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The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Sunday, April 5, 2020

SPECULATIONS


What follows, let me emphasize, are speculations, not predictions.  All of these speculations are optimistic.  At a time when thousands are dying and perhaps hundreds of thousands will follow them to the grave [or to the freezer truck], it is no effort to forecast the worst.  Consider these not even speculations, but rather a call to action. 

In most great natural calamities, some species of animals and plants perish.  One thinks of the Permian-Triassic Extinction, in which 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species disappeared.  The COVID event is not in that league, but it may claim one hardy species of faux raptor, the Great Republican Deficit Hawk.  After the fourth, fifth, and sixth multi-trillion dollar “stimulus” packages are passed unanimously by the Senate and signed into law, the once-feared deficit hawk may have retreated to a protected sanctuary in the Cato Institute, only to reappear on ritual occasions to preen, fluff its feathers, and utter its distinctive “cuuuut, cuuuut” cry.

As the Deficit Hawk dies out, small timid MMT theorists may emerge from their safe havens in second tier university Economics Departments and, as often happens during such upheavals, evolve into fearsome saber toothed Ivy League professors.  The genera, sub-genera, families, species, and sub-species of Marxists, who have survived by identifying and cultivating less hostile backwaters in State universities, will in all likelihood not benefit from the COVID extinction.  Since they prey mostly on one another they are ill-suited to take advantage of openings in the intellectual ecosystem.

Which brings me to health care, or, as the virus is revealing, the lack of health care.  If I may continue the evolutionary metaphor, the development of the American health care unsystem is a classic example of the speciation that Darwin discovered on his famous sea voyage.  Separated from the rest of the world by two large oceans, America has developed a completely distinctive, utterly inefficient, but on the other hand exorbitantly expensive way of caring for its citizens’ health care needs.  The struggle to rectify this disaster has consumed the energies of Democrats for a large part of the seventy years.  Improvements have been achieved, to be sure, by means of a mode of evolution that the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Goud called Punctuated Equilibrium.  That is to say, long periods of stasis interrupted by brief bursts of change.  It looks to me as though we may emerge from the COVID extinction with an overwhelming consensus in support of rapid fundamental change.  Joe Biden, who is probably ideally situated to benefit politically from what will come to be called the Trump Die Off, is perhaps the worst Democrat in America to lead such a period of change, but as he seems not to have any identifiable convictions, he can be counted on to sign whatever a Democratic Congress puts before him.

I shall now put behind me the biological metaphor, which has outlived its usefulness.  Quite the most interesting political development of the past month is the shift taking place before our eyes in the relative power, status, and energy of the federal government and the state governments.  In the past 90 years, the powers of the presidency have been so enlarged and those of state governors so diminished that it would have been a brave prognosticator who would have suggested as recently as February that the Office of the Presidency would be reduced to a clown car sideshow while a governor would become the voice of the people and the hope of the nation.  Only a President as uniquely ungifted as Trump could have accomplished such a reversal.  Whether it will in any form survive the present crisis is difficult to say.  Surely it is unlikely, but perhaps it is not impossible.

Finally, what does this all mean for the election?  In closing, I will make an actual prediction.  Things will look worse and worse for Trump in April, May, June, and even early July.  By deep summer, the virus will have receded, people will be going back to work, Trump will claim victory, and those of us on the left will despair.  Then, as fall follows summer and the election looms, the virus will return, just in time to crush Trump’s chances for reelection. 

37 comments:

F Lengyel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

I have wondered how our health care system, in its current condition, could possibly deliver vaccines to the vast majority of the people of this country (excluding, of course, any anti-vaxer holdouts).

Will the vaccines be administered on a state-by-state basis, the way the response to the virus has mostly been conducted up until now?

Over the last few days, I've found myself increasingly concerned with our state's elections because I see our state's government as the last line of defense against the Trump-GOP lunatics in Washington D.C.

