Thursday, July 21, 2005

The radical dream lives on ... Kevin Drum is taking a well-deserved break over at the Washington Monthly, but unfortunately he's left Lindsay Beyerstein in his place.

I say unfortunately because Beyerstein is the kind of radical academic that I don't have much patience for: brilliant but rarely practical, critical but never constructive.

To illustrate this, visit The unCapitalist Journal, a new site that Beyerstein spent a whole post shilling today. Beyerstein is a "team member" of the "uCJ", whose about page consists of the following:

About The UnCapitalist Journal
Cap•i•tal•ist 1. n. a supporter of capitalism || an investor of capital in business || a person of great wealth 2. adj. of or relating to capitalism || defending or engaging in capitalism

Un•Cap•i•tal•ist1. n. one who is suspicious of capitalism || one who critiques the excesses of capitalism and its forms of production || a person concerned about the subjugation of labor or other aspects of society by private capital or wealth 2. adj. of or relating to alternatives to unrestrained capitalism || critical or skeptical of capitalism

Now, I suppose I may be considered uncapitalist to the extent a) that I have my own reservations about unrestrained capitalism, and b) that I do not view capitalism as a utopic force.

But that is a far cry, I think, from what the uCJ folks are proposing. Although they take pains not to attack capitalism in general, that is exactly what they're doing: in arguing against both the organizational principles according to which capitalism operates and the understanding of human nature on which it rests, they are going after capitalism wholesale. And the trouble is, they have nothing to offer in its place: no effective social model of their own, no understanding of human nature that is reconciliable with reality.

Again, I have little to no patience for this kind of radical critique. For one, it provides ample fodder for radical conservative movements. For another, it implicates moderate liberals like myself as somehow ascribing to their viewpoint. Most of all, though, it neglects the fact that as imperfect as capitalism is, it is also -- after more than five millenia of human history -- the best we've come up with. If Beyerstein and her uCJ friends would dispute that, I suggest they dig into some historical monographs, starting with one on the century that just past.

Update: In general I try to refrain from invective, so in critiquing Beyerstein I hope I haven't crossed the line between criticism and vitriol. To the extent that I have, my apologies.


Blogger Elayne said...

I think you may be being a bit unfair to Lindsay. You may disagree with her positions about capitalism, but she posts about other subjects as well. Full disclosure: She's a personal acquaintance with whom I've socialized at various NYC blogger events.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Chris Meserole said...


thanks for keeping me honest. since i've started blogging, there have been three posts that i regret, and this is very much one of them.

it's not just that lindsay publishes on other works as well -- it's that i don't even know her personally and yet i saw fit to make a pronouncement about who she was. that was an extraordinarily irresponsible thing to do, and, as i wrote friday in my personal (handwritten) journal, one for which i'm truly apologetic.

8:50 PM  

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