Class Rules: Utopia On Hold

“Nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history”
–Walter Benjamin

History and Memoryistory is written by the victors. They define what counts as history, whatis remembered and what is forgotten, what is important and what is notand, most crucially, what is usable for informing the relationship of thepresent with the future. As Walter Benjamin has noted, an importantelement in the class struggle is to reclaim history for the excluded bycapturing historical memory from the rulers. What is worth remembering inthe first place, are the “crude struggles” for material things: “The classstruggle . . . is a fight for the crude and material things without which norefined and spiritual things could exist. Nevertheless it is not in the form ofspoils which fall to the victor that the latter make their presence felt in theclass struggle. They manifest themselves in this struggle, as courage, honor,cunning and fortitude. They have retroactive force and will constantly call inquestion every victory, past and present, of the rulers. As flowers turn towardthe sun, by dint of a secret heliotropism, the past strives to turn toward thesun which is rising in the sky of history.”From the perspective of the rulers, framing the past by focusing on eventsand personalities removes movements from below from consideration. Thuswe conveniently talk of the “framers” as the “great men” of the Americanconstitution and virtually identical with the rise of the American nation.Playwrights and historians tell the story of the French Revolution in terms ofthe conflict between the Crown and the “third” estate, an unspecificconglomeration of commoners, but speak of the days of the first Republic asan internal conflict of two great revolutionary leaders: Robsepierre andDanton; in turn, the post-revolutionary decades in France are called theHStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200243“Napoleonic” era, and our image of the period is intimately bound up withthe personality of its main protagonist.Most historians capture the essence of the Civil War by referring to Lincoln’sheroic act of freeing the slaves and, as we have already seen, “Roosevelt’s”New Deal is grasped as the context for Depression-era reform. RonaldReagan’s rise to the presidency helps explain the “Reagan Revolution” of thelast two decades of twentieth century when the doctrine of minimum federalgovernment disguised the fact that his administration was one of the mostprofligate spenders in recent American history. Hans Zinnser noted thatbiography replaces social commentary—in fact it is the preferred form of anypolitical discourse—and also displaces the novel as the main literary genrethat illuminates the social and historical roots of our time. Of course therulers rarely speak for themselves; their perspective is filtered through thepolitical directorate and the intellectuals who rewrite history. The relationbetween them is not one of command but elective affinity. For it isintellectuals who elaborate the “imagined community” of the nation-stateand history is among their main weapons.The elite universities are the incubators of the “organic” intellectuals of rulingclasses as well as the opposition. The intellectual opposition contests the mainnarrative on several planes: among them it proposes a different past than thatpromulgated by the leading institutions of collective memory, chiefly thebook, the school and popular media. And they elaborate a cultural and socialimagination that contradicts prevailing common sense. So in the last half ofthe twentieth century, radical democrats have, through meticulous archivalinvestigation, attempted to demonstrate that history was made from below,and made a large difference in the way we live now. The degree to whichtheir effort succeeds depends less on the talent of the historian or theuncovered facts than on the whether the subordinate classes are contestingpower.Flushed with victory over its ideological as well as economic and militaryopponents, rulers and their ideologists are prone to declare that their regimestands at the end of the evolution of human societies. Just as Voltairesatirized Pangloss who declared pre-revolutionary France the “best of allpossible worlds,” Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of “the end of history,”arriving on the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its client states,is surely one of the most significant intellectual events of the 1990s. (Evenbefore the collapse his celebrated article published in 1989 providedStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200244economic liberals and political conservatives with a Grand Narrative which,despite its conservative worldview, refuses to succumb to ordinary leftbashing.)On the contrary, as Jacques Derrida observes, his account of thedemise of “actually existing socialism” of the Soviet variety is a form ofmourning insofar as, under the sign of liberal democratic capitalism, thefuture is bound to have the characteristics of everyday banality.For Fukuyama, Communism was more than an “evil empire” in RonaldReagan’s simplistic terms. Although as a force of evil it endowed humankindwith the gift of undergoing an epochal struggle worthy of Hegel’s fight to thedeath between the dominator and dominated. Fukuyama’s essay set the termsof the debate: What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the ColdWar, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end ofhistory as such; that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution andthe universalization of Western Liberal Democracy as the final form ofhuman government.In place of theories that separate capitalism from liberal democracy he makesthem indissoluble: the traditional distinction between economics andpolitics—the inside/outside separation that often propels significant socialchange—is denied. In conjoining capitalism and democracy, the “others” ofthe now-eclipsed revolutionary epoch—the radical left, the Third World, thepermanently wretched of the earth—have disappeared before the ideologicalas much as the economic hegemony of the capitalist market. For Fukuyama,hegemony justifies erasure. History need not record the persistence of massunemployment, widespread poverty and spreading diseases that afflictbillions. Although still striving for the Good Life, those who were in fullthroatedrebellion against colonialism and capitalism just thirty years agonow vie for favors from the institutions of world capitalism and are rewardedto the extent they agree to open their nations to private investment and tradeand impose austerity on their citizens so long as their country is in debt toWestern banks. But Fukuyama’s blithe assumption that liberal democracy isan entailment of markets grates against the stark reality that the planet islittered with nations which have adopted capitalist economic relations whichare supported by repressive states. The new world order does not require thatstates agree to evolve into liberal democracies and one of its traditionalentailments, human rights—witness the recent admission of China into theWTO.Stanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200245Mixed in with exhilaration, Fukuyama judged the twentieth century’scommunist revolutions as well as its ideological inspiration, Marxism, as amassive failure. In concert with earlier prophets of endings, notably DanielBell, whose influential End of Ideology announced the eclipse of class andideological politics. Fukuyama acknowledges that there are still conflicts, butno contradictions; present and future battles have no historicity. Socialformations will fight for greater shares of the expanding pie and culturaldifferences will endure. Some societies will remain mired in backwardnessowing to the strength of their premodern cultural traditions such as religiousfundamentalism and the patriarchies that sustain them, and are doomed todwell outside the modern world. What is forever gone are the epochalrevolutionary struggles that punctuated almost the entire twentieth centurythat vowed to abolish capitalist social relations and establish collective or,more accurately, state ownership of the means of industrial and agriculturalproduction.But even before the collapse of the Berlin Wall it was evident to many thatthe dream of a communist utopia had given way to dystopia. As the Sovietsystem entered its long descent, many who had been inspired by its earlytriumphs recognized that the present did not forecast a different future forhumanity. Instead of hope for a better world, we are condemned to gothrough life without “impossible” dreams. By the dawn of the twenty-firstcentury, even if some parties calling themselves Communist remained inpower, their “experiment” in the abolition of private property, state-ownedmeans of production, and largely non-market modes of exchange have, in alarge measure, given way to private property and the capitalist market. Andthe dream of radical democracy, in which the major institutions of societywould be controlled