July 31, 2015

"Marxism in this country had even been an eccentric and quixotic passion."

"One oppressed class after another had seemed finally to miss the point. The have-nots, it turned out, aspired mainly to having. The minorities seemed to promise more, but finally disappointed: it developed that they actually cared about the issues, that they tended to see the integration of the luncheonette and the seat in the front of the bus as real goals, and only rarely as ploys, counters in a larger game. They resisted that essential inductive leap from the immediate reform to the social ideal, and, just as disappointingly, they failed to perceive their common cause with other minorities, continued to exhibit a self-interest disconcerting in the extreme to organizers steeped in the rhetoric of 'brotherhood.' And then, at that exact dispirited moment when there seemed no one at all willing to play the proletariat, along came the women's movement, and the invention of women as a 'class.'..."

Wrote Joan Didion, in "The Women's Movement," July 30, 1972.

43 comments:

tim maguire said...

Interesting take, a remixing of some ideas--the idealistic reformers are actually the small-minded ones. But the other, perhaps bigger observation has been sadly overlooked by generations of Democratic operatives. The have-nots don't want to destroy the haves, they want to become haves. Income redistribution and other forms of Democratic socialism don't give the people what they want.

tim in vermont said...

The have-nots don't want to destroy the haves, they want to become haves.

That's why wannabee American Pol Pot Bill Ayers and others figured they were going to have to kill 25 million Americans; this at a time when there were less than 200 million of us. They were going to have to kill so many because re-education wasn't going to work in every case. So basically, their goal was to kill more people than actually suffered in oppressive poverty, to redress that poverty.

It's almost as if all they really wanted was power, machtgelust. Almost as if Nietzsche called it exactly right... But remember that communists and fascists are two completely different animals on opposite ends of the political spectrum!

sojerofgod said...

Marxism is an outdated ideology born during a time when class structures were rigid -especially in Europe- and the average person had no hope of rising above his 'station'. In America the class system was imported from Europe but it has always been weak; while the uppers might not let you into the country club, they couldn't stop you from getting rich and building your own club. (or buying theirs!) Revolutions cannot flourish where there is hope. it is poison to them. Now we have a class of people who drag around the corpse of Marxism while chatting up revolution on their smart phones. Good luck with that!

David said...

Write this today and (if you are not Joan Didion) there's a good chance of your being buried to the neck in sand and pelted (metaphorically, if you are lucky) with stones.

tim in vermont said...

Don Quixote may be been something of a benighted idealist, who spent most of his time making life worse for those he was trying to help, rather than better, so in that sense "Quixotic" works, but I don't remember him being murderous.

Anonymous said...

Didion's White Album was one of the first books I bought - by accident. I was a preteen and thought it was about music. I was therefore confused by the content. Nevertheless, I read it over and over to the point I know most of it by memory and barely had to glance at it in college. Her other work was easy to absorb and process to a mind so prepared.

Didion now sounds extremely dated to my ear. Her work held up pretty well, but it finally happened.

Ferris Bueller, too.

sydney said...

...continued to exhibit a self-interest disconcerting in the extreme

Isn't that the story of socialism the world over?

Michael K said...

The elites are continually disappointed by the poor benighted class they are determined to help. The fact that things always get worse for those the left "helps" might have a bit to do with it. The blacks are about to turn on them. The "mattress girls" are probably good for another decade.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, teach gym.

Joan Didion did none of the above so all bets are off as to what she actually did for a living.

But put me down for meaningless yammering best defined as a form of entertainment.

traditionalguy said...

Nostalgia time. Marxism made cowards out ouf all college intellectuals who "understood the ideals of the children." It was sad and shameful thing to watch that happen in the late 1960s. It snagged the idiot Hillary Rodham.

Any War of ideas between the free thinkers and the strange zombies of The Revolution was rigged by mentally ill killers calling themselves college professors as a cover story for their destructive acts.

sojerofgod said...

Joan Didion. I've heard that name before somewhere.... Nah. not relevant.
Some lib chick who was fashionable back in the 60's
We're too busy dealing with cattle rustlers and horse thieves here in the Sovereign State of Miss'ssippi.
Yes, they do still exist...

gerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gerry said...

From the article: In certain ways they tell us sadder things about what the culture has done to them than the theorists did, and they also tell us, I suspect, that the women's movement is no longer a cause but a symptom.

Women are culture-makers as much as men, if not more so. Therefore, if the culture has done something to them, women have at least contributed to doing this to themselves, which begs the question: What do women want?

Same old same old, and Marxist practitioners end up in yet another blind alley.

Michael K said...

"the women's movement is no longer a cause but a symptom."

