Thanks to all who slogged through my post I, Me, Mine and fired off such penetrating questions. I was away from the blog but just returned to try to address them all. (check comments) This is especially relevent to the project Chebob and I (and others) are engaged in here in Montana, attempting to bring change to an unsustainable status quo. It is not necessary that we agree on every theoretical point (it aint gonna happen) ,it is necessary that we become comfortable with disagreement and debate.What we DO have to agree upon at the end of the day is a program of some kind, developed through a dialogue and process that we are all inventing as we go. The program must acknowledge the reality of where we are physically, the sparsley populated and vast upper Northwest and where we are politically,forty years into the domination of neo-liberal capitalist hegemony. The reality we must face was expressed by Gopal Balakrishnan when he wrote "the enervation of collective resistance under these conditions seems to signal the advent of an order of things in which praxis itself has become an enigma. Attachment to the status quo, acknowledged or not, is at an historic high point." Despite the Ron Paul "revolution" or the Chevy "revolution" or other such false promises.
So the task is daunting but no less necessary for that. My own enthusiasm, even joy, at engaging(praxis) is not diminished by the steep odds ,but this time around we have less room for error. Che Bob wondered if my enthusiasm for radical democracy did not signal a "full circle"in my analysis but in actuality, my close reading of Marx ( a significant nodal point of my journey) and others in that "lineage" provided an inspiring democratic ideal which has always informed my analysis and which I am now trying to extend. Part of this requires rescuing "liberalism" from Liberals. The democracy I hope to describe is not the Thom Hartman "democracy" or Ron Paul "democracy" (that amalgamation of individual rights and responsibilities, founding fathers, Magna Cartas,sacred constitutions) Using dialectics to go beyond simple materialism ,while still incorporating it into a theory of historical development, is a way to discover the path forward. Rather than a "we" which is defined soley by ones role within the forces of production (class) , a new method for determining social identity would be a "return to the political" and an abandonment of the idea that the "we" could ever be a perfectly unified constituency. Management of society would take place in overlapping public-private spheres (civic-economic) through radically democratic processes extended into economic management.OK so far.
What is missing from all this is how we get from the current hegemonic structure to this new hegemony, the familiar "reform or revolution"question. The current (old) radical approach is to make apparent certain "linkages" between modern struggles (ecological, gender and racial equality, labor rights, peace, etc) to the "dominant" class struggle. This newly awakened consciousness (unity) leads to strikes, boycotts, actions against capital until capital is undermined and loses control over the means of production. Labor assumes control through elimination of the profit system and shared everything, and democratic process eliminates antagonism and insures the new conditions do not begin to replicate the old.
Problems with this scenario to date have stemmed from A. an inability to actually define class, to bring the middle class aboard,or to get them to unite through class identity with more oppressed, socially "alienated"workers.And visa versa. B. Strikes being undermined by scabs or the use of nationalism (declared war) or busted by force, repression. C. Following successful strike and overthrow: counter-revolution, separatist rebellion, foreign invasion or economic down turn requires authoritarian measures to maintain control.(see Bolivia) D. Bureaucracy develops,undermining poorly educated worker "democracy" and establishes new hierarchy. E Castro D. difficulty linking war to imperialism, technology increasing worker productivity and empowerment, corporate media control,and on and on and on.
A "return to the political" (a la Mouffe) is lacking in this programatic sense. It is not the actual territory or a map as such. At a time when the old slogans, "property is theft" or "you have nothing to lose but your chains" are stale and new collective categories are springing up (Bolivarians, Zapatistas, horizontalists) it is a call to reclaim language to help explain them to people who identify themselves in a multiplicity of "subject positions", worker, consumer, ethnic or gender minority, poor, manager,parent,farmer, etc. As Mouffe puts it. "In order that the defense of workers' interests is not pursued at the cost of the rights of women, immigrants or consumers, it is necessary to establish an EQUIVALENCE between these different struggles. It is only under these circumstances that struggles against power become truly democratic." The modern project has been extending the democratic revolution based on such concepts as liberty, justice, and equity as a defense against autocratic power. The language has been hijacked and the project de-railed by conservatives serving capitalism, certainly, but also by trends within liberalism (hyper- rational, moralistic, utopian, individualistic,etc) . Democratic culture will not be an easy thing to revive after decades of neglect and subversion. It will not just happen in the discursive realm and it does not preclude the urgent need for strikes, protest, dissent, art, confrontation, noise, clash, agitation. Political philosophy requires a foundation and Mouffe provides some mortar.