Racial vs. Creedal Nationalism FTW
September 7, 2018 1:56 AM   Subscribe

Huntington's Legacy - "The world today is not converging around liberal democratic government, as it seemed to be for more than a generation."
What no one in the current debate can say is whether the current democratic recession will turn into a full-blown depression, marking a more fundamental shift in global politics toward some alternative regime type, or whether it is more like a stock market correction. The causes of the current recession in Western countries are reasonably clear: Populism has been driven by the unequal effects of globalization, as well as a cultural revolt against the large numbers of migrants moving across international borders and challenging traditional notions of national identity.

There are a number of reasons, however, to wonder if these forces will be strong enough to eventually overcome the factors driving the world toward greater convergence in economic and political institutions, or lead to serious geopolitical conflict on a scale matching that of the early 20th century. Neither the China model nor the emerging populist-nationalist one represented by Russia, Turkey, or Hungary will likely be sustainable economically or politically over an extended period. On the other hand, democracies have mechanisms in place for correcting mistakes, and a big test of American democracy will occur in November when Americans get to vote on whether they approve of the presidency of Donald Trump. Moreover, the rural, less-educated parts of the population that are the core of populist support are, in countries experiencing economic growth, in long-term decline. At this point, however, such assertions amount to no more than speculation.
also btw...
posted by kliuless (20 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Slavoj Žižek: "At the same time, one has here a proof of how, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin, every clash of civilizations is the clash of the underlying barbarisms."
posted by runcifex at 2:07 AM on September 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

So, “let a thousand Hitlers bloom”?
posted by acb at 2:42 AM on September 7, 2018

Huntington argued that civilizations were becoming more cohesive at the expense of nations; social integration was happening, but at a transnational cultural level. In my view, something of the opposite is true: Assertions of identity tend to fracture societies into smaller and smaller identity groups.
And conveniently, assertion of identities, and by extension, "intersectionality" were to blame for the "fracture", as opposed to socio-economic forces and techniques actively made use of and maintained by those who are deeply established in power and threatened by shifting awareness and the very possibility of new solidarities?
posted by runcifex at 3:01 AM on September 7, 2018 [20 favorites]

As is often the case with me, I think fukuyama is more right than he gets credit for (especially here on mefi. Lord above, if you think "the end of history" is his literal argument, do some reading before speaking up.) and more wrong than he thinks he is.

A critical flaw in his argument here, just like his original arguments, is his utter inability to incorporate class (and now, also, privilege) into his sterile, neoliberal worldview.

Note in the first link, when discussing the democratic recession, he's incapable of acknowledging the role elites have played in undermining democracy, the legitimacy of grievances here and in the developing world. The closest he gets is alluding to the unequal distribution of globalisation's benefits. As if this distribution just happened, somehow.

He fails, totally, to acknowledge how selective the democracy he champions is apportioned - even, perhaps especially in America, jeezy creezy.

He bemoans 'ldentity', without acknowledging the fact his neoliberal utopia has an identity already, its just a (usually) white, old, highly educated, wealthy male identity. Or at least a culture built by that group, an identity he subscribes to. The idea that people would find that unappealing, unjust, etc never occurs to him. The world is still a meritocracy for Fukuyama.

This "identity blindness" plagues his analysis, when he talks about the rise of religo-nationalism its especially stark. As if Hindu nationalism, or Chinese nationalism, or fuck American nationalism is a new phenomenon, or newly popular. Its a quite breathtaking ellipsis. Fukuyama scrubbed them from his history because they didn't suit his bleached world vision. They were always there, have been for centuries. He just looked at thirty years and tried to turn it into an era. It's telling that he can only view nationalism is negative terms. I mean, agree, I think it's too often just polite, sanctioned racism. However, people in newer democracies, former colonies etc would have a very different view and rightfully so.

This makes the rise of nationalism both less surprising, and more alarming - just like growing inequality. We are reverting to a historical mean, and I think it will be much harder than he supposes to stop that. It took two world wars last time.

