify suffering among those who do not hold power. Ayn Rand is appealing in a more private way because she celebrates unbridled anarchic capitalism: it magnifies inequality and brings pleasure to the wealthy, who deserve it for being so wonderful, and pain to the masses, who deserve it for being so stupid. Hayek thought that we should hesitate to intervene in the market because certainty about economic matters was impossible; Rand thought that the law of the jungle was itself a rather good (and sexy) thing.

Though he now prefers discussing Hayek, Ryan seems to have been more deeply affected by Rand, whom he credits for inspiring his political career. It is likely the combination of the two—the theory of everything and the glorification of inequality—that gives him his cheery, and eerie, confidence. Hayek and Rand are comfortable intellectual company not because they explain reality, but because, like all effective ideologists, they remove the need for any actual contact with it. They were reacting to real historical experience, Hayek with National Socialism and Rand with Soviet communism. But precisely because they were reacting, they flew to extreme interpretations. Just as untethered capitalism did not bring proletarian utopia, as the Marxists thought, intervention and redistribution did not bring totalitarianism, as anti-Marxists such as Hayek claimed.

Hayek’s native Austria was vulnerable to radicalism from the right in the 1930s precisely because it followed the very policies that he recommended. It was one of the least interventionist states in Europe, which left its population hugely vulnerable to the Great Depression—and to Hitler. Austria became a prosperous democracy after World War II because its governments ignored Hayek’s advice and created a welfare state. As Americans at the time understood, making provisions for citizens in need was an effective way to defend democracy from the extreme right and left.

Rich Republicans such as Romney are of course a small minority of the party. Not much of the Republican electorate has any economic interest in voting for a ticket whose platform is to show that government does not work. As Ryan understands, they must be instructed that their troubles are not simply a pointless contrast to the gilded pleasures of the man at the top of the Republican ticket, but rather part of the same story, a historical drama in which good will triumph and evil will be vanquished. Hayek provides the rules of the game: anything the government does to interfere in the economy will just make matters worse; therefore the market, left to its own devices, must give us the best of all possible worlds. Rand supplies the discrete but titillating elitism: this distribution of pleasure and pain is good in and of itself, because (and this will not be said aloud) people like Romney are bright and people who will vote for him are not. Rand understood that her ideology can only work as sadomasochism. In her novels, the suffering of ordinary Americans (“parasites,” as they are called in Atlas Shrugged) provides the counterpoint to the extraordinary pleasures of the heroic captains of industry (which she describes in weird sexual terms). A bridge between the pain of the people and the pleasure of the elite which mollifies the former and empowers the latter is the achievement of an effective ideology.

In the Romney/Ryan presidential campaign, Americans who are vulnerable and isolated are told that they are independent and strong, so that they will vote for policies that will leave them more vulnerable and more isolated. Ryan is a good enough communicator and a smart enough man to make reverse Marxism work as a stump speech or a television interview. But as national policy it would be self-destructive tragedy. The self-destructive part is that no nation can long survive that places stories about historical necessity above the palpable needs of its citizens. The tragic part is that the argument against ideology has already been won. The defenses of freedom against Marxism, above all the defense of the individual against those who claim to enact the future, also apply to the reverse Marxism of the Republican ticket.

The great political thinkers of the twentieth century have discredited ideological systems that claim perfect knowledge of what is to come and present politicians as scientists of the future (remember, Ryan’s budget plan tells us what will happen in 2083). The way to national prosperity in the twenty-first century is surely to think non-ideologically, to recognize that politics is a choice among constraints and goods rather than a story about a single good that would triumph if only evil people would allow it to function without constraints. The market works very well for some things, the government is desperately needed for others, and stories that dismiss either one are nothing more than ideology.

Reposted fromsigaloninspired sigaloninspired

January 05 2012

November 13 2011


New book by Michel Rosenfeld on Pluralism | "Political Theory - Habermas and Rawls" - - 2011-11-13

New book by Michel Rosenfeld on Pluralism

Law, Justice, Democracy, and the Clash of Cultures

by Michel Rosenfeld

(Cambridge University Press, 2011)

320 pages


The Cold War ideological battle with universal aspirations has given way to a clash of cultures as the world concurrently moves toward globalization of economies and communications and balkanization through a clash of ethnic and cultural identities. Traditional liberal theory has confronted daunting challenges in coping with these changes and with recent developments such as the spread of postmodern thought, religious fundamentalism, and global terrorism. This book argues that a political and legal philosophy based on pluralism is best suited to confront the problems of the twenty-first century. Pointing out that monist theories such as liberalism have become inadequate and that relativism is dangerous, the book makes the case for pluralism from the standpoint of both theory and its applications. The book engages with thinkers, such as Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Rawls, Berlin, Dworkin, Habermas, and Derrida, and with several subjects that are at the center of current controversies, including equality, group rights, tolerance, secularism confronting religious revival, and political rights in the face of terrorism.


