Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jack Beatty's terrific "Markets Gone Wild: American history and the myth of free trade," included in the June 2005 issue of Harper's Magazine, should be of interest to anyone curious about economic philosophy and American history.

Beatty portrays the contemporary American socio-political and socio-economic landscapes with more originality than I did in my recent post "Absolutely Relative,", though he, too, turns to Alexis de Tocqueville for then-and-now perspective. de Tocqueville offers readers a wealth of valuable material, but I hadn't before read anything as prescient as the below.
"Ideology - everything will work out for the best in the long run - sustains inevitability. But mass trances cannot be counted on to hold. The spell of inevitability has been broken before."

"Should Americans lose their capacity for self interest, Tocqueville feared, American individualism would produce a society of post-political strangers who stay 'enclosed in their own hearts,' beyond collective anger, and laiable to pacification by the 'immense tutelary power' of a soft despotism."
Only a devoted scholar of history and culture could have so accurately predicted our current American condition...over 160 years ago! de Tocqueville's observations stand as a challenge to those bottom-line thinkers that deny the vitality of the humanities or the importance of a grounding in history. A world of specialists is a world of "post-political strangers."


Jewbacca said...

HH is a Homo Homo...

Hungry Hyaena said...

It's a pleasure to know that you like to visit HH and flame me, Jewbacca, offending both Jews and Wookies in the process.

Next time, though, you should go wild with your witty remarks. Maybe something like, "You're a dumb-dumb homo" or "Homos 'R Us is HH's favorite store." Those are real zingers.

Devo said...

Jewbacca likes homos. They taste like chicken. Watch yer back, HH, he's comin' for ya.

Anyway, on a more serious note, I love Tocqueville. Democracy In America should be required reading for every single American youth. I don't care if they don't understand it, they should still read it. Hell, who understands the Pledge of Allegiance when they're in second grade? Or twelfth grade, for that matter? Either way, I like the quote on inevitability particularly... REminds me of:

You hear that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sound of inevitability... It is the sound of your death... Goodbye, Mr. Anderson...

Now we just need to realize that our name is, in fact, Neo, throw off the illusory mantle of inevitability and recliam the scepter of popular control, rather than succumbing to a soma-induced leaden blanket of acquiescence.

Damn the man! Save the Empire!

Updog said...

Funny thing is, I always thought it was Jewbecca... As in Rebecca the jew. Ooops. Not a chick, my bad.

Personally, I think that the first and most important step in any of this is active engagement in our immediate surroundings. The challenge, so it seems to me, is to assert ourselves in every aspect of our lives-- to stay aware and alert even in the most menial of surroundings.
Yes, it IS important to look out the subway window.
Yes, it IS important to know who your neighbors are and how their lives work.
Yes, it IS important to poke around in the attic and the basement.
Too often, we forsake the ordinary in favor of the dramatic and the epic without realizing that the most awsome of epics is unravelling before us.
Banality is a lie.
So I play this little game: whenever I am bored, frustrated, or simply have a few moments I stop and say to myself, "Notice something."
Right now it is a ding in the wall by the window... it's too high for a casual impact, so I wonder how it got there.
Trivial? Absolutely, but you don't get fit by doing a single push-up.

Hungry Hyaena said...

While I very much doubt that most American youths even know who Tocqueville is, I agree with you, Devo. He should be a household name, as his description of our country is as curious and revealing now as it was is his day.

Updog, your comment reminds me of a Walter Evans quote. "Stare. Pry. Listen. Eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long."

I always liked that one.