Conservative Liberal Political Analysis Today
The controversial social analyst Charles Murray has written an important book on the unprecedented class divide in America today. The link is to an article summarizing the book's key arguments.
Before getting to what’s going on right now, I’d thought I’d say something about Murray’s general approach, which originated, as he suggests, in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
Tocqueville came to America to figure out why democracy—contrary to the fears of the recently dispossessed French aristocrats—could be so compatible with human decency and human liberty. The Frenchman discovered all sorts of features that made America exceptional—so exceptional, in fact, that it’s not so clear Tocqueville thought the American solution could be exported elsewhere.
America democracy, we would say today, works so well because of “cultural capital” that may not be, strictly speaking, of democratic origin. Freedom depends on a high respect for morality and a high level of habitual moral behavior. Liberal political and economic institutions depend on a conservative foundation.
Murray says that he Americans have been regarded “as different, even peculiar, to people around the world” in at least nine ways. It goes without saying that my comments on each way will be somewhat different from his. And I’ll only have space in this post to discuss one feature of American exceptionalism—INDUSTRIOUSNESS:
I know that everything I’m saying is questionable and that Murray's analysis is way short of perfect, and I invite your criticism.
Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.
- Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
- Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.