F Lengyel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

I don't know what to expect of Biden, but based on his history as a new-liberal Democrat, I expect he will not support any version of national health insurance. I also don't know what to make of Sanders. It seemed clear that he was not a very agile debater, and as he and Biden have disappeared from view, they have left the political stage to Trump. The only democrat on a national stage is Gov. Cuomo.

There is a rule of thumb in politics that a charge left unchallenged will be assumed to be true. As Trump gives himself the stage late every afternoon, gets national live coverage, preempts local coverage of the pandemic, and lies, distorts and disembles at will, the presumptive democratic nominee remains self-quarantined, responding infrequently and not particularly coherently. Left unchallenged, Trump's Orwellian bull becomes truer, and gets elevated to a plausible claim.

Biden needs to present a plan to hold some sort of virtual convention. He needs to become the face of the democratic challenge to Trump and he must articulate the terms of that challenge better than he managed to articulate anything during the campaign.

If Bernie were more agile, creative, etc., he would be pointing out how this crisis points to the necessity of national health insurance, the federal role in crisis management, and calling out every lie every day. How easy it would be to cast the republicans as the party of morbidity and mortality. Point out what the effects would have been had Obamacare been repealed - increased deaths and bankruptcies, the hospitals that would now be drowning in uncompensated care.

David Palmeter said...

Christopher Mulvaney

I’m more optimistic about Biden than you are. I don’t see him as ideologically opposed to some form of national health insurance; rather, since he’s a politician to the bone, he never say it as a winner. Biden never was one to hold firm to a principled position. If it looks like something good has a chance, I’d expect him to support it. That said, with a Republican Senate, it won’t matter what he supports. Even with a narrow Democratic majority it would be doubtful. Remember the problems Obama had with the stimulus and health care when he had, nominally at least, 60 votes in the Senate.

Health care reform is likely to be furthered by this pandemic. People not only are losing their jobs but are losing their health insurance as well. A better display of the insanity of employer-based health insurance is hard to imagine.

I also don’t worry about Biden being quiet right now. Trump will always have his base, but beyond that every day he has his dog-and-pony show he alienates a lot of people. While we all speak of Biden as the nominee, Bernie hasn’t dropped out and that makes it awkward for Biden to try to act presidential. He certainly will need the support of Bernie’s supporters, and surely doesn’t want to do anything to alienate them. If Bernie loses in Wisconsin, he probably will throw in the towel. That would clear the way for Biden to name a VP candidate who can become the attack dog while Biden acts presidential.

s. wallerstein said...

I'm sure that everyone has seen these accusations of sexual assault, maybe it could even be considered rape, about Biden. There's a transcript as well as the podcast in the link. If they are true, could you really in good conscience vote for such a person? By the way, unlike Kavanaugh, who got everyone here ultra-indignant, Biden was not a high school student at the time, but a U.S. Senator.
https://www.democracynow.org/2020/3/31/tara_reade_joe_biden_sexual_assault

David Palmeter said...

s. wallerstein

If Biden is the only practical alternative to Trump, who in good conscience could not vote for him?

s. wallerstein said...

A lot of people.

I don't know how the convention procedure works, but this might be the moment to exert a lot of pressure for Biden to step down and for the Democrats to chose a consensus candidate, probably not Sanders, but someone who does not assault women. I've heard Cuomo's name mentioned. Michelle Obama might be a great option too.

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

What about these people?

https://www.reddit.com/r/PublicFreakout/comments/fv9zwq/good_luck_america/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x

Notice, by the way that she is wearing a seat belt....

Paul Kern said...

Very funny, loved the biological metaphor. The Calvary, in the form of one of the 4 horseman, becomes an ambiguous ally at best, speaking of life's contradictions.

I wonder if you've read, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality, by Walter Scheidel? The premise is in the title. The thesis is that throughout history, mass mobilization warfare, pandemics, transformative revolution, and state failure are the most effective economic equalizers. The downside of his findings is that reductions of inequality never lasts, it always returns back to the mean which is a substantial mal-distribution of wealth. This is primarily an economic history although he touches upon the efficacy or lack thereof of legislative endeavors late in the book.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Paul Kern, no I have not read it. Of course, at my age, short term fixes have a certain attraction. :)

Jerry Brown said...

