Thursday, 7 April 2011
REACTIONARY vs. PROGRESSIVE: political terminology
Alain de Benoist notes that by my definition of 'reactionary' all 'Green parties and movements' ought to be given that label, because common sense so dictates. Ok but only on the surface, for this position assumes that the 'Green movement' is homogeneous and lacks heterogeneity today and historically. History has demonstrated that from conservationists one hundred years ago to today's disparate 'greens', the ideological and political spectrum of the 'Green movement' ranges from extreme right (fascist) to anarchist or socialist left, to religious mystical.
Is the Green movement 'reactionary'? In some cases yes, in others progressive, etc. For example, Richard Nixon and Bob McNamara when he became World Bank president did a great deal institutionally to raise awareness and pursue what we would now call environmental policies. Nixon was conservative and McNamara went from right to center in his lifetime. Today there are banks marketing what they call 'green loans'. Is that conservative or progressive? In my view, the 'Green movement' has been thoroughly co-opted by the institutional mainstream, but then it really was never far from it going back to Theodore Roosevelt who was a Republican but a conservationist.
On Alain's point about change devoid of intrinsic value, that was not my point. I was observing that society is in a constant state of flux and the privileged forces constituting a small minority endeavor to keep it static, thus preventing progress to reflect change that would distract from the status quo. As far as the assumption that progress is rooted in the Age of Reason and the linear (even better, Hegelian) view of history, let me emphasize that the Western World today, if not much of the world, is still living the legacy of the Enlightenment, which was the last intellectual revolution, for better of worse given how one sees the Age of Romanticism that followed.
Does this mean that we must accept Enlightenment assumptions of progress and the Hegelian view of history? Of course not because we do not live in the 18th century. I would hope Alain would agree that is not where I was aiming in analyzing the nuances of the term 'reactionary'. Where we encounter the clash between 'reactionary' and 'progressive' forces is in the dialectic between the privileged status quo and the unfolding dynamic forces of change emerging to remind us that the world is moving while institutions, ideologies and value systems remain stagnant. Finally, the idea of progress unless specifically defined means different things to different people.
'Progress' for the Tea Party is slashing entitlement programs, something that represents disaster for many people. Alain correctly notes that the nebulous concept of progress inculcates illusions in the mind, just as the conviction that 'the good old days' were better than the present. Again, I thought my focus was very specific when I was addressing the Libyan case and how the 'crusading trio' (US, UK and France) in their goals are reactionary although they are aiding rebels that one would naturally assume are on the side of 'progress' - moving society forward to meet the peoples' current needs not backward to a form of authoritarianism.