Response to Frank Rich on “Decline”
December 10, 2012
Here is a post from Facebook that I wrote in response to an article forwarded to me by a friend written by Frank Rich on what he alleges is an essentially delusionary concern with the decline of American dominance. I am simply interested in understanding what this concern with decline, if that is what it actually is, is about as it cuts across the political spectrum. I have attached a link to the Rich article below and if you read it, my response will make more sense.
“A little speculation here based on the assumption that what all these people, the declinists, are talking about must be something other than delirium or panic. Assume momentarily that they are on to something but it is not yet clear what that "something" is. Suggestion: The loss of "dominance" is not a loss so much as it is or could be a gain, making possible a "return" to or an opportunity to adopt an alternative way of being in the world. That is, perhaps what is going on is not so much a "loss" of dominance as a "critique" of dominance, a critique of the politics of dominance. These "declinists", as Rich call them, tend to confuse the issue and to clarify it they would need to see that what they bemoan, the loss of dominance, is actually a critique of dominance. A politics of dominance is troubling, this the declinists get. But what they or most of them don't get is that such a politics is and should be controversial, that the "decline" they bemoan reveals that controversy.
“Hence, contra Rich, we can and did survive previous "crises" and still were not and could not be comfortable with ourselves insofar as we had adopted and continued to pursue a politics of dominance. Also, the combo Rich mentions as odd, decline paired with American exceptionalism, is not so odd. A critique of dominance is quite compatible with and could even explain the nub of this alleged exceptionalism: the US is exceptional precisely because, unlike most other nations, it questions or is bothered by, is not quite comfortable with the pursuit of great power, political, cultural, and economic - which need not and should not be called "isolationism" because it is not a retreat, an "unmanly'' retreat from the world but rather is or could be an embrace of an alternative politics to a politics of dominance. A politics of dominance is based, these days, on "the will to power" that Nietzsche attributed to "the best" of human beings. Such a politics must be controversial and especially so in a people like we "Americans." [An aside: Isn't it interesting that some of those who should see the controversy in such a politics, those who allegedly take on Nietzsche, those "neo-cons" and some Straussians, are those who embrace a politics of dominance? Not only interesting but weird.]”