How you feel about that reversion will I think depend on your view of fukuyamas's golden, end of history years. I feel he regards them as an unalloyed good. I'm more ambivalent. There were lots of losers in those years, and they ballooned right when history "ended" for him, he just didn't see them. I'm not crazy about the alternative however.

A more constructive take would be channelling identy for positive outcomes. It happens a lot, how can we upscale it?

That all said, his criticisms of Huntington were trenchant then, and remain so now. His belief enlightenment values, however selective, is also one I genuinely believe in. He's always a good discussion starter, if people take the time to genuinely engage with what he's saying, instead of what they think he's saying.

I can't believe I typed all that on my phone! Apologies for typos
posted by smoke at 3:13 AM on September 7, 2018 [57 favorites]

he's incapable of acknowledging the role elites have played in undermining democracy
I feel like a lot of writers make this mistake when they invoke populism, which doesn’t seem like the right term for setting up huge propaganda campaigns trying to get a sufficient chunk of people to adopt the views of wealthy funders and vote against their own interests. There’s been a ton of money pushing libertarian Christianity since the New Deal-era, and several generations later they’re now closer to being able to roll it back than seemed possible for half a century.
posted by adamsc at 4:03 AM on September 7, 2018 [18 favorites]

smoke, thank you for your analysis. I originally wrote a longer comment but I removed the rage-y parts after some mental cooldown.

Basically, I suspect his "inability" to recognize race and privilege is just ideology. The lack of self-reflective awareness is, to me, quite conspicuous and alarming in the writings of such calibre.
posted by runcifex at 4:05 AM on September 7, 2018 [10 favorites]

Now I'm home and have read the other links, I encourage anyone interested in this to check out the respective reviews and interviews Kliuless has linked. Some are more charitable to Fukuyama (NYT, made me feel like I was too hard on his essay), others less so (The New Yorker, but it was still fair, I would say). All are reasonably thoughtful and most do a good job of framing the background, evolution andpros and cons to Fukuyama's thinking.

I suppose my own bias is that I'm deeply suspicious of "One Big Theory"'s to explain complicated international cultural and historical developments. I don't think there is necessarily a common line between Hindu nationalists, the #MeToo movement, and ISIS - or if there is one, it's dwarfed utterly by all the specifics of history and circumstance.

I understand the allure of these big humanistic Theories. They can be a useful lens through which to examine contemporary happenings, there's an almost narrative elegance to them, they can be easily grasped and, once understood, reapplied quickly to yield insight. You don't have to know hundreds of years of history of a region to speculate about it. It suits dilettantes like myself, like most people.

But it's a terrible basis to generate public policy from - and we don't need to! We have evidence, we can do trials, reviews etc.

And it leaves so much off the table, some of it super important and super specific. The context matters and can't be substituted for with generalisation or supposition.

Real history is not a story with these sweeping trends over centuries, heroes and villains advancing different causes like the captains of sports teams. It's messy, it's complicated, and there's a huge amount of chance. We only know what happened - and that imperfectly - not what didn't happen, what could have happened, bar one small thing.

This was the trap End of History fell into - and more broadly Hegel does - the idea of human "development", that we are moving "towards" something. History happens; it's not moving towards something, it just kind of blobs around like a jellyfish or a piece of flotsam, I think.
posted by smoke at 5:05 AM on September 7, 2018 [19 favorites]

