The The Notorious ŒV offers a bland suggestion that the left remains sympathetic to keeping The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century yet unlearned. Having finished the class (except for a final paper which I plan to write this weekend) now I have the chance to return to reading Chantal Delsol’s two books that have been translated into English (the first linked above). The second, which actually was published first, is titled Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in a Uncertain World. In the forward by the series editor, an surprising fact is asserted. The secular left and liberalism has had a little known assault which has been highly successful in the debate between left and right in the field of translation. They have managed to give the impression that outside of the Anglo-American world leftist thinkers are the dominant default. In turn, the Continent has been assailed in the main by liberal authors from the Americas, badly skewing our impressions of the status of the other. He gives a list of about a dozen or so French, South American, Italian, and German conservative thinkers and writers, each heard in their language but not translated. Chantal Delsol is another of these individuals. The editor notes the obvious, that one would have considered a distinguished influential woman political scientist/political philosopher (and in a field in which women are not just a little rare) would be a thing that feminists would celebrate. Yet, because her political philosophy is not left leaning … wham. No translations. No celebrations. No recognition (except perhaps a tacit nod to hypocrisy).

Ms Delsol is writing about the failed aspirations of the majority in the last century. She terms our age late modernity to strike a chord with late antiquity. For the last two centuries the progressive vision has been to stamp out poverty, injustice, war, disease and arrive at a radiant future. Even today, the left wing in American thinks that, yes, if only we pass this next reform (healthcare) then there will be no people dying for lack of care in America. There are two results to that sort of thinking. First, since, even if that passes, people will still be dying, injustice, poverty and disease will remain … yet another major reform will be critically required. And second eventually many will become disillusioned. Ms Delsol begins her book with an image of an Icarus who actually manages to survive. And asks, “he falls back into the labyrinth, where he finds himself horribly bruised but still alive. And let us try to imagine what goes on in his life after having thought himself capable of attaining the sun, the supreme good. How will he get over his disappointment?”

There are some who think that the mistakes of the past century to solve those problems were technical. That Icarus just “didn’t” get it right, like the hopey/changey Obamanoids who think that just if “smart people” get to make the right “wonky” decisions then the sun will be attained. Asymmetrical information problems are not the least of their errors. The problems go deeper. Others are less optimistic, instead having an existential crises. Having rejected the foundational beliefs of the prior age and embarking on ambitious projects to save the world, finding that it is not a tenable project, leaves many in the late modernity grasping for alternatives.

In the upcoming weeks, one of the recurring themes will be to raise and discuss the points and arguments raised by Ms Delsol in her two books noted above, starting with Icarus Fallen. I’d encourage you to get them from a library and skim or read them yourselves (of failing that, tip me a few dimes and buy it with the provided links). It would at the very least enliven the discussion.

Filed under: CultureGovernmentMark O.

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