Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ralph Nader's "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us."

Ralph Nader, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” New York: Seven Stories Press, 2009.

Reviewed by T. Hatch

One might wonder how can the super-rich do anything but enslave us? Ralph Nader in the Author's Note implores us, in a corollary on Coleridge's willful suspension of disbelief, to utilize our sense of “imaginative engagement.” While Nader describes the genre of this work as a “practical utopia” (a charming and provocative oxymoron in its own right) I came to think of this process as more of a consciously informed credulity.

Seventeen aging billionaires at the behest of Warren Buffet take to meeting at a resort hotel in Maui and conspire to lead a series of mass movements that successfully commodifies worker justice and democracy. Naturally along the way a host of reactionaries such as the U.S. Chamber of Congress and the management of Wal Mart push back but the “Meliorists” are too well organized, too well funded, and being the old geezers that they are have nothing left to lose.

Nader clearly wants to stand Aldous Huxley on his head (insomuch as he openly says so). Several of the reviews of “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” have focused on the more fanciful elements of the narrative, e.g. Wal Mart management caving into popular pressure and acquiescing to unionization of its labor force, as evidence of some form of nostalgic dementia on the part of Mr. Nader. Anyone who confuses this book for a blueprint or a guide to action misses the point. The imagination that Nader appeals to reminds me of the Annalist historian Marc Bloch's use of the term. For Bloch, a member of the French resistance tortured and killed by the Nazis at Lyon, that imagintion was a means to an empathetic historical understanding. It does not mean creating a narrative cut from whole cloth, rather it is an injunction to creatively imagine the solving of problems. Nader is clearly not using imagination then in the same way that the utopian socialist Charles Fourier was.

I spoke with the author albeit briefly on a radio call in show today (October 7th) shortly before writing this critique. Unfortunately Mr. Nader did not answer my first question which wasL: is corporate capitalism worth saving through reform. He instead concentrated on my comment that he mentions what was being served for lunch and food in general dozens of times throughout the book. There is much I wish I had said but didn't. For instance, by last March I was sorry that I hadn't voted for you for a fourth time.

On order for Burling Library

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