Arthur H. Williamson, PH.D.

"The country had been on the brink of great changes when I left ... I was back and now could not figure out who was on whose side. No one was talking about revolution; the new thing was the unconscious. People who claimed to be leftists quoted Nietzsche and Celine." -- Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

The decline of Marxism throughout the world and in all its forms since 1970 has long been manifest and is now seen as one of the major geopolitical upheavals of the century. That, I suppose, is good news for the CIA. It has pleased far less militant Cold Warriors as well. Even Cornel West who spoke here at California State University, Sacramento two years ago greeted the demise of the Soviet Union with a loud, "Good riddance!" A great burden, it seemed, had fallen from the shoulders of the left, and West went on to indicate that, for him, left-wing activity would involve seeking out his own ethnic tradition.
Frankly these attitudes are deeply misconceived and for many reasons. If nothing else the period of the past 20 years has witnessed a simultaneous decline of Marxism's great Cold-War rival, liberalism. It has been less dramatic, less immediately evident, but it is now unmistakable. Whether in their authoritarian or demo-cratic forms - whether democratic Marxism or authori-tarian Marxism, whether democratic liberalism or authoritarian, corporate liberalism - both of these competing systems appear to have lost their earlier force and cogency. The cause is evident enough: the common values that underwrote them both are themselves in precipitous decline. These values - belief in universal human equality, belief in the effectiveness of politics as means of identifying and realizing self and value, and belief in secular culture as the signal achievement of human capabilities - have all increasingly failed to carry conviction. Values that had cemented the Grand Alliance and triumphed against their opposites in 1945 are everywhere in retreat less than 50 years later.
THE AGENDA OF the 1960s
Let's look for a moment at the attitudes and assumptions of that extraordinary decade, the 1960s. The contrast of the present moment with that world just 25 years ago is of course a dramatic one. It's fashionable today to tisk and tut and even sneer at the 1960s as being at once hopelessly naive and yet somehow also terribly corrupting. But in fact it was an enormously creative period.
Broadly speaking, three characteristics distinguished it. First and most immediately apparent was the call for a profound democratizing of all institutions. In early 1960 the British critic, Raymond Williams, set much of the tone for the following years with his influential essay, "The Long Revolution." In it he spoke of a "participating democracy" in which he looked to increased popular involvement in both political and economic decision-taking and in the creation of a democratic public culture. Williams' language and ideas were by no means unique to Britain, and it is significant that his phrasing (if not his thinking) could be adopted by no less than Nelson Rockefeller by the end of the decade. In the previous year, the German Social Democrats adopted their famous Bad Godesberg program which made democratizing Germany the central aim of the party - and which replaced more traditionally con-ceived notions of class conflict. It is striking the extent to which similar thinking emerged all over Europe, even in the East. Nothing less lay at the heart of the American civil rights movement. Nothing less lay at the heart of the European and American peace movements.
Here was one of those rare moments when Ameri-can liberalism spoke meaningfully to Europeans, when a whole range of American political experimentation seemed applicable to European conditions, when even American suspicion of ideology seemed refreshing. At the same time emerged the first post-war generation of American students to encounter Marx seriously - largely through the constantly proliferating translations of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. The Frankfurt School enjoyed a moment of American glory (with Herbert Marcuse eventually joining the faculty at UC San Diego), and even Lenin's radical State and Revolution seemed curiously relevant.
The talk was of primaries rather than caucuses, of open conventions, of a lowered voting age, of commu-nity involvement. It was the heyday of the British Shop Stewards' movement. It was the era of German co-determination. It was the great period of radical social experimentation in Turin and Bologna. Even that most medieval of institutions, the university, became a more open and somewhat less hierarchical structure. It was an exhilarating time: as Umberto Eco has noted, it was that extraordinary moment when one could study Dante Alighieri on the third floor and then do revolutionary praxis on the first. What is striking was not the threat to free inquiry and traditional learning, but, quite the contrary, how remarkably unthreatened and how gently critiqued were all of the long-standing modes of inquiry. The great threat to the academy came much later in the vastly changed world of the late 1970s. No one in the 1960s ever - even for a moment - challenged an instructor's capacity to teach a course for reason of his or her race, or his or her gender. Nothing even remotely like Professor Christie Farnham Pope's experience at Iowa State ever occurred. It simply and literally could not have been imagined - either politically or epistemologically.
Perhaps surprisingly, even in the authoritarian East, this sort of thinking cropped all over, sometimes in the most unexpected places. Despite Leonid Brezhnev's neo-Stalinism, radical democratic ideas surfaced among students, workers, and within elements of the party elites, and, as Stephen Cohen has pointed out, in the Soviet Union this would translate into a cultural flowering, not in Moscow and Leningrad, but in the great provincial cities such as Riga and the Baku. Possibly this development should be less surprising than we might at first think, for the Marxist traditions have as good a claim to democracy as does liberalism - and argument for it can be made readily from even Commu-nist orthodoxy.
The second great characteristic of the 1960s is its unflinching commitment to Universality. All of these radical movements possessed an altogether evident identity of purpose and a strikingly common vocabulary It then was a great common cause, a wonderfully shared undertaking, and that sense of international solidarity almost certainly ran deeper and possessed greater spon-taneity than at any previous moment in Western history: more than the French Revolution, the Russian Revolu-tion, or the Spanish Civil War. Slogans are inherently banal, but they are also always insightful. One of the most popular - "We shall fight, we shall win; Paris, London, Rome, Berlin" - truly catches the spirit of the times. What happened in San Francisco seemed immedi-ately relevant to what happened in Prague. One's citizenship really didn't seem to matter very much, and it is no accident that exchange students figured promi-nently in the politics of the period. Tariq Ali, a Pakistani, was at least emblematically the leader of the British student movement. Danny Cohn-Bendit, a German exchange student in France and number one nationally in the philosophy exam, was a leader of the French movement. Naturally enough, De Gaulle wanted to send him back to Bonn. And when someone wondered aloud, "Who is this German Jew?" - he confronted thousands people assuring everyone quite emphatically that, "We are all German Jews." It was nothing short of natural for the Oxford Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton, to participate in radical British politics.
