About my Blog

I am writing this blog from a radical political point of view. To be a political radical is to examine everything critically. It is about taking today's news, today's unmentioned news, history, or even just the way we think about ideas, and adding a totally new perspective to them. If you are a radical, and a socialist, like me, you will agree with a lot of what I have to say. If not, I hope I at least make you think about things that you previously took for granted. Most of all, I hope everyone enjoys this blog.

About Me

I have just graduated from college, where I wrote opinion pieces for my school newspaper. Though I started out a liberal, I have moved far to the left since then. Despite my politics being different from most people, many people found a lot of what I had to say interesting and insightful. I hope to continue challenging people to think here on my blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to be a Pessimist and an Idealist at the Same Time

This is an introductory post. Well, sort of. Of course, no one can really write an introduction that sums up everything. So I'll simply start with some thoughts.

I've been thinking about my approach to politics and what makes it different from conventional political thought. There are many reasons why my approach is different. One of these is how I view the present and the future.

A quote from Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci states: "I'm a pessimist because of intelligence but an optimist because of will." I would state what I think slightly differently. Most people would think I'm a pessimist based on my view of the present. Yet most people consider me more than just an optimist based on my view of the future. They would call me an idealist.

Believing that the world is a terrible place, but that change is possible, is the strongest possible position to take against the status quo. Change becomes both possible, and necessary. Of course, such a view is dangerous to those with power. Consequently, conventional wisdom encourages people to take the opposite view.

The most extreme version of conventional wisdom is that the world is fine the way it is, but that even if it isn't, change is impossible. Of course, most people have a less extreme version of this view. Many people, particularly those who call themselves "liberal" or "progressive," strongly believe that the world is in need of change. But from this perspective "change" means making small adjustments to an otherwise acceptable status quo. By contrast, I believe that the system as a whole is fundamentally flawed, and cannot be fixed, but that a new system is both possible and necessary.

Let me make this more concrete. I'll take the example of the solution to the current financial crisis, and the immoral (and often illegal) banking and investment practices that caused it. A liberal would say "We need to regulate the banks. We let them get too far out of control, and that this caused the crisis." (If you are conservative, you might talk about individual responsibility, which is a topic for another post).

At first glance, it seems obvious that we need to regulate the financial sector. Indeed it is, if only it were that simple.

A more radical critic like me asks whether it is really possible to simply "regulate" the financial sector. What do we do if the capitalist elite controls the government? As Marx put it in the Communist Manifesto: "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." If this is the case, asking the government to regulate the financial institutions is a bit like asking the financial institutions to regulate themselves.

We can also look at this example to see different ideas about the future. Progressives might think that the only realistic solution is regulation. They would argue that a rejection of capitalism altogether in favor of socialism is far too utopian. A socialist like me would take the opposite position, and argue that to truly regulate these institutions requires that the capitalists be removed from power. In other words, I'm saying that we need socialism.

I'm not going to get into a whole analysis in this post about why I think we never really can (or never really did) regulate the financial sector. Here I'm simply trying to show that this is a radically different argument than we are used to. We like to think that things can work, and work fairly, for all of us. We even tend to think that they used to be fair back in the day, and that we've simply strayed a little bit. After all, if society used to be fair, then it can be fair again. I think that this is an illusion. It's bad enough that we don't know what is really going on today, because the media constantly lies to us. Why should we believe that we have an accurate understanding of what happened in the past?

Some look at the world and think it is fine the way it is. Others look at the world and think that it needs a few adjustments. People like me look at the world and suggest radical change.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't posted anything in a while, I think my next post will be on how "healthcare reform" and the "public option" is an absolute sham. I'm also trying to see if their are members of congress who get a lot of money from the health insurance industry but still support the public option. This would show that the public option is not as opposed by the health insurance industry as we've been led to believe.