End of the 20th Century, 1980-2008
Two great forces shape the end of the 20th
Rise of Conservatism
- A political movement that would succeed in displacing the
New Deal rhetorical motive as the guiding motivation for government.
- After a 25 year period of growth, captured government in the election of
Ronald Reagan in 1980
- Created a new political coalition that would govern until 2008
- A diminishment of nationalism as the basic pattern of consciousness defining
the organization of identity, economics, and politics
- A rhetoric developed to carry changes in structures into changes in consciousness
- Interrupted by 9/11 and then renewed
We will study each. They intertwine through the final 20 years of the century.
Rise of Conservatism
End of the New Deal
- By 1970s, New Deal motive was failing to explain the public world anymore. It was failinig by its own measures. Unemployment was between 6 aand 7 percent. By 1980 inflation was 13.5 percent. And new programs seemed mostly to benefit the middle class. Were they the dispossesed?
- Conservative movement was poised to replace the New Deal motive with a different rhetoric motivating a different attitude toward government.
On political labels: <Conservative>
- Remember labels are rhetoric. Names chosen to do particular strategic chores.
If they capture ideologies, they become ideographs. Political labels are there to create coalitions around overlapping rhetorics
that various groups can embrace.
- Conservatism arose from the dialectic of permanence and change. Remember
those who oppose change must produce a rhetoric that promises to meet change
with sufficient resources to deal with it. In the rhetoric of this political
movement, those resources celebrated traditional American values and narratives.
They took Roosevelt's praise for the "pioneer spirit" and Wilson's
"old truths" and to emphasize them, put them in control of the faith
in the future that political rhetoric must achieve.
- The 1960s and 1970s had been an era of great change. Those who found the
change frightening could embrace the "old truths" that had made
the country great.
On political coalitions
- A rhetoric that controls government over a number of years must establish
speakers, topics, and voters who are its adherents and find its rhetorical
themes, ideographs, and ideology as powerful in explaining their world and
responding to it.
- Inevitably, such rhetoric achieves power because it is able to bring together
adherents of many ideas who see enough in common to motivate their cooperation.
Thus, the strength of a coalitional political rhetoric is this union of diverse
ideas. Underneath the rhetoric they may hold values and ideals that actually
conflict, but they are able to develop a rhetoric that emphasizes commonalities
so that these trump the differences.
- The New Deal had done this for Roosevelt, bringing together progressives,
labor, urban political machines, victims of the depression, intellectuals
particularly the growing social sciences, and the old Democratic Party of
the American South. There were tensions in this coalition -- for example,
between progressives who favored government reform and urban machines that
would lose power if it were carried out -- but they were held together by
a rhetoric that projected government activity in addressing economic problems.
The Conservatives constructed a different coalition. It
consisted of the following four groups:
- Libertarians/<States Rights> advocates
- A dialectic between the power of the unfettered
individual and the power of a society organized to achieve common purposes
has always been present in American rhetoric.
- Libertarians were the extreme
voice for the former. They believed in as little government as possible
in every thing. They embraced the 10th amendment to the constitution which
limited the powers of the federal government, but went beyond, opposing
governments of any kind. Exceptions were there -- for security and military,
for example -- but were always problematic for rock bed libertarians.
- In economics they were classical adherents of Adam Smith favoring the
free market as superior in all things . In the 1950s, this idea was represented
by Ayn Rand's The
Virtue of Selfishness.
- Early in the movement, an important group
of libertatians was built around <states rights>. This rhetoric
was particularly important in the South where it became a code for opposing
the federal goverment's efforts to support civil rights. This rhetoric
emphasized the 10th amendment and developed a second ideograph, <federalism>,
as a term less associated than <state's rights> with opposition
to civil rights. The growth of the conservative movement in the South
was largely in the growth of the linkage between this strain of libertarianism
and the social conservatives below.
- Later in the movement the purer strain
of libertarians who opposed all government, including believing in minimal
state and local government, was more common.
- Economic or Business Conservatives
- These were the "money
changers" of the New Deal rhetoric. Their call for less government
focused on reduced regulations or rules governing their conduct in the
- They were not adverse to government building infrastructure (highways,
airports, even the internet), and certainly basked in the heavy spending
on armaments to win the Cold War. But as they favored these interferences
with the free market, they were very willing to embrace a rhetoric of
free markets because it deplored regulation.
- These were the leaders of
the American corporate and business community.
- Their wealth bankrolled
much of the conservative political machine.
