On October 21, the political theorist Sheldon Wolin died at the age of 93. Professor and mentor to countless Nation readers and contributors (including Stephen Cohen, Richard Falk, Joel Rogers, Tom Ferguson, and Corey Robin), Wolin helped revitalize political philosophy as a living discipline with much to say about contemporary politics and society, not to mention the growing gap between the wealthy few and increasingly destitute many.
Thank you for your contribution to the Human Tribe, Mr. Wolin.
Of many strong insights, the following two stand out:
"Each national election serves to deepen the contempt of voters for a system that they know is corrupt, and they doubt it can be remedied by requiring lobbyists to register. Despair is rooted in powerlessness, and powerlessness is not an unintended but a calculated consequence of the system."
And of course, this... a political weather report of our times:
"The elements are in place [for a quasi-fascist takeover]: a weak legislative body, a legal system that is both compliant and repressive, a party system in which one party, whether in opposition or in the majority, is bent upon reconstituting the existing system so as to permanently favor a ruling class of the wealthy, the well-connected and the corporate, while leaving the poorer citizens with a sense of helplessness and political despair, and, at the same time, keeping the middle classes dangling between fear of unemployment and expectations of fantastic rewards once the new economy recovers. That scheme is abetted by a sycophantic and increasingly concentrated media; by the integration of universities with their corporate benefactors; by a propaganda machine institutionalized in well-funded think tanks and conservative foundations; by the increasingly closer cooperation between local police and national law enforcement agencies aimed at identifying terrorists, suspicious aliens and domestic dissidents."
It will be interesting to see if Chris Hedges does a eulogy to one of his intellectual heroes. In fact, Hedges almost elevates Wolin to the status of secular prophet particularly for his theory of inverted totalitarianism as an explanation of how the new tyranny differs as well as resembles the old.
Men of such learning and advanced age give those who read them a perspective just not possible in our "hurry up and move on to the next story" news cycle. Expect Noam Chomsky to soon join the ranks of such deceased critics.
Matt, you will never utter anything as profound.
And of course today in Nov 2015, the Nation is busy selling liberals the Hillary Clinton candidacy.