Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chris Dierkes - Obama and The Fourth American Republic

Chris over at Indistinct Union posted a very interesting article the other day. Some thoughts below.

Obama and The Fourth American Republic

Michael Lind comes out and says what I hypothesized back in April–namely that Obama might be a harbinger of the fourth republic in America.


As I see it, to date there have been three American republics, each lasting 72 years (give or take a few years). The First Republic of the United States, assembled following the American Revolution, lasted from 1788 to 1860. The Second Republic, assembled following the Civil War and Reconstruction (that is, the Second American Revolution) lasted from 1860 to 1932. And the Third American Republic, assembled during the New Deal and the civil rights eras (the Third American Revolution), lasted from 1932 until 2004.

In Philip Bobbitt’s terminology, the shift from Republic I to Republic II was the shift from state-nation status to nation-state status. The shift from Republic II to Republic III was the shift from the early nation-state to the full flowering of the nation-state. Republic III to Republic IV is the move from the nation-state to the market state.

Lind again:

The first three American republics display a remarkably similar pattern. Their 72-year life span is divided into two 36-year periods (again, give or take a year — this is not astrology). During the first 36-year period of a republic, ambitious nation-builders in the tradition of Alexander Hamilton strengthen the powers of the federal government and promote economic modernization. During the second 36-year phase of a republic, there is a Jeffersonian backlash, in favor of small government, small business and an older way of life. During the backlash era, Jeffersonians manage to modify, but never undo, the structure created by the Hamiltonians in the previous era.

And on Bush a point I’ve made repeatedly, calling Bush the Right’s Carter (or perhaps LBJ, the president who presided over the end of the first half of the 3rd Republic):

The final president of a republic tends to be a failed, despised figure.

Buchanan, Hoover, Bush. Ouch.

Read the rest.

I think this is an interesting concept, contra what my POLYSEMY pal MD says in the comments. Thinking in meta-patterns might not offer better ways to raise one's family, relate to friends, or whatever other concrete thing you want to offer, but human beings seek patterns whether they are there or not.

And sometimes, looking for larger patterns helps us make sense of our moment in history -- we are right now living through one of the great moment of American history. Why not seek to contextualize these momentous events?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Bill,

I'm slightly hesitant to wade into these waters with you, given your expertise in all things psychology; however, I don't agree that "human seek patterns whether they are there or not". Or more specifically, I think the matter is deeper than that.

Basically, what in my view is fundamentally operative in the human psyche is not patterns, but instead ideas. Ideas such as the 104 ideas meticulously catalogued by Mortimer Adler, through his scholarship in the great works of western literature.

The key thing is this: given an idea, a predisposition to various patterns, determined and shaped by the idea itself, arise. Patterns within ideas. Like plants within a garden. Alter the garden, the plants change. Alter the idea, or ideas, and the patterns one might detect (whether illusory or not) change.

In other words, the idea is the medium which is the message.

Dierkes' is operating largely within the realms of the ideas of "progress" and "metaphysics" and "history". These ideas bring forth possible patterns, one set of which is the kind of developmental framework he superimposes (via the authors he's citing) upon the rise and fall of, among other counties, America.

So to say that finding patterns is simply what humans do doesn't cut the matter deeply enough.

As far as whether thought should be tied to practical impact on human affairs, and the human condition, is certainly as assumption I'm making. I find it hard, upon deep reflection, think otherwise that requiring thought to impact the human condition (which includes the practical impacts I named and you quoted) is not a kind of prime imperative that acts as a necessary limit on the otherwise unwieldy human brain.

But, I would stipulate, the assumption could be debatable.