Something about "second tier universities" is really bothering me. I'm not sure why even. Maybe it is because you went to Harvard and I went to UConn. We would kick your ass in basketball if they were able to play though. Oh well. I remember one of my freshman year econ professors spending ten minutes of class time telling us all that University of Connecticut was clearly the second best school in the state for a variety of reasons. Behind Yale of course. Was never sure how good his argument was on that. We almost always beat Yale in basketball also. Definitely first tier in basketball for 30 years is UConn even if I'm biased. So we got that.

MMT economists may be relegated to second tier universities at the moment- but they have the huge advantage of actually being able to describe the monetary system more accurately than your Harvard colleagues like Ken Rogoff or Greg Mankiw or even former Princeton professor Krugman. One of the founders of MMT- Warren Mosler- went to UConn and got a BA in Economics there. So that makes me feel good also.

Very much enjoyed the post though. Thanks!

R McD said...

With respect to David Palmeter’s response to Christopher Mulvaney at 2:35 PM: I don’t see Biden so much ideologically opposed to some form of national health care as ideologically blind to the notion that a radically re-organized system for providing health care—and, as covid-19 is showing us, for provisioning that system against sudden, massive, dangerous health events—is both necessary and possible.

Why, in this time of great emergency, are so many people talking as if Biden was the only possible opponent who might bring Trump down? Yes, I know, the Democratic Party’s processes seem to have blocked any alternative. But the Democratic primary process, in shambles from their Iowa moment and surely in a totally dysfunctional shambles now, isn’t likely to produce any sort of reliable outcome, as others commenting here are also suggesting, I think. I only hope some serious thought goes into it, not some irrational attachment to someone regarded as a saviour.

Dean said...

"Irrational attachment to someone regarded as a saviour" is how Americans swing. Glenn Greenwald made a similar point earlier today:

"Politics is theater. Cuomo adeptly plays the role of a strong, decisive, competent leader so he's deemed one, regardless of substance.

"Similar to 9/11 Guiliani. And, for that matter, it's why Trump is deemed aberrational even though his actual governance isn't: his acting is."

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Jerry Brown, I thought I made it pretty clear that my tone and literary voive was mocking and ironic. I would remind you that after seven years as a senior professor at Columbia, I left to go to UMass,a big second tier underfunded state universty, where I taught happily for the next thrty-seven years.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

David Palmeter,
My judgement of Biden is based on how poorly he campaigned. He started the race as a putative favorite. However, he then went on to lead a lackluster campaign, not make much sense all to frequently, and perform poorly in the debates. The result - he sank from mid 30%'s to 15 - 17% just before the S. Carolina primary. Apart from an avalanche of publicity that raised and frantically waved the "red flag," (akin to the waving the "waving the bloody shirt" tactics of radical republicans after the Civil War), and unusually well-timed endorsements by Clymer and candidates who decided to drop out just before Super Tuesday, Biden would have continued to be an also ran.

Biden, it seems to me, made it perfectly clear that he is firmly planted in the neo-liberal wing of the party. I prefer to call it the 'republican light' faction which has dominated the party since the 1980's. He has also clearly stated that when it comes to picking a V.P. he would choose someone who thinks like he does about the issues. He believes that is why his relationship with Obama worked so well. That would be an epically stupid move. It used to be that candidates balanced the ticket with their VP choices. Biden wants to double down the faction that nominated HRC and failed to bring younger voters to the polls.

I could go on, but in a nutshell, he proved himself to be a bad campaigner, he is firmly in the 'moderate wing' of the party which has proven itself incapable of dealing with the numerous crises we face, i.e., the Clinton faction, and a group that gives younger voters no reason to vote for them. In a race in which turnout is everything, Biden's candidacy does not bode well. And let me note that R McD's comments are on the mark.

it's time for me to sit down at the keyboard and forget about Trump, Biden and covid-19 while I learn some new material.

