Morning Snip:
Loyalties and Affections

The following excerpt from Harper’s Magazine (October 2010) does not appear online, but we think that it’s too important to miss; in any case, it dovetails with something much on our mind. Reviewing Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land, Terry Eagleton writes:

The upshot of all this is that market societies are plunged sooner or later into a crisis of legitimation. Authority and obedience, as Edmund Burke warned long ago, are too fragile a bond to hold social orders together for very long. We may fear the law, but we do not love it. Indeed, as this book argues, once we abandon the public for the private, there was scant reason why we should value law (“the public good par excellence”) over force. For lasting political stability, Burke thought, you need to engage the loyalties and affections of the populace as well; and that means culture and politics, not just economics. The problem with market societies is that they erode the symbolic, affective dimensions of social existence, and thus have little chance of grappling their underlings to them with hoops of steel. They rely instead on the self-interest of their subjects. But self-interest is a notoriously faithless, ficle affair. It may inspire you to kick someone in the teeth as much as vote him into power.

Without suggesting that the mid-century legislative and judicial activism that strove to achieve racial equality in the United States ought not to have happened, or that progressive objection to our Vietnam misadventure was wrong-headed, we believe that these movements alienated “the loyalties and affections of the populace” — of a very large part of it, anyway — and that the American fabric will not begin to be repaired until our belief is recognized as fact.