The atomisation of the American Left: The unravelling of collectivism in protesting United States’ Foreign Policy
Mikkelson, V. (2012). The atomisation of the American Left: The unravelling of collectivism in protesting United States’ Foreign Policy (Thesis, Master of Philosophy (MPhil)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/7020
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/7020
This thesis addresses the question: has the rise of postmodernism and the New Social Movements essentially undermined and “individuated” the traditionally collectivist American Left? The thesis seeks to address the shift of degree, if any, of the American Left’s character as a collective force of dissent regarding, primarily, U.S. foreign policy. The approach of this thesis has been to examine two indicative and comparative case studies, two left-leaning activist groups that emerged spontaneously in the 1980s and 2000s in one of the most conservative areas of the United States, with a view to determining the impact of postmodernism and the New Social Movements on the attitudes and behaviours of the group members. The approach taken, for the purposes of this thesis, has been to investigate through non-random interviews, based upon an open-ended questionnaire, these activist groups protesting U.S. Foreign Policy. The research findings posit that the American Left has become atomised in regards to the central question and the rise of postmodernism and the New Social Movements have undermined and ‘individuated’ the traditionally collectivist American Left. This has been evident for some time as the diffusion of the New Social Movements from the 1970s onwards has seen the Left fragment into single issue groups. The American Left has become individuated and has migrated away from collectivism to what appears to be a postmodern sensibility, placing ever greater emphasis on self-development and individuality. The American Left has apparently retreated into forms of localism. For example: issues pertaining to municipalities, the academy and the arts. Also, the Left has had a visible presence through single-issue platforms such as: the environmental movement, the anti-nuclear movement, gay and lesbian rights and the feminist movement, to name but a few. Neo-liberals have strongly espoused free market doctrines from a fundamentalist perspective. Neoconservatives have advocated a vision for U.S. foreign policy based on “American values” and the projection of the Liberal “Democratic” project. Neoconservatives, too, possess a fundamentalist ardour. The American Left, by contrast, has found itself perpetually in defensive mode. Generally speaking, American leftists are supporters of the U.S. Democratic Party. The trajectory of the Democratic Party may be seen as having advocated for the cultural Left on the fringes of its social policy platform. However, few voices that espouse traditional Leftist values remain in its ranks. Therefore, the American left remains a voice in the wilderness buffeted by both the forces of Liberalism and Conservatism.
University of Waikato
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