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A TAO OF POLITICS: A REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH TO REVOLUTIONS
Herman draws on the insights of the well-known historiographer of science, Thomas Kuhn, to bring out the most novel and radical dimension of his model of the truth quest. Kuhn (6) developed the concept of "paradigm" to distinguish between two fundamentally different, but related, modes of cognition in scientific research – normal and revolutionary. Normal science fits the popular image of the laboratory scientist conducting systematic manipulations of relevant variables, accumulating data, and coming up with new insights. This is closer to rule-guided puzzle-solving than those creative breakthroughs associated with the revolutionary achievements of science, like the evolutionary theory of Darwin or the quantum physics of Einstein, Heisenberg and Bohr.
Herman, then, applies Kuhn's analysis to our current political crisis. First of all, we can understand political philosophies as “paradigms of the good life" that give rise to political societies that function according to rules and regulations established by the ruling paradigm. Liberalism, for example, can be seen as such a paradigm. As liberalism, moreover, has globalized it has become almost invisible and increasingly synonymous with the reality we accept. But, as Herman shows, the bigger, more reflective picture reveals that the liberal paradigm of endless economic growth is a dangerous absurdity when it means a declining earth economy.
Liberalism was a human creation to serve specific needs at a particular time and place. As we saw, thinkers like Hobbes, Locke and Adam Smith collectively constructed a more inclusive explanation of the failures of feudalism and the possibilities of transformation. Their work in turn provided the philosophical framework for new institutions for governance and economics, which would give us what we thought we wanted: domination over nature, unlimited wealth, and freedom from tyranny. This paradigm succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in achieving the first two goals, but it has replaced, in Herman's view, the personalized tyranny of monarchs with the impersonal tyranny of limited liability corporations and corrupted market mechanisms. Human intelligence – wisdom, knowledge of the good of the whole – has been sidelined, with catastrophic consequences not simply for our way of life, but for all life on earth. The anomalies of global industrial society are pushing our liberal paradigm into a state of terminal crisis.
In politics, revolutions are resisted for the same reason they are resisted in science. Retooling is expensive, and the community sustained by the existing paradigm has a vested interest in preserving the status quo. In the case of a political society, the stakes are ultimate, since we are dealing with a framework for a total way of life, protected by wealthy elites, armed with the power of law, the police force, propaganda, the army. Revolutionary change is often associated with terrifying violence. Academic political science tends to be of little help in this situation It functions like a kind of "normal political science" operating within a market-driven, bureaucratically administered system of rewards and patronage of the university, of course shaped by the institutions of liberalism. Under such conditions political philosophy has become a vestigial activity, a specialization within academic political science, primarily concerned with interpreting, deconstructing and critiquing classical works of the past according to prevailing intellectual fashions. None of this can be really transformative, since without the creation of alternative structures of meaning – the task of an authentically revolutionary political science – critique leaves existing power structures unchallenged. The status quo rules by default.
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