Sadism, Liberty, and the State

Aronowitz and Willis

Sadism, Liberty, and the State

Aronowitz and Willis

Sadism, Liberty, and the State
An email conversation about the news of the day.
April 7 1999 10:07 AM

Aronowitz and Willis

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My point about Rand has to do with her fundamentalist style. Hayek is an intellectual with an argument, whether you agree with the argument or not. Friedman and Sachs are economists building a certain case within the boundaries of their discipline, again whether or not you like their ideas or the policies that flow from them. Rand doesn't really have an argument, she basically has a series of pronouncements. She also blows the cover of intellectual right libertarians in that what's implicit in their arguments--an underlying politics of sadism, in which domination is glorified as the only true freedom--is right out front in her work.

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By the way, and I think you agree with this, it's not the libertarians' anti-statism that's really the problem with their thought. On the contrary, the core of truth in the critique of the state is what gives right-libertarianism its appeal and tends to obscure what's wrong with it, which is the idea that the state is the only source of coercive power. The power of capital and its most powerful institution, the corporation, to determine the condition of society and the behavior of individuals is ignored--as, for the most part, is the power of extra-governmental institutional structures like the family, the church, institutionalized patterns of racism and sexism, etc. At the same time, the left's tendency to rely on the state as the solution to all problems is, to put it charitably, a dead end.

Ellen Willis directs the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program in the department of journalism at New York University. Her latest book, Don't Think--Smile! Notes on a Decade of Denial, will be published this fall. Stanley Aronowitz is author of From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future (click here to buy the book), and he teaches social and cultural theory at the City University of New York Graduate School. His forthcoming book is Knowledge Factories.