- Social Conservatives.
- These were those who were particularly opposed
to the great changes brought about by the movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
- Their strongest organized core was known as the "Christian Coalition"
or the "Christian Right," located in predominately white protestant
churches. There were even some uneasy efforts to include the Catholic
Church on issues where they opposed feminism such as birth control and
abortion. Importantly, where John F. Kennedy has run for president
emphasizing the separation of church and state, these groups believed
that there was a Christian obligations to "carry your faith into
government." Thus, they became activitists.
- The rhetoric emphasized the teachings of the Bible that the
group believed were being violated by the changes brought about by the
movements of the day.
- This was the largest
group providing the "soldiers" of the coalition providing the
human energy that the labor movement had provided in the New Deal coalition.
- This group actually believed in an active government, believing that government
should confront the movements and that it should provide the legal structure
to enforce morality as exemplified in the Bible. But one of their big
issues was, in fact, prayer in the schools. The separation of church and
state argued against permitting religion in government run (public) schools.
Social conservatives framed this as a restriction on their "freedom
to worship" thus permitting them to make common cause with the libertarians
based on this one significant issue.
- Foreign Policy Conservatives or Neo-Cons
- The term "Neo-Conservatives"
was often used to describe this entire political movement, but it also became
a short-hand name for this particular part of the coalition.
- This group
emphasized American exceptionalism. All members of the coalition believed
in the special American promise of <freedom>, but tended to have different definitions of it: freedom from government,
the free market, freedom to worship, freedom from federal domination, etc.
The Neo-Cons believed that it was the American gift of <freedom> and
<democracy> that was her gift to the world, and that American military
strength should be exercised to give it to the world.
- They were the direct
descendants of the Cold Warriors who believed that in the bipolar world
the freedom of human beings everywhere should be supported in opposing Communist
enslavement. They heavily supported the second Cold War during Reagan's
term and then turned to such adventures as the Second Iraq War as sound
policy to spread American <freedom> and <democracy>.
The Political Success
- The New Right had begun as an intellectual movement in the 1950s.
A group called "the Southern Agrarians" had conceptualized the ideas
of the importance of individual initiative in the narrative of the United
States' success as a culture. The Hoover Instiutution at Stanford University
provided a home for many, particularly the foreign policy conservatives.
- A publishing wing began to spread the ideas of the New Right. The
National Review was founded by William F. Buckley in 1955. Irving
Kristol who had been editor of Commentary from 1947-1952, founded The
Public Interest in 1965.
- Beyond the intellectuals, the movements of the 1960s and 1970s provided
a target that could unite conservatives in fear of the loss of the world they
had known. Successes of the Civil Rights movement gave Southern conservatives
reason to fear loss of their racial system. Feminism and the gay movement
seemed to threaten traditional values that attracted the attention of social
conservatives, exemplified in Phyliss Schlaffly and the Stop ERA movement.
More generally, conservatives began to attract many who embraced postwar consumer
materialism and perceived the movements as undermining it. Spread through
the public sphere, the rhetoric that would create the conservative political
movement began to emerge.
- The Conservative Coalition succeeded in capturing the machinery of the Republican
Party during the 1960s and 1970s in the same way that Roosevelt's New Deal
has taken control of the Democratic Party in the 1930s. They were strong enough
to nominate Barry Goldwater for president in 1964, but he lost badly. They
challenged the sitting US president with Ronald Reagan in 1976 and lost narrowly.
By 1980 they captured control of the presidency and government.
- To enhance your understanding, let me point to the Republican Party debates
in 2008 to see this coalition beginning to come apart. Each of these groups
had a representative: Ron Paul represented Libertarians, John McCain the Economic
or Business Conservatives, Mike Huckabee the Social Conservatives, Duncan
Hunter the Neo-Cons. The failure of John McCain to overcome the emphasis that
formed the divisions of the debates was an important factor in ending the
coalition's control of the White House. Today, we can clearly hear the various
voices (except perhaps for the Neo-Cons who were largely discredited by the
Iraq War) in the Republican Party's diverse rhetoric.
A Challenge to Nationalism
- Since the 1600s, rhetoric of the Western world had been built
around Nationalism. The most obvious sign of this was the consciousness
of being a citizen of a nation-state. In the world system, the nation-state
had replaced the Church of Rome as the central organizing force. Main legal
system governing life initially rested with kings and princes whose identity
was as the symbols of the nation, and as republican government grew that sovereignty
shifted to a national <people>.