Part I. Liberal Justice and Fleeting Specters of Unity

1. Reframing Comprehensive Pluralism: Hegel versus Rawls
2. Equality and the Dialectic Between Identity and Difference
3. Human Rights and the Clash Between Universalism and Relativism

Part II. E Pluribus Unum?

4. Spinoza's Dialectic and the Paradoxes of Tolerance
5. The Clash Between Deprivatized Religion and Relativized Secularism
6. Dworkin and the One Law Principle

Part III. Can Pluralism Thrive in Times of Stress?

7. Rethinking Political Rights in Times of Stress
8. Derrida's Deconstructive Ethics of Difference Confronts Global Terrorism
9. Habermas's Discourse Ethics of Identity and Global Terror
10. Conclusion: the Hopes of Pluralism in a More Unified and More Fragmented World

Michel Rosenfeld is Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. He is Co-Editor (with Andrew Arato) of "Habermas on Law and Democracy: Critical Exchanges" (University of California Press, 1998).

Related papers by Michel Rosenfeld:
* The Rule of Law and the Legitimacy of Constitutional Democracy (pdf, 2001)
* Spinoza's Dialectic and the Paradoxes of Tolerance (2003)
* A Pluralist Theory of Political Rights in Times of Stress (2005)
* Habermas's Call for Cosmopolitan Constitutional Patriotism in an Age of Global Terror (2006)
* Derrida's Ethical Turn and America (2006)
* Equality and the Dialectic Between Identity and Difference (2006)
* Unveiling the Limits of Tolerance (2010) [w. Susanna Mancini]

See also a panel discussion between Michel Rosenfeld, Jeremy Waldron, Tracy Higgins and Ruti Teitel on "What is Human Rights? Universals and the Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (pdf, 1999).


November 10 2011


Ein Politker der CDU kann bei einer Aussage über die Linke sehr gut wissen, welche Zeitung darüber auf welche Weise berichten wird. Diese eingespielten Regeln führen dazu, dass man als Leser oder Zuschauer ein permanentes Déja-vu-Erlebnis hat. Irgendwie hat man den Eindruck, dass man das alles schon einmal erlebt hat, wenn auch nicht ganz genau so, aber auch nicht ganz anders. Und obwohl sich alle Beteiligten darüber informieren können, dass es sich so verhält, weshalb bei vielen eine Ernüchterung ob solcher Mechanismen die Motivation zum Weitermachen gefährdet, geht es einfach so weiter. Also auch dann, wenn die Strukturen der Reproduktion durchschaut werden, kann daran nichts geändert werden, solange das Dispositiv, das alle relevanten Vorentscheidungen durch seinen Filter schon getroffen hat, weiter funktioniert.

Sprechblasen zweiter Ordnung #piratenpartei | Differentia - 2011-11-10

October 27 2011


#economics #politics #anarchism

  • Global Resilience Requires Novelty – A Speech by Buzz Holling link
  • Deric Shannon: What Do We Mean By “Works”? Anarchist Economics and the Occupy X Movement link

#agriculture #food #urbanfarming

  • Worst Food Additive Ever? It's in Half of All Foods We Eat and Its Production Destroys Rainforests and Enslaves Children link
  • Marc Alt on Hacking the Food System: Urban Rural Global Local link

#arduino #diy #openhardware

  • The Making of Arduino link
  • Open-source hardware… coming from Facebook? link

#floss #gimp

  • Subtle patterns available for GIMP link
— links by Julien Guigner via oAnth at Diaspora* | 2011-10-27

September 12 2011


Part of the uniqueness of the present crisis is therefore its abstract mode of destruction. The scope of what is possible in the future (and increasingly in the present) is narrowing in a way that isn’t immediately apparent in our daily actions. So while the welfare state plays an important role in moderating the phenomenological experience of crisis, the abstract structures of contemporary existence are shifting in just as significant ways. The objective forces of economic crisis require an outlet for their effects, and while government programs have managed to disperse some of this force, the remainders are winding their way through our global economy. In the words of James Galbraith, the current crisis may be significant not for its overt destruction but instead for “the pall it casts over life.”

On the Abstraction of Contemporary Crisis | The Disorder Of Things - 2011-09-12

September 11 2011

Play fullscreen

Hannah Arendt, penser passionnément - Denken und Leidenschaft - Arte 2006 - version FR(DE) | oAnth-miscellaneous at
biographic documentary (~65 min) - yt permalink

Documentaire de Jochen Kölsch Allemagne, 2006, 1h06mn

Taken from the text to the yt video.