I can remember speaking to students in St. Louis and afterwards being told by a large bearded fellow that he had heard it all before. Inevitably, it appalled me to think that my ideas weren't utterly original, but there was a certain cachet when he added that he had heard it three days earlier in Jerusalem and in Arabic (no less). I can remember how utterly easy it was (despite my appalling French) to become active in France. The French seemed genuinely interested in American opinion and perspective. "Ah, qu'est-ce tu dis, Monsieur Fidel Castro?" The slogans from Michigan Avenue translated readily into their counterparts from Boulevard St. Michel. CRS? SS! And so on. It required no reflec-tion at all and seemed only natural to stand up in a public meeting and say 'we" when meaning the British. It was utterly easy to want to go into Grosvenor Square, where that gigantic, obscene eagle perched atop the American Embassy. You know, I truly believe its eyes were modeled on those of Clint Eastwood, and in its massive silence, it unmistakably called out, "Make my day!" I'm not really sure, yet I believe Clinton was in that demonstration in 1969. Luckily for him, he did not make the turn off into the Square.
Such an extraordinary solidarity, such manifest commonality, such palpably' shared purpose inevitably led to an extraordinary optimism-optimism that is hard even to imagine today. It then seemed that no matter what the betrayals, the hypocrisies, and the blunders of other times, now at last things would be set right, now at last the promise of the past at its most hopeful would finally be redeemed.
All this does indeed seem naive today, but its significance should not be underestimated. That confi-dence in human universals was part of a broad cultural pattern which reached deeply into the Western intellect. The regnant epistemologies spoke to those universals and the confidence they engendered. Structuralism is an authentic voice of the 1960s. Claude Levi-Strauss was born in 1908; he today shows every sign of living forever. He did fieldwork in the Amazon in the 1930s, wrote important work on kinship Systems in the 1940s, published a best-selling intellectual autobiography in 1955. But structuralism would become enormously influential only after he received the chair of anthropol-ogy at the College de France in 1959. In the years that followed, his work was widely translated and it spoke to audiences well beyond professional anthropology. Its message was direct and emphatically universalist: the initially binary polarities all people perceived in nature provided the mental structures through which language and culture itself would be organized. There conse-quently existed necessarily common modes of thought and culture, and this commonality was supremely salient. "The unconscious activity of the mind," he insisted, "consists in imposing forms upon content, and "these forms are fundamentally the same for all minds, ancient and modern, primitive and civilized." Even the greatest distance between the primitive and the civilized turned out to be much less than might at first appear. The engineer-savant of modernity added mythic struc-tures in order to understand the world, while the handyman-bricoleur of traditional society reconfigured mythic materials for this purpose. But their products bore much in common-as Gerald Holton's thematic approach to the history of science also seemed to indicate.
The point is not the inherent persuasiveness of structural anthropology, but rather its extraordinary persuasiveness within the context of the 1960s. Other social epistemologies, quite incompatible with the thinking of Levi-Strauss, also enjoyed considerable currency. Noam Chomsky 's transformational grammar, as well as work at the time with artificial intelligence, as well as still other work with DNA, all spoke about very different modes of cognition. But all of them insisted on the common character of humankind as its most signifi-cant, meaningful, and telling feature. It is hard to imagine how any particularist identity - how any nationalism - could possibly seem at all important within that mental world.
The third aspect of the 1960s is probably the most remote for us today, now surely sunk furthest down beyond our horizon. People in that decade genuinely believed that their private lives bore an immediate connection with the political world and their personae within it. Whether we have a successful personal life today, or whether we have a disastrous one, it's hard to see how that bears much connection with Newt Gingrich or Robert Dole. Yet things seemed very different then. Again, the slogans of the time, however banal, offer us insight. "Make love, not war." That most intimate of subjectivities became immediately and loudly associated with foreign policy. The French said it still more directly: "The personal is the political!"
In part, this connection derives from the unprec-edented expansion of private right which occurred during the decade, what Tom Bender has called "The Rights Revolution." The American story running from the 1964 Civil Rights Act to the (ultimately defeated) Equal Rights Amendment is of course well known. Inevitably, we tend to think of these developments as peculiarly American, as addressed to specifically Ameri-can problems. But they are of course nothing of the sort. A broadly comparable movement swept the whole of Europe. A large raft of British legislation during the same period legalized abortion, decriminalized male homosexuality (female homosexuality was never illegal in Britain), lifted censorship from the theater, reformed divorce and the division of property which resulted from it, established protections for the disabled, made discrimination in employment and housing illegal, and established by law equal pay for work of equal value. Identical movements occurred on the continent and often met with considerable success. As the French said, "Pas de rectangle blanc pour une peuple adulte." Or, perhaps better still,"It is forbidden to forbid." Even in the authoritarian East, people spoke increasingly of "socialist legality." A few private rights - notably reproductive rights and the separation of church and state - were firmly established there. But wherever one looked, one common feature stood out: Every agenda and all the legislation which resulted from it was without exception conceived in terms of universal rights. not particularist privilege.
Yet the politicization of the private went much further. In religion, saving grace appeared to derive through the immanent workings of the political process. One's own redemption became inte-gral with the historical redemption of humankind. Whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, religion tended to become civil religion, and personal salvation required social action. This moment witnessed the high point of liberal Protestantism, the high point of Vatican II, the high point of Reform Judaism. Ecumenism inevitably flourished within this environment, while Christian-Marxist dialogue became seriously possible for the first time.
That other great subjectivity, sexuality and the erotic, acquired new importance and quite specifically social significance. In the early 1950s a survey of British women showed barely a majority thought that sex was an important element within marriage. By the late 1960s that figure had risen dramatically and would continue to rise during the years that followed. Why in the world should the erotic have become more impor-tant to people? The answer surely is that sexuality and the erotic were seen to be an expression of the self - they helped articulate what you were or wanted to be - and in the context of the 1960s self-expression was almost inevitably seen as a political act. It is in this way that the repression of the Victorian era at last drew to an end, not simply for the elites who were only occasionally subjected to it, nor simply for the 20th century bohemi-ans who confronted it, but for everyone. To do so was to change the textures and meanings of social life. It was genuinely and widely believed that vigorous sexual-ity would ultimately subvert repressive, disfiguring capitalism. Herbert Marcuse was hardly at his most profound when he spoke of eros and civilization - and still less in public addresses when he protested against then contemporary advertising by claiming that one should not have a "tiger in your tank," but a "love-bird" - yet his comments were highly indicative of the mood and of the popular culture of the age. In context, these attitudes were a good deal less preposterous than they must seem today.