by committees elected by workers and other citizens inthe workplace and in the neighborhoods, and enjoyed a flicker of life in theParis Commune of 1871, reinforced by the formation of workers councils inthe 1905 Russian revolution, and was the benchmark of many general strikesfrom Seattle in 1919 to the May events in France almost a half century later,seems to belong to a bygone era. No organized force—except the growingbattalions of anarchist, anti-globalization activists—maintains even the dreamof a radical democratic future.China’s embrace of capitalist market modernity initiated in 1978, a few yearsafter the death of Mao, has been only partial: as it entered global markets,opening its doors to foreign private investment, downsized its state-ownedindustrial and agricultural enterprises and created a huge private capitalistStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200246sector. And as recently as 2001, the Communist Party considered admittingprivate employers into its ranks, a proposal that was finally thwarted by thewhisper of a dying tradition that only workers, peasants and intellectuals canbelong in the party. But in China, liberal democracy, let alone radicaldemocracy, remains a distant shore. One-party rule, the policy of large-scaleenclosures in the countryside that have driven more than 100 millionpeasants from their ancestral lands, state imposed human rights violationssuch as the suppression of the student protest at Tiananmen square,continued imprisonment of vocal dissenters, and severe press and mediarestrictions, attest to the persistence of authoritarian rule.Russia, by far the largest nation in the former Soviet orbit, has experienced aprecipitous decline of living standards. Under the influence of Harvard andChicago neo-liberal economists, its first post-Soviet president, former-Moscow Communist leader Boris Yeltsin swiftly dismantled many stateenterprises and handed them over to ex-communist managers who have,characteristically, milked their assets for private gain. Meanwhile, plagued bypoverty, rampant alcoholism and heavy pollution—the legacy of Soviet-eraindustrialization distortions—infant and adult mortality rates haveskyrocketed. Russia’s infant mortality is the highest in Europe. An averageRussian man can expect to live 55 years, a drop by ten years since the Sovietcollapse. Income inequality between the new capitalist class created withgovernment support and the impoverished working class approaches that ofthe United States, but without the lure of consumer society to allay popularanger. As a result, the Communist Party which, in the immediate aftermathof the breakup of the Soviet Union had been discredited, regainedconsiderable ground in the last half of the 1990s and is today the largest partyin the Duma, although its program dare not speak the name of socialistrevolution. In effect, the party has, at least for the time being, accepted thepolitical framework of liberal democracy, as have the leading socialist andcommunist parties of Europe, Japan and Latin America.The core of Fukuyama’s theory is his appropriation of Hegel’s philosophyof history. For Fukuyama, no less than Hegel, the end of history is animaginary resolution of the dialectic of labor for it posits what remains to beshown: that in liberal democratic societies, at the workplace as much as civilsociety, employer and worker, citizen and ruler, are placed on a sufficientlyequal footing to assure mutual recognition. Marx criticized Hegel forStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200247bringing history to an end: on the one hand, Hegel correctly describes thedialectic of labor which brings the worker to the point of consciousness butrefused to remain faithful to his own dialectical logic which demands theovercoming of the contradiction between lord and bondsman. On the otherhand, Marx’s critique extended to Hegel’s conception of the state. Fourteenyears after the Phenomenology, Hegel published his second version of the endof history, The Philosophy of Right, whose main thesis is that thecontradictions within the family and civil society—between men, women andchildren, and between owners of commodities (including capitalists andworkers)—are incapable of resolution within their respective spheres; thestate arises to resolve their contradictions on the basis of the self-recognitionby citizens that they cannot bring harmony to human affairs without thenegation of their sovereignty by a higher power.Even as he celebrates the end of utopia, that is, of creative history in whichthe idea of a revolutionary future informs the present and inspires people totake action against hierarchy and domination, Fukuyama exhibits not a littlenostalgia for the years when capitalism trembled at the prospect of socialistrevolution and, during the Cold War, devoted most of its economic, politicaland ideological energy to “containment” of the perceived Soviet threat towestern capitalism. Now that Communism has been defeated, what remainsis to clean up the debris left by premodern and antediluvian regimes.Accordingly, this debris includes the arduous tasks associated with bringingliberal democracy to totalitarian and authoritarian Third World societies likethose that are strewn throughout Africa and the Middle East.Fukuyama interprets the Gulf War and the post-September 11 United States’anti-terrorist campaign that began with overthrow of the Taliban governmentin Afghanistan not as a repudiation of the end of history thesis, but avindication; but only if these states evolve into capitalist democracies fromtheir recent totalitarian past, an eventuality that, even for the most devoutconservatives, is highly dubious. Answering his critics who claim that theterrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, refutehis claim, Fukuyama insists that “modernity is a very powerful freight trainthat will not be derailed by recent events, however painful. . . . We remain atthe end of history because there is only one system that will dominate worldpolitics, that of the liberal democratic west.”Judging from post-communist and postcolonial experience, the burden ofproof is on those who celebrate the triumph of the West and claim thatStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200248capitalism is an entailment of liberal democracy. Certainly any concept ofeconomic democracy is missing from most capitalist countries. For capitalismwithout democracy seems as prevalent as the conservative claim that they aremutually dependent. The easy refutation is to adduce evidence that grossinequality remains in much of the world. Reliable statistics show that a thirdof the global working population is unemployed or underemployed. Billionssuffer poverty and hunger and this condition is especially widespread amongchildren. In dozens of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America themortality rate among children of all ages in far larger than in Russia and thegap between life expectancy in the North is much larger than in the globalSouth. Workplaces in most of what are termed “developing” countries areoften marked by physical coercion of workers, long working hours, unsafeworking environments and abysmally low wages. Workers subjected to theseconditions have responded by staging mass strikes in Korea, Mexico, Brazil,China and many other countries. Some strike leaders have been murdered orimprisoned for attempting to withhold their labor.But factual refutations have failed to penetrate public discourse forFukuyama, who is often invited to address global financial organizations suchas the World Bank and IMF, who has crafted an ideology that has becomethe new common sense. Ideological hegemony trumps facts, which lackingthe weight of political resistance, empirical counterclaims are ignored. Ifthose who control the means of information and public communication havedetermined that resistance to global neo-liberalism and its practicalconsequences is only residual, rear guard action by desperate people destinedto be brought into the liberal capitalist camp, even when reported as news, israrely given the significance accorded to a genuine oppositionIt does not matter that few in the general population even know whoFukuyama is. What counts as political truth is the embrace of his concepts.He is an organic intellectual of the new world order; his constituency is, inthe first place, the managers of the global ruling bloc and then his fellowintellectuals of whatever persuasion. And the measure of its dissemination isthe degree to which those who would oppose his motives have, neverthelessadopted the line of “endings.” Left intellectuals such as Russell Jacobyconfirm this common sense when they write, ruefully, of the “end” of utopia.Other erstwhile intellectual radicals, notably Sean Wilentz, Paul Berman,Michael Kazin, Todd Gitlin and many others who are resigned to theprevailing framework, would vehemently deny their complicity with the“end” ideology or of history, but spare few occasions to bash those who refuseStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200249to