No, it's racket. Ralph Nader even said so.

Scott said...

I have never read anything by Joan Didion. These days I listen to Audible.com audio books; and they have 20 titles I can download. Would you recommend The White Album as a first book to listen to? Or is there a better introduction to this author?

Carol said...

Some lib chick who was fashionable back in the 60's

Oh yeah, write her off as a 60s relic, and a female one at that. But that was actually a time when you could write perceptive and counterintuitive things and not get crucified. Even hardcore leftists like Doris Lessing are good reads because they confess the sins of their ilk for personal revenge.

All we have left now is Paglia.

Gahrie said...

Shorter Didion: The commies couldn't find any willing fools until the women's movement came along.

tim maguire said...

tim in vermont said...So basically, their goal was to kill more people than actually suffered in oppressive poverty, to redress that poverty.

There is a line in some of Che Guavara's writings to the effect that he would be willing to kill the whole world to bring about a worker's paradise. The establishment of social justice was, to him, more important than humanity. It was worth any cost, including leaving it sitting empty because there was no one left to live in it.

JAORE said...

[W]e have a class of people who drag around the corpse of Marxism while chatting up revolution on their smart phones.

I'm stealing the hell out of that line. Perhaps under the tag irony is dead.

sydney said...

From the article:
If the family was the last fortress of capitalism, then let us abolish the family. If the necessity for conventional reproduction of the species seemed unfair to women, then let us transcend, via technology, "the very organization of nature," the oppression, as Shulamith Firestone saw it, "that goes back through recorded history to the animal kingdom itself."

The radical agenda appears to be winning.

Paddy O said...

"But that was actually a time when you could write perceptive and counterintuitive things and not get crucified."

There are still a number of women and men out there who are writing perceptive and counterintuitive things and not getting crucified. However, those who write perceptive and counterintuitive things in our era do not get publicity.

The media has long left behind any semblance of interest in public intellectuals and has replaced them with public partisan parrots.

Paddy O said...

I'm increasingly convinced that the problem in contemporary discourse isn't Marx, it's Habermas.

jr565 said...

its all cultural marxism.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Malestock: An Oral History of the Endemic Misogyny at the 1969 Music Festival."

Some excerpts:

Betty James: "All the men wanted to do was listen to the music and groove, and they expected us women to do everything else. Like, I'm sorry guys, I didn't make enough sandwiches for a hundred thousand people."

Frances Hill: "I remember thinking we were changing the World. Now I mostly remember the crabs."

Lorraine Whelton: "Women, we have an innate sense of decency and cleanliness: it was the men who turned the porta-potties into reeking, overflowing shit-holes. I mean: barefoot? Pigs! You better believe I kept my own roll of toilet paper in my purse."

Mary Jones: "One night some guy just walked around the grounds, going from woman to woman and asking if they would suck his cock. I said 'sure', and so I sucked his cock. That is how Free we were."

Nancy Payne: "The event was a disappointment for me. This was the perfect opportunity for men to listen to women and experience an expansion of consciousness, but they just tripped on LSD instead. The boys I was with, it was like they weren't even hearing what I was saying."

Alice Moyer: "It was the Pinnacle of Free Love, man! I mean, I was just an innocent white girl from a small Southern town, and then -- Pow! -- I had sex with a black brother who looked just like Jimi Hendrix while dozens of people cheered us on! The abortion afterwards was totally worth it!"

Linda Philips: "The fact that most of the musical acts were men didn't go unnoticed. I noticed. I noticed it alot."

Jane Lenz: "I admit it: I showed my tits. That doesn't mean I'm not a feminist, it just means that I wanted to show my tits. It was Freedom: you wouldn't understand, now. Stop trying to analyze me."

Doris Clemens: It's over forty years later and my vagina still doesn't feel clean. God, I wish I had never even gone."


I am Laslo.

mikee said...

John Norman, author of the SciFi Fantasy series of novels about the very, very male-dominated planet Gor, probably knew even in the 1970s & 1980s that he was writing extremely politically incorrect books. Looking back at them now, they sure seem scary prescient regarding the path of feminism in the US.

Gahrie said...

Careful, you aren't supposed to even admit that the Gor books exist, much less that you have read them.

There is a modern Sci Fi writer who writes in a similar vein...John Ringo and his Paladin series. The first book is called Ghost.

Sebastian said...

"they failed to perceive their common cause with other minorities, continued to exhibit a self-interest disconcerting in the extreme"

Didion had Black Lives Matter pegged long ago. Black American lives, of course--black African lives are uninteresting unless oppressed by whitey.

