Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Final Solution: What to Do?

photo of Lenin (Grigori Petrowitsch Goldstein)
What Is to Be Done?was the title of a tract by Lenin. Revolution is attractive not necessarily because it brings about a new world order, but because it’s a suspension of business as usual. They talk about corrections when an inflated stock market takes a dive. Well, mass movements offer corrections on a sociopolitical scale. Life comes to a halt and there's a basic redefinition of commodification, i.e. what constitutes value. If it’s anything like the upheavals that befell Cambodia under Pol Pot or in China, during the Cultural Revolution, the process entails a return to a rural agrarian life in which workers have a more primal connection to work. The period of revolutionary zeal might be compared to a natural disaster like a hurricane that brings down the power—literally and metaphorically or even a pandemic. Of course, when life starts up again and the dominant cadre begins to prevail, there's what the sociologist Max Weber, once termed the “routinization of charisma.” A profound institutionalization sets in. Weber used his term to distinguish between sects and churches, but isn’t that always what happens? Crowds take to the streets and roar with approval at the value-free exhortations of the demagogue du jour. There's the ensuing changing of the guard, but power is by its nature conservative and self-perpetuating. Vilfredo Pareto the Italian economist used the term “circulation des elites” to refer to the fact that someone is going to occupy the presidential palace or dacha—even when change is in the air.

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