The meaning of “more”

by Robin Marie

“The New Right has been able to seize the moral initiative from liberalism, above all, because it has dared to advance a strong qualitative critique of capitalist society. Liberalism too once had the moral initiative, pressing for measures to bring the poor and racial minorities into the mainstream of American life. But liberalism offered no alternative vision of – or for – that mainstream. Just as business unionism has demanded ‘more’ (Samuel Gompers’s emphatic vision) for its constituents, the crusading liberalism of two decades ago offered ‘more’ for the excluded, but without questioning the contents or limits of such a demand. Morally speaking, liberalism was made vulnerable to ideological attack because it failed to address the meaning of ‘more’ in a consumer culture that advertises unlimited acquisition and pointlessly commodified hedonism.”

— Barbara Ehrenreich, “The New Right Attack on Social Welfare,” in The Mean Season