recognize the ineluctability of the liberal consensus or, more exactly, to thepopulist faith in electoral or statistical majorities. Thus, some of these writerscondemned their fellow intellectuals who supported the anti-corporate 2000presidential campaign of Ralph Nader on the grounds that, in Florida and afew other states, his votes had defeated the Democrat and, in effect, electedGeorge Bush. This is not the place to rehash the issues in that event. I invokethe controversy merely to indicate the degree to which the conception ofanti-utopian liberal democracy frames the political strategies of a growingnumber of left intellectuals whose oppositional fire has been tempered bypolitical pessimism.Has the distinction between inside and outside been overrun by modernity?Put another way, has the “other” of modern societies upon which a possibleradical future is always based, disappeared? Fukuyama assumes, as did allmodernity theorists of the Cold War era, that actually existing socialistcountries could not withstand the “freight train” of an economically andpolitically superior liberal capitalism. That is, once having embarked on theroad to industrialization which entails technological innovation, massconsumer society and broad educational opportunities that enables asubstantial portion of the population to attain class mobility, these societiescould not long resist the inevitability of the capitalist market and of liberaldemocracy. The events of the last fifteen years appear to confirm thisjudgement. The fabled popularity of Calvin Klein jeans, television, e-mailand other ornaments of American culture in the most economically starvedThird World nations seems to attest to the inevitability of capitalist culture, ifnot freedom. If consumer culture is present, can the economic and politicalrelations that sustain and follow from it be far behind?Or does the new global context portend new forms of struggle which maylead to new institutions and social arrangements? While it is typical ofmodernity boosters to code terrorism as “premodern,” it is more plausible toview its rise as a symptom of the incompleteness of modernity or even as asign of its failure. Perhaps we may understand terrorism, which is always thestrategy of the weak in the face of a global system that ratifies economic andpolitical domination, as a wake-up call. Surely there is no justification for actsof terrorism that punish innocent civilians for the calumnies perpetrated bytransnational ruling classes in alliance with local and regional despots. But itis unlikely that military reprisals, however legitimate they may be for anaggrieved nation to undertake, will solve more than the surface of the issuesthat produced terrorism in the first place. A mighty military machine may beStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200250able to smoke Osama bin Laden and his associates from their holes or crushthousands of Palestinians into the dust. The more urgent question is whetherWestern powers and their allies in the developing world have the capacity totake measures to overcome the blatant inequalities that mark the worldsystem and have fomented forms of resistance, including terrorism, that oftenemanate from religious fundamentalism throughout the developing world aswell as the metropoles—the leading nations and corporations that rule theempire.There is mounting evidence to show that new challenges face a triumphantWest not only from the Southern and Eastern world where developmentproblems and economic and social inequality have become nearly intractable,but also from semi-peripheral societies where economic crisis is born, in part,from their own relatively successful but distorted development, which can beattributed to the effects of their subordination to globalization. In many ofthese semi-peripheral societies such as Argentina and Brazil, the economicand political crisis is already tearing at the social fabric and threateningpolitical stability. The late 1990s were marked by a resurgence of both leftand right movements which emphatically denied the ideology of endings.The emergence of new social movements and those of so-called “antiglobalism”—really the resistance to the attempt to establish the new worldorder—is grounded in the widespread perception and well as scientificevidence that the planet’s ecosystems are in serious trouble, that capitalistglobalization has sharpened inequality, not only in economic and politicalsystems but in the everyday lives of masses of people, and that thepredominant western style of “tinkering” is simply failing to adequatelyaddress the apocalyptic implications of the situation.In power, at least temporarily, the right in the United States has responded tothe interlocking economic and social crises of the system by testing the limitsof liberal democracy. Congress lost no time after September 11 passing thePatriot Act which severely restricts immigrant rights and extends theserestrictions to citizens who may criticize the war policies of the government.After two months of investigation seeking a tie to Islamic terrorism or toSaddam Hussein, the villain of the Gulf War, American security agenciesconcluded that the anthrax attacks in the aftermath of September 11 hadbeen conducted not from central Asian terrorists but probably from elementsof the American right. Bombings and threats to legal abortion clinics, anti-Semitic defacements and intimidation of native and immigrant residents ofStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200251Middle Eastern and Central Asian citizens and residents were indications thatdespite early White House pleadings, anti-immigrant sentiment was rising.The Ideology of EndingsThe fundamental defect of the ideology of endings whose explicit assumptionis that class and class struggle are relics of a bygone era, lies not only in theaction-critique posed by social movements to this mode of reasoning, but inthe view that history has a fixed definition that precedes its making. Like thepreponderance of Marxist thinkers, Fukuyama agrees that history consistsexclusively of epochal change. And epochal change means a transformation inownership of productive property and the political and juridical relations thatemanate from the economic infrastructure. Given the sweep of Fukuyama’sconcept of history and its finality, anything short of revolution that seizes andholds state power in the image of great evolutionary transformation from onestage to another is consigned to modernity’s housekeeping. There will alwaysbe “hotspots,” military action to discipline or topple rogue regimes willcontinue to be part of the new world order’s police-keeping function, butcapitalism, according to this thinking, has overcome all threats to itsexistence.Here I advance the idea that through their practices, “history” is constantlybeing made by humans, and not necessarily in terms that can be identifiedwith the idea of progress. History is made when, through self-constitution,the subordinate classes succeed in changing the mode of life in significantways. That these changes rarely involve transformations in the ownership ofproductive property does not disqualify them from being historic. Moreover,rulers make history when they are able to abrogate previous gains made byinsurgent social formations and return to some previous time. In this senseNietzsche’s comment that nothing disappears but, instead, returns to bite us,is entirely vindicated by current events. The form of the return is neveridentical to its previous incarnation but it is recognizable as the past.Whether lurking or not, it is not ordained that history proceeds in cycles, asArnold Toynbee and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. have claimed. Making history is acreative act, but is constrained, in part, by conditions already in existence.Since change is self-generated by social formations, it is always different inmany respects; it is always new.Stanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200252What is at issue is: What counts as “history?” Are the innumerable changesthat occur in everyday life wrought by the actions of people creating theirown environments or struggling to preserve their self-created forms ofassociation that are frequently disrupted by political decisions over whichthey have little control, by war and war preparations, and by changes in theeconomic conditions, historical? Thus, when feminist and black freedommovements lay claim to have “made” history by changing the terms ofpolitical, social and cultural relations, especially in law and everyday life,these are viewed by theorists of modernity—left as well as right—as reformsthat “correct” certain inequalities but fail to change things in anyfundamental way? Do the vast changes that have occurred in the technologiesof information and communications which have transformed much ofindustrial production, business administration and, equally striking, theeveryday lives of hundreds of millions of people over the last half of thetwentieth century