On Intellectuals in Politics

On Intellectuals in Politics

In his essay “Intellectuals in Politics,” Richard Rorty gives us his thumbnail sketch of the history of democracy in the United States. In the beginning were the Founding Fathers, fearful of mob rule. In the interim were the spread of literacy and the struggles for democratic progress of ten generations of liberal-leftists. In the present is a malaise of inactivity, germinated, in some part, by postmodern intellectuals who seem more concerned about gay-bashing in the streets, racist reporting in the press, and sexual harassment in the workplace than they are about the rich soaking the poor. Given more space, I suppose I would want to tell a less simple-minded story: a story that did not have to begin with the Founding Fathers; a story that acknowledged that ten generations of American leftists might not all have shared the same vision of democratic progress; a story that described some of the pernicious activities pursued at home and abroad in the name of American-style democracy; a story that showed how gay-bashing, racist reporting, and sexual harassment are intrinsically linked to the systematic ease with which the rich go on soaking the poor. From the evidence of his essay, Rorty would probably find such a story cluttered, obfuscatory, distracting, overly intellectual, and perhaps even unAmerican. After all, he likes to keep his view of politics (real politics, that is) simple. Real simple. Like some kind of mantra, he repeats over and over his definition of “real politics” —it’s about the rich soaking the poor, or the rich ripping off the poor, or the poor resisting the rich. Nothing more, nothing less. Now either Professor Rorty is playing the naïf, or else the liberal tradition he claims to represent is more bankrupt than the most recent S&L to go down the drain.

...

Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima