Emotional Conflict Hardly Ever Goes Out of Politics, But That’s OK

We often hear, these days, that our politics is being spoiled, if not ruined, by emotional confrontations between groups of extremists on the “right” and “left,” especially on the internet. The “truth” about our troubles, it is said, could surely be found if we could only quiet these hotheads down and settle back into the kind of reasoned discourse we used to have about politics (when was that, by the way? I want to ask).

A couple of good articles arguing on the contrary can be found on the Guardian site (here and here). Both are mainly directed at UK readers, but are quite relevant to the US also. The latter was written by Chantal Mouffe, a Belgian political theorist now teaching in the UK, who argues what I also believe, that conflict between segments of society with different economic, cultural and other interests is inevitable, and no genuine “rational” solution that would satisfy all of them is possible. Or if it is reached, it is only temporary.

Another piece of homework I would recommend as a background for understanding the present political situation is the new history of the U.S., These Truths, by Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian. It’s pretty long (from 1492 to the internet-addled present), but written in a very lively, non-academic style.

qedd© Jon Johanning 2011