Top critical review
Another thread of "The Privatization of Hope"
April 18, 2019
There's a good deal to like about Brooks' newest run at "character." Unfortunately, my quibble isn't with what Brooks says; it's with what he doesn't say. Once again, FTM: Follow The Money.
There's a huge, concerted, well-funded effort in this country to promote the very elements that Brooks belatedly laments. The corporate, right-wing, "conservative" view is to bash anything and everything about government programs, social organizations, community organizations, unions, religious efforts at social justice (well, except the fundamentalist "prosperity Gospel" idea that society does best when you get rich, of course), and every other collective effort to support the broader society. Unfortunately, Brooks (willfully, I believe) ignores this pernicious activity. That message is, "Have a problem? Don't look to government. Have issues in your life? It's your problem; don't look any farther than your own nose because it's your fault. Concerned about society as a whole? There's no solution outside of the individual--don't look to an organization to help you do anything about it."
People lamenting the cult of individualism need to look to the sources of--and the huge amounts of money and power behind--the messaging of individualism, and the denigration of social and community institutions that have been the bedrock of American democracy.
For a great article on this intentional social destruction, go to bostonreview dot net and search on The Privatization of Hope by Ronald Aronson. He writes...
"What a spectacle is offered by the privatization of hope: the displacement from the social to the individual, the growth of the personal at the expense of the social, and the remaking of the social into the biographical. These are driven, among other things, by relations of power and domination and by the overwhelming force exerted on every aspect of our beings by the economy and its priorities. Under these conditions, basic social impulses such as the need to contribute to a wider community become other than themselves without completely losing their original character, which abides in a repressed form. We can imagine a rebalancing of the social and the personal as a kind of “return of the repressed” but only through a transformation of the economic order that has been driving it.
"That order has imposed a deliberate ideological and political project aiming to erode social connectedness and conviction. The first politician who sought to implement this revived Hobbesianism was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “There is no such thing as society, only individuals and families,” she famously declared, which turned out to prophesy this transformation. Economics was a method whose “object is to change the soul.” A generation later in the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere, that object appears to have been realized.
"We have witnessed an immensely effective, well organized, and lavishly funded effort to reshape values, ideas, and attitudes. Writers working for right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation have implored us to turn away from treating the public realm as a terrain for improvement and change. They have been teaching cynicism about collective action and encouraging instead individual responsibility, personal initiative, and the centrality of private activities."
I wish Brooks would accept responsibility for his "conservative" bretheren's contributions to--and support of--this mess instead of blaming the victims once again.