|Louis Proyect wrote:
>> >> Paul Street's analysis might be nothing new, but there are lots of
>> >> interesting statistics to support the notion that the masses are
>> >> to the left of the Democratic Party leaders.
Carrol Cox wrote:
> > No doubt. But that doesn't establish that there is anything wrong with
> > the Democrats. After all, the fundamental responsibility of that party
> > is to control, blunt, absorb such sentiments.
That's your interpretation of the DP's fundamental responsibility.
It's true that that's what the DP _does_ much or most of the time, but
that's different from its "responsibility." The idea that the DP has
this responsibility is to say that it has some sort of purpose beyond
its stated one.[*] To posit this kind of gap between the actual
purpose and the ostensible one involves teleology.
This is what sociologists call the functionalist fallacy. Just as the
famous functionalist Talcott Parsons assigned purposes or functions to
various institutions (such as MDs wearing white coats) assuming that
they all meshed together in order to maintain social stability and the
like (smoothing the inherent tensions of the doctor-patient
relationship), this analysis says that the DP's purpose is the same
kind of thing. But to post-Parsons sociologists the fallacy here is
that there's no specification of the social _mechanisms_ that give the
DP this "purpose," i.e., that insures that it actually does serve this
The DP may have multiple purposes or no purpose at all. Many people --
especially DP members -- see it as a rough coalition of different
interest groups that's seeking unity, rather than having a specific
goal (even the stated one). If it has a purpose, in this view, it
would be to aggregate interests and to solidify the coalition. On the
other hand, GOPsters these days see it as having the hidden purpose of
I would emphasize the mechanisms and instead of saying that the DP has
some "purpose" that's hidden from view (as in some kind of conspiracy
theory), I'd say that the actual _effect_ of that party is different
from its ostensible purpose. (There's a gap between theory and
practice.) It's the structure of domination that characterizes
capitalism, the more concrete institutions of the US at this point in
history (such as its Constitution and various laws establishing the
2-party system), the power of opposition forces outside of the
electoral system, etc. that all combine to cause the DP to have an
effect (stabilizing capitalism, etc.) that differs from its
officially-stated purpose. Among other things, that steers us away
from blaming the DP too much: it's more of a product of history than a
producer of it.
This stuff is important because there are a large number of people who
do not automatically agree that the DP helps stabilize capitalism. In
talking to them, it's best not to presume too much.