Suffer the Children

Steven Greenhouse has unearthed the most revealing statement of this entire controversy over employers instructing employees how to vote. David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, sent his 7000 employees a mailer warning them not to vote for Obama. Asked to explain his letter, Siegel said:

I really wanted them to know how I felt four more years under President Obama was going to affect them. It would be no different from telling your children: “Eat your spinach. It’s good for you.”

Got that? No different.

In The Reactionary Mind, I argue that conservatism is a defense of “the private life of power,” those hierarchies in spheres like the family and the workplace that we often call private. And here you have Mr. Siegel demonstrating that for employers the two are essentially the same. Workers are children, bosses are fathers.

People often wonder how libertarian-ish free market types can come together with cultural and religious conservatives in the GOP. Siegel gives you the answer: Both groups value the power of fathers—in the family, and in the workplace.


  1. brahmsky October 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm | #

    So it revolves around the libidinal-economic cathexis of pater? Interesting. Seems right. What is to be done, therefore?

  2. Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic) October 27, 2012 at 9:17 pm | #

    Actually workers aren’t children so much as they are indistinguishable from children in these people’s eyes. Both workers & children are chattel: dehumanized, objectified, commodifed, denied the same personal liberties they insist for themselves. Easy to maintain one’s personal liberty when you squash the personal liberty of anyone who might demand of you to make sacrifices.

  3. brahmsky October 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm | #

    Have you read DECLARATION? A lot about “fear” in there. What’s your view of this autonomiac stuff? They love workers almost as much as you, no? I’m all for it: my bosses suck (but don’t say I said that).

  4. noiselull@ October 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm | #

    What about “conservartive” J.S. Mill’s argument that speech is not an exercise of power?

  5. Aliothemage October 28, 2012 at 6:53 am | #

    See you liberals see people as equals….but people are not equals,some are smarter,faster and more capable ,some are worthless waste of breathing air

    Most workers are really cogs in a machine,they need to be told what to do and exactly how to do it by people who know more than them.
    In the matter of house, I refer to the authority of the architect,not the authority of some high school drop out factory drone .

    This Is a LOGICAL world view,opposed to the liberal/socialist/communist worldview where a EMOTIONAL world view prevails

    see what Haidt found:
    1) Libertarians show stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, (2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and (3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.
    Haidt and his colleagues eventually recognized that their Moral Foundations Questionnaire was blinkered by liberal academic bias by failing to include a sixth moral foundation, Liberty. They developed a liberty scale to probe this moral dimension. (Sample values: People who are successful in business have a right to enjoy their wealth as they see fit; Everyone should be free to do as they choose, as long as they don’t infringe upon the equal freedom of others.) And guess what? The researchers found that libertarians dramatically outscored liberals and conservatives when it came to putting a high value on both economic and lifestyle liberty. Most dishearteningly, liberals scored two full standard deviations below libertarians on economic liberty.[/quote]

    libertarians are smarter than everyone else,less emotional and more pro-freedom

    and this is SCIENCE,not Aliothemage who says that

    • David Kaib October 28, 2012 at 9:32 am | #

      It’s always helpful when someone capitalizes “SCIENCE” because it’s almost guaranteed they have no idea what science entails. (Obviously that’s not the only problem, but still…)

    • Mitchell Freedman October 28, 2012 at 10:13 am | #

      Jonathan Haidt is an idiot. Jonathan Haidt’s definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” are actually corporate media cutouts of “liberal” and “conservative” that are based upon a cultural stance more than anything economic.

      When Haidt says “liberals” should be “chided” “for a moral vision that alienates many working-class, rural, and religious voters,” he exposes his own shallow understanding of the term “liberal.” What he is really talking about is a “cultural liberalism” that describes any number of rich business oriented Republicans, Hollywood elitists who tend toward the libertarian (often libertine) or and any number of other sub-groups that do not fit economic liberals of a New Deal type in any meaningful way.

      Haidt the psychologist needed to read more sociologists like William Julius Wilson and Christopher Jencks. He needed to read and analyze Daniel Bell’s formulation of dividing “liberal” and “conservative” into the economic, political and cultural. To put it another way, Haidt the psychologist has a Chris Matthews’ view of the world and can’t see how his prescription and conclusion sounded more like a memorandum from the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) from the 1980s.

      • liberty60 October 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm | #

        I think Haidt is being unfairly conscripted into the reactionary army here.

        Its true that his descriptions of liberal and conservative are outdated sterotypes (e.g., it is not the liberals who are today pressing for unlimited individual license, even in the sexual realm).

