The liberal class posits itself as the conscience of the nation. It permits us, through its appeal to public virtues and the public good, to define ourselves as a good and noble people. Most importantly, on behalf of the power elite the liberal class serves as bulwarks against radical movements by offering a safety valve for popular frustrations and discontentment by discrediting those who talk of profound structural change.
The Death of the Liberal Class examines the failure of the liberal class to confront the rise of the corporate state and the consequences of a liberalism that has become profoundly bankrupted. Hedges argues there are five pillars of the liberal establishment – the press, liberal religious institutions, labor unions, universities and the Democratic Party— and that each of these institutions, more concerned with status and privilege than justice and progress, sold out the constituents they represented. In doing so, the liberal class has become irrelevant to society at large and ultimately the corporate power elite they once served.In listening to Hedges talk about his book, he strikes me as a latter-day Howard Beale, the character played by the late Peter Finch in the movie, Network, who implores us all to cry out, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" There is almost a neo-Marxist tone to Hedges's analysis, and he stops just inches short of calling for a revolution. But he is no crackpot radical. Chris Hedges is thoughtful and thought-provoking, and draws from history, philosophy, political economy, literature, sociology, and psychology to construct his well-wrought argument.
For the most part, I agree with Hedges's thesis. Where we differ, perhaps, is in the inevitability of his conclusion. I think there is a way out of the mess into which we've allowed ourselves to be seduced. I'm looking forward to the conversation tomorrow evening, and I'll write more on my specific ideas after the broadcast. If you're available to watch, it's Friday, October 22 at 20:00, repeated at 23:00 on TVO. I'll post the link to the video podcast when it's posted early next week.
Update: (26 Oct 2010): The video of the panel debate is now posted, along with my post-game analysis.