Al Gore’s recent literary work is representative of a general tendency on the left to claim Reason and Science (yes, the capital letters reproduce Gore’s stylistic flourish in a recent Rolling Stone article) as the foundation of all its principles and positions. This, of course, is supposed to be in contrast to the political right, which grounds its ideas in Bible-thumping and corn-pone American irrationalism. There is some truth to the recent conservative rejection of “reason” as the sole determinant of an argument’s validity, but I would argue that this is partly due to the success of the left in claiming rationality itself as their stock and trade. It is no coincidence that the “rational” position is always perfectly conducive to the ideological investments of progressive politics. If reason is synonymous with Obama’s agenda, does the right have any choice but to be irrational?
The discourse surrounding global warming has recently captured my interest. Let’s put aside the questions of when, where, why, how, and whether it is happening. My interest is in how the left’s framing of the issue has made it impossible for many conservatives to take the “rational” position. We all know that the climate change racket is partly a front for a global anti-capitalist agenda. Many conservatives are smart enough to understand this, and unfortunately, to be anti-capitalist is necessarily to be anti-American. This explains at least some of the resistance of the right to Reason and Science when it comes to global warming — the issue is always framed as a moral one, and it needn’t be. Since when has science been terribly interested in morality anyway? It hasn’t. Anti-capitalism, however, has always forefronted moral arguments in its criticism.
And now we have gotten down to what is fascinating me about the global warming debate. It serves as a microcosm of what I believe is a paradox on the left. Can we use “Science” as a weapon to attack “Capital”? I have spent the past two months thinking about it. In my view, the two are inextricable. The knowledge and innovation produced by modern science are WHOLLY indebted to the operation of the capitalist economy. For example, think of all the grants, all of the venture capital, all of the equipment involved in the medical field. Where does the money come from? Not from good intentions. If “Science” is the bedrock of the left’s rationalization of their positions (and if the left is indeed anti-capitalist(?)), then wouldn’t the end goal of left politics (the abolition of capitalist economy) destroy the very foundation of left politics? I can imagine one saying “yes, but at that point a left politics would no longer be necessary!” Perhaps. But this rebuttal hinges on the belief that there is no one powerful or cunning enough on the left to ensure the self-preservation of the ideology.
That Obama’s health care bill so quickly became a referendum on social justice and market capitalism is indicative of the inviolable alliance between science and capital. They need one another: it is no coincidence that science and capitalism were coming into their own at virtually the same historical moment.
All of this finally points to the question hinted at above: If progressive politics truly longs for a world in which there is no longer a need for progressive politics (I have my doubts), does the movement (which in some ways exists independently of its adherents) have the moral fortitude to allow that world to come about?