Saturday, October 5, 2002

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INSTAPUNDIT GETS RESULTS!: Thanks to Glenn, I've been deluged with responses to my question of why the far left is considered more intellectually respectable than the far right:

Reader Thomas J. suggests two additional explanations: First, "Nazis were more 'open' with their intentions - be it 'Endlosung' or 'Lebensraum'. On the other hand, commies - starting from Comrade Uljanov - were always more aware of PR." Second, "You had to be Aryan to be Nazi... on the other hand commies were more open - no racial pre-requisites required." This second explanation is certainly consistent with Brad DeLong's original hypothesis. [I thought you said DeLong was a Socialist --ed. I meant to suggest that Brad's vision of utopia was socialist. I think the was I phrased it in the original post was too strong]. Another anonymous professor chimes in with a similar explanation: "What made fascism somewhat unattractive in the US was its EXPLICIT hierarchical nature--that some people and some countries are naturally meant to rule. Like Communism, fascism was collectivist to its core, but its utopian collective was not egalitarian but based on dominance and subservience."

Reader George B. suggests that "hatred of the rich and resentment and envy of successful business and commercial people by intellectuals provides the main
explanation of more sympathetic treatment of the Communists.... It is unthinkable within the intelligencia that most Capitalists are highly competent sophisticated people who have gained their stations by merit and are far more talented than most intellectuals.... Capitalists are also generally a lot more fun than college professors in my experience." Well.... maybe. [You're not going to make a snarky comment about Enron, WorldCom, etc.?--ed. No, George is correct when he uses the word "most."] In the past, there have been intellectuals who were also good businessmen (Keynes comes to mind). And this certainly doesn't apply to the present day; intellectuals have become much more comfortable with the material life. The best (and most hilarious) description of this phenomenon is the chapter on "intellectual life" in David Brooks' BoBos in Paradise. This chapter is a must-read for any aspiring intellectual. [What about capitalists being more fun than college profs?--ed. My idea of fun is reading Nicholas Dawidoff's The Fly Swatter, whereas most capitalists' idea of fun involve attractive people combined with expensive food and drink, so I think I'll concede the point.]

For those interested in the general relationship between intellectuals and power, I can think of no better starting point than Mark Lilla's essay "The Lure of Syracuse." It's a chapter in his collection of essays, "The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics."

BLOGGER RESPONSES: Parapundit offers up Robert Nozick's explanation for why intellectuals dislike the capitalist system. It's a compelling argument but a bit off point, since the question is about intellectuals' treatment of fascism vs. communism, not capitalism. And Nozick himself notes in the essay, "This opposition to capitalism is mainly "from the left" but not solely so. Yeats, Eliot, and Pound opposed market society from the right." And as I argued above, I think the intellectual opposition to capitalism is fading over time. Part of this may be because as capitalism has evolved, there is a greater emphasis on human (or intellectual) capital rather than physical capital. Robert Reich has also made this argument with regard to "symbolic analysts." [You're agreeing with Reich?--ed. Well, I'm agreeing with this version of Reich. It would actually be impossible to assemble Reich's collected works and divine a coherent rationale-- except self-aggrandizement.]

Both Alan K. Henderson and John Jay Ray argue that fascism has been misunderstood and is a product of the left, not the right. It is true that fascism was a collective ideology, and it's also true that some prominent fascists (Mussolini) started out as communists. This is a pretty weak argument, however. Inasmuch as ideologies can be placed along a single left-right continuum, fascism belongs on the far right.

posted by Dan on 10.05.02 at 10:26 AM