Fools, Frauds and Firebrands –
Thinkers of the New Left
By Roger Scruton
Bloomsbury – £16.99
Peace never appears in Newspeak as a condition of rest and normality. It is always something to ‘fight for,’ and ‘Fight for Peace!,’ ‘Struggle for Peace!’ took their place among the official slogans of the Communist Party.
From the same source comes the penchant for ‘irreversible’ changes. Since everything is in motion and the ‘struggle’ between the forces of progress and the forces of reaction is always and everywhere, it is important that the triumph of ideology over reality be constantly recorded and endorsed. Hence progressive forces always achieve ‘irreversible changes,’ while reactionary forces are wrong-footed by their contradictory and merely ‘nostalgic’ attempts to defend a doomed social order.
(‘What is Left?’)
In light of the above, it’s mighty ironic that in the Introduction of Fools, Frauds and Firebrands – Thinkers of the New Left, Roger Scruton rather deftly writes: ”and I have allowed my publisher, Robin Baird-Smith, to persuade me that a new book might bring some relief to students compelled to chew on the glutinous prose of Deleuze, to treat seriously the mad incantations of Zizek, or to believe that there is more to Habermas’s theory of communicative action than his inability to communicate it.”
Talk about a brazen and altogether elongated (robust) black kettle; which, to all intents and utterly non-humble purposes, Scruton appears to have been soundly inoculated with.
Indeed, whether by default or some sort of academic vaccination that’s gone risibly wrong, it is cantankerous, if not amusing, that Professor Scruton – who is not only Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford but also Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington, DC – should lean towards ”mad incantations of Zizek” (whose most recent book, Disparities, I reviewed just a few days ago). Reason being, he has himself proceeded to write a veritably high-octane book of dense, yet highly dispassionate, ruthless New Leftism.
That said, these eight chapters (which range from ‘Resentment in Britain: Hobsbawm and Thompson’ to ‘Disdain In America: Galbraith and Dworkin;’ ‘Liberation In France: Sartre and Foucault’ to ‘Tedium in Germany: Downhill to Habermas’) are, as one might expect, littered with a menagerie of politically salubrious one-liners: ”’social justice’ is a goal so overwhelmingly important, so unquestionably superior to the established interests that stand against it, as to purify every action done in its name.,” ”the transformation of the language of politics has been the principal legacy of the Left, and it is one aim of this book to rescue that language from socialist Newspeak.,” ”The ‘isms’ that govern political change work through people, but not from them.,” ”The reality of the free economy disappears behind the description, to be replaced by a strange baroque edifice, constantly falling to the ground in a dream-sequence of ruin.,” ”An enemy is identified, a ‘struggle’ defined, and a theory provided to show that you can fight with the heroes merely by staying at your desk.”
Such philosophical/political usurpation, might at best be defined as all too considered; but surely there has to be an abundance cracked chaos within its initial calculation? That is, seismically cynical to the point of no return.
In other words, brazen braggadocio at its finest.
A place where the likes of Mark’s twain shall never meet the likes of Gramsci’s humanism: ”It is indeed the very historical reality of fascism that undermines the communist dream – the dream of a society without conflict and opposition, not because the first is resolved and the second accommodated, but because the ‘conditions’ of conflict have been removed. Marxists assume these conditions to be social, changeable, dependent on ‘antagonistic production relations.’ But if the conditions of conflict lie, as they evidently do lie, in human nature, then to hope for their removal is to entertain an inhuman hope and to be moved towards inhuman action (‘Culture Wars Worldwide’).
Isn’t UKIP’s Nigel Farage, that most terrible of human beings (for whom lying is nigh tantamount to drinking beer) the most perfect embodiment of ‘antagonistic production relations? ‘
Come, Come, m’Lord, surely Farage’s fakedom is ‘painless praxis’ at its most regal robust? Wherein Brexit – and it’s tumultuous trajectory of a thousand little Hitlers per-hour – do reigneth supreme amid the ”human nature” of ”inhuman hope.”
Fools, Frauds and Firebrands – Thinkers of the New Left is a quintessentially entertaining read; the sort of which is simultaneously adroit and annoying. That said, I’d like to leave the final word(s) to that of the author himself: ”[…] this is not a word mincing book. I would describe it rather as a provocation.”