Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Interviewed by Chris Hedges

Capitalism killed democracy

Image by ecolabs via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

Posted previously Oct 22, 2014

Journalist Chris Hedges interviews political philosopher Sheldon Wolin, who says democracy cannot exist without continuous opposition and vigilance on the part of the citizenry.

[All 8 Parts of the interview in one video]

Peter Shev on Nov 20, 2014

Transcript

From the archives:

Envisioning A World With No Bosses, by Pete Dolack + Michael Albert: What Kind of Economy Comes After a Socialist Revolution?

Chris Hedges: The Nature of Neoliberalism and its Consequences

America’s Instinctive Fascism Creeps On, by Paul Street

Chris Hedges: Inverted Totalitarianism

No Solutions Under Capitalism: Revolution is Required, by Paul Street

The Democracy Lab, by Rivera Sun

Late-Stage Capitalism Deprives Us Of Meaning + The Capitalist Class Is Bringing America Towards Fascism, by Rainer Shea

15 thoughts on “Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Interviewed by Chris Hedges

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  5. Of the people, by the people, for the people.
    Or:
    Every man/woman for him/herself.
    They ain’t peas in a pod or two sides of a coin.
    Never will be. Ever.

  6. I’m only about halfway through my first viewing, and I’ve already decided I’ll have to go through this at least a second time. It’s amazing. It’s just chock full of ideas very different from anything I’ve ever heard of or thought about before. I guess I haven’t been exposed to enough of Wolin before, and I haven’t read him. I’ve heard Hedges praise Wolin many many times, but I never was clear on why.

    I do have one complaint (though maybe I’ll withdraw it after my second viewing). I’ve never understood, appreciated, or agreed with the phrase “inverted totalitarianism,” and now that I understand it a little better, I agree with it even less. Hedges used that phrase over and over and over (while praising Wolin), in so many of his lectures, and I don’t think much was conveyed by that phrase. My own description of the USA (and to a lesser extent, all of the USA’s closest “allies”) is “a plutocracy thinly disguised as a democracy.” It is true that, if you wear a disguise that is somewhat convincing to some people, then in some of your traits your appearance will be the opposite of your true nature. Thus, in those traits, you are indeed “inverted.” But in other traits you may still be true to your nature. For instance, a man disguised as a gorilla is still a mammal. Clearly, some traits of our socioeconomic system are indeed “inverted,” but I’m still trying to figure out which ones. And the disguise is a crucial feature of our system — i.e., the fact that so many USers believe they have a democracy, and they are proud of that fact. That’s in contrast with open fascism, which does not wear a disguise; it is proud of its brutality.

    I’m afraid that in recent years, the disguise is wearing thin, and may soon be abandoned, replaced by naked fascism. (I wonder if that means an increase in racism and sexism coming soon.) I see in frequent articles that “we are in danger of losing our democracy,” and that is not true; really we are in danger of losing our illusion of democracy. That would make things worse in some ways, but perhaps better in other ways. Worse, in that the cruelty will be more pronounced when there is no longer any attempt to disguise it. Better, in that the resistance movement will have a more realistic view of what it is up against.

    Alas, I think they still may not be realistic enough. So many “progressives” in the USA today believe that capitalism can somehow be reformed and made healthy. Robert Reich is the perfect example of this: He keeps pointing out terrible things that capitalism is doing, but he doesn’t see that capitalism itself is the problem. When the fascists take over, the progressives will still yearn for a return to “the right kind of” capitalism. Their vocabulary does not include words for the things that I try to tell them.

      • In the last section, Wolin asks for a word to replace the word “revolution,” a word that carries too much unwanted baggage. I have long thought the same thing. The word I would nominate is “awakening,” or even “great awakening.” But I have two caveats for that word.

        (a) That word has already been used by many movements with widely varying views, and some of those views are very far from anything that you or I or Wolin would like. For instance, I believe some of the January 6th insurrectionists described themselves as part of a great awakening.

        (b) It’s not really a synonym.

        As I see it, “revolution” means a transfer of power to a new set of rulers. They may or may not have a new ideology, a new vision, new intentions. A “revolution” is primarily a change in a small number of people: The old rulers have a change of situation and the new rulers have a change of situation. Everyone else will just have to wait and see how they are affected. The new rulers may or may not stick to the vision that the fighting rebels had in mind.

        But what I mean by “awakening” is a cultural change in the whole society, or in a very large portion of it anyway. Essentially everyone — not just the protesters — seeing the world in a new way. That’s bigger than revolution. That will quickly have consequences for any ruling classes — for instance, the police will stop shooting the protesters and start talking with them, and so the government will change. If the new vision is held strongly enough by a large enough number of people, then the new government has no choice but to stick with the new vision.

        Most political activists are only thinking about what has gone wrong in recent decades or recent centuries, and so they are only calling for “revolution.” But I want to correct a wrong turn that we took 12,000 years ago; that will require an awakening. I’m not optimistic about the chances of that happening, but without it I think climate change will soon extinguish our species. For a new view of history and human nature, I recommend this recent article by Lindisfarne and Neale: https://annebonnypirate.org/2021/12/16/all-things-being-equal/

  7. Pingback: Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 5, interviewed by Chris Hedges – Dandelion Salad

  8. Pingback: Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 6, interviewed by Chris Hedges – Dandelion Salad

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  10. Pingback: Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 1, interviewed by Chris Hedges – Dandelion Salad

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