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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.

Journalist Chris Hedges: "Death of the Liberal Class"

by: Matthew Koehler

Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 09:20:28 AM MST


I woke up this morning at 4:30 am intent on biking up NoName Creek in search of elk and deer. Instead, a light rain and sore body from the previous day's hunt provided the all too convenient excuse to just roll over and sleep in a little bit.  Of course now, even in the Missoula Valley, the light rain has turned to a fairly steady snow, so I find myself cursing my pre-dawn lack of motivation.

So, instead of possibly filling my freezer this morning, I circled back and listened to an excellent interview with journalist Chris Hedges on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

Hedges has a new book out titled Death of the Liberal Class and in it he takes the contemporary "liberal establishment" to task for failing the American public by being too timid providing checks and balances to corporate power.

Seems like Hedges brings up many issues that we've debated here at LiTW, so give the interview a listen and share your thoughts.

Excerpt from Death Of The Liberal Class by Chris Hedges:

In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue. It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements, making the liberal class a useful component within the power elite.

But the assault by the corporate state on the democratic state has claimed the liberal class as one of its victims. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And reducing the liberal class to courtiers or mandarins, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, shuts off this safety valve and forces discontent to find other outlets that often end in violence. The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.

The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch. Churches and universities - in elite schools such as Princeton, professors can earn $180,000 a year - enjoy tax-exempt status as long as they refrain from overt political critiques. Labor leaders make lavish salaries and are considered junior partners within corporate capitalism as long as they do not speak in the language of class struggle. Politicians, like generals, are loyal to the demands of the corporate state in power and retire to become millionaires as lobbyists or corporate managers. Artists who use their talents to foster the myths and illusions that bombard our society live comfortably in the Hollywood Hills.

The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions - the pillars of the liberal class - have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principle focus of journalism.

In the name of tolerance - a word the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., never used - the liberal church and the synagogue refuse to denounce Christian heretics who acculturate the Christian religion with the worst aspects of consumerism, nationalism, greed, imperial hubris, violence, and  bigotry. These institutions accept globalization and unfettered capitalism as natural law. Liberal religious institutions, which should concern themselves with justice, embrace a cloying personal piety expressed in a how-is-it-with-me kind of spirituality and small, self-righteous acts of publicly conspicuous charity. Years spent in seminary or rabbinical schools, years devoted to the study of ethics, justice, and morality, prove useless when it comes time to stand up to corporate forces that usurp religious and moral language for financial and political gain.

Universities no longer train students to think critically, to examine and critique systems of power and cultural and political assumptions, to ask the broad questions of meaning and morality once sustained by the humanities. These institutions have transformed themselves into vocational schools. They have become breeding grounds for systems managers trained to serve the corporate state. In a Faustian bargain with corporate power, many of these universities have swelled their endowments and the budgets of many of their departments with billions in corporate and government dollars. College presidents, paid enormous salaries as if they were the heads of corporations, are judged almost solely on their ability to raise money. In return, these universities, like the media and religious institutions, not only remain silent about corporate power but also condemn as "political" all within their walls who question corporate malfeasance and the excesses of unfettered capitalism.

Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class struggle and filled with members who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated negotiators with the capitalist class. Cars rolling off the Ford plants in Michigan were said to be made by UAW Ford. But where unions still exist, they have been reduced to simple bartering tools, if that. The social demands of unions in the early twentieth century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour workday, and Social Security, have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and have no new ideas. The arts, just as hungry as the media or the academy for corporate money and sponsorship, refuse to address the social and economic disparities that create suffering for tens of millions of citizens.

Commercial artists peddle the mythical narrative, one propagated by corporations, self-help gurus, Oprah and the Christian Right, that if we dig deep enough within ourselves, focus on happiness, find our inner strength, or believe in miracles, we can have everything we desire.

Such magical thinking, a staple of the entertainment industry, blinds citizens to corporate structures that have made it impossible for families to lift themselves out of poverty or live with dignity. But perhaps the worst offender within the liberal class is the Democratic Party.

The party consciously sold out the working class for corporate money. Bill Clinton, who argued that labor had nowhere else to go, in 1994 passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which betrayed the working class. He went on to destroy welfare and in 1999 ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks to turn the banking system over to speculators. Barack Obama, who raised more than $600 million to run for president, most of it from corporations, has served corporate interests as assiduously as his party. He has continued the looting of the U.S. Treasury by corporations, refused to help the millions of Americans who have lost their homes because of bank repossessions or foreclosures, and has failed to address the misery of our permanent class of unemployed.

Populations will endure the repression of tyrants, as long as these rulers continue to manage and wield power effectively. But human history has demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet insist on retaining the trappings and privileges of power, their subject populations will brutally discard them.
Such a fate awaits the liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state. The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power.

And as corporate power pollutes and poisons the ecosystem and propels us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded. The death of the liberal class means there is no check to a corporate apparatus designed to enrich a tiny elite and plunder the nation. An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and middle classes will find expression outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy.

Matthew Koehler :: Journalist Chris Hedges: "Death of the Liberal Class"
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Good luck Matt (0.00 / 0)
in being a regular writer here and in pursuing the animals.  I have been fortunate and have taken mine.

As to "Death Of The Liberal Class,"  such negativity and anguish is silly.  History shows a push-me-pull-you back and forth.  Any one point in time does not a future make.  The hand wringing about co-option of the liberal class can also be said about the conservative class.  I have seen and experienced both. The world's financial situation is very fragile and not getting better. It may take 10 years, but something is going to happen.

Until then, happy hunting.  