Jerry Brown said...

Dear Professor- please don't fret about my inability to discern nuance in all situations :)

I enjoyed the post, I really did, and I don't think you Ivy league guys are actively working to look down on us second tier students most of the time. Well I doubt you are at least:)

We would still beat you in basketball anyways- so there! Stay well and thanks for posting as often as possible- it does help in this situation a lot.

David Auerbach said...

It would be hard for me to think of worse candidate than Biden at this moment. And despite what was said above Sanders has been talking about the pandemic and its economically induced mortality and morbidity. Not that the NYTimes has splashed it on its front page. Meanwhile Biden (and Clinton, who refuses to go away) thinks yet again that medicare for all is not a good idea.
Before this pandemic the only good thing to say about Trump was that he wasn't killing as many people as his immediate predecessors. That's over now.

David Palmeter said...

Christopher Mulvaney,

I don't defend Biden as a good campaigner; nor would he have been my choice. My candidate(s) were Bernie and Warren--one week I thought I preferred one; the next week the other. But Warren is out of it and Bernie is just about out of it. It looks like Biden is the candidate, whether we like it or not. If so, I think that it makes political sense for him to lie low for now for the reasons I gave. And, if the choice is between Biden and Trump, I will certainly vote for Biden. I wish the choice were different, but I doubt that it will be.

As to whether Bernie would be a better candidate that Biden, I have my doubts. The left is not as strong as I thought it was in the Democratic party, let alone in the electorate at large. Biden has won more primaries and looks like the winner Tuesday in Wisconsin. I think we have a lot of work to do convincing people that the policy positions of the left are what they should support. One bit of silver lining regarding the coronavirus is that, with the enormous lay-offs, it is demonstrating the insanity of employer-based health insurance.

Anonymous said...

For what it is worth, I agree that it is possible that MMT will replace neoclassical economics as dominant in academic. I believe the buzzword here is paradigm shift. How likely that outcome is, however, is less clear to me, as is unclear how much that will benefit the masses.

I am much more certain that Marxism, in whatever of its flavours, will not compete with MMT. That, I am sure, may be disheartening to young Marxist intellectuals intent on carving out a niche for themselves in academia. It's much less clear to me why that should be a bad thing for socialism and for the workers' movement.

- The AnonyMouse

s. wallerstein said...

It's fascinating that no one here seems much perturbed by the fact that then Senator Biden is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 1993 when a few years ago many here were vehement in asserting that Brett Kavanaugh was not worthy to become a Supreme Court Justice because he had assaulted a woman as a drunk high school student. Of course it may be that sexual assault by a Republican is much worse than sexual assault by a Democrat. Bill Clinton would be thankful for that rule.

However, I suspect that that's not the reasoning here. We (we are always good, that's the wonderful thing about moral affirmations) at times have to ally ourselves with bad people to defeat worse people. Thus, we (the good guys) allied ourselves with Stalin, who was bad, to defeat Hitler, who was worse. Then we (as always, the good guys) allied ourselves with some bad guys, Franco, Marcos, Somoza, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, to defeat worse guys, the commies.

I love moral reasoning. We (those who make moral affirmations) always come out ahead, no matter what we do. So vote for Biden: he's bad, but Trump is worse.

David Palmeter said...


s. wallerstein,

You've hit the nail on the head: Biden may be bad, but there's no question that Trump is worse. In all likelihood, one of them will be elected this November. People have died, and more will be dying because of Trump's ignorant ineptitude and his Mafia approach to governing. That is unlikely to happen under Biden.

