Politics and Vision – By Professor Sheldon Wolin (1922-2015)

Professor Sheldon Wolin’s Politics and Vision is two volumes in one, by an author whose  interview / lectures I have suggested before. The first part appeared in 1960, the second in 2004. The contents will convey the range of themes. Of especial significance today is his concept of ‘inverted totalitarianism’. Here are a few lines from p 590. See especially the lines about Empire and the Imperial Citizen:

Marx and Dewey had dreamed of the time when society and the lives of its members would be based upon the rational organization of science and technology and their application to production. That apolitical vision of society is now in the process of being realized, albeit not in the egalitarian terms Marx or Dewey had envisioned, and not in the form of fewer working hours and greater leisure time for the individual.

VII. Empire and the Imperial Citizen: All of these signs- the superimposition of empire upon democracy, the corruption of representative government, the declining status of the citizen, the hegemonic status of American power in the world—suggest that the traditional categories of citizen, democracy, state, and power desperately need reformulation. It is testimony to the comatose condition of democracy that while a lively debate ensued during the Vietnam War about the powers of the imperial presidency, no one seemed concerned to raise the corollary question: what of the imperial citizen? The answer is that when measured against the spatial dimensions of empire and the power-concentration in “the world’s only Superpower,” the citizen is dwarfed and the citizenry, as an independent collective actor, all but deleted. While the powers and responsibilities of the presidency have accordingly kept pace with the growth of Superpower, the powers and responsibilities of the citizen have shrunk—also accordingly. This becomes most apparent when important elections loom...

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