The Partisan and the Political

The Partisan and the Political

This is right, mostly:

But by conflating partisanship and ideology, elite discourse tends to discredit the latter; thus, just as elites tend to cloak their ideological program in the veil of post-partisanship, contemporary popular movements sometimes attempt to do the same. But they, too, are ideological whether they want to be or not. Some of this is on display in the Occupy Wall Street protests: these have been characterized by an almost obsessive desire to avoid specific ideologies or even specific demands, in a way that tends to grate on those of us with more traditional leftist sensibilities. Doug Henwood recently commented on this in a post where he lamented the ideological confusion of the protesters, and quoted a 25-year-old photographer stating that the protests were “not about left versus right” but about “hierarchy versus autonomy”.

The uncharitable reading of this is that it reflects a naive avoidance of politics and the worldview of, as Doug puts it, bourgeois individualism. But a more generous reading is that this man is simply partaking of the same collapsing of ideology and partisanship that pervades the society he grew up in. If you’re 25 years old, there’s a good chance you haven’t had much or any contact with what remains of an actual “left” in this country; instead, your experience of politics will be one in which “left versus right” is used interchangeably with “Democrats versus Republicans”. In other words, a discourse in which ideology is reduced to an empty, symbolic partisanship.

Rather than an attempt to deny ideology and politics, we can see statements like the one I quoted as an attempt, however confused, to reclaim them from the clutches of the major parties and their hack apologists. Because whatever they might say, Occupy Wall Street has an ideology, even if it is still an inchoate and jumbled one.

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