Sunday, July 6, 2008

Radical Political Theory

There's a book called Liberating Theory by Albert, Cagan, Chomsky, Hahnel, King, Sargent, and Sklar. I'm not going to recommend it, because I don't think it's a particularly well written book (though some parts are fun and entertaining--it may be worth getting if you find this post useful). Fortunately there is a clearer version of much the same thing in a tutorial on ZNet--check out the Radical Theory Instructional.

The basic idea is that the progressive/radical movement is pretty fragmented. Albert, et al, claim that there are a few different basic ideologies that make up the movement. Four of these focus on different 'spheres' or sectors of society. (There are two other ones that focus on what's beyond this society--I'll get to these.) The four social ideologies are the major liberation movements. Albert and friends label these the Feminists, the Socialists, the Nationalists, and the Anarchists. The Feminists claim that Patriarchy is the problem and the family, the cradle of society, is the primary area we need to focus on. The Socialists claim that Capitalism is the problem and we need to focus on class and the workplace since that is what supports the society. The Nationalists claim that White Supremacy is the problem and we need to look at our cultural system and how the dominant White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) culture oppresses anyone in our society who is not a WASP. And the Anarchists claim that the State is problem and we need to look at how government and hierarchy control our lives.

Albert, et al, point out that all four analyses are correct but each simply focuses on one 'sphere' of the society: the Feminists focus on the kinship sphere, including the family, gender, and sexuality; the Socialists focus on the economic sphere, including work and class; the Nationalists focus on the community sphere, including race, ethnicity, religion, and culture; and the Anarchists focus on the sphere they refer to as 'polity', including government and political structure. In spite of what each of these groups claim, none of these spheres are basic; they are all interlinked and all important in maintaining the society we have--and we have to change all four of these spheres (nearly simultaneously) in order to transform this society.

The point of the theorists who wrote Liberating Theory is that once we understand that all these 'spheres' are interconnected and none are primary, we can create more coherent strategies. I agree. I think we need to take all of these analyses in to account in order to build a better strategy. Getting caught up in which problem is 'primary' usually leads to counter productive arguments.

Two more ideologies focus on our connections beyond this society: the Ecology movement looks at how we relate to the environment, and the Peace movement looks at how we relate to other societies. We need to remember that our society doesn't exist in isolation. So as well as needing to change all different spheres of this society, we need to improve our connections to other societies and the natural world. This is an overview of what we'll have to do in order to create real change. It's a tall order, but there's what I think is the direction for change. It's complex, but there is no simple answer.

Quote of the day: "First, you know, a new theory is attacked as absurd; then it is admitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant; finally it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they themselves discovered it." - William James
Word (or phrase) of the day: Interlocalism
Hero(es) of the day: Rosa Parks

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