The problem is not a lack of big ideas or big money

Food for thought from the news:

Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, speaking at the American Sociological Association annual meeting recently, says the problem for creating progressive economic alternatives is not that we lack big ideas — viable universal health insurance is not a new or unkown concept, nor is the idea of basic human rights, democratic control over economic institutions. Nor is the problem one of economic scarcity — as Goldman Sachs hands out billions in holiday bonuses to top employees. Instead she says the problem is confidence and passion among — will nonconservatives care as much about climate change as Dick Cheney cares about getting Khazakstan’s oil? Further, she argues that progressives have fallen prey to the idea that alternative economic policies have been tried and failed, so that without new ideas, due to scarcity the current unjust system is inevitable. Instead, alternative and more democratic economic ideas have been thwarted by oppressive power — shock therapy in Poland, CIA-assisted military coup in Chile, tanks in Tiannamen square. Her talk was broadcast on Democracy Now, August 15, 2007, see http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/15/1432250. Ironically, at this ASA meeting, focusing on the theme of Another World is Possible, the US state department denied a visa for a South African social scientist Adam Habib to discuss examples of alternatives to neoliberal economic policies.

Naomi Klein: From Think Tanks to Battle Tanks, “The Quest to Impose a Single World Market Has Casualties Now in the Millions”
Though I agree with Klein that both the ideas of good alternatives and money are there, I’m a bit concerned about the tendency to focus on castigate nonconservatives for their lack of moral courage and conviction, rather than to focus on the material constraints and lack of political power that impedes implementing the many good, successful ideas out there. See my review of Wendy Brown and Janet Halley’s anthology, Left Legalism/Left Critique, where I argue that the recent postmodern strand of left critique in law wrongly and uncritically portrays the failure of critical legal scholarship and practice on moral inadequacies without analyzing the political economy of theory — for instance, the fact of upwards of $50 million of “investment” in the production of right wing legal theory in law schools in the late 20th century.  See McCluskey, Thinking with Wolves:  Left Legal Theory After the Right’s Rise, 54 Buffalo Law Review 1191 (2007).

So, I think we do need new and good ideas, not because we lack an alternative vision, but because we need more ideas about how to overcome the political and economic barriers to achieving that vision.

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