How far did this fabric of ideas in the 1960s actually extend? It was surely Western, but, with equal surety, not global. It included what were then called the 1st and 2nd worlds, that great puddle across the globe running from Moscow in the East (with droplets out into Siberia) to San Francisco in the West (with droplets out into the Pacific). To meet with people from China or from Vietnam was to meet with something very different indeed. They were often Marxists and in that sense European, but theirs was the Marx of class conflict not alienation, the Marx of objec-tive historical materialism not cultural critique, the Marx of positive science not linguistic analysis. Understand-ably enough, they found themselves with precious little patience for what necessarily struck them as Western self-indulgence.
THE CRISIS, 1968-1974
But the real limits came from within. One of the most striking features of the times is how pathetically little the Right has had to say during the entire 20 year period, 1972-92. There was barely a new idea at all. Not even supply-side economics ever gained much serious credibility and is now disowned even by the Republican Party. Rather, the Great Reaction arose and arose gradually from tensions and fissures within the Left itself. Intellectually, the Left imploded - rather than being overwhelmed by any powerful conservative vision. The most basic categories by which the Left and Right had been distinguished from one another - dating at least from as early as 1750 and perhaps even earlier still - now for the first time became blurred and lost their persuasiveness. A fragmented scattering of pseudo-Lefts emerged which appeared to urge radical programs, but within epistemologies, iconographies, and ideologies which since the 18th century had been the exclusive property of the Right.
How did this come about? Initially, there was political setback. The defeat of Lyndon Johnson led not to radicalism but Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, and the war in Southeast Asia would drag on for another seven years (despite Nixon's "secret plan" and Kissinger's many bombs). The defeat of Harold Wilson led not to radicalism but to Ted Heath, whose signal achievement was the British equivalent to the Taft-Hartley Act. The upheaval in France did not lead to Pierre Mendes-France and Francois Mitterand, but Gaullist triumph and ultimately to Georges Pompidou. Each of these debacles was enormously disorienting, and especially so in France.
Still more devastating was the 1973 oil embargo which quadrupled petroleum prices and sent the Western economies into a tailspin from which they arguably have never fully recovered. The crisis placed enormous pressures on the Welfare State, pressures for which it had never been designed. From its inception in the 1940s, the Welfare State had been seen as dealing with short-term unemployment within a context of increasing productivity. Moreover; the crisis was particularly felt by younger people-and thus by people who had been among the most active. The effect was chilling. Most telling of all, the embargo produced economic problems which no economic theory ap-peared capable of addressing. There were no obvious solutions. "Stagflation" appeared to defeat every conven-tional wisdom whether Left or Right. This feeling of deep uncertainly inevitably tended to hamstring political debate. If you feel you don't know, it's hard to speak, and effective politics became increasingly difficult.
Most important for our purposes, this situation led to a very rapid erosion of the optimism and those extraordinary expectations which so informed the previous decade. A grim "Euro-pessimism" emerges at precisely this time. It became very difficult indeed to imagine the world as something people knowingly constructed for themselves. The crisis shifted the mood and refocused priorities. It created an ever deepening culture of inwardness.
Meaning now derived less from social interaction than from inward searching and self-involvement. The point was not to find out what one might be, but to find out what one was. At the heart of the matter lay a profound loss of confidence in people's civic capacity and their ability to participate effectively within public space. Identities achieved through politics shriveled before identities ascribed through blood. Visions of societies built through human creativity and public action came to be supplanted by increasingly powerful blood imageries which posited a priori worlds necessar-ily impervious to human will. One no longer spoke of a society rising on new foundations that would overcome all obstacles. Instead we encounter the language of ethnicity, of nation, of family, of "roots," and of gender. After all, no one can choose one's parents, nor the country in which one is born, nor even, in this argu-ment, the "spirit" of its history. Each of these attributes is inherent, immediately defining a person at the outset and in ways from which no one can ever legitimately escape.
By 1974 this transformation had become palpably evident virtually everywhere throughout the West. A quick survey will provide an illustration:
First, Yugoslavia: Marshal Tito finds himself constrained to create two semi-autonomous regions in response to new ethnic pressures - Kososvo for Albanians; Vojvodina for Hungarians. The new tension resulted from the failure to create a coherent Yugoslav public culture in the years immediately previous. Historically it now seems clear that these events marked the beginning of the end of that country.
Second, Great Britain: Heath's conservatives are thoroughly discredited, but so too are political solutions generally. In the February election the Scottish National Party wins nearly a dozen seats in Parliament. Its Welsh counterpart, the Plaid Cymru, wins three seats. Both of these results are completely unprecedented in British politics. Neither party offered much of a political program at all.
Third, the United States: In 1974 Reader's Digest publishes the first version of Alex Haley's Roots. It speaks to the new mood with enormous effectiveness.
Fourth, the Soviet Union: The first stirrings take place of patriotic organizations which will come together under the name Pamyat (memory) at the end of the decade. Initially concerned simply with preserv-ing historic monuments, their intensely nationalist (and anti-Semitic) agenda will emerge later on. By this year as well intellectual trends identified as "National Bolshe-vism" and as the "Russian Party" have clearly emerged on the mainstream Soviet cultural scene. Often looking back to 19th - century Slavophilism, key figures from these movements will underwrite the militant Russian conservatism of the 1980s.
All of these events manifest an increasingly angry pessimism. All of them are deeply Western and, in more than one sense, European. The openly racist organizations which would appear everywhere in Europe during the next decade - the British National Front, the German Republikaners, the Italian Lombard League, Jean-Marie Le Pen's movement in France - have deflected our attention from what has been a much broader and more deep-seated political reconfiguration. We should rather see these organizations as symptomatic of the ideological sea-change.
