The Beautiful Enigma of Radical Democracy

    © 1997 Alan Keenan

    C. Douglas Lummis, Radical Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996)

    David Trend, ed., Radical Democracy: Identity, Citizenship and the State (New York: Routledge, 1996)

  1.      In the world of the American academic left, "radical democracy" has become an increasingly frequent topic of discussion. But what exactly is radical democracy? Is it the replacement--whether at the level of terminology or of practice--for "socialism," as Stanley Aronowitz argues, and as others imply in both of the volumes under review? Is radical democracy the answer to the dead ends of identity politics, as Chantal Mouffe and others suggest? Or is radical democracy just anothe! r name for ineffective coalition-style identity politics, as some of its critics contend? Does radical democracy describe an agenda for a post-Welfare State politics of the left, able to reinvigorate the ideals of participation, local control and autonomous public spheres? For better or worse, radical democracy can mean all these different things, which, together with the frequently imprecise and confusing uses to which the term is put, can make it rather difficult to follow current debates over its meaning and usefulness. Yet, despite such frustrations, many of the most interesting debates in contemporary political and social theory find themselves bound up in discussions about radical democracy. And while both books under review ultimately leave one wondering just how helpful a term radical democracy--as opposed to plain old "democracy"--is, the simple appeal of its theoretical kernal--the vision of a mode of politics in which the democratic ideals of equality, freedom a! nd popular control are allowed their most complete sway and fullest application--is powerful enough to make exploring its conceptual limitations well worth the trouble.

    A New and Improved New Left?

  2.      For Stanley Aronowitz, writing in Radical Democracy: Identity, Citizenship, and the State, "radical democracy is achievable by creating institutions of popular control in which decisions are lodged with those directly affected by them, a realignment of economy and the polity entailing the reintegration of various apsects of life within smaller regional economies and social units" [99]. One of the few concerted efforts in the above mentioned volume of essays to define the particular nature of radically democratic politics, Aronowitz' "Towards Radicalism! : The Death and Rebirth of the American Left"1 argues that the American left's trouble (indeed, their disappearance as an organized public force) is due largely to its abandonment of such a radical vision and its absorption into the political establishment--in particular, through its association with the regulatory and welfare state. By tying its ideals and projects so closely to the bureaucratic state, the left abandoned its participatory vision (and the popular base such a vision could have mobilized), even as this opened space for the right to pose as the champion of the "local control" and "personal freedom."

  3.      For Aronowitz, recapturing this ideological ground will require a truly radical vision, with the aim of bringing into being a politics of the broadest poss! ible participation. Such a vision involves seeing, for instance, economic relations (including those of the family) as fully political--rather than technical--issues, properly under popular (though not centralized, state) control. Defining radical democracy at one particularly Arendtian moment as "a form of social organization in which each individual possesses the capacity for speech and exercises it," Aronowitz argues that for such a society to be possible, it "must organize itself in such a way that necessary labor is subordinate, both in its significance and in its duration, to free time" [98]. The democratic left, then, needs to be in the business of proposing "a concrete utopia"--e.g., shared work, a guaranteed income, democratized workplaces, ecologically sustainable technologies, and decentralized and egalitarian social services [99]--able to respond effectively to the deep sense of powerlessness that affects citizens of all classes and social strata.

  4.      Except for a timely critique of the influence on today's social movements and identity politics of the New Left's "populist guilt"--according to which "the duty of the left was to uncritically identify and support those peoples, social groups, and individuals deemed to be the most oppressed" [93]-- Aronowitz' radical democracy looks a lot like the New Left. Much the same combination of Arendtian love of political action and New Left radical critique of economism, technocracy, and liberal democracy--especially in its modern state institutional form--constitutes the core of C. Douglas Lummis' recent Radical Democracy. What seems a fairly attractive, at times even convincing, picture of radical democracy in Aronowitz's essay, however, comes under increasing strain in Lummis' version.

