Friday, November 11, 2011

The different world of the left

We were out socially last night and talking to some academics. They were talking about affect theory, Hart and Negri's Empire, Althusser, the Frankfurt School. It is such a different intellectual world. It is almost a little sad how people can have such different mental landscapes without more cross-fertilization.

But that is part of the more general problem. I think there are few things in the culture or the social sciences that are genuinely completely new. There is always likely to be a sub-industry of people who work on it, and an intellectual lineage that stretches back, sometimes tenuously, for generations or centuries or millenia.

So just as in technology, much progress comes from recombination and synthesis. People talk of interdisciplinary communication all the time. But it is difficult.

Besides critical theory, the academics were also saying the tax rates aren't fair. And in particulars or details I agree with that (although tax simplification is much more important, and focusing on just high marginal rates is crazy).

. But it is again such a deep-rooted idea, that taxes should go higher to support more public services, which is mostly unexamined. People really aren't exposed to the arguments of the other side, or even some of the details.

I don't think people think through public issues, so much as say what their friends or social circles think. Indeed, I think the political science studies of voting behavior say as much.

It reminds me of the famous quote by Pauline Kael, who was a critic at The New Yorker when Nixon won the election and active in Upper West Side circles. She was dumbfounded. How could that possibly be, she asked. No one I knew voted for him.

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