Perhaps the most telling marker of this shift oc-curred in Northern Ireland. During the 1960s a non-sectarian organization was set up which sought to correct a number of disabilities faced by the Catholic population in the Province. Modeled on the American Civil Rights Movement, it sought to eliminate discrimina-tion in housing and employment. It also sought to make non-sectarian and to professionalize the police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary along with its B Special auxiliaries - all of whose behavior was often suggestive of sheriffs within the American south. An allied group, comprised of younger people and with the more subversive name of Peoples' Democracy, pursued a much fuller 1960s agenda. Led by Bernadette Devlin, this group too was composed of both Protestants and Catholics, and it encouraged working people of both faiths (or no faith) to seek their common secular interests. The group was also especially concerned to create a non-sectarian youth culture - and for a while met with considerable success. Peoples' Democracy proved unsettling both to the north and to the Irish republic - and not least to Cardinal Conway, the Primate of all Ireland. Most emphatically, neither group adopted a nationalist agenda and sought the absorption of the six counties into Eire. Both groups understood their purposes in terms of universal and ultimately secular values. But by 1974 however, both groups were also defunct. By then a revived IRA - whose only agenda was Irish unification - had become locked in a bloody religio-ethnic struggle with the Ulster Volunteer Force and other Protestant paramilitary groups, a war which has continued up until this year. The Provisional IRA's Rory 0' Braidaigh and Sean MacStiofain (originally John Stephenson from Liverpool) had nothing at all to say about reproductive rights, contraceptives, censorship, the welfare state, or even democracy. Their sole concern was the annexation of the northern counties, and Cardinal Conway had not the slightest problem with their proposals.
The obvious American analogue is the transition from the Black Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the Black nationalism of the 1970s. That change was dramatic. Jesse Jackson's career is illustra-tive of it. In 1967 Jackson played an instrumental role organizing the "Poor Peoples' March on Washington." A decade later he tried (unsuccessfully) to create a "Rainbow Coalition." The first was organized about a social category (one not the less effective for being simply imagined). The second was an unstable - ultimately impossible - alliance of ethnicities. By the early 1970s Blacks no longer appealed to humanity and to Martin Luther King's universal liberation. Instead, the preoccu-pation was identity, and the appeal was to "soul," to "roots," and, in Dick Gregory's words, to "nation time."
If it was dramatic, it was also in no small way ironic. For nationalism was an idea invented in Europe during the early 1800s, growing out of German Romanticism. As early as the 1830s its central ideas would be adopted by Russian nationalists, and by the later 19th century the "Russian Soul" (the Russkaya dusha) had become a key term in articulating the unique spiritual essence inherent in being a Russian. That the idea could be used for anti-European purposes in no way negated its European pedigree or its European character. Today it is a global idea used by an extraordinary range of peoples to construct an identity and to give meaning to their social reality. It posits the existence of a prior spiritual com-munion which defines a people and which "unfolds" in time but is in no way created by it. The appeal to the language of "soul" is therefore an old one.
Unfortunately, it brings with it a number of prob-lems. Not only does it emphatically deny the inescapably hybrid nature of all cultures - none of which can qualify as truly autonomous, as Paul Gilroy has most recently pointed out - but such phenomena as anti-Semitism frequently number among its features. In the American context this is particularly tragic, for, histori-cally, Black American thought has only been marginally anti-Semitic. If Black America inevitably became in-volved in the mainstream anti-Semitism of the late 19th and early 20th century which so penetrated European and American culture, the striking feature is how muted and tentative it was. On the contrary, Black attitudes have often proven philo-Semitic - because of Calvinism, because of preoccupation with the Old Testament, and because the history of Jewish slavery and the Jewish diaspora bore such obvious parallels to the Black experience. As even the most superficial surveys recognize, contemporary Black anti-Semitism is strik-ingly new and unprecedented in its intensity and virulence. It has arisen since the 1960s for precisely the same reasons as it has done so historically on the streets of Warsaw. In the end there is nothing more European than Africanization. But Africanization is not just European, it is not just misconceived, it is not just bogus, it is also profoundly reactionary. And it is profoundly dangerous.
Gilroy has claimed two things. First, the Black experience is far more important in creating the textures of contemporary British society than is commonly recog-nized - certainly more so than, say, the Hanoverians. Secondly, he insists that cultures can frequently inter-penetrate one another and need to be understood as "itinerate" and "syncretistic." "Absolute ethnicity" is inherently false - and destructive, deriving from nothing less than the vocabulary of contemporary racism. It is hardly surprising that Gilroy has massively distressed militant Africanizers in the United States such as Molefi Asante at Temple University.
But we can go further. Cultural identities like national identities are always constructed and are never "natural." The quest for authenticity, so urgent since the 1970s, is therefore at some fundamental level inherently illusory. The experience of the British agent, Arthur Ransome, with the peasants of Galicia at the outset of World War I offers insight into the fabrication of national identities.
The peasants working the land were unwilling to identify themselves as belonging to any of the Warring nations. Again and again, on asking a peasant to what nationality he belonged, Russian, Little Russian [Ukrainian], or Polish, I heard the reply, 'Orthodox. 'and when the men were pressed to say to what actual race he belonged I heard him answer safely: We are local.
Social identities could be constructed every bit as cogently as national ones. And often enough during the early 20th century they were. This circumstance proved a crucial element to Lenin's success: nationalist regimes required first German and then allied intervention in order to survive, for class identities could be created no less easily and (at that juncture) often turned out to be even more persuasive and powerful. The strident nationalism of the Baltic states, Ronald Suny has shown, is of very recent origin, long postdating the Bolshevik Revolution. Belarus, Turkmenia, and any number of other new "nations" have yet to concoct such ideological structures even now. Suny has had the temerity to suggest that the Soviet Union's affirmative action programs (dating back to the 1920s) actually featured in that country's destruction.
