Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Naomi Klein has a fascinating and revealing piece in the current The Nation. On its face it's a simple attack on what came to be known in the earlier years of the Bush administration as "the ownership society"--the belief that if people owned their own homes and owned stock, they would have more control over their lives, with resulting political consequences:

Well before the ownership society had a neat label, its creation was central to the success of the right-wing economic revolution around the world. The idea was simple: if working-class people owned a small piece of the market--a home mortgage, a stock portfolio, a private pension--they would cease to identify as
workers and start to see themselves as owners, with the same interests as their bosses. That meant they could vote for politicians promising to improve stock performance rather than job conditions. Class consciousness would be a relic....The real breakthrough, however, came in the 1990s, with the "democratization" of stock ownership, eventually leading to nearly half of American households owning stock.

Klein views this--the specter of poor people joining the middle class and no longer hating their neighbors--with unconcealed horror, of course, and therefore the subprime mortgage crisis is for her a gift from God, or Gaia, or whomever. For Klein, the mortgage disaster is a cause for celebration, because it revives the concept of class distinctions. (In this, it recalls the glee with which intellectuals around the world regarded Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed hundreds but served to embarrass and discredit the Bush administration, so therefore it was a good thing).

The greater implication has to do with the way the Left regards the sweltering masses of the proletariat. Klein doesn't come out and say that she wants people to be helpless wards of the state, but that's the implication. For Klein, the thought of people controlling their own financial destinies is terrifying.

While reading the piece, I thought of the late absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, whose theater pieces became more and more minimalist as he got older. One of his later plays, Endgame, features a character named Nagg who does nothing but open his mouth and demand to be fed. His only lines of dialogue are variations of the phrase "ME PAP! ME PAP!" and has no greater requirement in life than forcing others to shovel food into his mouth.

Nagg is the Left's ideal constituent. Sam, you knew exactly where Naomi was coming from.

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