Polarization and liberal politics

July 05, 2021

This piece has me thinking.  Why is the US's political situation so sclerotic?  Why are we so polarized, and why is the polarization not changing?

I think one reason for this is relatively simple. We have (finally?) aligned our politics with some of the most fundamental cleavages in our polity. Politics matters now, ontologically.

If I think about "liberalism" as one thing (which I don't think is good to do), I would say it had a large commitment to avoiding this--to avoiding making politics THE core of peoples' identity, the fundamental fact of social structure, etc..

This is why "liberalism" (again, ugh, but a noble lie here) is often complained about, sort of starting with Marx's "Jewish Question" forward, as a duplicitous and immoral politics, that misses the point. It was kind of designed to be that.

This is not a criticism of "liberalism," btw--in one way from Locke forward, and in another from at least Constant, the idea that peoples' central lives could be led at some remove from politics strikes me as a good thing. (Could be b/c I am infected w/ "liberal" virus, tho.)

So understood "liberalism" is a deferral of politics--a means of diminishing it. But maybe that can only work in situations of broad egalitarianism. And this can change in two ways: (1) if prior egalitarian system disappears; (2) if broader expectations of egalitarianism appear.

Fair to say that both (1) and (2) have become more pressing over the past couple decades, yes? I think so at least.


Just some thoughts.