Challenging the myth that society would be improved if governed by "intellectuals," Thomas Sowell -- writing in today's Washington Times -- says that "It would be no feat to fill a big book with all the things on which intellectuals were grossly mistaken, just in the 20th century."
Such a book has already been filled. Paul Hollander's "Political Pilgrims" documents the gullibility, the boundless capacity for self-delusion, and the ecstatic fetish for Great Leaders displayed throughout the 20th century by large numbers of American and European intellectuals. These Smart People cheered the Soviet Union, applauded Mao, drooled over Castro, celebrated the Sandinistas - all the while dismissing those persons suspicious of centralized power as "anti-intellectual."
Of course, consistently these "anti-intellectuals" were proven right as the heroes of the "intellectuals" were revealed to be blood-thirsty bastards. Is there reason to suppose that the "intellectuals'" still-raging libido for Great Leaders and Big Plans is today any more rational than it was during the tragic episodes documented by Hollander?
My suggestion here isn’t that Obama is a socialist or that he will depart from neoliberal economic policies (I’m skeptical). Rather, what I find interesting is that news shows, editorials, and various pundits are suddenly raising questions of whether unfettered capitalism is the best possible system. What we increasingly here today is a popular space in which capitalism is being contested or questioned, and a halting groping towards other possibilities. It is only when the game itself becomes an object of critique, when it comes to be seen as contingent or something that could be otherwise, that it becomes possible to overturn that game.