David Brooks observes the fractured and incoherent underpinnings of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which, in turn, demarcate its power:
[The movement] may look radical, but its members’ ideas are less radical than those you might hear at your average Rotary Club. Its members may hate capitalism ... but since the left no longer believes in the nationalization of industry, these "radicals" really have no systemic reforms to fall back on.
True. Any real "left" was last seen dispersing in ideological confusion and internal conflict during the early 1970s, which, as bad (but not dumb) luck would have it, was also roughly the era of the New Right's rising. The last Marxist, neo-Marxist or post-Marxist or something-or-other-Marxist whom I knew was a grad student, about 10 years ago, who was authentically caring about society's decay, but also genuinely befuddled. He was both embarrassed by and proud of his peculiar political minority -- his happy little band of radical organizers who never got organized beyond leaflet distribution. He was one of the brightest guys I've ever met, yet he was seduced and blinded by the resplendent power of pure thought.
He would have disregarded as defeatism what most other leftist scholars, by the late 20th and early 21st centuries, had long-sufferingly concluded: Marxism was no more, expect for its intellectual squabbles about its nifty array of prefixes -- and which of them could lay truest claim to updated originalism. The American "left," in general, had been reduced from advocating fundamental, global revolution (OK, the Trotskyites, anyway) to essentially debating resistant change to ... our healthcare system.
"Nationalization of industry"? An organic shift in the means of production? Class consciousness and revolutionary spirit and all that highfalutin stuff? Fuhgetaboutit -- just as one should when it comes to any mention of leftist "utopianism." For that ideological mantle now properly belongs to the far right, notwithstanding that its idea of utopia is a foul, filthy, nihilistic thunderdome of self-survivalist anarchy.
Hence I find my old-leftie self in agreement with Comrade Brooks:
The most radical people today are the ones that look the most boring. It’s not about declaring war on some nefarious elite. It’s about changing behavior from top to bottom.
The refashioned "boring" Barack Obama, who years ago ingested the same great politico-philosophical works that so many of us have, is also in greater agreement with Brooks than Brooks now believes (he calls the president a "small thinker"). But it's tough at the top, and incrementalism -- which, oddly enough, was once intrinsically Marxist -- can be dispiriting. And Brooks has succumbed.