Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

11/12/2004

From Minor American:

If we restrict ourselves, despite all the caveats above, to the church-centered version of the moral values argument, what emerges as a particular strength of the right is the extent to which there are already-existing modes of social organization in the communities where they’re drawing votes. These organizations – churches and attendant “family councils” and the like – are not organized primarily as political institutions, despite the extent to which they have been directly politicized in recent years. What they address at root is the lived experience of belonging, and the sets of social, ethical, spiritual and material needs attendant on that belonging. Once you have a material set of institutions like this, producing identifications on a day-to-day basis, you have a public sphere (albeit centered on a particularly restrictive, exclusionary sense of “public” for the most part) in which the work of political organizing can take hold. This organizing is less a matter of persuasive argument or appeals to communicative rationality, than it is a matter of a direct appeal to the fact of belonging as such. As Alan Sondheim points out, there is a shift here from the epistemological to the ontological. Or, as Barrett Watten writes (at http://www.english.wayne.edu/fac_pages/ewatten/), “All analysis flies in the face of a simple, stupid identification.” (Since I’ve invoked the “s” word again, I should emphasize that I see a reciprocal, and far less effective stupidity operating on much of the left: our stubborn belief in our own self-image as the good-natured persuaders, issuers of appeals to our fellow human beings’ better reason. Simply put, without the material, institutional basis with which to make these appeals operative in lived social experience – which is not a function of communication, but a function of production, the production of public space, itself often a function of a durable kind of “being there” – we’re guilty of a far worse kind of stupidity: not stupidity as the “decision” of faith prior to fact, but the boneheaded, continuing insistence on the counter-factual even after the facts are in).

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