What is constructive criticism? If you came up sometime in the last 40-odd years, you probably think it means something like: criticism that doesn’t make you an asshole. In other words, all legitimate criticism is necessarily constructive criticism. But if that’s the case, why not just call it criticism–why add the clunky prefix? It’s as if someone were trying to convince you that vegan nachos are the only form of nachos. And, like with vegan nachos, you might wonder if the unmodified version were not more satisfying altogether.
Back in 2008, my mom asked her right-wing best friend why she supported Sarah Palin. “I feel like she understands me, that she’s just like me,” my mom’s friend said. To which my mom replied: “What? But you’re an idiot! Why do you want to be ruled by someone just as stupid as you?”
Mom voted for Obama, who turned out to be far less clever than she imagined, but nevertheless she was making an interesting point. Now to conduct the discussion intelligently, we have to move it away from the sphere of psephology and into the science of class analysis; for if the average American were truly as dumb as the average American politician, I would rather espouse cannibalism than socialism (to paraphrase an old joke from Tony Cliff). The President of the United States is in fact the President of the Ruling Class of the United States, and likewise for the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and so on. That’s true in any state. What’s curious about the state today–ie, the neoliberal state–is that its politicians and functionaries are an unusually faithful reproduction of the class it serves. This is worth thinking about.