The word "fracure" has been used a lot in this thread. Maybe a longer view shows that the seeds of this were planted in the failed Great War settlement as so much comes back to the promise of nationhood in Wilson's 14 points and the failure of internationalism (the League of Nations) ... see Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918-1938
posted by mfoight at 5:42 AM on September 7, 2018

smoke, as you write the above, I happened to be in the process of reading Michel Foucault's What is Enlightenment? (1984), in particular this paragraph:
This entails an obvious consequence: that criticism is no longer going to be practiced in the search for formal structures with universal value, but rather as a historical investigation into the events that have led us to constitute ourselves and to recognize ourselves as subjects of what we are doing, thinking, saying. In that sense, this criticism is not transcendental, and its goal is not that of making a metaphysics possible: it is genealogical in its design and archaeological in its method. Archaeological — and not transcendental — in the sense that it will not seek to identify the universal structures of all knowledge or of all possible moral action, but will seek to treat the instances of discourse that articulate what we think, say, and do as so many historical events. And this critique will be genealogical in the sense that it will not deduce from the form of what we are what it is impossible for us to do and to know; but it will separate out, from the contingency that has made us what we are, the possibility of no longer being, doing, or thinking what we are, do, or think. It is not seeking to make possible a metaphysics that has finally become a science; it is seeking to give new impetus, as far and wide as possible, to the undefined work of freedom.
The critical ontology of ourselves has to be considered not, certainly, as a theory, a doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulating; it has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us, and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.
(The emphases in bold are mine.)

I haven't gone through the many links in the FPP. I was maybe just rather sensitive to the lack of something in the first linked article by Fukuyama. For me, certain "red flags" showed that what stood out was his lack of concern for historical reality when it came to race and class. I don't have to list them in quotes; they're rather obvious.

On this level I think smoke and I are more or less on the same frequency. I'm very skeptical about teleological and essentialist narratives. Too often those modes of thinking are bound up with the kind of power that doesn't want itself questioned. They make great rhetoric though, but that's not what counts. It's what you do with the rhetoric, and why you do it, that count. The likes of Fukuyama, from my view, are a tad too coy about why they pay great attention to certain selected aspects of history but not to others.
posted by runcifex at 5:52 AM on September 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

A lot of fine words to describe populism and its troubles. Chiefly among them is being able to divide a voter away from their boring common interests to their newly imagined specific interests, spoon fed to them from a political source. This motivates them to vote against their common interests or to not notice them in the passionate surge. So it goes from caring about a safety net and broad opportunities and goodwill to nations for mutual benefits, to promising specific remedies for this or that, with conspiracy blame and punitive justice to entertain the self-righteous fantasies of their base. Demagoguery is tapping a religious or emotional impulse, where extremism is not a vice and nobody feels any guilt for indulging in it.
posted by Brian B. at 7:41 AM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Smoke et al have it right. I'll just add my own spin.

My new red flag: Meritocracy. Every monarchy thought it was a meritocracy, every apartheid state, every abusive home thinks they are meritocracies. Every corrupt oligarchy, yup they think they are the best and have earned/deserved their status and those others, those losers? yup they earned that to. Meritocracy is simply the opposite of egalitarean democracy: its inequality justified by people who think they are awesome.

Also Fukuyama's persistent counterfacutal positions on chinese gonvermental permanence were interesting a quarter century ago. That boy has cried wolf on that too many times to count.

Lastly is immigration larger as a % of population now for the democracies in crisis than in the past?

blaming immigrants and diversity for the problems caused by right wingers....yup another neocon pretends to be rehabilitated . Fuk Fuckuyama
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 9:22 AM on September 7, 2018 [13 favorites]

Lastly is immigration larger as a % of population now for the democracies in crisis than in the past?

Not democracies in general but I found this graph for the US...

Looks like percentage of US population born in other countries was pretty steady at just under 15% from 1860-1920, then during the great depression it started dropping, hit a low point in the 70's and only just now is recovering to those historical levels. Whether that was caused by just the great depression or by other political reasons at the same time is not clear.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:46 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Identity politics took hold in the United States in the wake of the social movements of the 1960s, in which African-Americans, women, the disabled, indigenous Americans, gays, and lesbians all came to feel that they had experienced discrimination and marginalization in distinctive ways. The different “lived experiences” of each group led some to assert that those who were not members of the group could not even begin to sympathize with its struggles. There was the constant emergence of new identities: not just gays and lesbians, but transgender and intersex people; “intersectionality” appeared with the realization that overlapping categories of marginalization led to the creation of entirely new identities. In both the United States and Europe, the Left which had been built during the first part of the 20th century around working class solidarity came to embrace these new identity groups, even though this tended to alienate older working class voters.

