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A Short Guide to Reading Left

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At their best, leftist thinkers are unmatched in their ability to detect, explain, and belittle systems of power. Fundamentally, that is the goal of the left: to “deconstruct” hierarchies they find immoral, for one reason or another. On the whole, this is a negative, anti-civilizational impulse. As José Antonio Primo de Rivera said, the left, “at bottom aspires to destroy everything, even goodness.” 

However, in our increasingly complex world, with multiple, and sometimes contradictory, power structures sitting on top of and alongside one another, the left occasionally gets it right, so to speak. We do not live in a world of organic hierarchies, aristocratic civil societies, or Hobbesian states. We live in a dizzyingly multifaceted, bureaucratized, managerial, de-industrializing, overcrowded planet.

With so much going on, leftists are now and again proving quite useful in their examinations of many of the power structures that do us reactionaries no good either. Some things, as it turns out, should be deconstructed—especially in the current year. Their writings are valuable, and I encourage y’all to set aside your skepticism and dig into them.

On libertarians:

When Libertarians Go to Work,” by Corey Robin. Al Jazeera. April 10, 2012.

It’s Hip! It’s Cool! It’s Libertarianism!” by Connor Kilpatrick. Exiled. July 31, 2012.

The Open-Borders ‘Liberaltarianism’ of the New Urban Elite,” by Michael Lind. National Review. September 15, 2016.

On the media:

Harsh Realm, Mr. Sulzberger!” by Thomas Frank. The Baffler. March 1993.

What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream,” by Noam Chomsky. Z Magazine. October 1997.

The Hack List,” by Alex Pareene. Salon. Serialized throughout 2012 and 2013.

Seven Hundred Words of Garbage Indistinguishable From the Average Major Newspaper Column,” by Hamilton Nolan. Kinja. May 9, 2017.

On the petty prejudices of our liberal-managerial elite:

Burying the White Working Class,” by Connor Kilpatrick. Jacobin. May 13, 2016.

Twenty-First Century Victorians,” by Jason Tebbe. Jacobin. October 31, 2016.

Planet of Cops,” by Freddie de Boer. Medium. May 16, 2017.

On hipsters:

Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization,” by Douglas Haddow. Adbusters. July 29, 2008.

Caught in the Hipster Trap,” by Steve Kurutz. New York Times. September 15, 2013.

On the monied interest behind center-left political parties:

Democrats can’t occupy Wall Street,” by Michael Lind. Salon. October 11, 2011.

The Macron Phenomenon,” by Christakis Georgiou. Jacobin. April 6, 2017.


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  1. JJPrzybylski
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Camille Paglia, who sometimes is very right, says that a student should read his adversaries. It’s especially important if a student hasn’t had a long incubation period before becoming red-pilled and Alt-Right. In combat sports, natural speed isn’t as important as anticipatory reflexes. Knowing what’s coming next in the sequence of battle is the reason that a seasoned old fighter can whip a young fighter who is physically quicker.

    So it’s good to know the opponents’ moves. And it’s also good to respect the opponents’ strengths. Napoleon said, “Never interrupt the enemy when he’s making a mistake.” This implies that sometimes the enemy is strong in purpose, formation and execution. You gotta accept that in order to win.

  2. Joseph
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Citing Jacobin as an example of good left wing content is almost cheating. I’ve been subscribed to the print edition for a year and its never let met down.

  3. nineofclubs
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    Surprised Telos didn’t get a gig here. Plenty of content there that transcends the simplistic left / right dichotomy.

  4. nineofclubs
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Excellent piece by Michael Lind on the libertarian outlook and it’s easy adoption by globalists. Some of the most relevant paragraphs reproduced below;

    ‘In the 1970s and 1980s, libertarians made all of the major arguments heard from globalists since the 1990s: Favoring citizens over foreign nationals is the equivalent of racism; national borders impeding the free flow of labor and goods are both immoral and inefficient; the goal of trade and immigration policy should not be the relative security or relative wealth of particular countries, but the absolute economic well-being of all human beings.

    Until the 1990s, this was an eccentric minority perspective in the U.S. and other democracies, encountered only in small-circulation libertarian journals or in the work of the occasional unworldly academic theorist of cosmopolitan ethics. But in the 2000s, as affluent whites from the professional class and their Latino, immigrant, and black allies displaced working-class whites as the base of the Democratic party, the traditional labor-liberal opposition to low-wage immigration and offshoring of industry was replaced by a new open-borders progressivism distinguishable from traditional libertarianism only by its unworkable combination of support for unrestricted immigration with a generous national welfare state. Journalists associated with the website Vox have played a key role in rebranding old-fashioned libertarian arguments for free-market immigration and trade policies as “progressive.”

    During an interview with Bernie Sanders, the founding editor of Vox, Ezra Klein, proposed “sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders.” The democratic socialist Sanders, speaking for traditional labor-liberals and nationalist conservatives as well, replied: “Open borders? . . . That’s a right-wing [libertarian] proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. . . . I think from a moral responsibility we’ve got to work with the rest of the world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don’t do that by making people in this country even poorer.”

    A new elite ideology has emerged that contrasts the dynamic, multicultural, libertarian city-state with the allegedly anachronistic and immoral nation-state. Klein’s Vox colleague Dylan Matthews wrote a piece titled “Bernie Sanders’s Fear of Immigrant Labor Is Ugly — and Wrongheaded.” Matthews began by praising the late Wall Street Journal editorial-page editor Robert Bartley’s proposed one-sentence amendment to the Constitution, “There shall be open borders,” and then endorsed a well-worn libertarian moral argument: “I think Bernie Sanders is obligated to weigh the interests of a poor potential Nigerian immigrant equally to those of a much richer native-born American” ‘


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