Thaddeus Russell: Modern Day Left-Wing Politics Has Evolved Into Secular Puritanism


Rubin Report: Thaddeus Russell (Author, Professor) joins Dave Rubin to discuss growing up in a socialist family in Berkeley, the climate on college campuses, the repressive puritanism of left wing politics, politicians and pop culture, Trump and Hillary breaking down walls, the evolution of politics, and more.

He talked about his college quest to learn about socialism and where that led: "I started noticing that all of these people didn't care about what clothes they wore, they had no idea what movies were playing, they never watched television, they were completely oblivious to the lives of real people. In fact, I would say they were hostile to the ways ordinary Americans chose to spend their leisure time. So popular culture was something that was bad. It was a false consciousness, in fact. This is an idea from the Frankfurt School. From Adorno, in fact. He said that popular culture is simply the way the capitalist class maintains contol, and so we must do away with it. That's awful! It is worse than awful, it is totalitarian!"

Host Dave Rubin agreed: "There's many arguments for saying that popular culture is nonsense and drivel, and I mock it constantly, but also people need an escape. It is also part of human nature, these are the things that rise up that have resonance with people."

Russell responds: "I want to say [pop culture] is better than escpaism. A lot of my work is about Puritanism. And its long history. People aren't really aware of how it carries through to today. So the heart of Puritanism is the Puritan work ethic. A lot of people are confused about this and think it is working hard to get a big house or a nice television, or a nice car, but it is not. It is the idea that work, in itself, no matter what you get for it, is virtuous. So you should work all the time. No matter what you get for it."

"Popular culture in this country, since it started in the early 19th Century has always been, not just an escape from that, it has been a repudiation of that. Because the Puritans, and their descendents the Victorians, in the 19th Century, said all these things were terrible. And at the time it was dime novels, which were the first novels. It was going to the Nickelodeons. Gambling, horse races, sports. All that stuff, they said we can't do that. All that stuff is Satan's work, we must avoid that. Work all the time and raise our families and that's it. So popular culture, for me, has essentially been a repudiation of the Puritan work ethic... There is this constant fight between the two," he explained.

"So you'll see in politics. You won't find a president or a senator --until Donald Trump-- who hasn't criticized popular culture in some way, because they have to be the models of the repressed, Puritanical, good American," he concluded.

"Gosh, there's a lot there!" Rubin commented. "It sounds like there's a religious connation, and when people hear the word Puritanical they think of a religious connection. But in and of itself, there isn't really a religious connection right?"

"it is not necessarily religious," Russell responded. "[But], modern day progressivism and left politics generally is secular religion. it is really secular Christianity. You see a lot of Puritanism in left wing politics, and that has been true for a long, long time... Left wing intellectuals over the last hundred years have been uniformly hostile to popular culture. Until very recently, these hipster communists in Brooklyn who talk about politics and pop culture... They pretend that Lenin loved the movies. No... That Marx, Lenin, Trostky, all of them, you name it, and all the intellectuals, like Adorno, have all hated pop culture, and seen it as a false consciousness."

"I said this once to a professor at Columbia, a prestigious feministic gender studies professor. I said why do you hate the fact that so many women like to go shopping ot like to go to the movies? And she said that she thinks they have better things to do with their time."

"What a profoundly judgmental comment," Rubin said.

"It is not just judgemental, it is elitist, it is at least authoritarian. I think it might be totalitarian. And this is my critique of the Frankfurt School. Not postmodernism, by the way, that is a different thing... To me it is totalitarian. Their idea is that your ideas are wrong. False is the term they use. And they are leading you to do things that are counter o your own interests. So we know what your own interess are. And we know how you should best arrive at them. So we're going to tell you what music to listen to. What movies to see. Probably no movies! What you should do with your life. It is actually totalitarian," Russell continued.

"Which is why that crew, the people who followed the Frnakfurt School in the 50s and 60s -- the left wing movements they were attracted to was Maoism. Third world communism, because that is what Maosim looked like. This idea that we must rid ourselves of the bad ideas before he Revolution can happen," he concluded.

More from this interview:

Rubin Report:Thaddues Russell (Author, Professor) joins Dave Rubin to discuss authoritarianism vs libertarianism, a realignment around a ‘new center,’ right-wing authoritarianism, whether or not Trump fits in with the authoritarians, left-wing authoritarianism, and more.

Rubin Report: Thaddues Russell (Author, Professor) joins Dave Rubin to discuss political labels and the meaning of the word liberal, the argument that liberalism isn’t part of the left anymore, a critique of classical liberalism, the overwhelming time and energy we dedicate to discussing politics, the debate around using the N-word to discuss racism, and more.

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