Obama as son of the Enlightenment

This piece in the Daily Kos is essentially correct. Interesting that it appears in DK, which after all is a fairly mainstream liberal site, which supports the capitalist model (albeit constrained capitalism or “embedded liberalism”) and goes after the markets per se as being inimical to quality of life:

“where I was wrong was my belief that oil companies had their act together for worst case scenarios…Those assumptions proved to be incorrect.”

President Barack Obama, White House Press Conference, May 27, 2010

In progressive circles, various opinions have been forming about what type of President Barack Obama is. There are still some who believe that he can do no wrong and everything that he has done has resulted in the best achievable outcome. And there are those who believe that he is an unabashed corporate sellout and just a step away from being a Democrat in name only. And there are those who believe that Obama isn’t really in control after all and Rahm Emanuel is pulling the puppet strings.

But the biggest problem with Obama isn’t what he wants or doesn’t want. It’s what he thinks others want.

Obama really is a consensus-builder at heart. While he may have his preferences, his ultimate goal has been to put into practice his belief that our politics are not as divided as they suggest. The ability to find consensus, however, is contingent on a fundamental premise: that all interested parties with a seat at the table actually want to see the best possible outcome for all people and are working in the best of faith to that objective.

And those struggles have been between two sides that supposedly have the same ultimate objectives of good governance and promoting the general welfare of the American people. But what if the entity at the other side of the table doesn’t even have those objectives in mind? That’s precisely the situation we find ourselves in with transnational oil companies. And that is precisely what makes Obama’s admission about his own assumptions so frustrating.

The entire structure of Keynesian economics relies on government’s healthy distrust of the excesses of the private sector. A corporation’s job is to make money for its shareholders.

As I’ve noted before, Obama’s consensus-building model is based on a kind of Enlightenment rationality that pure knowledge can solve problems. As Foucault often pointed out however, there is no such thing as pure knowledge, rather there is power-knowledge.

Put another way, knowledge does not exist outside of politics. It’s politics all the way down.


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