// S'étant toujours effacée derrière son oeuvre, Hannah Arendt demeure l'une des philosophes les plus mystérieuses du XXe siècle. Nombre de ses amis eux-mêmes ne connaissaient que l'une ou l'autre des facettes de sa personnalité. De cette femme dont la vie a été marquée par de nombreuses ruptures et recommencements, ce documentaire dresse un portrait à partir de tous les témoignages disponibles dans son oeuvre, dans les images d'archives de ses interventions publiques mais aussi dans les souvenirs de ses proches dont certains racontent pour la première fois "leur" Hannah Arendt.

De l'adolescente qui découvrait Kant à l'âge de 14 ans à l'essayiste de réputation mondiale, professeure de théorie politique dans les universités américaines, en passant par les années d'études auprès de Heidegger et Jaspers, les activités dans la résistance juive au nazisme et les années d'exil à Paris et à Lisbonne, la vie de Hannah Arendt qui nous est ici racontée est celle d'une femme passionnée, autant dans ses amours que dans son désir de comprendre le monde et dans son engagement social et politique. Les étapes de son parcours personnel et intellectuel sont éclairées par des extraits de sa correspondance avec les trois hommes qui ont le plus marqué sa vie : Heidegger, qui fut un temps son professeur et avec qui elle eut une liaison tumultueuse, Karl Jaspers, qui dirigea sa thèse de doctorat et demeura son mentor et ami toute sa vie, et Heinrich Blücher, son second mari, avec qui elle vécut pendant trente ans. //

Die deutschsprachige ARTE Dokumentation in 7 Teilen

Hier gibt es das Gespräch Arendt / Gaus (1964) in voller Länge!!

September 10 2011

Hanna Arendt (1951 / ed. 1958) - "The Origins of Totalitarianism"; Meridian, Cleveland, New York;


Arendt's first major book was The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which traced the roots of Stalinist Communism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and imperialism. The book was controversial because it suggested, arguably, that an essential identity existed between the two phenomena. She further contends that Jewry was not the operative factor in the Holocaust, but merely a convenient proxy. Totalitarianism in Germany, in the end, was about megalomania and consistency, not eradicating Jews

[... | Source Wikipedia ]
Reposted bydatenwolffpletzsoliloquyy

April 09 2011

Leo Strauss to Karl Lowith: "Fascist, Authoritarian, and Imperial Principles... the Ludicrous and Despicable Appeal to the Droits Imprescriptibles de'l Homme... There Is No Reason to Crawl to the Cross... of Liberalism..."

Translated by Scott Horton:

Paris, May 19, 1933:

Dear Mr. Löwith,

On your behalf I have in the meantime made the necessary overture to Groethuysen, who is in London. Besides this I had occasion to speak with Van Sickle, the head of the Rockefeller Foundation, and informed him about you, your situation, your work and your interests. He made a note of your name, so I am sure he will remember it when he comes across it in Fehling’s letter.

As concerns me, I will receive the second year. Berlin recommended me, and that was decisive. I will also spend my second year in Paris, and I will attempt in this time to undertake something that will make my further work possible. Clearly I have major “competition”: the entire German-Jewish intellectual proletariat is assembled here. It’s terrible - I’d rather just run back to Germany.

But here’s the catch. Of course I can’t opt for just any other country - one doesn’t choose a homeland and, above all, a mother tongue, and in any event I will never be able to write other than in German, even if I must write in another language. On the other hand, I see no acceptable possibility of living under the swastika, i.e., under a symbol that says nothing more to me than: you and your ilk, you are physei subhumans and therefore justly pariahs. There is in this case just one solution. We must repeat: we, “men of science,” - as our predecessors in the Arab Middle Ages called themselves - non habemus locum manentem, sed quaerimus… And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme to protest against the shabby abomination. I am reading Caesar’s Commentaries with deep understanding, and I think of Virgil’s Tu regere imperio… parcere subjectis et debellare superbos. There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought. And even then: rather than any cross, I’ll take the ghetto.

I do not therefore fear the fate of the émigré - at most secundum carnem: the hunger or similar deprivations. - In a sense our sort are always “emigrants”; and what concerns the rest, the fear of bitterness, which is certainly very great, and in this sense I think of Klein(9), who in every sense has always been an emigrant, living proof for the fact that it is not unconquerable.

Dixi, et animam meam salvavi.

Live well! My heartiest greetings to you and your wife

Leo Strauss

My wife sends her thanks for your greetings, and reciprocates heartily.


the German original (not online):

- Karl Löwith: L. Strauss: Gesammelte Schriften Bd.3, Hobbes' politische Wissenschaft und zugehörige Schriften - Briefe, Stuttgart 2001, S. 625

Basic information on Leo Strauss:




Dixi, et animam meam salvavi.

Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01

March 18 2010

Daniel Reichert, Liquid Democracy e.V.

via feed von - permalink

Interview ~ 60 min lang_DE

Liquid Democracy -
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