amount to real history? Scientifically-based technologicalinnovations such as the computer, laser technologies, genetic engineering andnew modes of organization linked to them, constitute nothing less than anhistorical break with the past.Geographic vertigo has become a way of life for many among us. Moreover,the idea that we are born, raised, raise our own families, and work in thesame city or town or even region for most of our lives, is rapidly becoming anexpectation of fewer people. For it is not only rural China or Mexican andBrazilian peasant regions that are in upheaval: the whole of humanity,including those in the United States, are frequently obliged to leave theirdwellings and consequently are experiencing a loss of the sense of place.Social and biographical time is different, as well. In contrast to a half centuryago when, typically, a child spent eleven to thirteen years in school and only asmall fraction attended college, more than half of the young people in theUnited States attend school for as much as twenty years. We enter the fulltimepaid labor force as adults later than in the past, and for this reason,remain unmarried and often without children longer. While many of ourpredecessors became parents before age 20—and some people still do—theage of parenting is older than at any time in history. It is not uncommon forwomen to have their first child in their late 30s or early 40s, a condition thatreduces the chances they will be able to retire from paid labor before reachingseventy. Perhaps equally important— since we can’t earn a living performingonly one job, or working eight hours a day, more of us take on two jobs;industrial workers accept all the overtime they can get just to pay the bills, soStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200253that life is experienced as work without end. Many professionals andmanagers take their work home and spend the time once reserved for“rest”—the necessary duration of reproduction of our physical and mentalcapacities—working into the night. As a result, we have become a nation ofpill poppers because many of us suffer from severe stress due to overworkborn of mounting bills amid job insecurityOf course this brief catalogue of temporal and spatial anxiety still requiresexplanation. The optimism of modernity theory is belied by its performanceon the ground. And from the rise of religious fundamentalism, at home aswell as abroad, to its rejection by some societies and cultures, the events ofSeptember 11 have revealed how profound is the discontent fomented bymodernity’s new form, globality. We can no longer remain indifferent towhat is happening thousands of miles beyond the water’s edge. Some willinterpret this imperative to mean that we must reconcile ourselves topermanent war, to long-term sacrifice in our public goods and our livingstandards, to indefinite surrender of our liberty. Others, notably the leader ofthe AFL-CIO, are not convinced that workers should surrender their livingstandards in the corporate interest. Speaking at the AFL-CIO convention inDecember 2001, its president John Sweeney, condemned these assumptions.While praising U.S. foreign policy in the war in Afghanistan, he said: “In themonths ahead, we must take the offensive in a war here at home. PresidentBush and his administration are doing an excellent job of waging war on theterrorists and we commend them for that. But at the same time, he and hiscorporate backers are waging a vicious war on working families . . . and wecondemn them for that.”Sweeney called on organized labor to resist the administration’s austeritypolicies, including severe cuts in education and health care. But if the past isany guide, these sentiments will be expressed mainly in electoral rather thandirect action.Are populations destined to permanent migration? Is a life without genuineand enduring social ties to be endured as the inevitable price of capitalism’seconomic viability? There are still parts of the world where the wholepopulation treasures long periods of social time away from paid labor. Forexample, from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic and Aegean seas largesections of the nations of Southern Europe and of North Africa have held fastStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200254to cultural traditions that provide two or three hour lunch periods, strictlyprohibit most Sunday store and factory labor and have enacted laws thatmandate five or six week annual vacations for the whole working population.That this culture of self-controlled time is under assault from globalcapitalism testifies to one of its fundamental aims: to break social practicesthat resist accumulation, social practices that safeguard workers’ health,preserve the elements of conviviality and maintain a measure of horizontalsocial relationships that are independent of capital’s logic and sometimesconstitute the glue for collective action against capital investment that resultsin the destruction of cities and towns and destroys the ties of community life.The idea of progress is supplemented by that of cost containment. Whilethose whose admiration for modernity is unconditional may snort thatsentiment must not be permitted, to stand in the way of progress and pointout that the old ways tend to perpetuate material deprivation, it must bepointed out that predictions to the contrary notwithstanding, capital has notsucceeded in melting “all that is solid . . . into air.”The United States is, perhaps, the leading society, organized almost entirelyaccording to capital’s logic. Not the least of its accomplishments is to haveturned work from a necessity for life, into a way of life. Capital’s onceseverely contested historic doctrine of boundless work-time has overtaken theefforts of the labor movement and of workers themselves to institute adifferent ethic. The fifty-year struggle, begun in the 1880s for shorter hours,exemplified in the American labor movement’s pioneering fight for the eighthourday, was once a beacon to labor throughout the world. Through massstrikes, demonstrations, and public statements Labor urgently called uponCongress and employers to accede to labor’s demand. Finally, after rejectingthe Black Bill which mandated a six hour day introduced by Alabama SenatorHugo Black and passed by the Senate, Congress enacted the wages and hourslaw in 1938 which embodied a severely modified version. It provided fortime and a half pay after forty hours but did not extend this regulation to theworking day. It was left to collective bargaining agreements to improve onthis framework.Still, the concept of limits on working time had been established. By the1980s, this stricture was in ruins. The labor movement was no longer thebastion of shorter hours, as a combination of coercion and cultural shiftsprompted many to climb aboard the non-stop workhouse. Indeed, we are inthe throes of “24/7”—the sign of work without end—where everyone isalways on call. Many people walk around all day, every day with beepers andStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200255cell phones. This is the era of the 24-hour supermarket, of Sunday storeopenings. If the law provides for six national holidays, they are honored inthe breach as much as their observance and nobody protests.But labor’s acquiescence was not secured mostly by persuasion. After theonset of world economic instability in the 1970s, capital launched anoffensive which still reverberates today. With the “Reagan Revolution,”capital openly threatened labor with joblessness in the form of capital flightto greener domestic as well as foreign venues when workers struck orotherwise protested against its demands for “flexibility,” a key precept of neoliberaleconomics. Flexibility entailed wage and benefits cuts, enforcedovertime, relaxation or repeal of hard-won work rules to facilitate thereorganization of the labor process by piling more tasks on workers. To thismust be added the efforts by conservatives to roll back the once formidablewelfare state or social wage. After nearly two decades of retreat, at the turn ofthe twenty-first century, despite indications that some in organized labor,among movements of the aging, and in the black freedom movement, weregearing up for battle, it is plain that a new culture of subordination had takenroot.The culture was grounded more in fear than in the so-called work ethic. Forthe love of labor has never been prevalent among working people; the idea ofwork as a redemptive activity is the imposition of a quasi-religious moralityfrom the state and its ideological apparatuses, especially schools and themedia, and of their intellectuals. The heavy hand of neo-liberal economicswas felt widely after Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 striking air trafficcontrollers in August 1981. This bold stroke was followed by a series ofemployer demands for concessions from union and non-union workers. Atfirst many locals resisted these demands: in the mid-1980s, Stacey,Caterpillar, and American Home Products workers in