The NY Times' Steven Erlanger surveys the intelligentsia throughout Mitt Romney's #1 geopolitical foe, France--well, for Mitt it might as well be America's #1 official foe, the socialist bastards; whenever, that is, our #1 foe is not Russia, or China, or Iran, or Syria, or any other target of neocon opportunity--and essentially delivers a eulogy, for socialism. For French socialism. For European socialism. For Socialism, broadly.
"There are no more socialists--if they were honest they would change the name of the party," journalist and public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy told Erlanger, who then paraphrased: "Today, he maintains, European socialists are essentially like American Democrats." (I'm not sure if that was a dig or merely a cold, analytical observation.)
But it was Marc-Olivier Padis, a journalist and editor, who framed this political identity crisis most intriguingly: "Is socialism really more than pragmatism?"
A fascinating question, whose answer would seem to be as undeniable as it is fascinating: Of course not. What's denounced as "socialism" by today's radical reactionaries is commonly no more than public education, fair taxation, the maintenance of a survivable infrastructure, and a decent healthcare system.
And what marks the question, Is socialism really more than pragmatism?, as extraordinarily intriguing is that pragmatism--socialism's new identity--also happens to be the traditional philosophical territory of Burkean conservatism.
For some time, on this small and insignificant site, I have been subtly peddling the prospect, if not reality, of an unstoppable force: that of a dynamic Age of Synthesis; that the ideological constraints of theoretical socialism--or in the U.S., textbook progressivism--have always been far too burdensome for either wide public acceptance or efficient governing, while the clattering conservatism of Edmund Burke has degenerated over the past 80 years into a conservatively unrecognizable pseudoconservatism that merely offends.
Yet from these original opposites--the thesis of socialism and old-school conservatism's antithesis--there is emerging, through the cement of a fundamental William James-ean pragmatism, a political and intellectual union of the future; simply, a progressive conservatism, or conservative progressivism, or pragmatic social democracy, or pragmatic incrementalism, or whatever one wishes to call it. Who cares? (Thus I again expose my own profoundly pragmatic core.)
I should add that this non-ideological synthesis has of course been the political genius of Barack Obama's presidency (and preceding candidacy) all along. Some see the brutality of pseudoconservatism's witless obstructionism and accelerating depravity as, potentially, America's death warrant. However this wretched pseudoconservatism might be precisely what was needed, at precisely the right time: enough of an anaphylactic shock to America's political conscience that a fresh, philosophical equilibrium is not only desired, but demanded.
And on that note, I'm off to pack those final boxes for tomorrow's move. Will see you Tuesday (assuming, with a certain philosophical tranquility, a smooth, untroubled relocation--yeah, right).