  5.      Lummis' starting point is what he calls a "rectification of names." As he puts it, "'Democracy' was once a word of the people, a critical word, a revolutionary word. It has been stolen by those who would rule over the people, to add legitimacy to their rule. It is time to take it back" [15]. For Lummis, this means "identifying and junking twisted and hypocritical uses" of the word, and so he spends several pages distinguishing the real meaning of democracy from its false forms--its identification with market freedoms, with constitutions, with economic development, with communism, with anti-communism, with rule for the people's welfare, with rule by less than all the people, etc. What, then, is the true meaning of democracy? Democracy is simply "the people e! mpowered," in all spheres of life in which there is power to be held. Democracy is thus "a critique of centralized power of every sort--charismatic, bureaucratic, class, military, corporate, party, union, technocratic. By definition, it is the antithesis to all such power" [25]. "The necessary condition of democracy," then, would be what Lummis calls "political virtue:" "the commitment to, knowledge of, and ability to stand for the whole" [37]. But what, then, is radical democracy? "'[R]adical,'" Lummis explains, "is a modifier that does not 'modify,' strictly speaking, but rather intensifies. Radical democracy means democracy in its essential form, democracy at its root, quite precisely the thing itself" [25]. In other words, "radical democracy describes the adventure of human beings creating, with their own hands, the conditions for their freedom" [19].

  6.      Lummis' participatory vision of democracy as "popular power" thus entails a radical critique of virtually all existing institutions of modernity, and it does so by radically rearranging the relationship between politics and other spheres of life. "Democratic institutions," Lummis argues,

    are means, but radical democracy itself--the people empowered--is not. It is no more a means than physical and mental health, or knowledge, or mature judgment are means... [T]he full development of the intellectual and moral power in each human being is an end, not a means. What is radical democracy but the political expression of this end? [38]

  7.      Once the practice of radical democracy, unders! tood as the mode of "full development" of all members of the community, is seen as the primary social end to be achieved, all other relationships, most importantly economic and technological ones, become mere means. And as their shibboleths "efficiency" and "progress" become entirely relative to the agreed upon goal of empowerment, the effect is that "any economic or technological arrangement that weakened the people would be inefficient by definition" [39].

  8.      Much of Lummis' book, and many of its most interesting pages, are consequently spent arguing that what are properly seen as means--of primary concern are technology and patterns of work and exchange--have unnaturally become ends in themselves. Paradoxically, economic and technological imperatives have achieved their hegemony partly through denying that t! hey are anything but neutral and technical means. Yet the economy, for Lummis, is in fact a system of rule: "it is political in the most fundamental sense: it organizes power, distributes good, and rules people." In the particular form it takes today,

    the 'economy' is a way of organizing people to work efficiently, that is, to do unnatural kinds of work under unnatural conditions for unnaturally long hours, and of extracting all or part of the extra wealth so produced and transferring it elswhere [46].

  9.      Precisely by denying its political character, however, the antidemocratic forms of its rule are more easily maintained. Thus his critique of the modern economy--and Lummis is particularly scathing in his critique of the m! antra of "economic development" as it is applied to non-Western countries--is not merely that the outcomes it generates are anti-democratic--because deeply unequal--but also that the actual form economic relationships take are hierarchical and oppressive (necessary to "force" people to do unnatural kinds of work), whose anti-democratic nature is ignored, in turn, largely because so many people have been taught to see them as merely technical means to a necessary and unquestionably good end: technological and economic development itself.

  10.      Such a critique is obviously not new, though the passion and style with which Lummis goes about it is often quite impressive. Nor is Lummis' democratic alternative particularly new. Indeed, the "democratization of work" that he calls for, with its radical "changes in manageme! nt, scale, machines, speed, and kinds of work" done, is envisioned as a return to what Lummis calls the "natural order of non-oppressive work" [142-3], the kind of work people would choose "in a state of freedom." It is only because they have been forcibly removed from that state that they labor in the oppressive ways that they do, whether in "fields, factories, or offices." Moreover, in a society that was "genuinely just, equalitarian, and safe," "the sorting out of our true needs from those that are the maimed consequences of the fear and envy of class society would happen slowly and naturally" [78].

    Democracy Without Conflict?