Of course, feminism also aspired "mainly to having"--having it "all." Feminists also disappointed old-fashioned Marxists: the feminist paradise is not genderless and feminist critical critics are whiney whiners in the evening.

Bay Area Guy said...

We did a good job of discrediting Marxism and Communism in this country, because we saw how destructive and evil those value systems were both in theory and practice.

The problem is that modern day Leftism has adopted significant bits and parts of this discredited theory, and skillfully promoted it under sweeter sounding newer packaging (equality, fairness, social justice and the like.)

But it's still the same Alinsky formulation of agitating the Nots to try to take from the Haves. The problem is that, in the good ole USA, many of the Haves earned their status legally, honestly, honorably, through hard work and entrepreneurship, while many of the Nots, well, chose to not do their homework in high school, smoke lotsa dope, get unmarried girls pregnant, avoid steady work, and, well, predictably ended up as Nots.

Michael K said...

"many of the Nots, well, chose to not do their homework in high school, smoke lotsa dope, get unmarried girls pregnant, avoid steady work, and, well, predictably ended up as Nots."

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

It was always thus but in previous times, these "Nots" people were not the ruling class. The "Choom gang."

YoungHegelian said...

I'm increasingly convinced that the problem in contemporary discourse isn't Marx, it's Habermas.

Word up, dat!

Gahrie said...

It was always thus but in previous times, these "Nots" people were not the ruling class. The "Choom gang."

That's because in previous times we were too smart to give the "not" the power to vote themselves free stuff paid for by the rest of us.

Bill said...

Well, she's "evolved" since then . . .

Michael said...

Scott:

Slouching towards Bethlehem for non-fiction
Play it as it Lays for fiction

White Album is better appreciated after reading the two above

Unknown said...

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, teach gym."

No. Coaches can teach. Those who can't teach, teach teachers.

buwaya said...

Ringo is hit or miss, by a lot, in the same book.
His Posleen (alien invasion) series is very, very interesting. These are the only ones I have read.
You can leave the pseudo-Heinlein pseudo-folksy family drama out of it.
The aliens, the technology "story", the warfare, even the genocidal levels of gore are surprisingly gripping.
It does get into the "acid trip on the printed page" level of science fiction.
If he could manage to write a book without any characters it would likely be brilliant.

buwaya said...

Interesting thing about the marxism-women angle is that its almost entirely a US (and some European, but not much) phenomenon.

So it is a rather parochial business.
Sort of the American variant of juche and Kim-worship.

Marxism was an international ideology, which exploited local angles depending on circumstances - the Korean and Cambodian flavors were ultra-nationalistic and fed from the hermit-kingdom tendencies, others were all about land-hungry rural tenants and a hatred of landlords, others were all about race and hatred of foreigners, or anti-colonial, etc.

The American local angle does not translate well, much as Kim-worship doesn't.

EDH said...

Marx posited that capitalism required a "reserve army of labor" for it to survive.

Ironically, today's left has turned Marx "on his head", if you will, and seeks a "reserve army of voters" who are employed or underemployed and therefore dependent on the state, hence the Party, for their daily sustenance.

EDH said...

s/b unemployed, above.

deepelemblues said...

Marxists have never been able to figure out that, in America, the "proletariat" wants to rise up in the sense of joining the "petit-bourgeoisie." Except for the ones who want to rise up and join the "plutocracy." It has never wanted to drag the "bourgeoisie" or the "plutocracy" down so everyone can be at the same crappy level.

And the reason Marxists have been unable to understand this is that they never understood and still don't understand that the "American Dream," 'America doesn't have classes,' 'everyone is equal' etc. was and is not a trick on the "proletariat," it is a true ideal that succeeded spectacularly and played a major role in creating the most prosperous "proletariat" in history.

tpceltus said...

I never really understood Didion's popularity, but I did find "Where I was From" to be fascinating.

Laslo Spatula said...

She was married to a talented writer.

That used to be enough.


I am Laslo.

Zach said...

I've enjoyed all of Didion's essays that I've read.

She has a very perceptive take on Marxism here -- specifically, on how out of touch the people purporting to rule for the proletariat are with the actual issues the proletariat is interested in, and how easily substitutable one proletariat is for another.

In fact, isn't that the point of "intersectionalism?" All oppression is essentially the same oppression, which means that it doesn't matter if you're gay, minority, female, etc. Even though the actual issues faced by gays, minorities, females, etc are utterly differen in point of actual fact. Marxist theory only works with respect to generic issues, and the only real remedy is violent revolt. Not very useful for practical politics.

pst314 said...

tim in vermont "wannabee American Pol Pot Bill Ayers"

Well put.