I'm not sure I see your point about allying with Stalin in WWII. Are you suggesting that we shouldn't have done so? And I don't understand what our siding with Franco, Marcos et al has to do with the choice voters are likely to have this November.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

David Palmeter,
I am in agreement with most all of your reasoning. The political hack side of me is appalled by the democrat's inability to adapt. Right now we face postponement of primaries and no clear way to hold a convention. On top of that, there is the crowding out effect of covid-19 - it dominates the news cycle. Having done political campaign work, I am worried that as of now the democrats have no impact on the terms of debate. There is no visible campaign, despite both Biden and Sanders occasional attempts to intrude. It appears that free media -press conferences, having speeches covered, etc., is not there anymore. That leaves paid media - ad buys with coordinated social media buys. Ad buys will generate traditional news coverage. Both candidates should be critiquing Trump and debating the health insurance question while pointing out Trump's inability to systemically deal with any aspect of it.

The party organization is the neo-liberal, DLC /Clinton inspired organization that deliberately became a centrist party. It gave up the FDR coalition model, content to let unions decline, drop the Keynesian model of government regulation of business and counter-cyclical spending, gave up on a social contract between labor and business. The left has not been a factor in the party organization for decades.

It is hard to figure out the size of the left. Sanders has demonstrated that there is strong support among voters for progressive ideas. For example, support for free college is around 63%. There was a study by the Pew Research Center that provides some insight into support for the candidates. Bernie's support looks like this: "Around a third of Sanders supporters (32%) are under the age of 30, a higher share than among supporters of Warren (18%), Buttigieg (8%), Bloomberg (7%) and Biden (6%). About half of Sanders supporters (54%) prioritize pushing hard for policies that Democrats want over finding common ground with Republicans. Among all Democratic voters, just 35% favor this approach."

Biden's support looks like this: "... comparatively high support from black adults and older Democratic voters. Nearly three-in-ten Biden supporters are black (28%), compared with smaller shares among those who back Michael Bloomberg (18%), Bernie Sanders (13%), Elizabeth Warren (12%) and Pete Buttigieg (1%). Biden’s supporters also include a larger share of voters ages 65 and older, compared with the backers of most of the other candidates. Most Biden supporters prioritize finding common ground with Republicans, even if it means giving up some things that Democrats want. Around seven-in-ten of his backers (72%) favor this approach over pushing hard for policies that Democrats want. Those who back Warren (53%) and Sanders (45%) are far less likely to take this view, though Bloomberg and Buttigieg supporters more closely resemble Biden’s in this respect." ('A snapshot of the top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates’ supporters,' bu John Gramlich, Pew Research Center) That Biden thinks that Democrats can reach across the aisle and compromise, when that never happened during the Obama years, is amazingly out of touch with reality. Never in our history has the gap between the parties been so large.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

(sorry, I've been too verbose and this post was too large)

HRC demonstrated that the base neo-liberal party support is insufficient to win. I am sure I am not the only person who is sick of voting for the lesser of two evils and I suspect it was behind the low turnout among younger voters in 2016. (As my nephew puts it, "I'm tired of the same old same old." ) There will be another blue wave this year and Biden's job is to make the wave as big as it can be. The Trump organization is already pouring money and manpower into maintaining voter suppression. So as I pointed out earlier, Biden needs to make choices re: running mate and policies that gives the left a positive reason to vote Democratic. Typically, when younger voters decide to become politically engaged, they stay with their decision on which party to support. If the Democratic Party wants to expand its base and win this year in a landslide it should be doing everything it can to ensure younger voters support and turnout.

This is an election during a political party realignment. Oddly, not many folks recognize this. It started in 2018 with significant shifts of voters from leaning R to leaning D. It accounts for the 41 seat gain in the House, and huge declines in the republican vote in districts they held. The democratic party doesn't seem to realize this, and that worries me.

s. wallerstein said...

David P.,

I have no problems with the U.S. allying itself with Stalin in World War 2. I was using that as an example of how in politics we (the good guys) ally ourselves with the lesser evil, in this case, Stalin. I believe that you'll find very few Jews who don't think that the war against Hitler should have been carried out by any means possible. That's not even an ethical issue with Jews: that's basic survival instinct.