Decatur, Illinois,struck to preserve their gains. In Austin, Minnesota, Hormel’s meatpackersstruck when the company demanded wage reductions, a measure that wassupported by their international union. Continental Airlines managementtook a long strike by unionized workers but succeeded in breaking the unionfor fifteen years. In nearly all instances where they stood up againstconcession bargaining, union militants were defeated in part because theirnational unions were unprepared for the intensity of the employer offensiveand intimated by the conservative political climate, and for these reasonsbecame habituated to granting concessions to the employers.Stanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200256Meanwhile, the class struggle raged unabated: employers still fiercely opposedunion organization and capital flight left many communities bereft andhopeless. The boom didn’t deter neo-liberals from welfare state dismantling,and they forced Bill Clinton to repeal income supports for the long-termunemployed when he signed the Welfare Reform Act in the face of the 1996election. And, for the overwhelming majority, concession bargaining andbetrayal still fresh in memory, risk-taking was not on their agenda. Wagesstagnated as the long economic boom of the 1990s was not accompanied by aconcomitant rise in real wages. Month by month, year after year, theconservative chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan gloatedthat wage restraint acted to moderate inflation and keep interest rates lowerthan would have been necessary if workers had done what they nearly alwaysdid before—initiate a wave of mass strikes to take advantage of the boom.Stricken by fear, many raised their incomes by putting in fifty, sixty evenseventy-hour work weeks where, at least in durable goods such as auto, steeland electrical industries, their gross pay often approached $80-100 thousanda year.During the 1980s and 1990s, America was at work. Women entered the paidlabor force in record numbers; by the end of the decade, more than twothirds of adult women were holding part or full-time jobs or were looking forpaid work. Some men said they were happy to be making enough money topay bills and send their kids to college, and a few preferred the comradeshipof the shop floor to the tensions they found at home. But the unpaid labor ofhomemaking and child rearing did not abate. What Arlie Hochchild termedthe “double shift” became a new source of discontent among women. Ofcourse, noting the burden that women have been obliged to assume does notspeak to the conservative call to return women to the home. In addition toeconomic necessity, women entered the paid labor force in the quest forfinancial independence and to have the opportunity to acquire technical andprofessional credentials. Women who have the means to support themselvesand their children are less likely to submit to the unreasonable demands oftheir husbands because they have freed themselves from dependency.Moreover, that more than half of American women hold jobs strengthenstheir argument that household tasks be shared by their partners. It has alsoresulted in a rising divorce rate and placed women in a better position toresist male violence in the household because they have the option to exit.Stanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200257The conjunction of recession and war in the fall of 2001 accelerated theattack against workers’ rights and hard-won gains. When 1,000 teachersstruck for pay and to preserve their health benefits in Middletown, NewJersey, parents sided with the courts which quickly jailed more than 100teachers for violating a state law prohibiting strikes by public employees. Theteachers and their union were severely criticized for conducting militantaction in a time of national emergency, a refrain often heard under thesecircumstances in American history. As a result, the strike was broken. InHartford, the huge Pratt and Whitney corporation, one of America’s leadingproducers of aircraft engines and spare parts, announced it would reducehealth benefits for its workers in order to save money. Workers and theirunion prepared for a strike and succeeded in holding the line. In the wake ofthe World Trade Center disaster, after reconciling himself to the Bushadministration’s broken promise to provide aid to the city and Congress’sdawdling, New York’s outgoing mayor Rudolph Guiliani announced afifteen percent budget cut for all city agencies except police, fire and Board ofEducation, a reduction that would inevitably lead to significant layoffs andcutbacks in services. This order was issued at a time when the city was facinga major health crisis as the Mayor and his Health Department were forced,after initial denials, to admit that the World Trade Center rubble hadproduced serious environmental problems in far flung areas. Meanwhile,there were no real plans by federal and state governments to address thehardships suffered by nearly 80,000 employees whose jobs disappeared withthe destruction of the WTC or the 70,000 workers who made their livingfrom the decimated tourism industry now reduced to three and four dayweeks. By spring 2002 the official national jobless rate rose to 6% whileworkers braced for new assaults on wages and benefits as employers sought totransfer the burden of the recession on their backs.Since the early 1970s when conservative economic doctrine ruled politics andpolicy, western nations have experienced little economic and social reformand have slowed the pace of cultural transformation, signified principally bythe advances made by women, immigrants, and minorities against flagrantdiscriminatory practices in employment, personal security and everydayrelationships. The weakness of the social movements, including the tradeunions, to maintain the tempo of social reform that marked the 1960s,resulted in a thirty year hiatus, even in the ability of the ecologicalmovements to protect safeguards to air and water they had previously wonagainst the ravages of industrial development. The 1990s witnessed adesperate struggle, not to extend ecological law, but to prevent the neoStanleyAronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200258liberals from rolling back regulation in the name of the free market.Combined with the collapse of Communist societies and their transformationinto neo-liberal poster children, the stalling of reform has given rise to a newsurge of radicalism that has, for the first time since the mid-1960s, raised thequestion of whether capitalism itself is subject to substantive reform. But anew generation of social activists—chiefly students and younger tradeunionists—have framed their protests in distinctly anti-capitalist terms.While rhetoric still exceeds genuine strategies of change even after September11, conferences as well as militant demonstrations at sites of world economicinstitutions have resumed and taken on new urgency.Testing the Limits of Liberal DemocracyLong working hours, the breakup of long-term personal associations, andmost important, the disappearance of women from neighborhoods during theday, have accelerated the decline of civil society, the stuff of which theamenities of everyday life is made. In the 1980s and 1990s, membership involuntary organizations such as the PTA, veterans’ groups and social clubsdeclined, but perhaps more to the point, many of them lost activists, thepeople who kept the organization together. Labor unions, whose membershiperosion was as severe as it was disempowering, became more dependent onfull-time employees to conduct organizing, political action and other affairsas rank and file leaders disappeared into the recesses of the non-stopworkplace. The cumulative effects of this transformation is the hollowing outof participation and democracy where it really counts, at the grass roots. Forthe democratic polity cannot alone be defined and measured by thepercentage of eligible citizens who exercise their vote. Indeed, since less thanhalf of eligible voters turn out for state and local elections and only halfparticipate in presidential polls, the United States has chronically laggedbehind other capitalist democracies. As Benjamin Barber, Robert Putnamand others have argued, the measure of democracy is the degree ofparticipation by ordinary citizens in the social, cultural as well as the politicalinstitutions of society. A vital liberal democracy is one in whichrepresentatives are selected in an electoral process that is the outcome of aseries of intense discussions and debates over issues that affect the polity atevery level of social rule. This would apply to the workplace, school boards,the leadership of voluntary organizations as well as national and internationalinstitutions that control or otherwise regulate economic and political life.Stanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200259The democracy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries bears littleresemblance to how democracy worked in the eighteenth and earlynineteenth centuries. In the 1920s, John Dewey’s rueful