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104

The Master Class on the Make

How the white backlash found its academic bona fides

by Andrew Hartman

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on public choice theory and John C. Calhoun

Hartman, A. (2017). The Master Class on the Make. The Baffler, 37, pp. 104-111

111

Calhoun is an analog to Marx, in other words, in the same way that public choice theory is an analog to the Marxist theory of the state. In the name of freedom, public choice theory would shackle the ninety-nine percent of us who exist in the lower orders of neoliberalism. Public choice theory is the Marxism of the master class.

In order to reclaim the mantle of freedom, we must reclaim the anti-statism of Marxism, the liberty embedded in a theory of freedom for all. It is perfectly understandable why liberals and leftists embraced elements of statism in the twentieth century. The state not only tamed the chaos of a market-based economy that left most people deeply insecure, it also protected the rights of people in dire need of such protection, namely black Americans.

But this is only half the story. If we only focus on this half, we will remain mystified as to why so many people are enthralled with libertarianism. For in addition to civil rights protections, the state is also Vietnam. It is drones, bank bailouts, tax cuts for the wealthy, prisons. The state is Trump. If we want to reclaim the mantle of liberty from the master class and their court intellectuals, we must also reclaim a theory of the state for the masses. And now that Trump is overseeing what looks to be the final capitalist enclosure of state power, the urgent project of democratic revival must hinge on nothing less than the full repudiation of libertarian fantasy in public life.

—p.111 by Andrew Hartman 1 year ago

Calhoun is an analog to Marx, in other words, in the same way that public choice theory is an analog to the Marxist theory of the state. In the name of freedom, public choice theory would shackle the ninety-nine percent of us who exist in the lower orders of neoliberalism. Public choice theory is the Marxism of the master class.

In order to reclaim the mantle of freedom, we must reclaim the anti-statism of Marxism, the liberty embedded in a theory of freedom for all. It is perfectly understandable why liberals and leftists embraced elements of statism in the twentieth century. The state not only tamed the chaos of a market-based economy that left most people deeply insecure, it also protected the rights of people in dire need of such protection, namely black Americans.

But this is only half the story. If we only focus on this half, we will remain mystified as to why so many people are enthralled with libertarianism. For in addition to civil rights protections, the state is also Vietnam. It is drones, bank bailouts, tax cuts for the wealthy, prisons. The state is Trump. If we want to reclaim the mantle of liberty from the master class and their court intellectuals, we must also reclaim a theory of the state for the masses. And now that Trump is overseeing what looks to be the final capitalist enclosure of state power, the urgent project of democratic revival must hinge on nothing less than the full repudiation of libertarian fantasy in public life.

—p.111 by Andrew Hartman 1 year ago