Left Hegemonic Strategy vis-a-vis the Right

This long discussion may provide some clues as to how some members of the non-elite Right can be won over by the Left.

Left Gramscian considerations for a reorienting organization of non-elite conservatives
Generally: Understand that most non-elites, especially in Anglosphere societies, have been socialized (in the workplace, in the church, in the patriarchal family) primarily as feudal serfs, not ideal liberal workers. To organize them Left requires a Freirean approach.

The conservative ideological system–narrow boundaries of moral exclusion, aversion to democratic politicization (qua change), god-affirmed feudalism–is self-reinforcing in its parts and founded in institutionalized solidaristic incentives.

Tactical consideration 1:
a) Well-educated Left can make alliances with non-elite conservative intellectuals, focus on broadening their circle of moral inclusion
b) Left organizers create organizations with solidarity incentives to engage non-elites, focus on broadening their circle of moral inclusion

I consider that one opportunity lies in understanding and addressing the non-elite Right’s struggle to come to terms with their boundaries of moral exclusion. Conservatives seem to feel overwhelmed at the extent of humanity. The Right reflex seems to be to see the human world as very small, with a big old throng of sub-humans outside the boundaries–so, broadly, the conservative’s relationship to that sub-human throng is properly, reflexively, simply to use/exploit that sub-human mass, like you might eat vegetables.

Yet in the context of modernity (which the Right labors to destroy), and with Left critical mass delegitimizing this cognitive ordering, perhaps the non-elite Right can be convinced to broaden their boundaries of moral exclusion. The very well educated Left might best be situated to move well-educated, non-elite conservatives, who probably believe in intelligence hierarchy.

…But moral boundary expansion will be hard to accomplish when elites with control over the surplus can just pay non-elites to keep the boundaries narrow. Still, it helps to increase the cost of repression and, in organizing, the Left can work solidarity incentives. Existing resource: Easing young people through broadening boundaries of moral exclusion is what many liberal arts scholars do as educators; so liberal arts scholars can have a role to play in social movement.

Tactical consideration 2:
a) Model not getting overwhelmed by politicization, understanding politicization structurally, not taking politicization too personally. Train conservatives into politicization desensitization, not abjection.
b) Prioritize and rationalize your organization’s politicization agenda, in anticipation of coalition building. This can be different for different groups, and can change over time with collective consideration. But affinity groups with solidarity incentives should reduce anarchic politicization, by for example, using the same people who craft group principles to execute principle-based agendas.

Business Insider’s Dougherty points out that non-elite conservatives become exhausted with and abject the Left tendency to recognize “all” areas of life as subject to political debate between equal humanities. Although they may enjoy political warfare, conservatives yearn for social settlement, social contract settlement, containment of politics-qua-change (but on high-inequality, feudalistic terms that at least somewhat privilege themselves).

Would rationalizing politicization help move conservatives, if they were simultaneously helped to widen their moral exclusion boundaries? I think there is potential for Leftists to help non-elite conservatives, rather than disengage, either learn to relax in the face of politicization aimed at decreasing socio-economic, health, and political inequalities and increasing freedoms. Though such learning is probably more feasible with stronger Left institutions to socialize people. Or Leftists can collectively prioritize and order politicization in time and space.

This is an interesting question, and a point of co-optation vulnerability for the Left, because just about everybody, conservatives, liberals and Leftists included, is exhausted by and hates anarchic politicization–it can be a social capital / trust destroyer. Humans are limited, not gods, and do not have the capacity to live in absolute aporia. But under favorable conditions, we can live with more freedoms-broadening politicization than conservatives are willing to allow. Existing resource: Easing young people through politicization is what many social scientists do as educators; so social scientists can have a role to play in social movement.

Tactical consideration 3:
a) Demonstrate to non-elites that order is not secured by a god-principle, but by fallible humans.
b) Build organizations and institutions that value and can develop democratic order, in order to short-circuit conservative loss passion.

For conservatives, the good society engages people in a romantic / mystified struggle for what they  were already socially-given. Conservatives’ elite ideal is the feudal warlord; their subordinate ideal is the feudal serf. Conservatives yearn for people to earn / demonstrate the assets / virtue that they have been assigned / ascribed. Conservatives ache for order confirmation, to see the face of God, necessity behind power, its lack, and order. In their view, rulers need to be provided the opportunity to demonstrate their vigor to rule.

