What have we learned from Adolph Reed so far?

  • Change within a democracy comes as a result of many people joining for common purpose. This unity requires extensive work and organization and is not cheap. The success of an individual can be a result of an organizational effort but does not indicate any success for the larger group of people in the movement. Trickle-down does not work no matter what the cause. Making your struggle about the success of the elite in your movement (Barack Obama, Sheryl Sandberg) will be less effective than fighting the structure that produces the elite/common bifurcation.
  • The elite in power are motivated to shrink the voting pool in their system. Their ideal is a small group of decision-makers, a larger group of voters who simply ratify the decisions, and the rest of the population forming a willing labor force for carrying out these decisions. In theory, the three groups are identical in a liberal-democracy. In cynical theory, the second and third groups are identical in a liberal-democracy. If you believe you’re in the first group, your incentive is to shrink the size of the second group (less work for you to keep the coalition in line) while keeping the third group as large as possible.

On an object level, I’ve gained a bit of skepticism toward claims that we should celebrate individual achievement as a political act.


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