Utopianism vs incremental choices in daily life & politics
I participated in an unexpectedly angry discussion about Ron Paul and stuff on one of my very favorite websites, Agonist.org. The thread was about Ron Paul's bailout plan, and I responded with a general ramble about how we should distinguish from political efforts and utopian beliefs:
Alright I would like to divide between utopian endgame scenarios and the short-run choices made by political entities and organizations, which by definition expire or change sometime before the end of history.
A ton of huffin and puffin takes place when people start judging the merits of utopian endgame worldviews, because, well, it's pretty easy to pick serious nits from anything so huge and expansive. It's halfway to metaphysics, theology, the Afterlife, etc.
On the other hand, when we are trying to get to the bottom of 'things as they are', we must realize that all actors involved are acting within an array of possible choices and decisionmaking loops (OODA loops) that are informed by symbolically linked utopian outcomes, but are NOT the same as those utopias, although in reality they may share some facets.
HOWEVER we cannot screech to a halt and freakout about the fact someone is carrying a utopian ideology, and start pointing fingers about it. Even if there are big weaknesses, the larger problem is still the corrupt nature of authority which these people are properly concerned about.
tjfxh says above that libertarianism and anarchism are roughly the same concepts. I would modify to say "libertarianism is anarchism for rich people" to some extent, IE it would make an even more classist society. Let me say that I have been in touch with a lot of staunch anarchists lately, and they don't really see themselves as libertarians, though I see more overlap perhaps than they do.
Anarchists are derided for an unrealistic utopianism - chicagodyke asks who will willingly throw in for fire stations etc., which its hard to argue that we don't need as a public good.
However, anarchists can still work on setting up a food shelf/regular charity food cookouts, and that is something which you could see as a small incarnation of their utopian ideology. And it would be pointless to deride the weaknesses of the utopian vision, when the micro-implementation is benign or an improvement.
We all should give more credit to Ron Paul for pointing out that SO MUCH of the federal government's activities are on really wobbly ground constitutionally, and have only become regular programs because judges fabricated the concept that these are implicitly authorized. The Tenth Amendment says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." I don't see Jack about setting education standards in there. That is a key point that anti-Paul people feel entitled to skip over because it's become totally hegemonic to do so.
There is such a relish for slotting people into "-isms" identities because it makes it easier to use the weaknesses of their utopias to dismiss their current political gestures. [and its telling that Stirling won't answer my request to self identify his -isms.]
Alright I'm going on too long, but my final point: Coalition politics and useful political discussion require a detachment from judging utopias as a whole, and seeing them rather as the underpinning of real-world political gestures. If a utopia wouldn't work in its totality, that doesn't mean that some smaller element of it isn't a reasonable goal for a wider circle of people.
I want gestures that work as well as possible. I have enough confidence in coalition building and my own instincts to not worry about whether the completion of a gesture will give an opponent the opportunity to impose a utopia - after all, all they can actually do is try to impose another gesture.
PS I quizzed Ron Paul on the War on Drugs at the Iowa caucuses and it was farking AWESOME. Respek! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m97UvsOKDU
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