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Re: <nettime> will someone explain
Keith Hart on Sat, 4 Feb 2017 04:21:28 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> will someone explain


Why ask Americans to explain? Would you expect Romans to understand the
Empire, better to ask a Greek slave. In any case, there is no better
account of what makes the Americans tick than Alexis de Tocqueville's.
Incidentally the French government sent him there with a mate to study
the prison system. I wonder what he would have made of the US currently
holding a quarter of the world's prisoners -- with the Black eighth of
Americans accounting for 37% of the total? Maybe as an index of how the
early democracy became a nation-state and a world empire after WW2.

So his method and conclusions may not be apprpriate today, but I would
ask you to think about his division of the book into two parts. He
assumed that democracy was progressive and wondered it worked in the
United States half a century after independence. The two halves refer
to the exterior and interior conditions of what made American
democratic then, objective and subjective conditions perhaps. The first
part deals with the constitution, parties, government etc and at great
length the race issue (Negroes and Indians) which he considered to be
the fundamental flaw subverting America as a democracy in favor of the
inequality sustained by aristocracy. The second part addresses what he
felt to be the real motor of the democracy, the opinions and feelings
of ordinary Americans -- especially their life in associations,
attitudes to women and so on.

This is Kant's dialectic of form and content which are in the end
inseparable except analytically. The Anglo-Saxons have only one word
for law, but the Continental Europeans always two -- state-made law and
civil law. That is why they they don't take their shoes off when
crossing from public to private space. Being French saw how these two
sides of social life were synthesized in a common law democracy.

Now it is likely that the relationship between formal and informal
aspects of American society have shifted since 1945 and even more since
the end of the Cold War. It may be that Trump is a one-off but if so,
he has understood that the formal constitution can be disregarded by a
president who manipulates American culture as it now stands. This is
after all the dual character of the quintessential form of modern
government, the hybrid known as a nation-state -- a situation that Trump
wants to celebrate as a way of superceding the uneasy compromise
between federal government and global empire.

Keith

Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 10:02 AM, David Garcia <d.garcia {AT} new-tactical- research.co.uk> wrote:

     Will one of the American nettimers take a few moments to explain
     something to a constitutional ignoramous such as myself.
 <...>

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