Nelson Mandela's unbending insistence that race and ethnicity are private and not public matters - his firm rejection of Pan-Africanism, his abiding loyalty to Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, and South African Communism, his apparent awareness of the manufacture of Zulu collective identity in the 1920s - are surely one index of the man's greatness. Historically in South Africa, "multi-culturalism" has simply been an euphemism for apartheid. But whether the ANC can continue to resist the impulse to ethnicity, now so effectively exploited by politicians like Chief Buthelezi, is another matter altogether.
In the end national and cultural identities need not even be self-invented. More than occasionally such identities successfully invent one another. Modern Ireland, as Brendhan Bradshaw has argued, finds its "roots" in 16th-century England: not as a response to the imposition of a hegemonic culture, but most immediately with its creation as a coherent, territorial state. The conclusions deriving from these perceptions may be unionist or, as with Bradshaw, emphatically anti-unionist, but, whatever the conclusion, it becomes exceedingly difficult to imagine the Irish past within the terms of romantic nationalism. My own researches have increas-ingly pressed - seemingly inexorably - to the conclu-sion that modern Zionism is ultimately a Christian construction. The Irish experience and perhaps also Zionism need only be taken as extreme examples of a more generalized phenomenon, for in every sense all cultures are hybrid, all cultures are inauthentic.
Afro-American "roots" too may turn out to be a recent fabrication. The Nigerian civil war of the late 1960s and the famine it induced generated great concern among many American groups, reaching Allard Lowenstein on the Left as well as William Buckley, Jr. on the Right. But the Biafran tragedy noticeably did not touch the American Black communities. Things changed rapidly in the next decade. One thinks of that extraordinary portrait of Huey Newton in the wicker chair (what young man of any race or class would not want to look like that!) though a Nigerian anthropologist once told me that the picture rather suggested Tarzan to him than the cultures of west Africa. Almost inevitably, the new decade witnessed the proliferation of programs in Black Studies, Ethnic Studies, Pan-African Studies - though these programs never devoted much time to the striking similarities between Pan-Africanism and such predecessors as Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism. Martin Luther King, probably the most powerful public speaker in post-war America, was quintessentially the voice of the 1960s. To find his "roots" - to locate the cultural foundations of his most famous statement, the "I Have a Dream" speech of 1963, with its extraordi-nary allusions to Daniel and to prophecy - one simply cannot look for putative African survivals. Listen to King and you will hear his voice in the English Revolution of the 1640s, in the language of the Levellers and the Diggers, in revolutionary, Anglophone Protestantism. There we will encounter vocabularies at once secular and religious, at once soteriological and political, at once redeeming and rebuilding, at once angry and yet uncom-promisingly universal. The 1960s worried vastly less about origins and ancestry than directions and goals. Then one's identity derived from one's mind, not one's blood, from one's actions, not one's birth.

Of course blood imageries were by no means a peculiarly Black concern, and the emergence of these racially-based notions of self must be seen as part of a much broader development. In the 1970s blood imag-eries rapidly became a general American obsession. To be sure, Americans had always attempted to minimize class tensions by appeals to blood and especially in hard times. Yet the claims of blood had almost always been moderated by larger political identities. Consider Tennessee Williams' character Stanley Kowalski. Kowalski wanted everyone to know that Poles (not Pollacks) came from Poland, but, whatever the case, he personally was 100 percent American. But by the late 1960s, if not earlier, ethnicity had become completely consuming: ethnicity and ethnicity alone made you real. Almost as essential as having a birthday or a social security number, it is fast becoming impossible to function in society without having (or inventing) an ethnicity.

Politicians constantly had to invoke their roots and tout their families in order to become plausible. John Brademas, Democratic whip in the House of Representa-tives and then President at NYU, rarely began a speech without invoking the memory of his Greek restaurateur father. A deputy from the Cortes, the Spanish Parlia-ment, once addressed the faculty at NYU. The Consulate General introduced him as a "Spanish congressman." The Spaniards were trying hard to present their speaker in a way immediately intelligible to Americans, but inevitably it didn't work. Their audience heard it and assumed he was an American congressman of Hispanic ancestry. Today, blood imagery is omnipresent and inescapable. You will fail to have an identity without it. It is almost impossible for people to meet without them soon tracing out their genealogy - an extraordinarily tribal practice if you think about it. Never before have Americans been more obsessed with working out their ancestral origins. Perhaps the impulse to blood reached its logical conclusion with the new Mormon practice of actually redeeming one's ancestors. A revival of medi-eval chantries may yet await us.
Now all of this ought to be profoundly troubling. It is, if nothing else, utterly incompatible with democracy:
1) Democracy is inherently an arithmetic process. As such, it is predicated upon sameness. It is a matter of one + one + one ..., and you simply cannot add apples and oranges. The more we stress qualitative differences between people, the more we talk blood, the more we seek out our so-called "heritages" which define and distinguish us from others, the more democratic principles inescapably become marginalized. The very assumptions of ethnicity preclude democracy.
For precisely the same reason, no true equality is possible in a multi-cultured world - at least as that term is now imagined - for there simply can never be equality among incommensurables.
2) Democracy is also predicated on the validity of public action. As we have seen, people had recourse to blood when public action ceased to be a plausible and persuasive source of identity. Blood supplants politics and thereby supplants democracy.
3) Similarly, democracy is predicated on the effec-tiveness of human will. As we have seen, blood has nothing to do with will. Quite the contrary, it posits inner searching, self-discovery, personal transcendence. No matter how big a disaster your life has been, no matter how little you have achieved, no matter how big a turkey you are, you still had to be born. And if you were born, you had to have parents, and if you had parents, then you had ancestors, and if you had ancestors, you must have "blood." There is something terribly impoverished about ethnicity; and there is something very passive as well. Simply being born will not make you someone.
4) Finally, blood is necessarily conservative. It is no accident that Richard Nixon found himself attracted to the Philadelphia Plan of race-based preferences in business hiring. It is no accident that reactionary univer-sity presidents almost always find themselves comfortable before the claims of ethnicity, and will almost always accommodate them because they are relatively cheap and do not mean very much. Such presidents - we need not look far to find them - recoil in horror before any serious and radical re-imagining of the role of the university within society.
