Between Left and Right: Reflections on the Position of Paul Gottfried

Book cover of "After Liberalism" by Paul Edward Gottfried © 1999 Princeton University Press

Paul Gottfried and I disagree. He positions himself in opposition to “the post – Marxist PC left.” I suspect that my commitments to feminism, gay rights and the victories of the civil rights movement, while thinking that Marx was an important 19th century thinker, but not a guide for politics in our times, means that the phrase applies to me (even though I am not sure what it means exactly). Yet, I am pleased that I found a prominent conservative intellectual to contribute to our discussions. I have already learned something from Gottfried, and want to explore what the practical implications of an exchange of views between us, along with other Deliberately Considered contributors and readers, can be.

We certainly won’t come to agreement on some fundamentals. I don’t believe that the confrontation of our ideas will yield a higher dialectical truth. I am pretty sure that on some issues it is a matter of prevailing, not convincing. He writes about the “our oppressive anti-discrimination apparatus,” while I see only reasons to celebrate the struggle against discrimination, racism, sexism and the like. I see no possibility of compromise here. In fact, I regret that things haven’t changed as much as I think they should and welcome political action to move things forward.

Yet, I believe that there is a possibility that differences such as those that divide Professor Gottfried and me can be civilized, and not simply be about confrontation. A starting point is sharing insights, and I think I see one based on our opposing appraisals of the present state of American political culture. I see, and worry about, an ascendant know-nothing right, while Gottfried is deeply concerned about the ascendance of the post Marxist left. These differences, I believe, ironically point to a compatible understanding.

Gottfried’s diagnosis of the present political climate does indeed surprise me:

Those who oppose this [post Marxist pc] Left are fighting from a steadily weakening position. They have lost the cultural war to the state, our educational system and MTV; and as . . .

Read more: Between Left and Right: Reflections on the Position of Paul Gottfried