Sunday, August 27, 2023

Elitism and Politics


Elitism and Politics

Peter Schultz


            Why is conflict so central to political life? To convince us that politics is real. Political life tends toward conflict, and then the conflict makes politics seem real. The bloodier politics becomes, the more real it seems. There must be real differences between Jews and Palestinians given the blood they shed fighting each other. Right? Otherwise, their conflicts would seem like madness, shedding all that blood for what are non-existent, unreal differences.


            The point is: Elitism is built into our lives in ways we don’t recognize. For example, by the concept of “politics.” We take it for granted that politics is something real. And, so, as a result of this assumption, elitism seems real because politics, whatever it might be, is elitist. So, because we take politics as real, we take elitism as also real. And, therefore, we also assume that there must be elites!


            Caitlin Johnstone, for example, does a marvelous job of reminding us of how propagandized our political lives are. And she is correct. But she doesn’t quite go deep enough because she doesn’t see that at the root of our problems is elitism. Her take on propaganda is somewhat superficial as a result. That elitism is problematic helps us to see that the illusions upon which we build our lives are pervasive, extending far beyond the “public diplomacy,” as it’s called, conducted by politicians and governmental agencies. Elitism is built into our lives in ways that we are, for the most part, unaware of, e.g., the concept of “politics.” Or the concept of “philosophy,” which is taken by many to be the pinnacle of human wisdom. If philosophy is real, then philosophers must be real too and, not surprisingly perhaps, those who are most wise are taken to be the best political rulers.


            But what if there are no elites? That is, what if elites are actually social constructs, i.e., groups of persons societies have endowed with special status so that societies are orderly, but who possess no special qualities whether moral or intellectual? And, if there are no elites, then elitism is an illusion. And although it might be taken to be a necessary illusion, still as an illusion it lies at the roots of our political conflicts. And this might be something to think about.  



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