The recourse to blood is, unfortunately, no superfi-cial or transient phenomenon, no momentary reaction against a decade of upheaval. Rather it is a major intellectual transformation which reaches as a common fabric from popular culture in the grocery store to the rarified epistemologies of de-construction and post-modernism.
If the politics of the 1960s - and indeed politics itself - no longer seemed persuasive, neither did its accompanying epistemologies. In Jacques Derrida's hands, structuralist universality transmuted into de-constructed particularity. In a world where all categories are sous rature (under erasure), where language is radically unstable and meaning can at best flicker across the page, where self-conflicted assertions - all equally true - inhere together, it is hard to imagine any kind of coherent ideology, and politics becomes impossible. We have truly rediscovered Daniel Bell's End of Ideology, now founded on a highly wrought epistemology. The result, as Terry Eagleton and Madan Sarup and others have pointed out, is critical passivity and detached contemplation. And as with all anti-political styles of thought, its implications are utterly conservative. The idea that de-construction is in any serious way subver-sive - as the Catholic critic Dennis Donoghue protested when he denounced Derrida as a "moral terrorist" - is simply preposterous. As president, Richard Nixon called for "a lowering of voices," and Derrida's contemporane-ous critique of "phonocentrism" literally enjoined just that.
With Michel Foucault radicalism became privatized into a critique of everyday life. His concern, he said, was with "immediate struggles," that is, "struggles which question the status of the individual." Enormously self-absorbed and in the end deeply anti historical, Foucault suggested that "the target nowadays is not to discover what we are but to refuse what we are." We needed to escape what he called the "double bind" of both totalization and individualization. Within these terms it is hard to imagine a person getting very much beyond anything other than radical self-involvement. The old slogan from the days of hope and politics - "The Personal is the Political" - had now become completely and grotesquely inverted. This personalizing process inevitably became furthered by a great many writers, Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari notably among them. Even more telling, student leaders like Steve Morrison at the University of Edinburgh still earlier had become persuaded that "personal relations" were the decisive element no less in political theory than in practice.
Like Derrida, Foucault was acutely conscious of the limits to what he called "regimes of rationality," and as a result the newly developing blood imageries became freighted with truly vast significance. The distance between people - now separated by their blood - deepened accordingly It wasn't simply a different style, but a different mind. "In my culture the square root of 144 is 15."
Derrida and Foucault, and others like them such as Jean-Francois Lyotard, had all begun from gauchiste and at least broadly Marxist perspectives. Foucault had been an editor of Liberation, long was prominent in such causes as penal reform and gay rights, and early on had been briefly a member of the French Communist Party. Lyotard began as a member of "Socialisme ou Barbarie." Marxism had informed their thinking at the outset, but when they were finished, there was no more Marx. Power grew out of Nietzschean metaphor, not politics, and led to "the care of the self," not to public life.
The burden of blood weighs heavily on us. Within the new epistemology we find ourselves constantly imposed upon, constantly injured by symbols and emblems, incessantly insulted. Unlike the 1960s where we thought we could be whatever we wanted to be, we now find ourselves constrained and suffocating within our newly-invented, inner essences. Blood epithets become powerful only when Blood is powerful. We will be insulted in this way only when this kind of thinking is itself important. The new release, "Pulp Fiction," an otherwise dreadful film, neatly illus-trates how even that nastiest of American racial epithets can only obtain in a racialized context. We will never ever escape "words that wound" so long as blood defines us. Quite the contrary our sensitivities will forever deepen, our outrage will forever grow. There simply exists no way out, given the stifling assumptions we have embraced so tightly.
But we are now verging on something still worse and far more dangerous. We have reached the point where someone else's inner essence seems virtually guaranteed to contradict our own. Someone else, simply by existing, confronts and denies our own inner selves. This situation is a hopeless one; in some contexts it promises to be a recipe for "ethnic cleansing" or even genocide.
Although terrorism, normally institutionalized by the state, had long featured in various parts of the 3rd world, it was virtually unknown in the post-war West. That changed rapidly with the decline of politics and the evaporation of hope. But even terrorism itself changed from the 1970s to the 1980s and 1990s. Not only did terrorist groups become more identified with specifically religious ideologies, their objectives as well ceased to be political and instead assumed an increasingly transcendent and spiritual character. Baader-Meinhof, the Weathermen, and the Red Brigades became supplanted by the holy warriors of fundamentalist Islam, revanchist Catholicism, and the JDL. Terrorists no longer sought the release of political prisoners, or the rescinding of a particular law, or some sort of land-redistribution. Now it was a punitive strike against the "infidel," against the "secularist," against the bearers of "false faith." Even the ostensibly secular American militias sought withdrawal rather than any identifiable reform, and if theirs proved the greatest terrorist act in American history, it served no larger purpose than memorializing the destruction of the Branch Davidian compound. Religion had replaced politics, and in such a world negotiation became all but impossible. It is hard to bargain with the spirit or compromise with salvation - or even have discourse when there exists no common purpose, no public community.
The story of the women's movement follows broadly the same pattern we have encountered. During the course of the 1970s it became increasingly de-politicized and introspective. It looked to emblems and metaphor; not to public policy. Social change waned before "the revolution within." It became obsessed with "psychic" injury which could be found almost everywhere, and promoted a shrill and fiercely censorious anti-eroticism.*
Now there is more than a little bitter irony in all this. For the women's movement not only turned its back on the 1960s, its agenda came to merge with the authoritar-ian right and, perhaps most surprisingly, with the opponents of reproductive rights. As is increasingly clear, the opponents of abortion are barely concerned at all with fetuses. Their central objective is the restoration of social control, specifically the control of women. The new feminism in the end seeks to do nothing less. For all the delicious satisfaction in discovering yourself a victim, for all the bullying power that potentially comes with it, for all the bitter resentment of men (seen as the opposing element within inherent, "essentialist" con-flict), the true target of control with the new feminism is less men than women. Martha Nussbaum and others have demolished the pathetic intellectual bases by which this sort of stuff is proposed. But they have done more than that: they have demonstrated its profoundly reactionary implications. In the most real of ways, we are recreating the 19th century. Newt Gingrich could not possibly have wanted more, and Nadine Strossen is surely correct to see the defense of "pornography" (however imagined) as integral to the defense of women's rights.
