Most of us have probably been in the situation of hearing some young or not so young student of politics, trying to tie together what they understand of politics in the following formula:
“being more left-wing means wanting the state to intervene more in society”
Conversely, being more right-wing means wanting a ‘small state’, and a society of people left to themselves.
Now, this formula is wrong, for various reasons which I’ll assume my readers are already aware of, but I think there’s an important element of truth to it. There is a systematic connection between the state and a certain sort of ‘left’.
In yesterday’s post I called this the ‘pseudoleft’, and described it as an attempt to compensate for the impotence that comes from the divide between the various holders of radical views and opinions, and the social forces capable of making them a reality, most obviously socialists and proletarians, between the do-gooders and well-wishers dreaming of a classless, co-operative society, and the classes of non-owners with the economic position that allows them to re-arrange society from the bottom up.
Now, we might suppose then that this would produce a lot of people who can see what’s wrong, who can see the problems and the unhappiness in class society, but who don’t know what to do about it. They may be confident of its eventual self-defeat in a century or so, but not patient or callous enough to just sit and wait. So what they’d really like would be an easy way to ‘paper over’ the cracks, to take problems as they appear and either solve them or conceal them or a mixture of both.
And guess what! That’s just what states do! That’s what ‘politics’ is: the place where conflicts appear and get resolved. And the state justifies itself, and makes itself functional, by being the mechanism that can enforce such ‘solutions’. If religion is ‘the heart of a heartless world’, the state is ‘the unity of a divided society’.
The result is that under normal (i.e. non-revolutionary conditions), people who notice that society is grossly unfair and a lot of people are being made very unhappy, naturally gravitate around the state. They write letters, they present petitions, they announce initiatives. They struggle and then eventually a politician of their camp gets into the position to deliver a rousing speech about how they will mend the world and help all the poor needy X’s, and they feel themselves to have scored a great victory. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the problems never seem to dry up.
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