Zach accuses me of “starting a blog war.” Nah – but I’ll finish it. This would perhaps be the place to warn Zach that we at LWB “will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.” Or somesuch.
Zach takes me on for my suggestion that Limbaugh’s drug scandal, and the response from the media and the organized right, lend credence to the suggestion by certain ex-conservatives that the social agenda of the right operates primarily as a cover to advance its economic agenda. He argues that my argument is “mechanist,” and that it minimalizes the distinctive oppression of sexual and ethnic minorities and the stake of the right in that oppression by rendering it merely a by-product of an economic project. Perhaps unfortunately for those reading this site and Zach’s (you know who you are), again I don’t think my disagreement with Zach is as wide as it might appear. I argued yesterday not that social conservatism is merely a convenient superstructure over a material class war, but that conservatives lend credence to those who do think so when they take fundamentally libertarian stances on the failures of their fellow travelers to live by their social values. I would argue that the Right (capital “R”) of the past years is increasingly a libertarian one, and that there’s a great deal of deft politics and crass hypocrisy at work which makes it possible to draw on the libertarians at the Cato Institute as the brain trust of your movement and the Christian Coalition as your grassroots arm. Zach argues that Bob Barr’s suggestion that his daughter’s abortion is a private matter doesn’t detract from his work to make “the state apparatus to control people’s bodies in a fascistic linking of gender and power, of sexual reproduction and social reproduction.” Certainly, it doesn’t make it any less dangerous or any less real to those who suffer as a result. What it does detract from, however, is the integrity of the argument and the credibility of the stance. To argue that the right’s real relationship to its social values is soaked in classism does not, as I see it, suggest that sexism, heteronormativity, or racism are derivatives of classism. I would also argue, as I think Zach would as well, that the classism of segments of the right has a foundation of sexual and racial prejudice. The Wall Street Journal ran a long staff editorial a decade or so ago called “No Guardrails,” blaming the crime of a violent anti-abortion activist on the society that the left had fashioned for him to grow up in (strained already, yes, but it gets better). The basic thesis of the piece was that all things being equal, the elite might be able to dabble in drugs, sex, and pornography, but everyone should abstain because the lower classes don’t have the same reserves of strength so as not to be fully corrupted. This is to me a vital dramatization of the intersections of prejudice. All that said, I stand by my contention that the lifestyles and even personal beliefs of significant parts of the right elite are far less closely in line with their professed politics than are, say, their personal economic practices with their economics and that the right response to those who transgress its social agenda is often motivated by its economic agenda. I also strongly affirm Zach’s reminder that all oppressions are not the same and that economic determinism runs the risk of marginalizing both the nature and the victims of other types of oppression.
I should also note, perhaps, that I was not born with a copy of the Nation in my hand.
Zach ends with a call “to look more deeply at how racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and capitalism are both intertwined and sometimes contradictory as subjectivities from below struggle to reshape and have reshaped the social relations of capitalism.” Sounds good to me. But Zach, you’re gonna have to start that one off. Much respect to you as well.