If we ask ourselves where was the first Equal Rights Amendment enacted, the answer may surprise us: it was in the first Soviet constitution of 1921. The late Russian Empire and the early Soviet Republic certainly had a vigorous women's movement. The role of women in early Soviet politics and in shaping the culture of the early republic has to have been unprecedented - and possibly it may even be unduplicated. The recent Guggenheim exhibition ("The Great Utopia, 1915-1932") made this strikingly evident. No previous art move-ments, no moment of such intensive creativity ever before had so fully engaged people of both genders. I can think of nothing comparable since. The key to this extraordinary achievement was its Marxist context. It derived not from any recognition of some crucial difference between men and women. But, quite the reverse, it derived from the Revolution's resolute insistence on the absence of difference, and on a fundamental sameness. It resulted from denying the saliency of gender. Plumbing simply was not that important.
It is no accident that the science fiction of mother-infant bonding arose during the 1970s, flourished into the earlier 1980s, and persists even today. In 1972 pediatricians wondered aloud if close physical contact between mothers and their off-spring during their first year wasn't necessary for enduring attachment in later life. After all, didn't mother goats (and perhaps other animals) often reject their progeny unless such a connec-tion was established at birth? The hypothesis was later shown to be utterly without foundation, but it seemed enormously cogent in its day, appealing well beyond the medical profession. Such gender-specific mystifications typify the period and speak directly to its preoccupations.
There is an unexpected parallel between develop-ments of this sort and the rise of ethnicity. A world concerned with inherent characteristics easily, almost inevitably, leads to concern for the biological basis of the self and, perhaps surprisingly, obsession with ethnicity gives rise to obsession with sociobiology. Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve is an incendiary book and almost certainly an unfortunate one, but it grows immediately out of a context where inherited traits, where the "givens" of life, where what we are rather than what we might be, have assumed controlling importance. It is no more than the other side of ethnicity. In the end William Shockley turned out to be one of ethnicity's gifts - and it is not at all fortuitous that his eugenic proposals surfaced in that year of transition, the year of Alex Haley, 1974. Our blood obsession has revitalized race as a category and led us to new racisms.
Blood very soon becomes a matter of the "spirit," for the linkages with others of (putatively) similar birth are seen as leading to a larger spiritual communion of uniquely shared values, perceptions, rationalities, modes of cognition. Consequently, blood imageries almost always generate what I call "Images of Personal Transcen-dence."
This phenomenon has played out in the most extraordinary ways at the popular level. For example, the obsession with inwardness in the 1970s led to the rapid rise of popular magic, especially astrology. Your sun sign came with your birth - you didn't need to do anything to get one - and it informs your inner nature, refining and articulating your blood. The new fascina-tion, it is important to notice, arose generally throughout the West during this decade, no less within the Soviet Union than within the United States.
The 1970s also witnessed new concerns about health, not public health, but health as a private spiritual quest. People sought to reintegrate themselves through "healthful" food and a more "healthful" life - in ways remarkably reminiscent of Galenic spiritual medicine in late antiquity. The rise of jogging needs to be seen as a part of this. Jogging - as "holistic running" - was initially less concerned with weight loss and aerobics than it was concerned to merge body and spirit. It too is a form of "safe" self-discovery.
An extraordinary transition in university teaching took place during the 1970s. Instead of writing analyti-cal essays, students were called upon to keep journals. Journals are, after all, nothing more than a species of private confession, exercises in self-discovery, an exploration of the "soul." It is hard to imagine this as scholarship. It is harder still to imagine how any instructor could legitimately grade such a writing. How can you tell a student that he or she has a C+ "soul?" Similarly, in a number of fields, sessions at academic conferences often assumed the character of therapy, rather than of scholarly inquiry. A female colleague recently told me that she had just attended a conference concerned with women's history where it turned out that no more than three or four sessions from more than 30 could in anyway be described as analytical and scholarly. The rest were simply jumped-up support groups.
The rapid rise of drug addiction in the 1970s resulted from many causes, but undoubtedly the Great Reaction played a crucial part in it. In the 1960s can-nabis and hashish were little more than anti-authoritarian emblems - possessing no more inherent connection with seriously addictive drugs than did alcohol, tobacco, or aspirin. But things changed when assumptions changed. In the 1970s it became far more plausible to tune in and drop out. Drugs were the route to the inner person, and in the 1970s there visibly remained nothing else.
Fascination with the de-politicizing aspects of Asian religions must surely be understood within this context. It is no accident at all that Indian socialists and commu-nists are so vehemently anti-guru. "Life is a bridge. You must cross it, but not build a house on it." It is also no accident at all that such thinking consistently manifests itself (in the West at least) as religions of withdrawal.
It is hardly news to notice that we are in the midst of a massive religious revival. The civil religions of the 1960s have been replaced by new fundamentalisms and new cults. Opus Dei (and canonization of Jose Maria Escriva, the fastest saint in the history of the Catholic Church), Our Lady of Fatima, Pat Robertson, Rabbi Schnerson all epitomize our times. So too does Jonestown which was a project quite explicitly abandon-ing politics for transcendent salvation. Each of these phenomena, however articulated, offers highly personalized forms of salvation which, like the blood imageries with which they are so typically allied, seek to transcend this world, that is, the public and political world.
The rise of apocalypticism during the 1970s in America, Europe, and the Soviet Union owes virtually nothing to the approach of the Christian year 2000 and almost everything to our cultural context. Could anything more profoundly devalue the political world than does the "Great Rapture?" Sightings of the Virgin Mary (not much unlike sightings of Elvis) work a similar effect. So too Jewish messianism offers a new heaven, a new earth - thereby dissolving social categories and supplanting political discourse.
It therefore might strike us as odd that the Age of Nietzsche should also be an age of highly traditionalist religious revival. Surely Nietzsche's best known remark is, "God is dead" - a statement used and abused in an extraordinary number of ways. Didn't he detest Chris-tianity and call himself an Antichrist? Doesn't post-Modernism insist (with so much of the 20th century) that all cognition is but linguistic manipulation?
