The late Andrew Breitbart is credited with the statement that “politics is downstream of culture.” Since Breitbart made that memorable assertion, Red State, Daily Caller and other Republican websites have expressed the same view. By now this remark has risen to the status of an axiom. Too bad it’s simply wrong as a description of contemporary Western societies! Clearly, those repeating Breitbart’s statement have not read my work on the managerial state and its changing ideological justifications. Having spent decades trying to demonstrate the power of modern democratic states over moral attitudes and social practices, I’ve noticed that no one of journalistic importance has considered my arguments.
Let me begin by noting that modern public administration and its judicial and educational arms should not be equated with any government at any time. A specifically modern Western state has behind it vast coercive power and the capacity to socialize its subject-citizens. Moreover, since elections are scheduled at regular intervals and since rotation is supposed to take place between two parties or party blocs, citizens assume that government operates “democratically.” Never mind that entrenched parties and politicians by their presence and activities serve to strengthen the status quo or that representation becomes more distant and vaguer as both population and bureaucratic centralization continue to grow. Despite occasional complaining, most of the population take on face value what is presented as “democratic” representation. Being free to manage their lives matters less to them than other things, such as not giving actionable offense in the workplace, making sure that government provides social services and not having to fork over “too much” to other state clients.
These attitudes do not arise from politically uncontrolled social interactions. They are the responses to how people are being ruled. And by now more than half the population in most Western democracies draw half or more of their income from public administration, as government employees, recipients of social programs, and/or retirees. (Although the figures in my book After Liberalism are twenty years old, there is no reason to assume that they’ve gone down in the intervening time.) In Europe culturally, radical leftist parties, such as the German Greens, are collections of government employees. Even more importantly, these leftist, social engineering parties, teeming with government workers, like the German Greens and the French Socialists, run or co-run regimes.
Crusades against discrimination on behalf of a variety of groups designated as historically disadvantaged or victimized by xenophobia have been essential for expanding government. It has allowed administrators and judges in the US, Western Europe, and other Anglophone countries to bully “reactionaries” and to mold the young through state-run education. As an engine of social and moral change, the state is on a perpetual behavior-modifying mission. Political Correctness is not just about “culture.” It results from government policies relentlessly applied for the purpose of changing the way we think about human relations. Accelerating immigration from different cultures also furthers the state’s presence in our lives. Demographic change weakens established patterns of social interaction that might resist the state’s expanding control, such as long-standing cultural identities. Further, immigration generates conflicts that require or are thought to require the intervention of state actors.
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