…But this demonstration is always underdetermined–What does the face of God look like?; and so elites can be shown to be undeserving of their privilege.

With aforethought, and in system contradiction and crisis, I think Left critical mass can use this particular conservative psychology of desire to divide non-elite conservatives from elite conservatives. It’s a potential wedge.

But obviously, non-elites then need to be weaned from the psychological compulsion for unassailable order confirmation.

Failure example:
Such weaning was one of postmodernists’ projects, I think; though they failed at it because they took the liberal view of automatic progress (even though they were cynical about it) at its word, and they tried to wean before anyone had managed to divide serfs from their feudal lords. (Consider feudal workplace law.)

(I think that’s why postmodernist language became so insular; they had to just keep on chastising the Left “modernist” academics–the only people sort of capable of hearing the demand to wean, though they didn’t need it very much because they didn’t have much of the conservative compulsion for divine confirmation. Again, we settle for the path of least resistance and fail to get stuff done.
…And now, with that, I will quit blogging today.)

Tactical consideration 4:
a) Build humanist “churches” (communities)

One of the strongest themes that emerges from the conversation with Dougherty is the cementing role of an institution in Dougherty’s management of his own psychology of order-confirmation compulsion and his compulsion to contain freedoms-expanding politicization, and in providing solidarity incentives. For Dougherty that institution is the authoritarian Catholic church of his father. The Left needs to be able to design and offer sufficient (modified) replacement for many of the mobilizing, social, and coordinating functions of religious churches.

To support broadening moral inclusion, politicization navigation, and critical thinking, the Left needs to build new solidarity institutions that can provide sacred solidarity incentives (where unions have been effectively legislated out of existence, where universities have lost the capacity to provide solidarity incentives, and where universities are too exclusive).

In essence the Left could build humanist community churches that provide many of the same cohering, intergenerational social functions religious churches provide: social interaction; collective opportunities such as supportive social networking, solidarity incentives, collective coordination and action, a cohering discourse about working for a higher good, a collective, sacred experience of the sublime via culture–including creating a beautiful building together to house the humanist church, singing, music, dancing, raising food and cooking and eating together, collective public-oriented actions, and collective retreats to sacred, sublime, semi-natural environments (absent from most people’s lives).

The current state of the Anglosphere Left is woefully undersocialized, and so far more ineffective than it needs to be or has been in the past or elsewhere. We sit and watch AIPAC with our mouths open in disbelief–How does 2% of the US population accomplish all that?, when we should be analyzing AIPAC’s political, economic, networking and cultural tactics, and adapting them to a Left (low capital) initiative. Part of what we should be learning is that everybody, including the Left, can be moved to cooperation by a combination of solidarity incentives, the sublime (culture, nature), the sacred community, and collectively fashioning a greater good. This combination needs to be rigorously designed because the Left lacks the most important “solidarity” incentive in capitalism: ownership of the surplus, and the prestige it confers.

Existing resource: Apprehending, learning from and appreciating (regarding as sacred) the sublime natural world is what some biologists do as researchers and educators; some artists, craftspeople and women tend to attend to aesthetics and collective creation and appreciation; so biologists, artists, and women can have a role to play in social movement.

Tactical consideration 5:
Cultivate external support, especially where domestic elites will not support the Left.

AIPAC has Israel. The North American Left needs external allies as well.

Tactical consideration 6:
Oppose austerity culture.

James Livingston argues that tactically, the US needs a pro-libidinal, anti-austerity cultural revolution, starting with affirming consumerism and environmental exploitation.

Sigh. OK, I understand it’s not within Anglosphere culture to understand Epicureanism. Let’s just try to get there, OK? The most direct route starts with Elaine Scarry (The Body in Pain). Also, I think that where it might appeal to anti-intellectual suburbanites and marketeers, Livingston’s cultural revolution is going to clash unstrategically with environmentalism.  Can pro-libidinal culture be modified to jibe with environmentalism? (See Magdoff’s modest proposal.)

Livingston’s argument is a little like the suggestion that social democracy was reinforced by Scandinavians’ 20th-century bonobo-style feminist free love culture, whereas chimp-like, ascetic, violent, authoritarian, militaristic cultures involve the concentrated accumulation of sexual access and withholding sexual libidinal release from the majority of young men.


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