  11.      Putting aside any criticism of Lummis' stated choice not to discuss the details of his radically democratic society, those as! pects of the picture that do appear nonetheless raise numerous unanswered qeustions. Perhaps most glaring is the lack of any argument for the anthropology needed to explain and support the existence of "true needs" and the possibility of "full human development," or for the ontology that his claims about "natural orders" rely upon. While it might be possible ultimately to ground such claims convincingly, Lummis never even makes the attempt, or seems to see the need. Yet without a strong argument for a human essence whose "full development" can be achieved harmoniously and equally, what reason do we have to believe that the empowerment of the people--or the expansion of the logic of equality and popular power into all social domains--would be anything but a deeply conflictual, messy, never fully resolved process? Why should we assume, that is, that either "democracy" or "the people" is ultimately a coherent, self-identical, entity? While it might make sense to think about! radical democracy as an end, not a means, why should it be the only end? Why, indeed, should empowerment be seen as a single process and the only mode of "full human development:" what if a slight reduction in empowerment in some spheres could produce a lot more comfort and happiness, or greater collective resources for maximizing the development of the intellectual and moral powers of each human being? What should the radical democrat do then?

  12.      Indeed, conflict more generally is entirely absent from Lummis' model of democratic politics. Missing is any potential for the kinds of conflicts between interests, identities, modes of life, and forms of freedom that are the stuff of political theory, and with it any discussion of democratic modes of handling such conflicts.

  13.      Lummis is able to avoid dealing with such issues in part through his equation of the essence of democracy with political action itself. "The actuality of democracy itself--the people's power--exists while the performance is taking place," he writes. "As Arendt taught us, it is not 'making' but 'acting.' It is not something that can be, but only something that can be done" [160]. Thus his central concern is with democracy as "a state of being," founded on "democratic faith" and the "trust" embodied in the act of promising, rather than as a "system" or a set of institutions [159]. Lummis' reliance on the Arendtian logic of political freedom has the salutary effect of reminding one that democracy can never be reduced to any particular set of institutions, that there is "no sure, fixed solution to [the] puzzle" of how the people a! re to be empowered [22]. Yet something essential about the nature of democratic politics is also lost in this picture. While Lummis himself accepts that where democracy "appears it tends... to take on certain typical forms," which "typically evolve into institutions" [160], democracy's need for institutions, and more specifically, for the kinds of closure that institutions bring with them, is seen as either destructive of, or at best entirely contingent relative to, the essence of democracy. Any limitation on the people's direct and spontaneous manifestation that institutions might entail is presented as a threat to democracy, rather than as something at times necessary to democratic politics itself and worthy of being considered when elaborating democratic principles.2

  14.      Purifying democracy of any essential need for closure means the neglect of crucial aspects of actual democratic practice and essential questions of democratic principle--most obviously how to make and enforce decisions when consensus is lacking. But it also means, paradoxically, that Lummis never addresses the democratic need for modes of contesting the limited forms that any particular "people" will take or for modes of resisting the "petrification" of the original spontaneity of democratic action. Instead, Lummis merely enumerates the typical Arendtian list of spontaneous democratic forms--"committees of correspondance, councils, soviets, affinity groups, sectoral groups, and so on" [160]--without explaining how their "performance" of freedom can be sustained beyond their typically very brief appearances. Lummis does accept the virtue of certain more traditionally democratic institutions such as constitutions, elections, rights, redistributive social polici! es, etc., but his equation of democracy with action rules out the articulation of any relationship of principle between such institutions and "real" or "radical" democracy.

    Democratic Faith

  15.      The limitations of Lummis' approach are particularly clear in his meditation on the nature and powers of "democratic faith" and "public hope." His defense of the need for faith in one's fellow citizens as necessary to bridging the gap between the world as it is and the democratic world of mutual trust and equality to come is spirited, and his analysis of the "self-generating dynamic of public hope" is convincing: "when many people, filled with hope, take part in public action, hope is transformed from near-groundless faith (which it was in the state of public despair! ) to plain common sense" [156]. Yet there is no analysis, much less explanation, of how one moves from the former state to the latter or prolongs the state of hope once achieved. Even Lummis' strongest and most fully analyzed example of the "miracle" of public hope--the unexpected eruption of People's Power in Marcos' Philippines, which serves as a leitmotif throughout the book--was, alas, quite short-lived, which ultimately reduces Lummis to the exhortation that "nevertheless, in their moment of public hope the Philippine people accomplished a deed that will be remembered throughout that country's history. And the possibility remains that it can be repeated" [155].

