Friday, August 18, 2006

from berea

here in my hometown of berea, ohio for -- get this -- the 25th reunion of my 8th grade class! it was a small catholic school with pretty much the same bunch of kids from 1st through 8th grade. i've had subsequent contact with almmost none of them so this should be interesting. i'm surprised to read the demographics in the wikipedia article on berea to find it as white as it apparently is. it felt growing up like a pretty mixed town of maybe 16 square miles and 20,000 people, with its own industrial section, african-american and polish neighborhoods, liberal arts college, etc. the top photo is of the "triangle" or town square at the intersection of front and bridge streets, the bottom photo by dave stanz shows the rocky river spanned (from foreground to background) by the henry street, bagley road and railroad bridges, in the rocky river reservation of the cleveland metroparks system.
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wanna meet and greet with the neo-con elite? listen in as they preach to the converted? reveal their hot reads and latest worries? check out the corner. hell if you have $1,800 and airfare money to spare you might still get a birth on the national review cruise ship. imagine, take a "post-election" mexican riviera cruise with milt friedman, bill buckley, ken starr, dinesh d'souza, rich lowry and ramesh ponnuru! seriously, this is a real discovery. you gotta read the other side, know yr enemies at least as well as you know your friends.

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as i alluded in an earlier post, i'm exploring "new communitarianism" as a viable politics. i literally stumbled upon in in second story dupont a week or so ago: there was a "essential communitarian reader" edited by GW's own amitai etzioni, and a monograph by philip selznick called "the communitarian persuasuion." i skimmed them both pretty closely in the store and eventually went back to purchase the selznick. then i ordered a few ridicuously cheap etzioni titles online, including "next: the road to the good society."

in a nutshell, new communitarianism seeks to challenge conventional left-right polarizations in current american politics by arguing for an emphasis on communities over individuals. communities emerge between liberal statism and conservative market fundamentalism, between liberal claims for rights and conservative insistances on responsibilities. this is not necessarily anything new or radically different from certain elements of mainstream politics from both sides of the left-right spectrum, from hilary clinton's "it takes a village" and DNC neoliberalism to dubya's faith-based initiatives. tony blair was also at one point touting communitarianist ideas as a "third way."

i'm just barely into etzioni's next and selznick's persuasion, and to the extent that the former takes an untheorized, "general reader" approach to audience, it feels pretty soft and mushy. skimming selznick makes me think i can expect from it a little more intellectual rigor. my sense too is that i won't agree with all the various policies advocated under this this rubric, but i am a big supporter in the idea that communities formed through loose and voluntary associations with other individuals is a crucial counter to the rampant each-for-himself individualism that libertarianism and market logics foster. but i'm leery of garden-variety "third way" mush, against which alex callinicos makes the best case.

for example, on page 5 of next, etzioni writes: "Communities are the main social entities that nurture ends-based (I-Thou) relationships, whereas the market is the realm of means-based (I-It) relationships." (yes, he's coming out of martin buber.) my problem with this right away is, can these two really mutually co-exist? don't markets fundamentally dehumanize? won't market forces, in the last instance, override humanizing ends?

i also picked up a copy of richard rorty's achieving our country for a buck. curiously, it's a signed paperback copy that was highlighted and dog-earred to hell. (clearly the recipient had no sense of book value.) because i was trying to figure out what kind of liberal rorty is based on the link that jessica had to a salon.com review of eric lott's The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual by stephen metcalf, which initially left me confused: metcalf seems to make rorty a pragmatic centrist and lott an unrepentant new left deconstructionist, but i probably need to read lott's book to clarify. the whole species of "public intellectual" to me is questionable, having been driven into near extinction by the punditocracy. which is pretty much what metcalf says:
Even so, Lott has stumbled onto an important trend: the effect the general rightward drift in America has had on the self-presentation of liberal public intellectuals. As television (thanks to the advent of conservative talk TV) went from being a cool medium to a hot one, the left magazine (thanks to the new responsible left) went from being a hot medium to a cool one.
he goes on to ask, importantly: "Where will the left turn for rhetorical energy...?" good question, to which i see, in terms of "public intellectuals," no immediate answer.

1 comment:

Lisa Orange said...

Hi, Tom. I only see one photo, of the Berea triangle. No bridges.