THE NETROOTS AND DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM.

THE NETROOTS AND DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. Noam Scheiber argues that despite the mutual loathing between leading blogger-activists and, say, the leadership of the DLC, the natural ideological tendency of the netroots is New Democrat-style neoliberalism rather than labor-liberal economic populism. Why? Demographics. Netroots activists have a New Dem demographic profile -- relatively affluent, relatively well-educated -- and everything follows from that.

This was something I was inclined to say myself throughout, say, 2004. The blogosphere turned out, however, to be dogmatically -- and correctly -- opposed to privatizing Social Security. What's more, as Noam discusses, empirical analyses from the Pew Center and by Scott Winship indicate fairly clearly that netroots activists really do have populist economic policy views. Noam counters this with what amounts to a Marxist analysis -- the netroots neither can nor will transcend their objective status in the class system and are currently suffering from Bush-induced radicalization and false consciousness that "is unlikely to last much beyond the Bush era . . . if the Democrats take back Congress or the White House, or even if a less radical Republican--John McCain, for example--replaces Bush as leader of the GOP, it won't be long before affluent Democrats are embracing free-market economics all over again."

I find this line of argument appealing. On the other hand, it should be said that in their book The Emerging Democratic Majority, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira lay out an argument as to why class tensions won't tear the demographically disparate progressive coalition they describe apart. Translated into sound dialectical materialist terms, this involves the proletarianization of the professional class which, as it grows, becomes less special and sees its precious autonomy crushed by the all-powerful hand of capital, thus bringing the objective interests of the working and professional classes into alignment. Having put these two options on the table, I'll punt and say "only time will tell" -- we'll have to await an actual Democratic victory at some non-trivial level of American politics to see what happens.

--Matthew Yglesias

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