Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lefty Lit

I was talking to a customer in my store some time ago and she made it abundantly clear that she was quite proudly liberal. We had an enjoyable conversation- it is possible by the way. I can't remember how the conversation went exactly, but I remember asking her what book or which intellectual most succinctly articulated the liberal political philosophy. Her answer and I am not making this up: Al Franken. I almost lost my drink through my nose. Now I am offering an opportunity for anon, CTW, Concrete Katie, Pete or anyone else primarily on the left to provide for me the book (a book is preferable to a person who may have written numerous books) that best explains your way of thinking. I just may read it if I haven't already. I thank you in advance for your suggestions.


aniels said...

Why don't you start with Immanuel Kant..

concrete katie said...

Stop jogging (maybe it rattles the brain Denis!), go off where it is very quiet, get under a blanket and read John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent without any interruptions.

pariah jeep said...

Yes, stop jogging. What a dumbass you are Denis! Eat and drink all you want, become morbidly obese and diabetic, and the wonderful federal healthcare system will reward you. Maybe you can get a big fat check every month for sitting on your ass reading once you become handicapped and unable to work! Then you can sit around dreaming of new ways to take others money, and reading about wealth redistribution. By the way,
I have seen John Steinbeck's house. Your house should be so humble!

* Disclaimer: This message was meant to be sarcasm. I apologize if it ofended anyone. Wait, I'll take the Clinton apology a step further - I apologize if you were unable to understand and misinterpreted anything I said.

Denis Navratil said...

aniels and ck, thank you for your suggestions.

I just read the Wikipedia summary of Kant's philosophy and my head is spinning. I don't mean to dismiss the importance of Kant or his relevance to modern liberalism, rather, I am not sure I am intellectually capable of fully comprehending Kant and grasping the significance that his philosophy has on modern liberalism. Are you able to offer a brief explanation of Kants relevance to modern liberalism? I may yet take a shot at reading Kant but the thought of plowing through 800 pages of Kants Critique of Pure Reason is a bit daunting. Is there a Kant For Idiots?

CK, now Steinbeck I can handle. But fiction, c'mon. I was kind of hoping for some book that describes and defends the lib philosophy. But perhaps I will get around to it nonetheless. Thanks for your suggestion.

concrete katie said...

Pariah, Tell me about John Steinbeck's house? Can you paint a picture in words? His books tell me about the heart of man and the heart of darkness, not about how he lived personally

So how did he live? Did he live in a mansion or did he live in a cast aside boiler? What is the lowdown?

pariah jeep said...

Katie - I checked, and "his" house was actually his boyhood home. However, it was big and beautiful. I'm not sure what his houses looked like later on but I suspect that they were much nicer than the people he wrote about. My point is that he did rather well for himself while writing about the machinations of a corrupt government/police force and men who tried to survive the times.

I agree about his darkness, but there was always hope. I stil like the line "the government cares a lot more about a dead man than a live one" from the Grapes of Wrath. The problem is that I see the tyrany of the state he described as a new form of tyrany, one exploited by those with social agendas. How to care about men - and "show" that you care - without being exploited by the government . . .

aniels said...

Denis, I think I understand what you mean with regard to the breadth of Kant, try it in German...just kidding. While I don't think I can do much justice to the discussion here, I will make a few further suggestions that may be a bit lighter. Kant influenced what you may call "both sides" (though i hate to discuss political philosophy on a polarized basis--what passes for a right-left debate, facade, parlor games in popular politics is not really my concern)
A good place to jump in may be with John Rawls "Theory of Social Justice" and to balance that (with something i think you may find more appealing) read Robert Nozick "Anarchy State and Utopia."

I suppose you could just google political philosophy syllabi and search through them then you'd lose the human element we have here.

Ok, I have been digging around for some notes here and I found something on a panel i attended with this guy Peter Beinart who wrote a book about 'liberal hawks' check him out, better yet cut to the chase of his book and look at the bibliography. One important person there is Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Two others you may want to compare and come to your own conclusions on are Reinhold Niebuhr and James Burnham.

