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The myth of Golden Age

Is it a truism to say that it is a feature of right-wing politics that they always hearken back to a Golden Age when things were better? As opposed to the left-wing stance which looks forward to a time when things might (or in some cases inevitably) improve, for some loose definition of "things".

It also seems to me that the Golden Age on applies to a chosen few for the Right whereas it seems to be a more general state for the Left. The dream of the Right strikes me as more attainable than that of the left. It's probably easier to concentrate the benefits of society on a few chosen individuals than to share it with everyone, although some countries, such as Sweden, do manage to make things more equitable.

I wonder to what extent this links into Christian millenialism.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2007 01:54 pm (UTC)
I think that Anabaptists, Amish and other such active millennial sects tend towards a socialistic organization in their New-Jerusalem-ish colonies.

But generally of course socialism is more associated with atheistic or humanist views -- such Christian socialists as there are tend to be very non-doctrinaire IME, so not really into millennial gubbins.
Jul. 20th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
Norman Cohn's Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come (I think that's the correct title) is emphatic that the Marxist-Leninist promise is a secularised version of millenialism. The book's an interesting read, but the message of the inevitability of the workers' state went down well in Vietnam and the PRC, so it -- and the hankering for a future paradise on earth -- doesn't only resonate with people who grew up in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Also, despite its being millennial, the message hasn't persuaded that many Islamic fanatics (which that might be the Soviet Union's fault)although they've certainly embaced ML methodology.

As to rightwingery and the Golden Age, it all depends on what you mean by right wing. Conservatives, almost by definition, think that the past is superior, viz. Margaret Thatcher's "Victorian Values" and John Major's dewy-eyed pastoral romanticism. The other sort of rightist, the right-anarchist, rejects the past and looks to the future they think that Adam Smith promised them, a Shangri-La where profiteering and iniquity get slapped down by the invisible hand, and governments only exist to stop entrepreneurs collaborating against the public good.

I think, now you've forced me to do so, that the past/golden age/rightist vs. future/golden age/left dichotomy is because the left articulated itself in terms of the pre-existing right, who derived their claim to legitimacy from the past. Hence, to most leftists, the past was a hideous time in which their ancestors' owners and oppressors piled on the chains. Similarly to the right, the past was that great time before the awkward squad stared stirring up discontent. Excalibur and Holy Grail present the issue succinctly:

"All of my people enjoy their share of peace and plenty" vs. "You can tell that they're nobles because they're not covered in shit".

Jul. 22nd, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
Interesting comment because it would seem that the further into the past or forward into the future a political movement goes, then the more prone it is to disregard us ordinary mortals, treating us mere fodder for its dreams - or nightmares.

Perhaps the obvious conclusion is that politics that lives in the now of bread and butter issues and personal freedom may be dull but less dangerous.

Just to be contentious, perhaps the scariest current political philosophy might be the Green one from this perspective, since it claims to work for our descendants more than for us and to look back in time to a period when the earth was not sullied by us human rats.

I suppose those political movements that look to 'heaven' might be scarier still ... on Christian millenarianism, Norman Cohn's Pursuit of the Millenium is still a very good read and you can find examples of Christian millenarianism in there that pre-figure some aspects of revolutionary socialism. Some of Robespierre's writings are also out in a new edition with a Preface by the philosopher Zizek and that is fairly scary stuff too - from an anti-Christian millenarian mentality.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )