In The Age of Entitlement, Christopher Caldwell says that Reaganism didn’t represent a break with the countercultural movements of the 1960s. It was the continuation of them.

Fiiiiiiinally somebody said it.

Just this one thing makes the book totally worth it.

15 thoughts on “Reaganism”

    1. The sixties introduced the neoliberal mentality and then Reagan brought it into the realm of economics.

      The countercultural anti-authority feelings of the 1960s translated into Reagan’s “the government should be so small it should fit into your pocket.” The primacy of individual self-actualization over tradition and society became the economic individualism of the 1980s.

      The supreme importance of individual choice, the elitism, the shuffling around of huge masses of people to eviscerate labor – all born in the 1960s.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hunh? This book claims the new left was neoliberal? E.P. Thompson? Black Power? SNCC? The Brown Berets? Or its institutionalization (or the institutionalization of some of its ideas and members) after 1968?


      1. He’s overgeneralizing & talking about consumers of certain popularizations. Not about the actual counterculture, about which he appears to know very little


          1. Isn’t fire wet?

            I’m interested in where Clarissa is going with this – I’d assume that the anti-state and anti-community tenets are taken as the entirety of the core of the movement. But even with my passing familiarity with that subject, I’m not sure if it’s all that true as far as the second bit goes – far as I can tell, the primary imagined actor in counterculture is not particular individuals, but a kind of orgiastic whole.


            1. Just like a pack of Twitter hounds in surveillance capitalism. That’s actually the point that Zuboff is making. That this is the endgame of consumerist individualization: people lose anything that can be meaningfully called individuality to become part of a gigantic ant collective. They are still incapable of making a genuine connection but they don’t mind because they have outsourced the capacity to need genuine connections to social media.


          2. Exactly. It’s part of a certain moment in history and it will share its characteristics.

            Let’s take the movement for women’s rights that I obviously deeply support. It did use the ultra-neoliberal rhetoric of “a woman’s right to choose” to promote its goals. Out of a million arguments, this seemed the most convincing. We can pretend not to see a direct line from here to “there’s no government, just individuals” but that doesn’t make it go away. And it’s completely unimportant whether Thatcher supported abortion (I vaguely remember that she did). It’s not about the intentions of particular individuals but about something bigger than individual will. But it’s impossible for us to accept precisely because this mentality has conquered our brains.

            The book, by the way, is not about Reaganism. Reagan is a small side note.


            1. I like minds that worry about a counter becoming the thing it countered, as every honest post-soviet must… But I also don’t want to trade in teeth for smugness, as much as I like the latter.

              Can’t this particular feminism/neoliberalism interaction thought process also be run backwards, where the former interacts with the latter? Cultural change doesn’t come in a pure form, but neither it is entirely impossible or doomed to be entirely co-opted.

              Maybe this is all synthesising, setting up the big-picture stuff and I’m just spoiling the mood, but I do worry that insisting on the vastness and all-encompassing nature of neoliberalism will paint you in a corner in terms of ability to theoretically conceptualize possible change or ways out. “Neoliberalism is vast and all-encompassing. So what? So nothing, it’s too vast and all-encompassing.”

              I doubt that’s what your actual projects is, but it does read that way to me currently.

              Also, as a note – I’m pretty interested in the fact that you can easily see mandated individualism and a collective unbounded whole as essentially the same phenomenon. I get what you mean by that, but conceptually, those two things are at opposite corners of the individualism-holism dichotomy, pretty core in social sciences. I’d be interested in as much as you can say on how that transition (is it a transition?) occurs.


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