Michael Ledeen: The Death of the Left
Michael Ledeen is a foreign policy analyst and holds a PhD in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I have a good friend, an Italian who lives in Milano, who for a while was the head of the youth organization of the Italian Communist Party. One day he was walking across one of the major Milanese piazzas, and had an epiphany, which he later described very simply. “I shouted, ‘There is no working class!’”...
The epiphany was a fine example of one of Hegel’s basic insights, which is that the world is constantly changing, and ideas must accordingly be updated, or become anachronisms. So it was with “working class,” a concept that accurately described a group in a society at a certain stage of industrial development, as in 18th- and 19th-century England and Europe. For much of that period, “working class” helped understand what was going on, and it helped policy makers deal with very real problems. There were working-class parties, scholars who specialized in studying the working class, politicians who made careers by representing working-class districts, and so forth.
But the world changed, and in the modern postindustrial societies, the working class vanished. There aren’t working-class parties any more, since there aren’t enough voters who think of themselves that way. And honest politicians like my Italian friend gave it up, updated their thinking, and tried to cope with today’s problems....
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