Monday, November 08, 2004

The Values Trap

All this talk about values makes me think of Derrida. We can think of "values" as analogous to any of Derrida's "conceptless concepts," like the "khora" or the "cinder." Perhaps it is best analogous to the concept of the "gift." Derrida argues that a pure gift is impossible since the act of giving results in a chain of actions and transactions that lead to an economy of giving, where the gift is no longer out of kindness but out of obligation. There is no way to simply give without expecting anything in return. The less you expect in return, the more the recipient will feel indebted to you...but then your action was not really a gift.

It is the same with the Democrats and "values." Now that they are self-aware, self-conscious, they know that they must find a candidate like Bill Clinton who can "connect" with Red state voters and who shares their "values." But because they know this and will be actively trying to accomplish the goal, it becomes impossible to achieve. We saw what happened when John Kerry tried to "connect" with religious voters. It came across as phony and pandering. Now the damage is much more deep, as any Democrat who tries to "connect," whether they really do or not, will be labeled as yet another fake. In this way, the discourse over the future of the party actually endangers that very future. Once you are aware of the gift, it ceases to exist. Something to think about.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very interesting thought on the condition of the Democratic future... should demos simply go about their business and not dream 4 years ahead? hmmm not a bad idea.

8:49 PM  

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