meditations on thedecline of the public still held out hope for its revival. Reflecting on his ownlate nineteenth century Vermont upbringing, Dewey recalled the tradition ofdirect democracy and argued that our social arrangements and politicaljurisdictions needed to be scaled down in order to implement democraticaspirations. But almost eighty years after his The Public and its Problemsappeared, in the era of mass democracy, concepts such as direct participationin the decisions affecting the collective life are no longer in our politicalvocabulary. The town meeting in which all members of the local politymakes the decisions affecting the community survives in some New Englandvillages and small towns, but at best, “participation” in cities and suburbs isconfined to testimony at public hearings conducted by elected councils,boards—of education, of energy and other locally-based utilities—and invoting. While a relatively small fraction of the underlying populationparticipates in various institutions of local government, and a larger groupparticipates mostly through their membership in voluntary organizationssuch as parent associations, the social programs of churches and othercharitable agencies, chambers of commerce, or unions, for tens of millions ofAmericans, democracy consists almost exclusively in the ritual of voting; onlyopinion surveys mitigate, to an extent, our sense of distance from the processof political decision-making. The texture of life is as different today as waseveryday life in the nineteenth century from the years when almost everybodywas a farmer or connected to agriculture in some way.But however weak is liberal democracy, the United States has by no meanstested its institutional limits. In fact, of the leading capitalist societies, ourpolitical system is, perhaps, the least democratic. Undoubtedly influenced byreligious objections, Tuesday rather than Sunday is the conventional votingday. The president is elected by an electoral college in which—becausemembers are selected on the basis of who wins the popular vote in a givenstate and gives disproportional weight to states with smaller populations—may give rise to an outcome in which the victor—in 2000, George W.Bush—receives a minority of the popular vote. And unlike some othercountries whose constitution and practices are to insure representation byminority parties in legislative bodies, the United States is dedicated to a“winner take all” system of representation which, for all intents and purposes,excludes minor parties which, in some states and localities, receive as much as15-20% of the vote, a showing which is not uncommon in recent elections.Stanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200260State and federal election laws provide that the party winning a majority orplurality of the votes has been elected to office and the other parties areexcluded from governance.The same system has informed the development of a self-perpetuatingbureaucracy in the unions as well which only a system of term limits canhope to remedy. But term limits only restrict the prerogatives of individuals,not self-perpetuating ruling parties. Even where majorities are required toelect an office seeker most statutes mandate a runoff between the two topvote getters. As a result, a substantial minority of citizens are routinelydeprived of representation and this situation militates against pluralism in theelectoral and legislative process. The mantra of electoralism is that votersshould not “throw their votes” away by selecting the candidate(s) of partieswhich have no chance of winning. As a result, we are saddled with “lesserevil” politics. Faced with the prospect that one’s vote for someone who holdspolitical views close to or identical to our own might, in close races, elect acandidate whose views are entirely unacceptable, we tend to hold our nosesand vote for the least objectionable candidate.Imagine an electoral system based on proportional representation (PR). Likemany other countries such as Italy, Israel and Germany, Congress and statelegislatures would be more broadly representative, and the major partieswould be obliged to form coalitions in order to rule. While some argue thatEuropean systems introduce instability into politics—this is especially thecase in Italy—a little uncertainty would make social reform more likely, evenif not inevitable. In any case, PR, a system that insures representation forminorities who achieve a minimum percentage of the popular vote, mightenergize those who have decided that the narrow differences between the twomajor parties do not warrant exercising their franchise, let alone participatingin the political process in other ways.It is fairly rare to hear calls for “radical” democracy in this era in which powerseems ever more concentrated at the top of our economic and politicalsystems. By radical democracy political theorists connote a system ofgovernance where power is widely shared among the citizenry andinstitutions are controlled in direct ways from below. Put another way,radical democracy would change relations of power so that those who arepartially or entirely excluded from participation in civil society underrepresentative forms and are unable to influence, let alone share, power overthe key decisions affecting their own lives, gain entrance. Many politicalStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200261observers have noted the passivity of Americans in the wake of the enormouschanges that have swept through the institutions of the economy andgovernment, but especially those that have transformed everyday life whichhave conspired to widen the economic and political inequalities of power. Iwould deny that the word “passivity” or, in another vocabulary, “consent” letalone “consensus,” adequately describes the current situation. But we maynot discern the signs of discontent in the usual places and among thetraditional radicals.As Jean Baudrillard has perceptively argued, abstinence from the shriveledinstitutions political and governance may signify neither apathy nor consentbut may be coded as a form of resistance. The “silent majorities” who fail togo to the polls or to participate in a rigged civil society are neither left norright in their sentiments but have determined, often tacitly to be sure, thatthe institutions of liberal democracy, including unions and many voluntaryorganizations which, in the end, are extensions of the state, are irrelevant totheir lives, or worse, impediments to their interests. Indeed if it can be shownthat the fabled “deadlock” of democratic institutions has produced very littleto advance the general welfare in the last thirty years, if Congress andEuropean parliaments are subsumed under a centralized executive authoritythat in turn is deeply beholden to the network of transnational corporationsand international bureaucratic economic institutions, the act of voting simplylegitimates the swindle that “representatives” are accountable to theirconstituents at least on matters that affect their modes of life.While Baudrillard may have overstated the case for abstinence as a form ofresistance, many young people and a considerable fraction of the poor sharethe assessment that given the alternatives provided within the electoralsystem, their participation simply legitimates a process that does not servethem. These views may be mistaken. But unless we accept the theoryaccording to which legislative bodies are generally responsive to activeconstituents, a theory which is unable to explain the disparity between a highlevel of trade union and middle class liberal voting and the gross indifferenceto their needs and their views of Congress and most state legislatures, theabstainers act not only out of indifference but also skepticism.During times of emergency many Americans seem prepared to concede moreauthority to the executive which hastens to suspend the autonomy ofrepresentative institutions and, as Eric Foner has shown, tends to “shred theconstitution.” The Bush administration is not alone in this regard: the AlienStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200262and Sedition Laws, enacted during John Adams’s presidency, the federalgovernment’s jailing war opponents during World War I, its internment ofJapanese-Americans during World War II and the McCarthy era’s attack onlabor and radical movements, which received the approbation of theTruman and Eisenhower administrations, all circumvented the constitutionalrights of individuals and organizations in the name of national security. Wemay learn from Benjamin’s remark: “The tradition of the oppressed teachesus that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception, but therule. We must attain a conception of history that is on keeping with thisinsight.”The new movements directed against capitalist globality, but also the newlibertarian right have adopted elements of the analysis that liberty underliberal capitalist democracy is fragile and while frequently protected bycourts, democracy itself is chimerical. There are