Douglas Massey: Return of the "L" Word

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Massey, Douglas. Return of the "L" Word: A Liberal Vision for the New Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005)

Massey, a professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton, combines a defense of capitalism with an explication of liberalism, without the contradiction that some would anticipate. Indeed, Massey declares that "liberal capitalism guided by representative democracy [is] the only viable and humane option." (p. 108) He has written, not the sequel to Barash's book The L Word that one might expect based on its title, but rather" a coherent liberal alternative to the reigning conservative ideology." (p. 35)

He tells liberals to "expose the radical conservative position for what it is:" attempt to dismantle the social achievements of the New Deal and Great Society, roll back the tide of civil rights, erase the wall between fundamentalist Christianity and the state, and ultimately to impose on Americans a restrictive morality that controls their sexual behavior and family formation by institutionalizing gross invasions of privacy and new constraints on civil liberties. (p. 9)

and derisively eviscerates their neo-Confederate wing:

...beginning in the 1980s the United States began to experience a neo-confederate revival that not only restored the older Confederate organizations to new respectability but also led to the formation of brand new organizations that cultivated a membership and political agenda outside the South. The Council of Conservative Citizens, for example, was organized in 1985 as the "true voice of the American right" (the initials CCC being a softer way of writing KKK). (p. 138)

This sentiment, however, clashes with his earlier statement that:

The time has come for liberals to stop dismissing conservative opponents as benighted ignoramuses on the verge of consignment to the dustbin of history and to appreciate them for the principled, driven, and effective organizational actors that they are. Underestimating one's opponents can lead only to defeat. (p. 9)

I agree with Massey here, but with the caveat that one can dismiss opponents' principles without dismissing the opponents themselves. I strive to do the former, but realize--especially in retrospect--that I sometimes fall prey to doing the latter.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on December 16, 2007 9:45 PM.

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