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mardi, 03 juin 2008

Therapeutic Totalitarianism

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From the January 2003 issue of Chronicles:

Therapeutic Totalitarianism

by H.A. Scott Trask

[ http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/Chronicles/January2003/0103Trask.html ]

Review :  Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy

by Paul Edward Gottfried

Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press; 158 pp., $29.95
 

Paul Gottfried has spent a useful career shining his lantern of truth into the dark corners of America's political consciousness. In After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State (1999), he examined the rise and consolidation of centralized managerial regimes across the Western world. Gottfried documented what should have been obvious to every educated man: Modern mass democracy was characterized not by popular participation or informed consent but by mass socialization, public apathy, and rule by public administrators.

In Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt, Gottfried examines "the turning of the administrative state . . . away from purely material programs, such as expanded entitlements, toward behavior control." This turning, he emphasizes, has not been preceded by any abandonment or shrinking of the welfare state. The triumphant managerial regime simply assumed an additional mission: the revolutionary transformation of society. There was no turn to freedom, much less to the right, after the Cold War. "What actually occurred was that the Left turned in a multicultural direction, toward the 'Marxist vulgate' of political correctness"--in other words, cultural Marxism.

Gottfried is one of the few scholars to notice that the social democratic left won the Cold War. Neoconservatives have been strutting about for a decade, pronouncing the "death of socialism," the triumph of democratic capitalism, the ascendancy of conservatism, and the dawn of universal freedom. Gottfried makes it clear, in painstaking detail, that all this is fantasy. While Soviet-style communism has failed and has been repudiated by everyone except Castro and Kim Jong Il, the Western form of democratic socialism--the mixed economy, the welfare state, redistributive taxation, government regulation of business--stands unchallenged. While the left has accepted private property, capital investment, entrepreneurialism, economic inequality, and market-generated pricing, it has not relinquished regulatory control over the private economy, nor has it reduced the proportion of taxes it extorts from private enterprise. Meanwhile, it has grown obsessed with other kinds of equality.

The left has exchanged the dream of a universal society without classes for the dream of a collectivity without cultural or ethnic differences. Leftists have learned that, by allowing for a semiprivate economy, they can command more financial resources for their revolution than they could by outright confiscation, nationalization, and centralized planning. They have also learned that corporations can be enlisted as enthusiastic allies. The result has been a kind of revolutionary left-wing corporatism. Gottfried describes it as an alliance between "the managerial state and the forces of capital accumulation." Here is the essence of Clinton's New Democracy, Tony Blair's New Labour, and George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism"--the latter phrase signifying the GOP commitment to the welfare state, multiculturalism, and the therapeutic regime.

The therapeutic state is now firmly entrenched, and the multicultural left controls all of our cultural institutions. How did this happen? Gottfried is at his best in answering this question. He sees two causes of the disaster. The first is the power of the state in forcing social and demographic change. Western elites have initiated, promoted, and subsidized Third World immigration as a method of social control and as an instrument of cultural revolution. They have employed antidiscrimination law and affirmative action to break communities and regions. They have wielded the coercive powers of the state to intimidate the majority population, and they have garnered the support of "aggrieved individuals," "unconventional lifestyle groupings," and "Third World minorities." The managerial class seems to have an instinctive grasp of divide et impera. Gottfried observes that

Selective recognition of collective identities serves the same political end as maximizing individual autonomy. Both weaken the established loyalties of nonvictim groups, particularly those that flow from kinship patterns and vigorous majority culture, and thereby enhance the state's social control.

The second cause is the regime's successful appeal to "the politics of guilt" and a "theology of victimization" as a means to demoralize and enervate Western majority populations. Gottfried believes that the foundations of the therapeutic state are to be found in Protestant Christianity, specifically Calvinism. He is not arguing that p.c. doctrines are somehow Christian--far from it. Rather, they are the products of a "deformed Protestant culture." Gottfried makes a compelling case that political correctness has become a substitute for Christianity, "a misplaced quest for religious redemption that takes the form of worshiping at the multicultural shrine." He believes that long-standing and widespread biblical illiteracy, theological confusion, and historical ignorance turned the "the past into a tabula rasa" and thus prepared the ground for the inculcation of politically correct doctrine as a new morality. So powerful is this anti-Western religion that its doctrines have penetrated even seemingly orthodox Christian churches, both Protestant and Catholic. (Gottfried cites numerous p.c. statements by prominent leaders of the American "Christian Right" to support his case.)

Sin is no longer a violation of God's law but merely insensitivity toward designated "minorities." Redemption is to be found in confessing that you belong to a wicked race (the Europeans) and paying penance to non-Western peoples. Penance takes many forms--foreign aid, reparations, liberal immigration laws, generous asylum policies, affirmative action, quotas, self-debasement, and general confessions of sinfulness. As a result, Europeans now believe that the path to righteousness and acceptance before God requires repudiating their people and civilization. An "act of rejection by the non-victim group directed against their civilization, gender [sic], race, or ancestors indicates sanctified living in a world or society held to be reprobate." There is even a "secular version of the end times": Francis Fukuyama has declared that the triumph of the American model of democratic capitalism and racial diversity signifies the "end of history" and the "final form" of human society.

Gottfried believes that the new faith assuages the pervasive social guilt that lingers as a vestige from the Christian era. Of course, it is more; the guilt is real. It results from man's sinful rebellion against God. It is not surprising that a people that is no longer Christian is ready to grasp at a pseudofaith that offers them relief from their guilt and fear of God's deserved wrath. In other words, the grip of p.c. upon the population may be even stronger than Gottfried thinks.

The religious character of the ideology accounts for the fanaticism of its supporters, their eagerness to persecute opponents, their hysterical reactions to reasoned dissent, and the lack of resistance from Western populations to the hostile and ethnocidal policies imposed on them by their governments. Cultural and political authorities defend multiculturalism and political correctness as the essence of morality, in a manner that appeals to the lingering Christian heritage of the population. Opposition thus appears as evil, and elites resort to demonization whenever they or their policies are challenged.

Such methods work. Gottfried cites former president Bill Clinton's wildly applauded and well-received address to the student body at Georgetown University just eight weeks after September 11, 2001 (in which he declared that America was "paying the price" for African slavery, Indian genocide, and the Crusades), as an example of the new faith in action. He points out that Western politicians (Clinton, Blair, Chirac, Schröder, and Bush) who support Third World immigration and embrace multicultural platitudes have been rewarded by voters with election and reelection to office.

Gottfried ends his book on a pessimistic note, speculating that the managerial-therapeutic revolution "may be irreversible." "Where regional loyalties and powers have broken down and individual self-fulfillment remains the highest ideal" (as in the United States), "it is unlikely that much resistance can be generated to the therapeutic ends pursued by public administration." Only on the Continent, the cradle of Western culture, where relatively cohesive national cultures still exist, does there appear any serious opposition to therapeutic government. In the more "fluid cultures" that characterize the anglophone West, the "malleability" of public opinion and the servility of the majority population cause Gottfried to consider whether "a core culture exists there at all."

The events of September 11 led many to wonder whether Western elites would realize the dangers inherent in their policies. Nothing of the kind happened. Gottfried explains that such hopes did not take into account the "fantasy aspect" of the managerial vision. He is no doubt right. However, he fails to note that the chief beneficiary of those events proved to be the managerial regime itself. Fantasy and calculation are driving the Managerial Revolution.
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H.A. Scott Trask has a Ph.D. in American history, is finishing a study of antebellum political economist Condy Raguet of Philadelphia, and is writing a book on the Northern antiwar movement during the War Between the States.

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