WIP24 Paper Prompt

The Anti-politics agenda

As I've been doing the reading for the course and following the news, attending Congressional hearings, and talking to you all about your experiences on the hill, I've been reminded of a concept I encountered some years ago in the writings of James C. Scott.  He claimed that various kinds of "audits and quantifications" and other administrative techniques 

function as a vast 'anti-politics machine,' sweeping vast realms of legitimate public debate out of the public sphere and into the arms of technical, administrative committees.  They stand in the way of potentially bracing and instructive debates about social policy, the meaming of intelligence, the selection of elites, the value of equity and diversity and the purpose of economic growth and development.

A Google search of "anti-politics" then turned up a book--In Defence of Politics, first published in 1962, and still in print, by a Brit, Bernard Crick, which I purchased and have been reading. A few excerpts from, the 1992 fourth edition, Chapter 1, The Nature of Political Rule

Politics ... is a very much more precise thing than is commonly supposed; it is essential to genuine freedom (17).

Politics arises from accepting the fact of the simultaneous existence of different groups, hence different interests and different traditions, within a territorial unit under a common rule. 

Politics represents at least some tolerance of different truths, some recognition that government is possible, indeed best conducted, amid open canvassing of rival interests.  Politics are the public actions of free men (18).

Politics ... is a sociological activity which has the anthropological function of preserving a community grown too complicated for either tradition alone or pure arbitrary rule to preserve it without the undue use of coercion (24).

But it is not pure self interest either, simply because the more realistically one construes self-interest the more one is involved in relationships with others (25).

We must not hope for too much from politics, or believe that we see it everywhere (28).

If the argument is, then, that politics is simply the activity by which government is made possible when differing interests in an area to be governed grow powerful enough to need to be conciliated, the obvious objection will be: 'why do certain interests have to be conciliated?' And the answer is, of course, that they do not have to be. Other paths are always open. Politics is simply when they are conciliated--that solution to the problem of order which chooses conciliation rather than violence and coercion, and chooses it as an effective way by which varying interests can discover that level of compromise best suited to their common interest in survival [emphasis added]. Politics allows various types of power within a community to find some reasonable level of mutual tolerance and support. Coercion (or secession or migration) need arise only when one group or interest feels that it has no common interest in survival with the rest (30-31).

Political rule, then, because it arises from the problem of diversity, and does not try to reduce all things to a single unity, necessarily creates or allows some freedom (31).

Politics is a process of discussion, and discussion demands, in the original Greek sense, dialectic. 

The hall-mark of free government everywhere, it is an old but clear enough test, is whether public criticism is allowed in a manner conceivably effective--in other words, whether opposition is tolerated.... Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence (33).

Through the rest of the book, Crick defends politics and contrasts it against various anti-political tendencies to be found in ideology, nationalism; technology; non-political conservatives, liberals and socialists; and even democracy. 

As I've been reading the book, I am seeing anti-politics everywhere--in movements like the "We are the 99%" populism of Occupy Wall Street; the MAGA populism that culminated in Jan. 6; parents who teach their children to fear strangers; librarians who purge their collections of political views they oppose; universities that don't train their students to talk to each other; media outlets that cater to their audiences' biases ("audience capture" see pages 66 & 70); members of Congress who denigrate compromise; and in cancel culture and other means of coercion. 

To spot manifestations of anti-politics, we need to be clear about what politics looks like in practice.  I'm sure you've seen some positive models amidst the rampant anti-politics in Congress.  I'm thinking that the reading on LBJ offers another model.

Your mission, if you decide to accept it: write a thought piece that helps me think through this idea, either by giving me some relevant examples from your first hand experience of politics and anti-politics, or by offering a critique of the concepts expressed above of politics and anti-politics. 

I'm planning to write a blog post on this over the summer. It would be great if you gave me a reason to quote you.    

Your 750-word essay should explore this concept of anti-politics using evidence from your experience on the Hill, the assigned readings and also from the news you've been following this term.