“Shakespeare lived through the tail end of the roughest phase of primitive accumulation in England, and his plays reflect the chaos of the time, their bloodiness, their immense excitement, and the irreconcilable dissonance between Christianity and capitalism, between unstoppered material appetite and Christ’s asceticism, His antipathy toward wealth and usury, His preference for the poor. Widespread misery was occasioned by the seizure of the common lands, moors and forests, and their transformation into private property. This misery manifested itself chiefly in waves of homeless rural poor descending on the cities, seeking food, shelter, work, and finding less than they needed; in the fiery growth of religious dissidence, religious radicalism and factionalism, challenging the orthodoxy, feeding rivers of ancient class resentment and the explosive pressures generated by a rapidly rising mercantile class rubbing up against a truculent, greedy aristocracy. A social, political revolution in England in the seventeeth century was inevitable.”—Tony Kushner, Death and Taxes: Hydriotaphia and Other Plays (via goneril-and-regan)
In the United States in the middle of the twentieth century, there are, of course, people who approximate the liberal view of the citizen, especially among the educated upper middle class; there are also people who are class conscious in a Marxian sense, especially among the upper ranks and, in a derived way, among intellectuals. There are also people who display all the necessary qualifications for political loyalty, and some who fulfil the requirements for the insurgent.
But the most decisive comment that can be made about the state of U.S. politics concerns the facts of widespread public indifference, which today overshadow in significance both those of loyalty and those of insurgency.
In our political literature, we do not have many attempts to explain the facts of political indifference, perhaps because neither liberalism nor Marxism raises the question to a central position. Yet, we are now in a situation in which many who are disengaged from prevailing allegiances have not acquired new ones, and so are distracted from and inattentive to political concerns of any kind. They are strangers to politics. They are not radical, not liberal, not conservative, not reactionary; they are inactionary; they are out of it. If we accept the Greek’s definition of the idiot as a privatized man, then we must conclude that the U.S. citizenry is now largely composed of idiots.
“The Times of November 1857 contains an utterly delightful cry of outrage on the part of a West-Indian plantation owner. This advocate analyses with great moral indignation – as a plea for the re-introduction of Negro slavery – how the Quashees (free blacks of Jamaica) content themselves with producing only what is strictly necessary for their own consumption, and, alongside this use-value regard loafing (indulgence and idleness) as a real luxury good; how they do not care a damn for the sugar and the fixed capital invested in the plantations but rather observe the planter’s impending bankruptcy with an ironic grin of malicious pleasure.”—Karl Marx, Grundrisse (via fourwindsshotgun)