Monday, January 29, 2007

Plimpton: Background

George Plimpton was raised and lived in the heart of America's establishment. He was friends with CIA types his entire life.

Throw away the notion that Plimpton (and by extension the Paris Review) had no ideology. Plimpton was the personification of classic American liberalism. He believed in an outward-looking foreign policy in politics and culture. He implicitly believed in Owen Wister's phrase that "true aristocracy is true democracy"; that the cream always rises to the top; counting himself of course among that number.

It's an ideology compatible and consonant with U.S. Imperialism. (The preferred word is "globalism.") George was the creation, like so many other Americans of his time, of Franklin Roosevelt, who might be called the first American Imperialist; the first President to envision global American Empire, who worked to set that empire in motion.

George Plimpton didn't need to conspicuously advocate this vision, this ideology, in Paris Review's pages. It's a vision which overwhelmingly predominates in American political and intellectual circles, and was subliminally present in everything PR's editors did and said. One can't be considered an "intellectual" in America today without believing the vision: a dominant ideology far more strongly rooted in our society than Communism ever was in the Soviet Union.

Those who disagree with the vision exist on the margins.

Paris Review's office in Paris, and its very title, were an expression of Empire. They said, "Here's our American outpost."

No policy was explicitly advocated in PR's pages. How do you advocate something which is present all around you; which exists in your own society unchallenged? (Anyway, to do so would've been gauche.) Their need was instead to present art free from politics, from polemics, from social conscience; which stressed as role model to the world soon to be conquered a vision of American success and affluence. Paris Review's most celebrated writers fit that role well.

4 comments:

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

It's an ideology compatible and consonant with U.S. Imperialism. (The preferred word is "globalism.") George was the creation, like so many other Americans of his time, of Franklin Roosevelt, who might be called the first American Imperialist; the first President to envision global American Empire, who worked to set that empire in motion.

Have to disagree there. T.R. had a pretty grand vision of expansionism, but it really got underway during the Wilson administration. The American public was rabidly, and dangerously, isolationist during FDR's presidency, preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. After his death an American Empire was the only feasible choice, if we planned on existing. Communism was on the march, and supported by a number of western intellectuals and simply negating world influence would have only worked to harm us.

I'm not a nationalist, and certainly oppose many manifestations of imperialism, but it was mostly reactionary due to the USSR. When public opinion, the opinions of the masses, changed that is when our modern foreign policy came about. Bush, and the Neo-Cons, aren't doing anything that leftists haven't been advocating for a long time: global revolution.

Sometimes it is lose/lose. If America does nothing and sits by while the world crumbles: we are evil. If America takes action: we are evil.

The Neo-Cons are feckless idealists, but I see where they are coming from. Hopefully, the American public will realise that we are declining and China is next up to rule the world.

Jeff Potter said...

Yeah, this whole current literary style, with its roots in the worst of the past, has nothing to offer for the coming reality.

A nation in debt is a nation being fleeced. We're massively in debt in every way, especially in terms of bonds and such. I gather that the Chinese own most of all this debt. (Uh, this was the big news of the last 5 years, everyone. A little war is minor chumpchange in comparison to the economic pickle we've gotten into with the Chinese in the meantime.) They supposedly need us to be consumers. Ha. For now. For yesterday. No longer. Fattening hogs are never in luck (as Jack reminds us). Once they're on line they'll get better return on investment elsewhere. And we'll be left with empty big-box stores and a black-hole economy.

It seems like we had better get used to being producers not consumers pronto. But but but we consume to offset the misery of alienated producing. And we consume drugs as much as anything to get that relief. So we need a better relation to our production, eh. Basically we need to learn how to be creative in our own lives. Or we're doomed. We have to throw off exploitation. And the worst kind of exploitation: self-exploitation. No one is telling us to jump off the cliff of zombielike indulgence. We think it's our own bright idea.

So we're going to have to get creative, and wise up, and toss off all kinds of shackles that we've willingly put on.

How in the world is that going to happen? What can help?

Higher interest rates?

Painful prices at the pump?

An election?

Alternative fuels?

I've heard pundits on right and left alike say we can beat this thing without "changing the American lifestyle"...

Lifestyle? --Fast food, bigboxes, TV, overtime, stadiums, cars, gambling, sofas, antidepressants and self-medication...obsession in a thousand flavors...that's a lifestyle? Where's the life?

Get real...

Only literature can save us now!

: )

Yeah, it is to laugh.

But the other roads are worse.

We need new guidebooks, roadmaps, testimonials, ravings.

It can be done. There's folks out there who've done it. Let's hear their stories.

King said...

The Imperialist ideology isn't necessary-- it will bankrupt this nation and be our undoing.
The Mideast situation proves this-- and is one area where untangling ourselves from that mess, in part by becoming energy self-sufficient (very doable; it would merely need a WWII-style retooling of industry and priorities) would be the best solution.
You seem to buy a lot of neo-con premises, Joyce, which are flat-out wrong. (The largest single factor in the radicalization of Bin Laden was the first Persian Gulf War.)

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

You seem to buy a lot of neo-con premises, Joyce, which are flat-out wrong. (The largest single factor in the radicalization of Bin Laden was the first Persian Gulf War.)

1. He was already radicalized during the Afghan war. He would have turned his eye on the US eventually anyway as America had no choice but to get involved (multilaterally with other nations) in the Gulf War). His biggest grievance was that Americans were in Saudi Arabia. He hated Saddam Hussein.

2. I agree with the Neo-Cons on some issues, where I disagree is praxis. I believe that the American military should be used solely for the defense of the homeland or to deal with threats, not to spread freedom to the world. Which is an estimable idea in theory but can't work in practice.