THE press attacked Lerner (and also gave him forum after forum), the Clintons dropped him, and the press forgot him. Out of that humiliated sensibility comes The Politics of Meaning.
There is not much to say about this sad book, an unreadable compendium of gaseous bromides that Lerner has been repeating for ten years. The overall effect is of an oversized, appallingly written and conceived brochure for a socio-politico-cosmic vacation.
Instead of thinking of a politics-of-meaning society as one in which people are going to be excessively focussed on wondering about their duty, we can picture it as one in which people will be so excited to be meeting one other and having the opportunity to spend time together that we will resemble playful puppies, joyfully exploring and celebrating each other's existence.
Another dignity-restoring mechanism would be to encourage residents of nursing homes to hold memorial services for residents who have passed away.
If [children] are emotionally or physically brutalized . . . we are all likely to suffer the consequences--whether in random acts of violence or in ethically insensitive voting behavior.
Indeed, we might eventually ask whether there really is such a thing as "the physical world," or whether that concept itself is merely an attempt to abstract reality from its essential spiritual, ethical, and material interconnectedness.
Men are often so alienated from their own bodies that many have no idea how much more delicious and stimulating a meaning-based sexuality can be.
As his public fortunes have fallen, Lerner has disappeared into his own ego. He is doing the work of Onan, not Moses.
GIVEN his mental convolutions, it's impossible to resist applying Lerner's cherished psychologizing to Lerner himself. An analysis would go like this. The people Lerner "treated" at his Institute for Labor and Mental Health were working-class and middle-class. That is, they were members of the "silent majority" who had once rejected Lerner's calls for revolutionary action. So for two decades Lerner got back his own. His patients might reasonably have thought he was trying to help them; but Lerner had another agenda. He tells us that his "aim was to better understand the psychodynamics of middle-income working people, and also to try to understand why so many of them were moving to the political Right." And the findings of his research with the people who put themselves in his care were that they had been deformed by pain and misrecognition, maimed by the "deprivation of meaning." In other words, it was their fault that the revolution had failed and propelled Lerner into twenty years of oblivion, not his. They had failed him. This project of self-vindication has been at the "meaning" core of his ambitions since before Lerner was seduced and then abandoned by the Clintons and lost the media spotlight. Now, as an indifferent society once again rejects Lerner's calls for transformation, the self-vindication remains.
Let all this infuriated healing come to an end.
The Atlantic Monthly; June, 1996; All Politics Is Cosmic; Volume 277, No. 6; pages 120-125.