lov 2 hear literally only cishet white people are working class, also, kyriarchy is their fault actually. hashtag yikes
posted by bagel at 11:07 AM on September 7, 2018 [14 favorites]

Fuck Fukuyama

FTFY. C'mon, just please don't make fun of the person's name. Especially here, of all topics.
posted by FJT at 11:32 AM on September 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

Fukuyama doesn't seem to be totally blind to issues of class and economics; from the Chronicle Q&A:
Q. Is there anything inherently problematic about minority groups’ demanding recognition?

A. Absolutely not. Every single one of these struggles is justified. The problem is in the way we interpret injustice and how we try to solve it, which tends to fragment society. In the 20th century, for example, the left was based around the working class and economic exploitation rather than the exploitation of specific identity groups. That has a lot of implications for possible solutions to injustice. For example, one of the problems of making poverty a characteristic of a specific group is that it weakens support for the welfare state. Take something like Obamacare, which I think was an important policy. A lot of its opponents interpreted it as a race-specific policy: This was the black president doing something for his black constituents. We need to get back to a narrative that’s focused less on narrow groups and more on larger collectivities, particularly the collectivity called the American people.
If anything he seems to be suggesting (my read, anyway) that an approach focused on big-tent issues ("larger collectivities") would be more successful than trying to unify a multitude of very specific politicized self-identifications.

That said, I don't really think that's going to help your opponents using racial dog-whistles (or not even dog-whistles, just screaming it from the hilltops) to denigrate policies they don't like. The Obamacare example is not a great one in terms of strengthening his point—Obamacare would have been called a black handout regardless of what Obama had done, and it's not like Obamacare was sold on the left via some identity-politics campaign anyway; it was sold to the public as being a national good, at least from what I remember. (Arguably there wasn't enough of a PR campaign in general, I think, but hindsight is 20/20.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:36 AM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

"Arguably there wasn't enough of a PR campaign in general, I think, but hindsight is 20/20."

The President of the United States of America appeared on Between Two Ferns to promote the ACA. Maybe the PR campaign wasn't as effective as hoped, but he was literally* shouting on hilltops about the ACA.

* Literally of course literally means figuratively, these days.
posted by el io at 2:06 PM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

A critical flaw in his argument here, just like his original arguments, is his utter inability to incorporate class

The emotional foundation of despotism is fear/love of the leader. Fascist governments are founded on pride, the myth of imagining oneself as a hero in the struggle against the other. The emotional foundation of democratic governments is the feeling of solidarity.

It's something I feel every time I walk into a (Canadian) polling place to vote. All the staffers look happy to see me, even though in our multiparty system there's a 3/4 chance I'm about to vote against their preferences. Even though I know that some of them are operatives of the [expletive deleted] Conservative party, I'm happy to see all of them. I get a slightly drunken feeling of togetherness, like we're supporting each other, because we are. We all value democracy, and we're there for each other to make it happen.

In a democracy, the only way to solve what Fukuyama's calling "identity issues" is solidarity. Think of the Freedom Riders. The measure of the strength and stability of a democracy is this: to what extent is oppression of anyone felt to be oppression of everyone? There needs to be a critical mass of solidarity in society so that laws can be passed to keep bigots down.

In my mind, the weakening labor movement and increasing racism are not separate problems. They are both symptoms of declining solidarity in democratic societies. Here's to forming unlikely alliances and seeing their struggles as our own - it's the only way back.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:11 PM on September 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

Materialist culture allows only materialist identities: race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status.
posted by No Robots at 5:34 PM on September 7, 2018

"Tucker Carlson's question - 'How is diversity our strength?' was not asked in good faith, but for purposes of racist demagoguery. But I will try to answer it in good faith, because it's an important question in its own right."
posted by kliuless at 4:17 PM on September 9, 2018

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