I hope some of this may be of interest to the group. Funny, I just stumbled upon this page as my father was telling me about a new "paper" in Racine; I found your link. I dont really blog much, we'll see. I know this has been more name dropping than thought but that was your request. I hope you find something here to think about. -A

Caledonia Unplugged said...

OK - not a lefty here, but wanted to weigh in on Steinbeck's house in Salinas. Humble...I WISH my house was that humble. It's a fairly large, gorgeous, Queen Anne Victorian very reminiscent of the homes you see today in Racine's historic district. The large, pink Victorian (used to be a bed and breakfast) on College Avenue between 15th and 16th comes to mind.

We had lunch there some time ago and as I recall, the home was cut up into the smaller rooms typical of the mid to late 19th century victorians, with a number of small dining rooms to accommodate visitors.

Well worth visiting if you ever find yourself in central California.

concrete katie said...

Ethan the protagonist in Winter of Our Discontent is like Hamlet, cerebral. While Ethan has been incredibly fortunate in love and has two pubescent children, he is stuck in a clerk postion at the local grocery, a store and business his family lost. Ethan is cerebral.

This is a book by a 60 something year old Steinbeck examining the material world that values first and foremost the dollar and it examines change brought on by progress and the sacrifice, the human sacrifice.

How captialism shapes the world and unleashes demons in escalating journeys into darkness.

Ethan. Mary. The two children. Danny. The female predator. The examination of a monetary currency pre global world that was already darkening the landscape.

Inside a book.

eric said...

Denis, I think T.H. Green is your man if you're looking for the fellow who is credited with articulating the welfare liberalism that many in the USA have adopted. Green forms a dividing line of sorts.

Prior to Green much of liberalism was libertarian belief and liberal counters to authoritarian governments and mandated class systems. These are the liberal beliefs that most present day conservatives wish to "conserve". Green stops short of advocating government ownership (socialism) of all essential industries, but he saw an active role for government in education, healthcare, housing, workplace regulations - government was to guarantee all citizens could exercise their freedom of equal opportunity.

concrete katie said...


pariah jeep said...

Katie - that's one of my favorite movies! I even got to see it at the Music Box in Chicago on New Year's Day, 2000 - with an organist playing the score.

Do you like Ambrose Bierce too by any chance?

concrete katie said...

The Music Box! One of my old neighborhoods...back in the days when Southport was desolate like downtown Sixth Street during the day! Edward Hopper would have painted a great painting had he visited the Music Box! One of the two guys who renovated the Music Box used to be the organ player and would wear this swell white suit and like Fred Hermes would just appear!! I wish Racine would bring back one of its great old theatres instead of breaking out the wrecking ball!

I don't know much about Ambroise Bierce. Was he one of the ones that hung out with Dorothy Parker, Max Perkins, Thomas Wolfe in that bar in that hotel? Will look him up at the Library. Thanks pariah!

Denis Navratil said...

Thank you Aniels for your suggestions. Now if you could only find me some time. As a history major in college, I read a fair bit of Schlesinger. Some of the others you mentioned are unfamiliar to me so I will check them out when I get the time. Thanks.

You wrote "though i hate to discuss political philosophy on a polarized basis--what passes for a right-left debate, facade, parlor games in popular politics is not really my concern" and this intrigued me. Though some may not believe me, I feel the same way. I would love for you to help elevate the level of discussion here. I hope I can keep you interested.

And thank you as well Eric, I had never heard of T. H. Green.

CK and pj, I used to live on Southport 15 years ago. I went to the Music Box alot. I love that theatre. But some new condos there would be pretty sweet as well. Kidding.

Anonymous said...

Books and literature...

