Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fake American-heritage narratives

Crafting narratives to manage your perceptions is not just an occupation of the Left. Since the 1950s Conservatives have been manufacturing a "tradition" and narratives for the purpose of providing legitimacy for their 20th century (now 21st) ideological interests. Will Wilkinson offers some clarity:

Foster is mistaken in the claim that there are “two kinds of libertarian,” one deriving libertarian conclusions from evidence-free armchair cogitation, the others simply discovering a ready-made libertarianism in the trunk of their “uniquely American historical inheritance.” There is no form of libertarianism that simply falls out of our cultural endowment, as American moral culture has never been remotely libertarian. The average Tea Partier is, like the average voter, a collection of reflexes, prejudices, resentments, and demands that add up to no coherent philosophy at all. The heritage of the progressive managerial social insurance state is no less an authentically American one than is the heritage of Jim Crow apartheid, the heritage of utopian collectivist frontier communes, or the heritage of founding-era republican liberty for propertied males. It is the business of conservative elites to fabricate a narrative and ideology of authentic Americanism, and to convince the right-leaning public that this is what their particular concatenation of impulses really comes to, in order to give it some strategically useful partisan shape and motivation.
Foster’s worry about my sort of libertarianism isn’t really that it’s a “rationalist” ivory tower abstraction remote from the lived experience of the allegedly natively libertarianish American tradition. It’s that the application of any rational scrutiny (libertarian or not) to the efforts of conservative elites to construct bullshit American-heritage narratives tends to get in the way of elite conservative political aspirations.

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