There was a certain irony in my comment above (which I don't even completely understand myself), but not about the alliance with Stalin.

As to Franco and Marcos, I have no use for them, but actually, I have no use for Biden either. He enthusiastically supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq, which killed more innocent people than Pinochet ever did. I don't have the figures for Franco (who killed a lot of people) or Marcos, but I do for Pinochet (who I mention above along with Franco and Marcos) and actually, his record of murders is very minor compared to that of the U.S. in Iraq.

LFC said...

S.w.,
The key question is not whether Biden is admirable but (1) whether the re-election of Trump wd be quite catastrophic and (2) whether Biden wd be significantly better. My answers are affirmative on both. Every election is portrayed as crucial, but I believe this one really is. The re-election of Trump could well mark a further and perhaps decisive move to a "soft" authoritarianism and put the U.S. polity in a condition much worse than the present, one from which it might take decades to recover, if recovery were even possible. Eight years of being governed by a narcissistic incompetent with arguably sociopathic tendencies will have poisoned the discourse and degraded the institutions of U.S. politics to a point at which a highly imperfect and inegalitaran representative democracy will have been replaced by an oligarchic, quasi-authoritarian state. That at any rate is a real possibility. So whatever Biden has done in the past is, in the balance, outweighed by the seriousness of the situation and the importance of defeating Trump, preferably by a margin large enough that he will not be able to claim that he was cheated of victory by [fill in the blank].

Dean said...

America will forever be recovering from its past. The possibility of recovery simply doesn't factor into the calculation.

I enjoy the proffered choice: catastrophe or "better"? I'll pick door number 3.

We have been governed by narcisstic incompentents since the founding. Most have been less embarrassing than Trump. Try not to be so vain.

Biden, like Obama, is a monster. Vote for him if you ike.

LFC said...

Dean
For someone so sophisticated about literature and music, you have a weirdly absolutist view of politics. Trump has harmed people, for instance Central American immigrants seeking asylum, in a way that Obama (though he deported lots of people) didn't and Biden wouldn't. Trump loosened restrictions on U.S. bombing in the campaign against ISIS, resulting in more civilian casualties than Obama caused. He has scrapped the INF treaty, withdrawn from the Paris agreement, loosened environmental regulation (the EPA just scrapped the Obama fuel-efficiency rules for cars), worsened wealth and income inequality, the list goes on.

Your view of U.S. history is also strange. Lincoln for instance was not in the same category as Trump as a personality or politician.

Your door number 3 doesn't lead anywhere now except into an escapist form of imaginary perfection.

s. wallerstein said...

LFC,

I agree with you that not all U.S. presidents are as bad as Trump or as Biden by the way. Obama, unlike Biden, did not support the imperialist invasion of Iraq. He reached out to Cuba and even visited, which is very positive. Finally, I could imagine having an intelligent conversation with Obama, but not with Trump nor with Joe Biden.

I don't agree with you about door 3. No one on October 14 2019 could imagine that the protests of high school students (they protest against everything, ha ha) against a minor subway fare hike in Santiago would lead to a mass insurrection which would force the elite to schedule a plebiscite on a new constitution, which will replace the 1980 constitution
drawn up by the Pinochet dictatorship.

Little sparks can set off major social changes. Not always, not usually, but you never can tell.

My life has been a series of door number 3's or even door number 4's. I won't bore you with the stories, for I lack Professor Wolff's narrative gifts, but so many times I've said to myself, "I'm not going to take this shit anymore" and walked through a strange door without looking back. Sometimes others have surprised me by following in mass, sometimes a couple of people have followed me, generally no one does and they look at me as if I were just plain queer. (in the old sense of the word).

You never know. Maybe corona virus will force them to postpone the elections. Maybe a charismatic 3rd party candidate, a Mr. or Ms. Clean, will appear to challenge Dirty Misters Trump and Biden. It's unlikely, but in these days of instant communication through social media and complete mass distrust of conventional institutions, it's possible. So don't write off door 3.

