Millennial Columnist Says It's Time to Give Socialism a Try
The Marxist lie, a toxic combination of juvenile idealism, indolent greed, and an inspiriting sense of social justice, just won't quit. Alas, the young and the gullible remain the hardest hit. Take Washington Post opinion page columnist Elizabeth Bruenig, for example:
In the United States, we’ve arrived at a pair of mutually exclusive convictions: that liberal, capitalist democracies are guaranteed by their nature to succeed and that in our Trumpist moment they seem to be failing in deeply unsettling ways. For liberals — and by this I mean inheritors of the long liberal tradition, not specifically those who might also be called progressives — efforts to square these two notions have typically combined expressions of high anxiety with reassurances that, if we only have the right attitude, everything will set itself aright.
Hanging on and hoping for the best is certainly one approach to rescuing the best of liberalism from its discontents, but my answer is admittedly more ambitious: It’s time to give socialism a try... I don’t think business-as-usual but better is enough to fix what’s broken here. I think the problem lies at the root of the thing, with capitalism itself.
What, one might well ask, does this highly credentialed 2013 graduate (with honors!) of Brandeis University know about socialism? Who cares!
Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.
That capitalism is inimical to the best of liberalism isn’t a new concern: It’s a long-standing critique, present in early socialist thought. That both capitalism and liberal governance have changed since those days without displacing the criticism suggests that it’s true in a foundational way.
Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.
All well and good, if structural-Marxist cant is the only language you can speak. But the problem is not the future but the past: socialism/communism cannot work except at the point of a gun, which is the very definition of totalitarianism. Further, there is no way to "decommodify" a commodity, whether it be capital or labor.
More: "inequality" is the proper concern of a religious moral system, not of an economic one. And, finally, if Ms. Bruenig thinks that capitalism has a "stranglehold" over our politics and culture, she must have slept through the Bernie Sanders campaign and just about every social-justice novel, academic paper, and Hollywood movie of the past twenty years.