signs that a new wave ofactivists is changing the political map.. While the traditional left is generallyprogrammatic, the new opposition is issue-oriented and is not content to usethe familiar tactics of petition and lobby to achieve its aims. The newactivism is discontinuous with the social reformism of the social democraticand liberal organizations for which seeking legislative remedies are the typicalform of participation. Instead it has a distinct direct action orientation thatwas recovered from the feminist, gay and lesbian, and black freedommovements, and in the mid 1990s by the anti-AIDS movement, ACT-UP.Reflecting their suspicion and even disdain of the tools of liberal democracy,direct action rather than petition and legislation has been the hallmark of theanti-globalization movement as well, and this strategic shift is evident incampus-based anti-sweatshop groups who have used the labor and civil rightstactic of the sit-in in college presidents’ offices to replace entreaties toacademic authorities to change their procurement policies.These differences may be dismissed on the ground that the resistance has notadvanced to alternative; the opposition rarely proposes new arrangementsthat depart substantially from reform. In fact, many environmental protesterswho engage in direct action still hope that nations will come to their sensesand enact a series of treaties to remedy global warming and other ecologicalhazards. Moreover, the discrediting of socialism and Communism has left ahuge vacuum in alternative, let alone utopian, thinking. If there is a crisis ofthe intellect, it resides in the bereft imagination. Collectively we are stillunable to imagine a qualitatively different future. Indeed, radical democracyitself lacks contemporary specification. The Soviet constitution, whichStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200263promised a new form of social rule, was betrayed by its own authors, andcontemporaneous with the events, John Dewey could offer only a ruralmiasma of democratic participation. Since the New Left’s notion ofparticipatory democracy achieved a degree of influence, especially morewidely in the black freedom movement, radical democracy has been largelyan intellectual discourse.Put simply, utopia is on hold with the partial exception of the imagination ofsocial ecologists who have proposed bio-regionalism, where agriculture andmanufacturing would be integrated within a restricted geographic space, andradical democratic municipalism to replace the prevailing centralist businessorientedmetropolitan governments whose development policies aredestructive of natural and urban environments. Social ecology has gonebeyond the slogans of libertarian Marxism to propose alternatives, butthought is not equal to its practical challenges. In the near future we are likelyto see concepts of decentralization, economies of “human scale,” demands toban vehicular traffic except buses, taxis and trucks—but only for limitedhours—from large cities, and varieties of neighborhood governancejurisdictions to encourage broader participation. Given the American way, weare not likely to see these proposals attain practical urgency until anotherdisaster befalls and even then with our penchant for denial and forgettingthere is no assurance that the climate will be favorable to changing ourpoisonous environmental practices.Yet what is entirely new is the perception (curiously reinforced by the Gulfand Afghanistan wars)that even though they are worth preserving, appeal tothe institutions of liberal democracy within the nation-state is no longer theexclusive context for politics and class struggle. One of the effects of theprotests at Seattle, Washington, Quebec and Genoa was to “smoke”international economic organizations which affect the global population outof their secrecy. Monetary and economic policy in general is no longer thesovereign function of nation-states, especially in the global south and east,but neither is it in the West. For this reason, what happens to labor in, say,Mexico or Korea, is the concern of workers in the United States. That theAmerican labor movement has not yet fully grasped this developmentdetracts neither from the salience of the fact of interdependence nor whatseems the likelihood that, eventually, labor and other movements willrecognize the multinational context of their struggles. If North Americanlabor is still mired in the necessary, but incomplete step of trying to limitimports in order to protect its dwindling jobs, surely the next step is to adoptStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200264the only viable strategy, movement toward global equality in living standards,including wages and social protections Upon this platform we can expectinstances of coordinated direct action on a global scale that will be based onthe recognition that living standards in all countries will continue todeteriorate as long as the bulk of humanity is held in economic and politicalabjection.An equally urgent task is to reflect on the forms of power itself. How can theopposition address the subordination of the vast multitudes of humankind,the hollowing out of the state’s social functions, and its reduction to a fortressof national security? Beyond individual liberties, certainly worth protectingfor the ability to speak without fear, to act without police intimidation, toassemble without incarceration, and to think beyond the prison-house of thepolitics of the possible, is the necessary condition of forming a democraticsociety. The sufficient condition is to establish the basis for freedom. Beyondliberty, how can the elusive goal of freedom be pursued? At the outset it mustbe recognized that the libertarians on the right more than the statist left hasbeen concerned with this question. Libertarians have distinguishedthemselves from conservatives by defending abortion rights, opposeddraconian drug laws and sometimes advocated legalization of these controlledsubstances and, during the recent war, were vocal in their opposition to theBush administration’s attempt to restrict civil liberties for domestic as well asimmigrant groups. Their defense of liberty has, on the whole, been moreforthright than any other ideological tendency.But the major flaw in the doctrines of right wing libertarians is that theyinsist, with Adam Smith, that only a market unfettered by state regulation,can guarantee freedom. Like Fukuyama and other neo-liberals, they acceptthe oxymoron, the phrase “free market.” The market for commodities andideas is never really free but is lopsided in favor of those who own and controlthe preponderance of productive property. Like Anatole France’s bitter quipthat the law in its majesty forbids, equally, the rich and the poor fromsleeping under bridges, paraphrasing A. J. Liebling, the market, like the press,is free for those who own one. When the economy is in recession and manysmall businesses face ruin because of declining demand, their alternative isoften to “choose” bankruptcy. But when the airline or auto corporations facedeclining profits, they can and do seek partial protection from the market’svicissitudes by securing subsidies from the federal government. When thesmall independent farmer is plagued by lower prices imposed by processors orwholesale corporations, he sells the farm to a real estate developer. When anStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200265agricultural corporation is faced with rising costs and stable prices, it appealsto the government for subsidies or invests in technology to reduce its laborcosts. Competition among equals is generally confined to property owners,but small businesses confronting large corporations and those whose onlyproperty is their skills and credentials only occasionally enjoy an advantageover the buyer. For the most part, the small proprietor is either forced out ofbusiness or, if the holder of a patent is obliged to allow himself to beabsorbed by the larger competitor. As for the worker, even in so-called goodtimes only collective organization is usually capable of giving her or himsome edge and, as we have seen, even this weapon is not always sufficient.But freedom is not identical to liberty or to the exercise of human rights suchas speech and assembly. As an individual I cannot achieve freedom, if by thatconcept we mean the ability to control the conditions of life by making thosedecisions that affect it. Freedom cannot be legislated and liberal democraticinstitutions are hostile to its precepts because they rest on formalrepresentation by organized political parties which are beholden to economicand other powers. Freedom is the outcome of the direct exercise of autonomyby individuals and groups, and in the self-constitution of institutions andpractices that form social arrangements. Freedom is therefore an effect ofcollective self-creation and presupposes a break from the social and historicalcontext of its institution. To be sure, nothing is forever. Since the contextwithin which labor and other social movements operate