Friday, January 6, 2012

Philosohy Without A License: Rick Santorum Edition

Writing at Salon, Linda Hirshman concludes
In this context, Rick Santorum’s candidacy, and the Republican Party that hungers for it, looks like a handful of the left-behind fighting a rear-guard action against modernity, which has passed them by. It’s understandable that they would focus their efforts on sex, where Augustine struggled so hard for control. Like Augustine and his unruly member, the modern world, especially modern capitalism, makes people feel like they have lost control. As recent events reflect, this is not foolish. They have suffered from forces way beyond their control. But the solution to gaining some mastery over the environment lies in embracing modernity through modern institutions like the rule of law, collective action, proper regulation, counter-cyclical economic policy, rather than rejecting it. . . . .
Western history since the Enlightenment has been peppered with such revolts against the modern world. Usually they are a sign of desperation and find their way, unassisted, to the dustbin of history. On the rare occasion when they take hold, however, they can be extremely dangerous.
Attacking Santorum voters for "rejecting modernity" strikes me as counterproductive.  They have conflated "modernity" with post-modernism and the relativism that accompanies it.  For them, Hirshman's accusation is a badge of honor because it means they are upholding eternal verities.  They are proud of being a "rear guard" in the war for hearts and minds of American voters.

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