UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper XXXII: Corporatocracy May28, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
Richard Rorty, Derek Nystrom, and Kent Puckett,
Against Bosses, Against Oligarchy
(Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2002).
This book is a weekendconversation conducted in Charlottesville,NC, about a year after the publication of Rorty’s
Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America
(1997), adapted from Rorty’s 1997 MasseyLectures at Harvard, in which Rorty validatednational pride as “a necessary condition forself-improvement” (i-ii). He offered WaltWhitman and John Dewey as exemplaryfigures (ii-iii). Rorty criticizes “spectatorialleftists” associated with the New Left as toopessimistic about the possibility of liberaldemocracy (iii). Rorty believes thecontinuing old left/new left rift “makes anymajoritarian, progressive American politicsdifficult if not impossible” (iv). The culturalleft (Frederick Jameson, Andrew Ross) hasreduced the stigmas from which minoritiessuffer, but has been unable to engage classand money issues, leaving the field open tothe right’s economic onslaught (iv-vi).Rorty’s intellectual development reviewed,emphasizing his criticism of analyticphilosophy and his revival of pragmatism,and his attempt to deal with objections of relativism (vi-vii).
Towards a New Old Left.
The Cold Warand McCarthyism (1-6). Rorty defends thepurge of communists from unions (6-8). Hecharacterizes his own politics as “just plainordinary old leftism” (8). He defends theviability of “New Deal politics” (9-10).
The New Left into a Cultural Left.
succeeded in associating thestudy of high culture with left politics (11-12). Rorty criticizes the attack on theuniversity in the protests of the 1960s (13-15). “[U]nless the left wraps itself in the flag,it hasn’t got a chance of practicing amajoritarian politics” (16). Argues againstattachment of the left to Marxism or“socialism” (17-18). Rorty does not see thepoint of continuing the failed quest for“philosophies of history and social theories”(18-19). Rorty dismisses coteries of leftintellectuals; their allegiances are of littleimportance (19-21).
The Politics of Difference.
Argues againstleft politics identifying itself with the politicsof identity: “It shouldn’t have views on whichchoice a person should make” (23; 21-23).Argues that eliminating stigmas, notpromoting cultures, is what is important: “itseems to me a mistake to put stigma andethnicity in the same box” (24). Argues for“the politics of individuality” (25). Arguesagainst the moral imperative of “giv[ing] adamn about the group” (26-31).
The Cultural Left and ContemporaryPolitics.
Argues that the left’s thinkingabout culture instead of “wages and hours”has been a triumph for “the Republicanoligarchy” (31-33). Dismisses variouscultural-left concerns (e.g. invasivebureaucracy) (33-35). Argues the problem of the bourgeois intellectual’s solidarity withthe oppressed is a “phony problem” (36).What counts is working toward the sameends, not “solidarity” (37-38).
Dilemmas of global capitalism: “Do you save theworking classes of the advanced olddemocracies by protectionism for thesake of the Third World? Do you try tokeep the standard of living in the olddemocracies up in order to prevent aright-wing populist, fascist movementin the USA, or do you try to re-distribute the wealth across nationalborders? You probably can’t do both. Iwish I knew how to resolve thedilemma, but I don’t” (39-40)
Thedanger of adjuncts for universities (40-43).Argues against the necessity of any largeconceptual understanding for progressivepolitics; progress comes from “moralentrepreneurs” (43-48).
The role of “sadsentimental stories” (Bruce Robbins)—andNGOs— in developing “a genuineinternational politics” (48-51).
The Margins of Philosophy.
Disarminglyunpretentious remarks about his ownacademic career, and his frustrations with