is generally hostile todirect, radical democracy, and the political environment can, in relativelyshort term, turn one hundred eighty degrees, in order to save themselvesmovements tend to become institutions controlled from above. Theseorganizations often adopt systems of representative governance, hire staffswho effectively control their programs and the leadership becomes more orless completely severed from the activist base. Whence, as often as not,rumblings from below explode in either of two forms: internal revolt againstthe leadership, as in the rank and file union caucuses; or breakaways such asthe Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee which, in the early1960s, rejected the legalistic, go slow policies of organizations such as theNAACP.There are many instances of such creativity where people generate alternativeinstitutions, usually on a relatively small scale, but these innovations are oftennot in the public eye. For example, dissatisfied with the local school oravailable day-care options, a group of Brooklyn parents and teachers starttheir own institution that adopts a somewhat different curriculum and hiresStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200266teachers who care about pedagogy. Moreover, for a substantial time theschool is jointly run by parents and teachers who, on the basis of criteria theyhave a voice in establishing, select the director. In most instances parentteacherrun schools must address the constraints of law and of establishedpractices. Before they are able to operate they must procure licenses fromHealth, Buildings and Education departments. These documents entailundergoing inspections and, the case of education, credentials and curricularreviews which usually involves a prolonged series of meetings, sometimesconfrontations, with the authorities who are prone to protecting their turf.When they win approval it is often at the expense of their autonomy,although the extent of victory depends on the extant political and culturalenvironment. Nevertheless, more often than not something new is createdthat does not depend on the initiative of the bureaucracy.Dissatisfied with their union’s bureaucratic, top-down practices, workers mayform a caucus that seeks to replace the existing national or local leadership infavor of a more democratic union that attempts to share power broadlyamong rank and file members. Rather than remaining an organizationdominated by full-time officials it decentralizes functions and power to makedecisions. Like their educational counterparts, the victorious slate invariablyfaces the problem of reconciling their intentions with the hide bound rulesand practices of the established international union leadership and staff but,perhaps more urgently, the constraints of law which has turned unions fromautonomous movements into apparatuses, ideological and political, of thestate. The extent to which they are able to pursue their own star depends on avariety of factors, the most important of which is how far they are willing togo to defend their principles. Risk is the rock against which innovationfalters. But all over America there are local unions and even some nationalunions for which rank and file participation is both an end and a means. Wehave the rich experiences of the feminist, ecology and black freedommovements of the late twentieth century. These movements were largely selfcreated,advanced their own leaders and, at least until they were integratedinto mainstream politics in the 1980s, were much more democratic thantraditional voluntary organizations. It is important to continue to reach intothe deep recesses of repressed memory and be prepared to conduct the classstruggle on the terrain of historiography.While the moment of September 11 seems to have temporarily foreclosed thepossibility of a new class politics, we have seen these traditions live inmovements which recreate them, sometimes consciously drawing from theStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200267experiences of earlier generations. The impulse to freedom, however feeble insome historical moments, is inextinguishable. For centuries this impulse hasdriven the struggles of insurgent classes against entrenched power. For since itconsists in imposing constraints, enforcing established rules and punishingthose who insist on challenging authority, power is always inimical tofreedom. And there are no guarantees that having been subordinated forgenerations, the powerless in power will not reproduce the conditions ofdomination, both of their own and of their adversaries. The failsafe, whethermaking history issues from a new institution or political insurgency, is thatthe unconscious, which has a welter of historically induced scars, is made anobject of reflection by the insurgencies and that the past and present aresubjected to ruthless critique. This would entail adopting a notion ofeducation, not as the transmission of ideologies and other received truths, butas a process of constant examination of social practice, in the institutions ofgovernance and of everyday life.What are the prospects for the formation of a class alliance that can contendfor social and political power? By “class alliance” I refer to social formationswhich, because of their economic, political and cultural exclusion from powerorganize into movements that seek to change the conditions of life. Thatsocial formations and the movements emanating from them have historicitysignifies that in every space of social time some will be more crucial forchallenging prevailing authority than others. In this respect there is alwaysthe possibility that one or more insurgent movements of the past will bemade part of the hegemonic power bloc while others will remain on the“outside” and form an opposition. Within the vast multitudes of those whoseinterests coincide with social and political transformation, only a specificconstellation of social forces is likely to put these tasks on the historicalagenda. But the agents of a new alliance must be identified in a global, ratherthan national context. The uneven development of an alliance between somefactions of the labor movement, and those of women, blacks, youth andecologists will remain an enduring feature of the coming period. That is tosay, we are not on the verge of a new, stable “Grand Coalition” on a globallevel. To ask the question of “prospects” is to assess the possibility that theopposition will at any time soon go on the offensive, an eventuality thatpresupposes a fairly long period of refusal and resistance to prevailing powerand debate about alternative futures not only among intellectuals but amongactivists as well. We live in a time when the traditional left is exhausted,intimidated by the rightist surge, or has joined the anti-utopian consensusand the new activist legions are still in the midst of defining resistance as theStanley AronowitzLogos 1.4 – Fall 200268farthest horizon of politics. For the time being it is likely that the alliance willcontinue to take the form of global combinations of trade unionists,sometimes supported by official labor federations, students, the growingnumber activists who gave life to social movements and remain committed todirect intervention, and radical intellectuals.So this is a time for analysis and speculation as much as organization andprotest, a time when people have a chance to theorize the new situations, toidentify the coming agents of change without the illusion that they canpredict with any certainty what will occur, and by whom. It is a time to speakout about a future that is not yet probable, although eminently possible. Thenew venues for discussion will be found on-line, complemented by printjournals, magazines and newspapers. Moreover, the complexity of issues andthe novelty of the situation demands new ideas that traditional lefts seemincapable of providing But some parties of opposition will become tribunesof new thought. These ideas will be labeled “utopian” by those who havedetermined that power is too overwhelming to rethink their options and, forthis reason, have decided either to abstain or to become loyal supplicants ofliberal democratic regimes in the hopes of reducing their venality. And it issurely a moment for political organization, stretching the limits ofelectoralism without relying on liberal democratic institutions to provide thevehicles for change. Having said this as the events in Seattle in December,1999, Genoa in 2001 and the struggles to come attest to the fact that peoplehave a way of creating history without much preparation and setting newconditions for political struggle. As the opposition matures it will find thenew paths not only of resistance but of alternatives.

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2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Logos Journal - Scalia Myths

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2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Logos Journal - Scalia Myths


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