  16.      Of course, to analyze the possibilities of democratic faith and public hope in any depth would reveal just how difficult their generation and reg! eneration is and thus how much more complicated (but perhaps less mysterious?) radical democratic practice is than Lummis' model accounts for. Of the difficulties involved in generating sustained interest in a common political world, or in first determining in what ways there can even be said to be a "whole" to which the virtuous democrat can pledge his allegiance, or in bearing the very real burdens of political action and "politicized identity," Lummis has nothing to say.3 Perhaps this is because such "democratizing" action would require working and living within "impure," not yet fully democratic or free practices and institutions, as we construct the way stations to more fully democratic ones as we go along. Investigating the most effective and democratic ways to handle the inevitable tensions and dissonances such a process entails would seem to belong at the top of the agenda of a theory of radical democracy. Paradoxically! , by not investigating the nature of, or recognizing the need for, democratic strategies of transition--for getting people from the state of despair to hope, for dealing skillfully with the conflicts involved in the move from undemocratic relations of power to a new "state" of democracy--Lummis actually depoliticizes the very "change of state" he champions so strongly, reducing it from a difficult, conflict-ridden process of negotiation to a "miraculous" "possibility," apparently available only in extraordinary, always fleeting moments.4

  17.      This explains, in turn, the biggest problem with the central chapters of the book on development, work, and machines. At some level, many of us stuck in modern, industrialized/ing, less than satisfactorily democratic, societies woul! d recognize the truth in Lummis' critique of its major institutions and practices. But while Lummis is to be commended for the scope and seriousness of his critique (something which is lacking from too much contemporary academic political theory), his analysis unintentionally raises, without answering, a fundamental question: why is democratic "common sense" not commonly accepted? Why hasn't a thorough and radical critique like his (and the New Left's) been more galvanizing? Without serious attempts to think through the nature of the obstacles--is it the content of the critique? its style? the absence of effective practices of politicization? the power of dominant institutions?--and to generate a new sense of political imagination, the kind of radical critique Lummis offers threatens to foster cynicism and despair about the possibility of bridging the gap between today's society and that of a "true" democracy.

    Radical Democracy Beyond Iden! tity?

  18.      While none of the essays in Radical Democracy: Identity, Citizenship, and the State provide a complete model of radical democracy free of the difficulties that face Lummis' project, a number of them do offer resources for thinking through more effective responses to its complexities. The best essays do so as part of efforts to chart intellectual and strategic paths that avoid the pitfalls of identity politics without simply doing away with its insights and gains. In the process of doing so, they fill out the contours of contemporary debates over radical democracy, expanding its range of meanings beyond the confines of Lummis' presentation (in which, in an oddly refreshing way, American-style identity politics never really figures).

  19.      For most of the essays in the volume, unfortunately, radical democracy remains a rather vague, under-theorized, concept, often invoked as if its meaning were uncontested and without critics, and generally understood along the lines of a "rainbow coalition"-style program composed of the demands of various politicized identities and (no longer so) new social movements. One essay that runs counter to this general tendency, and by doing so helps clarify one of the fronts in current debates over radical democracy, is Barbara Epstein's "Radical Democracy and Cultural Politics: What About Class? What About Political Power?". As the title suggests, Epstein's target is what she sees as the general neglect among self-proclaimed radical democrats of the traditional left's concern with class inequality and with the importance of controlling or countering state! power. Arguing that "we need to put forward a program that addresses questions of inequality and power, of how resources are used and who decides" [137], Epstein criticizes the way in which, according to her account, "the discourse of radical democracy has been framed by the assumptions of cultural politics, by the view that the object of radical politics is to take control of discourse [135]." Epstein traces this move from class to culture through a very helpful history of radical democracy's major theoretical influences, which she identifies as new social movement theory, politico-economic theories of Fordism and post-Fordism, and poststructuralism.

