“Thomas Frank has aptly described the paradox of populist conservatism in the US today, the basic premise of which is the gap between economic interests and “moral” questions. In other words, the economic class opposition (poor farmers and blue-collar workers versus lawyers, bankers, large companies) is transposed or coded into the opposition between honest hard-working Christian Americans and the decadent liberals who drink lattes and drive foreign cars, advocate abortion and homosexuality, mock patriotic sacrifice and the simple provincial way of life, and so on. The enemy is thus perceived as the “liberal” who, through federal state intervention (from school-busing to prescribing that Darwinian evolution and perverse sexual practices be taught in class), wants to undermine the authentic American way of life. The populist conservatives’ central economic proposition is therefore to get rid of the strong state that taxes the hard-working population in order to finance its regulatory interventions—their minimal program is thus “fewer taxes, less regulation.”
From the standard perspective of the rational pursuit of self interest, the inconsistency of this ideological stance is obvious: the populist conservatives are literally voting themselves into economic ruin. Less taxation and deregulation means more freedom for the big companies that are driving the impoverished farmers out of business; less state intervention means less federal help for small farmers; and so on down the line. In the eyes of the American evangelical populists, the state stands for an alien power and, together with the UN, is an agent of the Antichrist. It is taking away the liberty of the Christian believer, relieving him of the moral responsibility of stewardship, and thus undermines the individualistic morality that makes each of us the architect of our own salvation. But how is this compatible with the unprecedented explosion of the state apparatuses under George W. Bush? No wonder large corporations are delighted at such evangelical attacks on the state, when the state tries to regulate media mergers, put restrictions on energy companies, strengthen air pollution regulations, protect wildlife and limit logging in the national parks, etcetera. It is the ultimate irony of history that radical individualism serves as an ideological justification for the unconstrained power of what the vast majority experience as an anonymous force that, without any democratic public control, regulates their lives.”
Excerpt from “The Year of Dreaming Dangerously” by Slavoj Zizek.
Read it on Oyster → https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/9781781680438/The-Year-of-Dreaming-Dangerously