A point-in-time snapshot (0.00 / 0)
a trend does not make. However, Hedges is just one of many authors tracking the slow but steady movement of corporatism in America--a trend that started picking up steam back in the Carter era. And the movement of politicians to embrace it, now and in the future.

You speak about a "point in time" yet talk about 10 years needed for the world's financial system to get better. Unfortunately, what he have seen is a major upheaval, and the global economic situation will not return to the comforts of the 90s.

Where it will find new equilibrium is anybody's guess, but one thing will be for certain--and Hedges and others point it out--those in control of world economic structures are not the people and the government institutions they trust. It is the corporations, and the wealthy oligarchy who have invested in corrupt politicians who will rule the 21st century.


[ Parent ]
Hey Matty, congrats on the promotion! (0.00 / 0)
Except, I haven't had my coffee this morning, and you're making me think. Actually, you're telling me to read Hedges and think about what he has to say. Which is really a sucky thing to do on such a beautiful sunday morn before coffee.

I'm stoking the stove up here in the Jocko, and watching the snow sift through the fog on the farm. Thinking about chopping some more wood. Did I mention I moved back up this summer? Looking pretty good, after spending the summer/fall chasing the weeds, watering/mowing/tilling and making umpteen dump runs cleaning up from tenants past and their ability to stow their castoffs in strange places (ring any bells...???).

Back to Hedges and your new-found soapbox, I'd like to hear what you have to say about Hedges. He talks in this excerpt about class struggle, but what I'm reading elsewhere is all about class warfare, and that the warfare is being fought from the top down by the plutocrats running our world economy and political institutions. And as long as the peons and serfs are struggling, they can't really focus on the real source of their problems--the politicians and "social welfare" nonprofit corporations (like American Crossroads) competing for their money and attention. And they are easily manipulated into thinking that the source of their problems is other than what it really is. The illusion. The illusion that the media perpetuates because it can no longer be trusted to be an independent and critical journalistic viewpoint.

And of course, a one sided class war is recipe for enslavement. This is where the t-party in America has it all wrong. They think that government is the problem, and it is only to the degree that it doesn't protect people from the corrupting influence of money and economic power on our politics and policy. And by whittling down the size and scope of government we open ourselves to greater abuse and control by the plutocrats and oligarchs who have infiltrated our social structure,  all the way down to main street for instance,  by co-opting (read "donating" to) the once community friendly Chamber of Commerce.

So how about a little less grey copy-and-paste, and a little more white space thought and analyses? I'd love to hear you start speaking (writing) what's really on your mind, because, well, I know there's a lot churning around in there!  ;-)


the two party system is merely a distraction to keep us busy fighting each other.... (0.00 / 0)
while the corporate world and it's largest international investors slowly but surely tighten the shackles without opposition. a recession is perfect for the real economic emperors . it renders unions powerless and people are driven toward slavery if they want to survive.

neither republican nor democrat will be spared. only those who hold the majority stock certificates and bars of gold will prosper.

the future revolt may well lie in tiny strongholds of self sufficient people who have the wherewithal to survive independent of corporate resources and political ideology. eventually it is dawning on people that political party struggles and ideology are useless against economic power.

before anyone thinks i have gone off the deep end here, i don't intend at my age to become a survivalist. i just see that political arguments are now useless. where once, the democratic party represented at least token resistance to the subsumation of this nation to corporatism and wealth, the events of the past 30 years show that both parties are now subservient to the economic paradigm of borderless greed


Long blogpost is long (0.00 / 0)
Can you bold the interesting parts?!  kthxbye.

Like this? (0.00 / 0)
"Can you bold the interesting parts?!  kthxbye."


[ Parent ]
Thank you... (0.00 / 0)
Craig, for the well-wishes with writing and hunting.

htc, for adding some important context and info about the issues Chris Hedges' had with publishing this book.

Rusty, for sharing your comment about the length of the blogpost. I'll see what I can do to shorten them up or highlight them in the future. In this case, the majority of the text was an excerpt from a Hedges' book.

JC, for bringing back some fond memories of the four years Chops and I spent living in your cabin. Also, thanks for the peer pressure and encouragement to cut-n-paste a little less and share my opinions more, although I'm under no real illusion that my opinions matter too much in the greater scheme of things. In this specific case, I'm not sure I could say it any better than what you and P-bear have laid down here. In my experience, working on mainly environmental issues, I certainly have witnessed my fair share of what Hedges' describes within our movement.  


Opinions? (0.00 / 0)
Everybody has an opinion. They're a dime a dozen.  I look for well thought out commentary, of which I have no doubt you are eminently capable! And whether or not they matter? If thinking out a problem and conversing about it coherently only helps you in your day-by-life, then of course it matters! And if a few other people can follow along, then that is icing on the cake. We don't blog to save the world, or sway the masses to our way of thinking. We do it because it keeps us sharp and involved with the issues, and we learn about how those that think differently than us deal with, and communicate about, issues.

And at the root of our environmental issues rests on economic and ideological underpinnings. The intertwining of environmental and social justice issues is going to continue to be the crux of the problem in the next generation, as our country and world markets figure out how to recovery from the Great Recession. And one of the first things that will be jettisoned is going to be environmental concerns--which inevitably impact those in the lower classes to a far greater degree, creating great social unrest and upheaval.

Just as the corporatist battle--against the role of government to protect people from the abuses of corporations and the plutocracy--is waged by convincing segments of our populace to work against their own economic interests, so it will be waged against the environment by convincing people to work against their own environmental self interest. We have been, and will continue to be, presented with false choices about the sacrifices we have to make to preserve a nation where plutocrats rule. It is what has come to define politics in the 21st century so far.


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