Monday, September 09, 2019

Shenkman's "Political Animals" (2016) causes a stir today as it leads to explaining populism in terms of the lack of abstract intellect in many people



Tim Pool (implicitly) reviews the 2016 textbook by GWU professor Rick Shenkman, “Political Animals: How our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics” (Basic Books, 336 pages), available as an "e-textbook".

Rick Shenkman also explains “Why this was the generation cursed with Donald Trump”.  Basically, most people need to be told what to do and how to vote.  It’s pretty grim. 
  
He also has an article in Politico today, “The Shocking Paper Predicting the End of Democracy” as he introduced UC Irvine professor Shawn Rosenberg who says that humans aren’t wired for intellectual process and debate.  In fact, he thinks most humans are incapable of the intellect required.  That may seem shocking to people who keep similar company in the west’s scientific establishments.  But it reminds me of David Pakman’s video last February, saying that most average Americans are gullible and book-stupid (it’s the book smarts v. street smarts thing).

Rosenberg's paper can be downloaded from this page; you can get access to Academia.edu for $99 a year and have followers and share.  The title is "Democracy Devouring Itself: The Rise of the Incompetent Citizen and the Appeal of Populism".  I don't think I'm incompetent as a citizen. But I lack street smarts and people emotional connectivity. The essay will appear in a forthcoming book "Psychology of Political and Everyday Extremisms", edited by Domenico Yhng Hur and Jose Manuel Sabucdeo, publisher not announced (likely to be international). 

  
Then Zack Beauchamp on Vox, titled “The Anti-Liberal Moment” with subtitle “Critics on the left and right are waging a war on liberalism; and liberals don’t seem to have a good defense.”
Beachamp sees both right and left as attacking individualism.  Traditional (not libertarian) conservatives wanted individuals to find meaning for their own journeys and self-expressions through faith and family and local institutions (and sometimes then nation, as nationalism circles around localism). The collective left maintains that the value of labor has been stolen from people and wants reparation.  But the Left also wants to defend other less obvious people exploited by democratic capitalism (in the past, cis-gender gays and lesbians but today, fluid and trans people, as well as all kinds of other people who just don’t compete well as individuals and come from less well-off families – call it those left behind by “meritocracy”) and, in an effort to get restorative social justice, cuts off free speech as simply a hereditary benefit of illegitimate inherited “power”.   This seems like a battle between “elitism” and “populism”, or “individualism” v. “tribalism”.  Tribalism on the right is different in that it wants to restore illegitimate inherited advantage that was taken away from it, whereas on the left it is motivated by the belief it has always been exploited (largely true).

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