Monday, May 11, 2009

Grenoble Talk

You can read the text of the talk I gave in Grenoble here. Be forewarned: it's about US politics, not French politics, although the underlying theme has some validity in both countries.


Anonymous said...

thank you for having that posted - from one who couldn't be there in Grenoble.

just a few point/questions since the paper got me thinking. I understand that many of your points couldn't be qualified due to space & time constraints since at conferences, you gotta be quick and to the point.

perhaps I read too much (or simply incorrectly), but your paper seems to reduce the US voting public into the categories that compose the two parties. As if voters are either/or Republican or Democrat, for indeed centrists, independents make up, what? 30% of votes?
Also, the vast majority float between degrees of conservatism & liberalism (though nothing you said implied the contrary to this remark).

I'm still chewing on the importance accorded to resentment both structurally in the rulers/ruled configuration and at the personal decision-making level; ie. that resentment is motivating force behind votes.

When considering that the majority of voters rejected a certain sort of liberalism beginning in 1980, and that this was followed up the "synthèse" of the New Democrats like Clinton in the 1990s, I don't think resentment can be accorded too much of role in such a change.
Just as well, in thinking about the recent rejection of a certain kind of free-market liberalism which has perhaps heralded in a new Keynesian-inspired era of economics, I hesitate laying any emphasis on resentment pointed at a cultural/economic elite. Indeed, the Palin populist ploy actually turned off many potential GOP voter and served only to maintain those who would've voted GOP with or without Palin & Joe the Plummer resentment.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, Thanks for your very pertinent criticisms. Your points are well taken, and of course a full analysis would be much more nuanced than the quick read I gave. The electoral sociology of the parties is, as you rightly indicate, more complex than I suggest. Still, I believe that resentment of cultural elitism was a fundamental factor in the loss by the Democrats of a portion of the blue-collar and lower middle class vote. To be sure, other factors, such as latent racism, could also be invoked. But to invoke racism is to make the political content of the resentment entirely negative. My argument is that the protest vote against a privileged cultural elite represents a genuine critique of the American social model: it has become more closed than it used to be, shutting off the hope of upward mobility through education. Many in the lower portion of the social scale believe, correctly, that the chance of seeing their children occupy a higher run on the ladder is small, and smaller than it used to be. As someone who heard my lecture pointed out to me, what I'm really saying is, in a way, that it is odd that the left-wing party in America is dominated by the "educated working rich"--les boursiers et les banquiers, as I put it. Of course to vote Republican in protest of this fact is a misdiagnosis, but the perception behind the protest vote is not inaccurate.