Saturday, 2 February 2013

The need for Neoconservatism.

As an emanation of the social contours of capitalism the conservative disposition has long represented the tension between unconstrained endeavour in economics and constraint of the social to put the breaks on the market forces in their most individualist tendencies. It represents both the material base of capitalist society, as well as its ideological superstructure; but the way this contradiction is managed is not simply the purpose of conservatism. More so, it is the duty of conventional politics - so Conservatism, rather than conservatism - consequently Right and Left seem less and less dissimilar to a great many voters. The specific form of defence waged to secure the authority of the state, the loyalty of citizens to it, especially in its active capacity in the economy and the general disparity between rhetoric and reality (e.g. bank bailouts and free-markets). This is the banal role of the conventional business of politics. And the era of neoliberalism has merited a unique response from the Right to reaffirm the role of the state.

In the US neoconservatism has offered a uniquely American answer to the crises of the state under neoliberalism. Not least in the promise of turbo-charged growth through supply-side spending, the neoconservatives seek to unite the nation and strengthen it in war. Budget deficits are a necessary evil in boosting growth by way of military Keynesianism. No wonder then the neocons have found a particular base in the military-industrial complex that has a stake in perpetual warfare. It's the only antidote to the nihilism inflicted upon society as the markets dissolve all bonds of solidarity and fraternity as if doused in acid. The neoconservatives seek to reassert the role of the state by articulating powerful myths of America as a nation destined to defend freedom and democracy. This is the justification for America's imperial role, to guard all the 'normal states' in the world. To this end the neoconservatives have found allies in power, mainly in the form of ultra-nationalists like Dick Cheney and George Bush.

The only traditions to be preserved are those of classical liberalism and strong government is a necessary means to do so. For neocons foreign policy ought to reflect the internal conditions of a country, the numerous interventions over the past several decades certainly reflect the condition of American capitalism. It's a vision that has more of a chime with Alexis de Tocqueville than later libertarian writers. Like the neocons de Tocqueville looked to unite France in solidarity, national glory and self-confidence, through the conquest of Algeria. He did not pretend that the destruction of Kabyle and the slaughter of women and children in Arab villages was anything to do with Progress. In that instance, the neocons are far less honest in their appropriation of the rhetoric of left-wing internationalism - that was well demonstrated by the apostasy of Christopher Hitchens. Yet even with all the talk of 'liberal democratic internationalism' the position remains at its heart a flag-wagging approbation of Empire.

It is somewhat ironic that the neoconservative aim of instilling unity in order to maintain the state, through war requires a disunity in society. Since 9/11 the primary disunity has been between the Muslims and everyone else, the less clear the distinction between Islam and Islamism the better. The enemy without maybe bearded men in Afghanistan, but the enemy within could be anyone of a certain ethnic-religious background. This provides a dual enemy for a dual defence at home and abroad, by a crackdown on civil liberties in the first hand and war in the second. In this way the self-proclaimed 'democratic revolutionaries' of neoconservatism managed to undermine the state as a legitimate managerial authority, leaving the liberal traditions vandalised and society divided to an extent that can only benefit demagogues. This merely conceded greater ground to libertarians and, ultimately, the radical Left. Meanwhile military Keynesianism has stripped the welfare state almost to the bone, the impossibility of lower and lower taxes has meant a cut in the defence budget.

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