Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Owen & Eaves: "How the Left Is Killing Progressivism"

Confronted with parties whose politics, policies and priorities are perceived as out of touch and ineffective, many of our friends and colleagues have opted out. Few even vote.

But they are engaged. They start non-governmental organizations, work internationally, create social enterprises, start businesses or advocate outside of organized politics. Among our peers, the progressive spirit is strong, but progressive politics just does not resonate. How did this happen? The answer is surprising.

It is not a vast right-wing conspiracy that is killing progressivism. It is the left.

Taylor Owen and David Eaves have been doing some serious thinking. The result is in the Literary Review of Canada.

Make of it what you will, but their essay makes particular sense as a contribution to a conversation that has been unfolding for some time in such places as the Eustonian-toned Democratiya, and among our friends over at Platypus 1917 (On Zombies and Sectarians: The Left is Dead), and also, in a roundabout way, in the pages of Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can't Be Jammed, by Andrew Potter and Joseph Heath (see Soaked in the Blood of Jerry Garcia.)

It was via Potter I noticed it in the first place.


Blogger The Plump said...

In some ways the Third Way was the dying gasp of the baby boomer centre left. At the same time, it was an acceptance that something new was possible, and needed.

I have another take on it. It was the attempt by baby boomers to preserve and justify their privilege by abandoning the egalitarianism of the traditional left. It was not a dying gasp of the centre left, but an agent of its assassination.

And in the list of activisms people are engaging in, I notice there is no mention of the labour movement.

To rely on the 'creative classes' as the basis for a new progressive left is to divorce it from the interests and experience of the real creative classes - the ones who do the work.

I am with them on the anti-hierarchy, but the idea of a transition into knowledge economies is overblown, whilst to invest all their hopes in a single candidate is an exercise in wishful thinking.

Dilettante, middle class 'thinking' gave us the woeful positions on Afghanistan that you have hammered beautifully. There is another stage to go in left renewal, not to base hopes in a technocratic elite, but to build roots amongst those at the bottom - the most vital and the most oppressed.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Good one, Gadge. As for the Third Way in Canada, its most vocal champion was Jean Chretien, a Liberal prime minister. Eaves and Owen are Liberals.

Where I think Eaves and Owen have a very good point, however, is in the phenomenon of optimistic and effective "activism" that's taking place so far outside the conventional "left" that it is as though the "left" doesn't even exist, at best, or at worst, the "left" serves to actually undermine it. Global-scale examples would include the landmines treaty, agitation over Darfur, the Israeli-Palestinian "One Voice" movement, etc. Afghan solidarity work - a huge effort that involves hundreds of Canadian activists, mostly women, is another. I was also happy to see Eaves and Owen recognize the significance of the analysis and the work of Calvin Helin, from the Tsimshian Nation. Calvin and I go way, way back.

3:06 PM  

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