Howard Zinn recommended to me these publications:

Dear sir:
A few suggestions:

THE NATION, 33 Irving Pl. New York, NY 10003

Z MAGAZINE,18 Millfield St. Woods Hole, MA 02543

PEACEWORK, 2161 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140

DOLLARS AND SENSE, One Summer St. Somerville, MA 02143
LEFT BUSINESS OBSERVER, 250 W. 85 St., New York, NY 10024

NACLA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS, 475 Riverside Dr. Suite 454, New York,
NY 10115

PRISON LEGAL NEWS, 400 NW 80TH sT. #148, Seattle, WA 98117

EXTRA! (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) 130 W. 25 St. 8 Fl. New
York,NY 10001

MIDDLE EAST REPORT, 1500 Massachusetts Ave. Suite 119, Washington,
DC 20009

Howard Zinn

Anonymous said...

Amongst many, I would add:

"Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers"
by: Robert L. Heilbroner

"Adam Smith's Mistake: How a Moral Philosopher Invented Economics and Ended Morality"
by Kenneth Lux

Kenneth Lux, the coauthor of Humanistic Economics (Boostrap Pr., 1988) asserts that, by enshrining self-interest as the core of economics, Smith mistakenly detoured the discipline into a moral dead end. He points to the abuses of the Industrial Revolution in England and the rise of the socially irresponsible "robber barons" in the United States as examples of the ethical void at the heart of the laissez-faire philosophy. After examining Smith and his critics, Lux attempts to demonstrate the benefits of benevolence in economic relationships. Confined primarily to pre-20th century examples and authors, the volume is somewhat limited in scope and selective in interpretation. Still, it can be recommended as an example of the humanistic critique of conventional economics.
- Richard C. Schiming, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

concrete katie said...

"elevated self interest equals moral dead end."

That is the point in time that Ethan finds himself in the Steinbeck book.

No treatise. Just a story of a man named Ethan who is about to be a big success in his hometown and the knowledge of the road taken is going to destroy what joy he has known as it has and always will be devouring moral codes.

concrete katie said...

Who would have thought that the way to engage Denis in some serious thought is to mention the Music Box!

Denis pick up Discontent. The setting is the blocks between Irving and Belmont circa 1980s. You are Ethan. At this particular moment in time you are a ticket taker at the Music Box.

Imagination is free. Steinbeck is a magician who twines all human modes of understanding in a powerful tale.

You read DISCONTENT and maybe you, Denis, will be reborn as a LIBERAL!

So, Denis, did you go to Wrigley Field? Did you sit in the bleachers? Did you jog in Graceland Cemetery? Did you shop at the Jewel?

Denis Navratil said...

ck, I have been a liberal. I know all the arguments in favor of liberalism. I have fallen for the emotional appeals. But I have moved on and don't see that changing. If "Winter..." can do it, it will be a most persuasive book.

Re your questions, the answers are yes, no, no, and yes respectively.

concrete katie said...

"When emotion and reason compete, emotion will always win." Albert Einstein

"This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard."
Ecclesiastes 9,13-16

Denis Navratil said...

I suspect that Einstein reasoned against competing with his emotions, or we would never have heard of him.

Anonymous said...

"I have been a liberal' all the neocons from Catholic Michael Novak to Paul Wolfowitz...they like to fancy themselves as liberals...but were not.

Denis Navratil said...

What are you saying anon? Did I earn a masters degree in social work just so I could later say that I used to be a liberal? Do you realize that virtually everything you write (assuming your the same anon) on this blog is completely absurd?

concrete katie said...

FYI Albert Einstein did not say

When emotion and reason compete, emotion will always win.

Freud said it.

Anonymous said...

Denis Navratil said...

What are you saying anon? Did I earn a masters degree in social work just so I could later say that I used to be a liberal? Do you realize that virtually everything you write (assuming your the same anon) on this blog is completely absurd?


Ever read Howard Zinn's 'People's History of the US'?

Or 'Lies My Teacher Told Me'?

Absurdity lies in the pat answers given by a power class that desires to rule a mass of ignorant Americans..for a price, of course...