Jacobin

I attend a monthly reading group for a leftist magazine called Jacobin. If you’re in DC and interested in that sort of thing you should check it out.

Last time I went I was on a microdose of LSD, and wrote down my impressions (moved around into general categories for ease of reading):

Liberalism

Liberalism vs. ‘True Leftism’ is not so much about policy as about attitude / theory of political power and change.

Liberals look at an example of a problem as something to fix, socialists view it as a symptom of the whole system needing to be fixed.

It seems the big divide is whether you accept the fundamental legitimacy of the system or not. Liberals do, ‘real socialists’ do not.

Liberalism is what it’s called when you want a system to be better, but you accept the fundamental legitimacy of the system. So they like the state monopoly on violence. If I thought I lived in a just society, I would be down for the state monopoly on violence, because it’s really a great idea, just sucks when the state uses it to defend itself from political challenges. So the only way to make people into revolutionaries is to make them reject the legitimacy of the state and thus stop being liberals.

I’m fascinated by the people at these Jacobin meetings. I feel like there’s a lot of people like me who read and think a lot about this stuff, but don’t talk about it that much.

Man do socialists hate liberals. As someone near the boundary of those two positions, it’s a bit uncomfortable.

Distracted by the Meta

When you’re having discussions about complex and poorly defined terms, you end up spending more and more time discussing definitions and category boundaries.

What matters isn’t what the definitions are, it’s that they’re clear.

Category distinctions that we get so mad about are so stupid. The whole drawing a line on a spectrum and then fighting people on the opposite side of that line is crazy. Maybe that’s a liberal sentiment haha.

Getting so mad about strategies people prefer… we’re all on the same team right? I guess some liberal who is pro-cop on Ferguson should be chastised on that issue.. but that mostly is a partisan issue right?

I guess the need to think in categories is a fundamental human limitation, in that if you were smarter you could keep enough variables in your head to just look at things and understand them on a more case by case basis.

Historiography and the history of ideas is endlessly fascinating, but not for all purposes. It would be great to just pick how you’re using terms at the start of an argument. I guess people often do that in books, but if they keep using the standard terms it just adds more alternative definitions for next time. But making up your own words isn’t great either.

I guess you just want norms of knowing what you’re talking about… but that can’t be enforced. Maybe I’m just involved in insufficiently learned discussions… but no, this just gets worse at high levels. Uggggh I guess this is just the best way of talking about complicated topics that we’ve figured out so far.

Other

I’m not really going to convince these people of anything. I should just learn.

I like the idea that any culture with a growth imperative is essentially unstable, and will only last until it is transformed into a more stable form, or destroys itself.

Anything that is constantly changing will keep doing so until it changes into something less mutable.

I like these discussions so much more in small group form, possibly because I get to talk more. But also it’s just less of a collection of disconnected speeches.

Everybody goes to the bar after these meetings, it’s the best part.

The whole Hegelian nature of Marx, with its synthesis and historical inevitability, is dumb. Well not dumb, but not helpful.

I don’t really know enough to flesh out this position. I’m more of a normative socialist: I would like us to have a socialist society, but I wouldn’t make any claims about that being inevitable.

Your enemies are the people you have the least leverage over, the least ability to improve.

You’ll have much better luck changing your own behavior and the behavior of your friends, even if that variety of criticism is less enjoyable.

Microdosing! What a great mindspace for intellectual discussion!

Highly recommended.

Links to the articles we discussed.

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