The answer, surely, lies in our sad retreat from universal values and the politics they create. It is no accident that Nietzsche and revealed religion both rejected the universalist claims of the Enlightenment, or that Foucault rejected the universalist claims of the 1960s. Here we encounter the true source of our current dilemma. We need to recall that Marxism and liberalism are the two most notable children of the Enlightenment.
I suspect that the visceral detestation of the Welfare State we see everywhere today in fact owes little to welfare queens, or to the "undeserving" poor, or to any kind of fraud (Americans are always willing to forgive fraud, at least on a large enough scale). I suspect it owes little to its costs (not that much). I suspect it doesn't even owe a great deal to the fact that the welfare state was from the beginning (as in Sir William Beveridge's New Britain back in 1942) predicated on increasing productivity and short-term unemployment. Nor do I believe it owes a huge amount to American unhappiness about a 'culture of dependence" and its concomitant lack of moral rectitude. At the heart of the idea of welfare lies universal right, unencumbered by means testing or any sort of particularist charity. This, more than anything else, I'm persuaded, is what dis-tresses the current generation. Welfare, as public assistance, has always had an explicitly politicizing purpose: it enabled people to function as citizens, to participate in determining and pursuing the common good. In a post-political world, the welfare state has inherently lost its reason for being.
In much the same way, universal health care went down to ignominious defeat, not simply because of Clinton's gross ineptitude, nor even because of the millions spent by the insurance industry to discredit it, but because universal solutions sit so poorly with today's attitudes.
Schools can be found in virtually all places and at all times. They have always existed in the West. But public schools are largely an 18th-century invention. Their explicit purpose was not merely to impart information, but to instill a passion for the public good, to create citizens. The public schools very visibly went into dire decline throughout this period. This resulted less from urban poverty, or from illegal immigration, or from the need to educate students of radically diverse backgrounds - all of this had happened before. It was not even so much that people refused to pay taxes. Mean-spirited measures like Proposition 13, which seek to portray selfishness as virtue, are rather symptom than cause. The school system will not be funded for only one reason: its underlying purpose has lost its persua-siveness. The role of the public schools within society today has necessarily become distorted as a result. Public schools are fast becoming charities for the underclass, while all education, however funded, becomes effectively private and parochial.
The rush to privatization throughout the West is a manifestation of the same phenomenon. Private management is in no way more efficient nor more worthy than public management. It simply serves different purposes.
Privatization, parochialization, the decline of the universal and the political, are all declarations of our inability to deal with our social reality. It leads to a world of postures rather than of answers. Instead of solving social problems, we have settled for tokens, symbols, emblems.

And surely it is past time that we stopped doing so. Let us no longer try to privilege the underprivileged by cheap preferences and easy gestures. Any policy so conceived is inexpensive, certainly. But it can provide no real solution. And thus it is extremely expensive in the long run. Any enactment so conceived will simply mask inaction.

Furthermore - and of utterly central importance - to identify the underprivileged on the basis of any kind of blood imagery is at once reactionary and disas-trously divisive. It cannot lead to sustained reform. It cannot lead to serious change. It can only lead to catastrophe. It shatters class solidarity (per the Marxist). It promotes partial interests at the expense of the public interest (per the liberal). Most of all it fractures almost any sense of community, however imagined. There must be minimum standards for all the members of this society: a minimum standard of education and opportu-nity for all our people. We must insist upon universal right, not the cheap option of special preferences, of particularist privilege, of self-indulgent sensitivities. The "culture of dependence" derives not from the Welfare State. Irremediable dependence derives directly and inescapably from our crippling obsessions, from social definitions founded on blood. It is time and past time that we build again. It is time and past time that we have done with the burden of blood.
It is time and well past time that we join together and that collectively we set about solving our social problems and undertake a truly public agenda. Col-leagues and friends, it is time and past time that, once again, we become ... comrades.
* There of course exists no such thing as pornogra-phy. There is only successful eroticism and unsuccessful eroticism. "Pornography" is simply an erotic statement whose assumptions and images do not work for us and therefore causes us embarrassment and discomfort. Like a failed joke, it derives from premises unshared by its reader. Consequently, it ultimately can only be prosecuted as a malum in se - not altogether unlike witch-craft prosecutions in early modern Europe.
The early modern debate about the prosecution of witchcraft, and especially its alleged link to tangible harm, bears several striking parallels with today's efforts at the prosecution of "pornography." In both cases the issues almost always resolve themselves into a concern for bad thoughts. In both cases this kind of preoccupa-tion arises in moments of political failure, when hopes for institutional change are supplanted by introspection. In both cases the phenomenon tends to have a variously gender-specific character. And, perhaps surprisingly, the prosecution of both witchcraft and pornography carries deeply misogynic implications. But in the end witch-craft will turn out to be a concept more coherent, more rational, and more intellectually defensible than pornog-raphy. At least people in late medieval and early modern Europe had a fairly clear idea of what witchcraft was and what they meant when they accused someone of practicing it. The same cannot be said of pornography. While, four hundred years ago, anyone might be accused of witchcraft, its specificity provided at least some sort of limitation. In the current context we will all find ourselves to be pornographers, and it is not altogether surprising that Canada's anti-pornography law, which was modeled on the one written by Andrea Dworkin, has been used to censor a wide range of women writers (as well as two of Ms. Dworkin's own books).
The social implications of such prosecution are enormously repressive and authoritarian, and in the case of pornography no less for the alleged perpetrators than for the alleged victims. The victims of "pornography" become defined and shaped as non-erotic beings, a process far more decisively intrusive and manipulative than the simple discourse of naughty words and images. More important, by deflecting feminism's earlier political and institutional concern for universal right, the move-ment has become severely divided and, now for many people, also discredited. For it has become abundantly clear that there is nothing at all liberating with the new feminism.
COPYRIGHT Arthur Williamson, 1994
(A fully annotated version of this address is available at the CSUS library.)
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The Intitute