  20.      Yet even while her historical account illuminates the shortcomings of much of the writing that goes under the name of radical democracy--and the very real need! to theorize and act upon issues of class and state power--Epstein neglects her own insight about the slippery nature of the concept itself, with the result that she ends up attributing to all versions of radical democracy positions that apply only to some. This is particularly a problem in her treatment of the work of Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, authors of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Toward a Radical Democratic Politics, along with many more recent pieces on radical democracy, including Mouffe's contribution to the collection under review, "Radical Democracy or Liberal Democracy?". Laclau and Mouffe's writings have certainly been used to justify theoretical and practical projects that have little or no room for issues of class and state power; yet the work of Laclau and Mouffe themselves offers much more than the purely discursive and cultural program that Epstein attributes to it. While they do hold that class (and any other "subject-position") loses i! ts necessary centrality to democratic and left political struggle, this does not mean that it loses its actual importance in contemporary political struggles for greater democracy and equality. Thus Mouffe's (and Laclau's) project, by focusing on the "decentered" (contingent, multiple) nature of subjectivity pushes through and then past classical identity politics. It does so by recognizing both the plurality of sites of democratic struggle--rooted in identifications other than class--and the need to refashion those very identities--through the construction of "a chain of equivalence among the democratic demands found in a variety of groups--women, blacks, workers, gays, lesbians, environmentalists"--around their "common political identity as radical democratic citizens" who uphold a "radical democratic interpretation of the political principles of the liberal democratic regime" [24]. The relative centrality of struggles for economic justice and class equali! ty in such a movement would itself be a fully contingent, and practical matter, to be decided in the moment of struggle itself, rather than on the basis of Laclau and Mouffe's--or anyone else's--theory of subjectivity, power and discourse.

  21.      The real value of Mouffe's and Laclau's work, however, especially in light of the weaknesses of Lummis' project, lies in how it redefines democratic politics to include not just the task of generating common values and principles, and a high degree of equality, but also accepting that "the reconciliation of rival claims and conflicting interests can only be partial and provisional" [24]. By placing the recognition of the constitutive nature of division and conflict at the center of radical democratic politics, such an approach opens up the possibility of developing less vi! olent ways of handling such conflict. On this understanding of radical democracy--which, while it is consistent with the work of Laclau and Mouffe, has not yet been elaborated by them--the central tasks of theoretically-inspired democratic practice become two-fold: a) to determine, both in general and in particular contexts, those areas that most require common values and practices, together with the best ways to protect, or even institutionalize the principles of liberty and equality for all; while b) simultaneously developing particular practices that enable more peaceful and accepting relations to conflict and finitude--to those aspects of social and political life that resist our desires for simple solutions and an ordered and controlled world.

  22.      While Seyla Benhabib certainly sees herself as a critic of po! ststructuralist-influenced theories of democracy, including those of Chantal Mouffe, the argument she presents in "From Identity Politics to Social Feminism: A Plea for the Nineties" is perhaps not, in the end, so far from the tasks laid out above as her rhetoric sometimes suggests. Structured around a brief history of "theoretical and political developments within the North American Womens' Movements of the last two decades," Benhabib offers an important, if often-heard, critique of the "postmodernist turn" in feminist theory. Criticizing in particular the work of Judith Butler, Benhabib argues that "postmodernist" feminist theory offers no "consistent and intelligible view of agency and subjectivity." She faults it, in particular, for lacking any explanation for "the sources of spontaneity, creativity and resistance in agents" [34]. In addition, Benhabib argues that Butler's (and implicitly Mouffe's) theory of the acting subject as the juncture of multiple "subject pos! itions"--such as race, class, gender, sexuality, etc--offers no guidelines for handling the frequent occasions in which "the normative demands upon the individual of race, gender, and class identities as well as of other self-constitutive dimensions may be conflictual... [or even] irreconcilable. Unless feminist theory is able to develop a concept of normative agency robust enough to say something significant regarding such clashes, and which principles individuals should adopt to choose among them, it loses its theoretical bite and becomes a mindless empiricist celebration of all pluralities" [34].

  23.      For Benhabib, the absence of such guidelines produces particularly painful results in the context of the American welfare state, where a civil rights agenda for the elimination of discrimination based on race, gen! der, sexuality and other modes of identification has uncomfortably been mapped onto struggles for more equitable distribution of public goods (and vice versa). In some of the most interesting pages in the entire collection, Benhabib argues that this overlap has produced a zero-sum mode of politics in which various identity-based groups compete with each other for the (increasingly) limited pool of resources at the disposal of the welfare state. In Benhabib's preferred vision of democracy, escaping this situation requires moving beyond ("in the Hegelian sense of moving beyond") the fragmented, conflict-ridden, and normatively vacant theory of the "postmodernist" subject "to a new synthesis of collective solidarities with plurally constituted identities" [39]. Developing such a vision in practice would require the creation of "an enlarged mentality," based on the belief that "the furthering of one's capacity for autonomous agency is only possible within the confines of a so! lidaristic community that sustains one's identity through mutual recognition" [38].

