David Brooks on politics as a limited good

To fix politics, care more about other things. […]

It should be said that people on the left and on the right who try to use politics to find their moral meaning are turning politics into an idol. Idolatry is what happens when people give ultimate allegiance to something that should be serving only an intermediate purpose, whether it is money, technology, alcohol, success or politics.

[…] we…need to put politics in its place. The excessive dependence on politics has to be displaced by the expulsive power of more important dependencies, whether family, friendship, neighborhood, community, faith or basic life creed.

[…] our politics probably can’t be fixed by political means. It needs repair of the deeper communal bonds that politics rest on, and which political conflict cannot heal.

from “When Politics Becomes Your Idol,” New York Times, (Oct 30, 2017)

I’d add, don’t care more about other things only for the sake of fixing politics, but also to fix yourself.

4 thoughts on “David Brooks on politics as a limited good

  1. Although I very much appreciate what you yourself said of this, I am once again disheartened to see how little ideology Brooks sees in his own self-described “moderation.” One need not be familiar with Marxism to — at the very least — seriously entertain and concede a point to the notion that the height of ideology is the declaration that one is non-ideological.

    Politics itself is a murky term, generally too often narrowed down to partisan/parliamentary politics, rather than one’s engagement with, say, civil society, the environment, even the way in which ones reads (or fails to read) texts (in the broadest sense, e.g., theatre, literature, TV). I would argue that it is largely the “centrist” (i.e., market friendly) politics of those on the NYT writing staff that account for a large drop in the virtues of character and, correlatively, in the groups that help build those virtues. Union membership, for example, has dropped to terribly low depths. Jobs, too, rarely often paid union leave (for workers to train their skills, hone ambitions centred around usefulness to colleagues).

    Again, one need not subscribe to Marxism to argue that much of the ills Brooks speaks of are abetted by capitalism (Benjamin Barber’s “Consumed” is an easy example to list), if not are necessary products of such a system, seeing as it is centred on the competition-driven need to accumulate greater (and potentially always shrinking) profits.

    Religion, family, friendship, community — all these dependencies are necessarily contextualised in a greater web of interconnected relationships. To treat politics as something external to these dependencies is not simply disingenuous, I would say it is itself a political and so contradictory.

    • Here’s another pass from a different pundit — just to register the fact that it isn’t only Brooks and the New York Times that’s sensing that politics is “too much with us” of late.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s