LFC said...

I'm v. glad Chile has a new constitution. And I agree that unlikely doesn't mean impossible. Though in this case I think for structural reasons it's v unlikely.

s. wallerstein said...

We don't have a new constitution yet. We were supposed to have a plebiscite this month to determine if people want a new constitution (according to the polls, a vast majority do), but it was postponed until October due to Corona Virus. The plebiscite also will determine the mechanism of drawing up a new constitution: an elected constituent assembly or a mixture of congress people and specially elected representatives. That will involve still another election obviously. The new body, however it is formed, will have a year to draw up a new constitution and that constitution will be ratified (or not) by another plebiscite.

Dean said...

Actually, my aesthetic sensibilities are absolutist, too, not to mention derivative.

Re: Chile, the latest issue of Law & Critique has content devoted to Chile's "Constituent Moment":

Introduction: Chile’s ‘Constituent Moment’
The introduction looks at the constitutional situation in Chile since the demand for a new Constitution erupted in demonstrations all across the country, and argues that the notion of ‘constitutional moment’ is inadequate to capture the radicality of the popular mobilisation that is sweeping the country as a pure expression of constituent power.

What Constitution? On Chile’s Constitutional Awakening
This paper explores the political awakening of the Chilean people that began in October 2019. It puts forward an alternative reading of the people’s claim for a new constitution. The first section briefly describes the October outcry and provides some context with regards to the nature of the social movement at its root. The two following sections examine two periods in Chilean recent history, the Pinochet regime and the period that has come after its overturn, focusing on two elements: the neoliberal model set up by the dictatorship and the Constitution of 1980, which was designed to block the people’s political agency for the purpose of protecting the model. The final section works with these two elements in order to provide an alternative scheme by which to examine Chile’s awakening, the central question being: what does the claim for a new constitution mean? And critical for these purposes: what constitution is being overturned? Pinochet’s political project distorted constitutional ideas in such a way that only by clarifying the conceptual horizon is it possible to visualize how the concept of constitution and its relationship with the idea of a constituent power of the people can be of help to understand Chile’s constitutional awakening.

LFC said...

Sw,
I stand corrected. Reading too hastily.

s. wallerstein said...

Dean,

Thanks..

R McD said...

For some reason, while reading LFC’s response to SW at 10:53 PM and some of the subsequent exchanges I found myself thinking that what was being talked about here was a political version of the argument over whether to pursue “herd immunity” or to try to “flatten the curve.”

I guess the opponents of flattening the political curve—i.e., of going with Biden despite his obvious flaws—simply want it recognised that (to refer to another discussion on this blog about being “Kept Wake By The Numbers”) the area under the flattened curve might be just as great or maybe even greater than the area under the non-flattened curve. Or to put it another way, should Biden be supported—and by implication, should the neo-liberal wing of the Democratic Party be helped to regain its dominance—are we really so sure that the longer term, accumulative consequences of this will be less vile globally or domestically?

R McD said...

Maybe this is also relevant?

http://bostonreview.net/politics/eleni-schirmer-wisconsin-primaries-scott-walker-act-10

LFC said...

s. wallerstein notes above that Obama opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while Biden voted for it. True enough.

Interestingly, though, the roles were, in a sense, reversed when it came to the 2009 U.S. troop "surge" in Afghanistan. Biden as V.P. opposed the surge in the internal Obama administration deliberations. Others, including the military chiefs, favored it. Obama decided to go ahead with it, ordering an additional 30,000 (I think it was) U.S. soldiers. At the time, as I recall, I thought there were arguments to be made on both sides; in retrospect, I think it was not a particularly good decision. It cost more lives without in the long run altering the basic contours of the conflict, though I suppose it *might* have bought the Afghan army and security forces more time to prepare to take on most of the fighting themselves -- but I didn't follow the conflict closely enough even to be sure of that.