Is America's Dance with Utopian Socialism Ending?
If the dance continues, it will take generations for America to pay off its mortgage to utopian socialism and be free again.
Utopianism has seduced mankind before. It has been, as Thomas Molnar (Hungarian Catholic philosopher, historian, and political theorist, 1921-2010) wrote in "Utopia: The Perennial Heresy," "... far more than a harmless imaginative and intellectual exercise regarding political systems. ... Utopian thinking in our own time...is not an aberration peculiar to the modern mind."
[I]n what circumstances does the utopian imagination best thrive? In generally unsettled conditions, in insecurity and suffering...Utopian thinking is no mere exercise in wish-fulfillment; it is a constitutive element of our mental attitude, and, as such, it possesses its own structure. [snip]
To overcome individual resistance [to utopian perfection, it] will mean force, but the utopian holds that, if the goal is goodness and perfection, then the use of force is justified. It is even justifiable to establish a special government of the elect as repositories of the doctrine of the perfect society; these elect have the supreme right to oblige every individual to shed his selfishness and to don the garments of a candidate for perfection. [snip]
[T]he same paradox characterize all utopian thinkers: they believe in unrestrained human freedom' at the same time, they want so thoroughly to organize freedom that they turn it into slavery. Clearly then, the utopian has certain philosophical presuppositions about the past of the human race, its mature and potentialities. He uses his assumptions toward constructing an imaginary community and world order. [snip]
Contemporary statolatry ... is the expression of utopian man's confidence that the world is converging toward larger units of total and beneficial power.
In his book The Roots of Obama's Rage, and in the related movie 2016: Obama's America, Dinesh D'Souza states that Obama's geopolitical worldview is based on his deep-seated anti-colonial sentiments. Those sentiments, according to D'Souza, form Obama's (to use Molnar's words) "assumptions toward constructing an imaginary community and world order."
Those assumption are, if D'Souza's case is accepted, the basis of his geopolitical worldview. But what political-philosophical credo supports that worldview? I suggest it is utopian socialism.
The Petri dish wherein current utopian thought grew in America was the fiscal crisis of 2007-2008. It, the fiscal crisis, brought the "unsettled conditions, insecurity and suffering" that Molnar mentioned. And it was the Obama administration's early-declared desire, according to then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, to "never want a serious crisis to go to waste," that saw the opportunity to promote utopian socialist notions.
In the '08 campaign, candidate Obama took Dr. Martin Luther King's phrase "the fierce urgency of now," which King used to emphasize the timely opportunity then at hand to alter race relations in America, and used it as a utopian idiom to support his dramatic enhancement of the role of the federal government in America.
Utopianism has long been closely aligned with the millennium expectations that surface whenever mankind believes itself to be standing at the precipice of a dramatic, existential shift in world conditions. The unknown future makes some yearn for new symbols and slogans designed to assure a state of well-being in an uncertain future.
In Obama's case, the slogan was "hope and change." It meant everything, because it meant nothing.
When Obama proclaimed that "[w]e are the ones we have been waiting for," it resonated as millennium language with emotionally charged audiences thrilled to be included with Obama in the "We." The president who discounts the exceptionalism of America made his loyal followers feel exceptional by following him.
The faux Greek columns that framed his 2008 nomination speech in Denver symbolized the new millennium era he promised to usher in by a fundamental transformation -- not just of America, but of the world.
Consider the ambiguity in that promise: There's nothing exceptional about America, except its ability, through his presidency, to change the world.
Utopianism, the perennial heresy, was the siren song to which his adoring crowds danced, as they euphorically voted him into office.
"Utopian" is the front-half of "utopian socialism." The back-half, "socialism," is a politico-economic system whereby the means of production, distribution, and exchange are collectively owned by the people and controlled through their government.
Since Obama's inauguration, we've witnessed the growth of a soft, but progressively hardening, socialism in America.
At the outset, those who dared to use the word "socialism," in any reference to the Obama administration, were called "extremists," even by many of Obama's political opponents. Progressive Democrats continue to dispute the use of "socialism" to describe their agenda.
But a rose by any other name smells the same. And Obama recently hinted at even more planting ahead to involve the government in the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
President Obama, while villifying [sic] Mitt Romney for opposing the auto industry bailout, bragged about the success of his decision to provide government assistance and said he now wants to see every manufacturing industry come roaring back.
"I said, I believe in American workers, I believe in this [agriculture] American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back," he said. "Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry."
Since January 2009, America has been flirtatiously dancing with utopian socialism. We're not the first. Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), co-author with Karl Marx of the Communist Manifesto, wrote in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, published in 1878:
The Utopians' mode of thought has for a long time governed the Socialist ideas of the 19th century, and still governs some of them. Until very recently, all French and English Socialists did homage to it. The earlier German Communism, including that of Weitling, was of the same school. To all these, Socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice, and has only to be discovered to conquer all the world by virtue of its own power. And as an absolute truth is independent of time, space, and of the historical development of man, it is a mere accident when and where it is discovered. With all this, absolute truth, reason, and justice are different with the founder of each different school. And as each one's special kind of absolute truth, reason, and justice is again conditioned by his subjective understanding, his conditions of existence, the measure of his knowledge and his intellectual training, there is no other ending possible in this conflict of absolute truths than that they shall be mutually exclusive of one another. Hence, from this nothing could come but a kind of eclectic, average Socialism, which, as a matter of fact, has up to the present time dominated the minds of most of the socialist workers in France and England. Hence, a mish-mash allowing of the most manifold shades of opinion: a mish-mash of such critical statements, economic theories, pictures of future society by the founders of different sects, [h]as excite a minimum of opposition; a mish-mash which is the more easily brewed the more definite sharp edges of the individual.
Since January 2009, we've been unable to define a label for the Obama music because, to borrow Engels' words, it is a "mish-mash allowing of the most manifold shades of opinion," being performed by a leader with "definite sharp edges."
The question of the season is this: is America's dance with utopian socialism ending?