- The circumference of the economy was also set by national barriers. Markets
grew to national in scope. Tariffs protected national markets. Geography itself
suggested the nation-state was about right as a framework for markets. However, nearly from the beginning, the oceans began to shrink as barriers
to trade. As late as the colonial competition of the early 20th century, nation
states were ever more engaged with
other peoples and nations, but they were still the main world actors.
- Finally, warfare shifted during the time from the more narrowly drawn tribe to be organized by, and for, the nation-state. The rhetoric that motivated the sacrifice of life and fortune for warfare provided significant reinforcement for the nation-state orientation of Nationalism.
Non-rhetorical forces of the 20th century began to undermine Nationalism
Through the 20th century transportation began to shrink the world. The
invention of the internal combustion engine and the airplane shrank oceans.
The growth of the international corporations with offices and industrial
capacity in many nations began to erode economic soverignty. Governments
could not legislate controls over companies headquartered elsewhere and
often refused to do so lest they lose the corporations they had.
Economic theory of comparative advantage developed to organize world trade.
This theory said that different countries possess different advantages economically;
those nations should emphasize the domain of their advantage; and world
trade should tie these advantaged producutions together in a world economy. Such rhetoric motivated diminished focus on the national market and made markets more world-wide.
International organizations were formed over the course of the century.
After the League of Nations failed, the United Nations formed after World
War II with multiple agencies under its umbrella. Economic organizations
such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade
Organization followed. The World Court's involvement increased.
with the national alliances in the World Wars, even national security was
organized through international organizations such as NATO (the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization), SEATO (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization), ANZUS
(an alliance of Austrailian, New Zealand, and the United States), the OAS
(Organization of American States) and many more.
Finally, the internet served to diminish the distinctions of national boundaries
as communication became possible across the boundaries of nation-states.
A rhetoric developed to support this material and institutional globalization
- The powerful Cold War rhetorical motive promoted ideology over nationalism. The world was divided bipolarly, not fragmented into 200 nations. Thus, when the Cold War was won, only one world was left, and the "triumph of the free market" became a rhetoric celebrating the unity of the world under the influence of free trade and a free market. (The exception during the Cold War was the rise of detente and the power politics motive celebrating "national interest" but this lost power in the second Cold War.)
- International agencies provided fora to articulate the oneness of the world's peoples. Although the United Nations was organized around nation-states, its General Assembly and Security Council frequently heard defense of shared human rights and celebrations of the unity of the world's peoples. The World Court provideed a framework for "crimes against humanity" and the beginning of legal structures that were global in scope.
- Planatary Symbols. Photographs like "Earthrise," a picture of the earth rising above the curve of the lunar surface taken during the Apollo 11 flight became an iconic symbol of a people sharing a single planet.
- Even shared scourges like AIDs served to emphasize the shared vulnerability of peoples of the world.
- Finally, movements developed that were world movements rather than movements seeking power over just national cultures and politics
- Davos, an economic movement promoting free markets
- World Social Forum, an anti-Davos movement that targets world economic power and seeks to empower movements like sustainability
- NGOs, or non-governmental organizations such as "Doctors without Borders" that seek to achieve global objectives
- Perhaps the most important of these movements is the environmental movement. Its problem has been conceptualized as "global warming." Its targets are not national. Its call for solutions is global rather than national in scope.
Resistance to globalization
Displacing nationalism is a difficult rhetorical task. This is a 500 year old rhetoric, intensely saturating humankind. The power of the nation-state to support itself with action based in the rhetoric of nationalism is immense as well. It still explains a lot and provides familiar solutions to problems. The authority structure of world politics remains national. The president is more important that the Secretary General of the United Nations. (Do you know who he is?)
- There is a long history of resistances to the emergence of globalization
- Failure of the League of Nations
- 9/11. It elicited a nationalistic response with celebrations of American pride, a national war, and increased border security to keep out other nationals that may endanger us.
- Tribalism. Yugoslavia and Iraq illustrate that diminished nationalism can as easily lead to smaller sovereignty than globalization.
- European experience. The creation of the European Union and the Common Market challenged nationalism in Europe with some success. Today, Europe's borders are much more open than in the past. But there is no single voice for the European Union (its president is passed around among national leaders), the European parliament has little power and the revolt against the economic measures of the Common Market and the Euro are advanced. In addition, immigration tensions are reinforcing nationalism on the continent.
Can Globalization displace nationalism?
It remains an open question.