  24.      Nancy Fraser, in her essay "Equality, Difference, and Radical Democracy: The United States Feminist Debates Revisited," offers a spirited attempt to bridge the differences between a Habermasian universalism like Benhabib's and the more contextualist, pluralist approach of theorists like Butler and Mouffe. She does this in part through a more sympathetic (and brilliantly illuminating) reading of Butler's deconstructive critique of identity (a reading which reveals the basis of that critique in an appealing, if ultimately incomplete, notion of freedom--an aspect of "postmodernist" feminism that Benhabib's critique neglects). Yet Fraser's approach, however convincing its criticisms of the limits of both "deconstructive anti-esse! ntialism" and "pluralist multiculturalism," nonetheless misses another possible way around the impasses of contemporary democratic and identity politics. For while Fraser's central claim that "cultural differences can only be freely elaborated and democratically mediated on the basis of social equality" is compelling, it seems just as likely that social equality can be achieved, especially in anything like current conditions, only on the basis of a rigorous practice of identity-critique. Indeed, what virtually all parties to the debate--Fraser, Benhabib, Butler, pluralist multiculturalists, though perhaps not Mouffe--neglect to consider are the resources for democratic community that can be found in various "practices of the self" that aim to loosen attachment to one's separate identity and self, partly through very mundane, bodily practices, and partly through the cultivation of particular kinds of universal identifications.

  25.      It is left to the final contribution to the volume, an interview between David Trend and bell hooks to explore this avenue, however briefly, and to suggest ways in which the radical problematization of identity does not have to be at odds with the production of the common bonds of democratic citizenship. In a discussion that focuses on ways of building principles of justice and multicultural democracy into concrete practices and spaces, hooks argues for the central importance of compassion to democratic political struggles. Drawing on a vision of compassion rooted in the tradition of socially engaged Buddhism--and particularly in the teachings of the exiled Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh--hooks argues for the ethical and pragmatic necessity for those involved in struggles for political change to "embrace what is within [one's antagonist] that could chang! e," and by extension, to recognize the elements of one's antagonist that exist within oneself. This form of compassion, based in the kinds of practices of the (non)self--most importantly those based in various modes of meditation--that aim to reduce one's attachment to one's own limited identity, allow for the possibility of mutual transformation, and thus help open the kind of space and hope for change that is crucial to democratic politics today. By directly engaging the sources of people's anger, resentment, and despair, such practices offer a potentially powerful resource for new modes of commonality, even as they render more bearable the inevitable conflicts and frustrations of life in democratic community. Democrats of all stripes, radical or otherwise, could do worse than investigate such resources, especially as the influence of socially engaged Buddhism has begun to make itself felt in grassroots projects across the nation and the world.

    Alan Keenan is a Lecturer on Social Studies at Harvard University, where he teaches classes in political and social theory.

    Copyright © 1997 Alan Keenan and The Johns Hopkins University Press, all rights reserved.


    1. It was a 1994 version of Aronowitz's essay in Socialist Review, calling for the substitution of "radical democracy" for "socialism" as the ideological banner of the left, that was the orginal impetus for the collection of essays edited by David Trend.

    2. The only exception to this is Lummis' recognition of the dilemma of political education: democracy r! equires that citizens be educated in its ways and develop the attitudes and identifications necessary to its maintenance. But how can such a process be initiated and controlled by the citizens themselves? While Lummis has some interesting things to say about this dilemma, he never lets its complexities affect the rest of his theory of democracy. For a more thorough and illuminating discussion of democratic education, see Peter Euben's contribution to the Trend collection, "Taking it to the Streets: Radical Democracy and Radicalizing Theory."

    3. For an excellent essay that begins the work of examining these and other difficulties of radical democratic practice in a rigorous way, see Mark Warren, "What Should We Expect From More Democracy?: Radically Democratic Responses to Politics," Political Theory 24:2, May 1996.

    4. For an excellent outline of a very nuts and bolt! s oriented strategy for radical democratic politics in the United States of the 1990's, see the contribution to the Trend collection by Richard Flacks, "Reviving Democratic Activism: Thoughts About Strategy in a Dark Time"