The Best of Times for the “Libertarian-Left”?

It seems that right now things could be considered better for the “libertarian-left” than at any point in the past, at least in US history. By “libertarian-left,” I mean that umbrella of philosophies with a generally anti-authoritarian ethos but which also do not deify corporate tycoons as Nietzschean supermen in the same way as the Randians and some other “right-libertarians,” and who hold to generally “left” cultural norms, excluding the socially conservative paleolibertarians and others with similar views.  I’ve known Randians who seemed to be sincere enemies of the state, and there are certainly social conservatives who are sincere anarchists or libertarians of some kind. But that’s a separate issue. Consider this:

-The American empire, unipolarity, and globalizatization appear to be stalling or retreating following generations of expansion.

-The domestic regime is fragmenting and losing legitimacy.

-Public opinion is turning against the police state, mostly because it has become so massive that it is impacting the middle class and mainstream cultural groups.

-The cultural left is winning on virtually all social and cultural issues.

-Drug prohibition is falling, opposition to the police is rising, along with calls for wider decriminalization of lots of things as part of  “criminal justice reform.”

-Direct action movements against the state and state-allied institutions are increasingly common.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean we are on the verge of some anarchist utopia. Far from it. In most of the categories above, less than 1% of what needs to be done has been done or is being done. But there has been a significant paradigm shift. At the same time, the news is not all good. The two most serious issues at present are the re-feudalization of the economy and the re-proletarianization of labor under the rising techno-oligarchic digital capitalist revolution, and the emergence of the professional-managerial class as the new clerisy whose function is to enforce and uphold ruling class orthodoxies. Most left-leaning libertarians are not equipped to challenge these two developments, to a large degree because they have not recognized the economic and social transformation that has taken place. Instead, they are still fighting the America of the 1950s or the Reagan era or the 19th century or whenever, and have not updated their analytical and tactical framework to accommodate the changes that have taken place.

We are becoming a society with a ruling class that holds to Western European cultural norms, but with Latin America’s level of socioeconomic stratification. Unfortunately, the libertarian-left has no means of offering resistance to these two trends.  Most libertarian-leftists share the same cultural presumptions of the new clerisy, e.g. that racism and sexism are the greatest of all human evils, that the continued advancement of LGBT rights is among the most pressing of cultural issues, that climate change is a dire emergency requiring drastic action, the deification “science,” “health,” “progress,” etc. All of that might be fine on a sufficiently abstract level but it is easily co-opted by the rising digital capitalist ruing and professional-managerial class new clerisy. Additionally, most libertarian-leftists have not genuinely moved past the standard “big government vs. big business” paradigm and end up compromising with one or the other, becoming either functional Democrats or functional Republicans.

What this means is the libertarian-left is largely ceding class-based politics and economic populism to left-wing and right-wing statists and authoritarians. Similarly, libertarian-leftists are ceding resistance to the new clerisy to right-wing authoritarians and cultural reactionaries.  It is likely that as the “system” continues to crumble, the “center” (the digital capitalist-Wall Street-deep state alliance) will continue to try to tighten its grip with “totalitarian humanism” (the “social justice” ideology) being utilized as a core feature of its ideological superstructure. Meanwhile, the libertarian-left(and the rest of the left) will be incapable of offering resistance because they will be paralyzed with fear of right-wing reactionaries. Meanwhile, it will be the right-wing reactionaries who are actually generating opposition to the cultural hegemony of the new clerisy and combining it with economic populism. Trumpism may only be a beginning.  And left-wing populism will be co-opted by statism, largely out of fears of right-wing reactionaries. For the libertarian-left to move forward effectively, it needs to shift its paradigm and analytical/theoretical framework to include recognition of the digital capitalist revolution’s rising economic hegemony and the new clerisy’s rising cultural hegemony.

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