        However, his observation that liberals and consevative stress different values is helpful and informative; and it actually benefits the liberal side of the fence.

        For instance, rather than arguing economic egalitarianism from the argument of “fairness”, liberals can gain converts by arguing it from the Patriotism premise of conservatism; that an righteous society shuns individual profit which occurs at the expense of the nation.
        Or health care is argued from the standpoint of the sanctity of the human life, or as a method of strengthening the family.

        In other words, the outcomes that liberals prefer can just as easily be brought about by the very values that conservatives currently hold.

        The contemporary conservative movement has enlarged the Liberty argument to the exclusion of all else, and that makes it brittle, and easily destroyed by the social conventions they claim to treasure.

    • Rob October 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm | #

      Help, the stupid is short circuiting my computer monitor!

  6. Dene Karaus October 28, 2012 at 7:19 am | #

    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In an economy where workers have virtually no rights, and live with “employments at will,” unless they first organize, form a union, risk losing their jobs as management “takes hostages,” and then await the negotiation of a first contract which can take years in order to negotiate a “fair” discipline and discharge section in that contract, is it any wonder that so many think the country is “not moving in the right direction?”

    Worker insecurity is the chief tool used to keep the 99% in their place. Notice how the Republican mantra is “jobs, jobs,” not good jobs, well-paying jobs, certainly not secure jobs. Insecurity is the right-wing, libertarian way. “Freedom” means the freedom for employers to abuse workers, psychologically, financially, spiritually, and politically. Why do people not see this in their own lives?

    • Brahmski October 28, 2012 at 9:28 am | #

      This is so well put, Dene, that as I was reading I thought of sharing it with my class. Although, I probably won’t because it’s “too political” (!) and so someone could complain. The more I read Corey’s blog and comments like yours the more I believe I understand about work. I knew my Marx, Althusser, Foucault and Hardt/Negri, etc. But I somehow hadn’t grappled with what its all about at a certain level of actuality that these discussions get at. Maybe it also had something to do with not having really held a job per se myself before recently or had much contact with students who have “real” jobs as I do now. Well anyway, “like” your comment. And SMH…

  7. casino implosion October 28, 2012 at 9:44 am | #

    The “Virginia Cavaliers” section of “Albion’s Seed” is once again highly relevant.

  8. Frank Moraes October 28, 2012 at 11:20 am | #

    The main thing I got from The Reactionary Mind was the paternalism of conservatism and how it makes powerless (mostly) men feel powerful in meaningless and often nonexistent contexts. You are right to throw libertarians in here too, although I think they have a couple of other important pathologies.

    I think we can deal with this kind of employer bullying. I say we treat it as political harassment:

    Political Harassment in the Workplace

  9. Lester Barnwell October 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm | #

    So, Corey — you’re a parent? You’re saying that children don’t need fathers? I suggest you spend more time reading Alice Miller, less time worrying about “reactionaries” and “conservatives.”

    Which you won’t do.

    Because you’ve demonstrated quite handily that your identity is tied to castigating the spectre of reactionaries on the landscape. You won’t rest until everyone thinks just like Corey and all dissent has been purged, all dissenters either converted or killed or sent away.

    Who’s the totalitarian here? Oh it couldn’t be Corey. He’s progressive!

    • Corey Robin October 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm | #

      If I really wanted to purge all dissent, wouldn’t I start with this blog?

    • Brahmski October 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm | #

      Why couldn’t it be both, Lester (or all three)? I think most people who know the Blogmaster General of the Radical Left will tell you he’s the sweetest totalitarian progressive you’re ever gonna meet, and I bet he’s a heck of terrific dad too. None of this is as contradictory as you seem to want to suggest. One can have digested object relations theory in one’s salad days and moved on to policing reactionaries by early middle age. Why not?

    • David Kaib October 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm | #

      No, he’s not saying that. I know it cause I read what he said. Are you saying that an employer is analogous to a father, and employees to children? If so, do you care to defend that claim?

      As a general rule, people who write about politics are hoping to convince at least some people to agree with them. Presumably you are doing the same. That you want to use this to selectively attack our blog host is fairly bizarre.

      Criticizing people is free speech. Using your power over employees to silence them is not. It’s not that hard to grasp, if you give it a moment’s thought. Just a suggestion.

  10. Scott Preston October 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm | #

    There is, I think, a certain infantile, childish attitude towards power that is today, perhaps, more pronounced than ever (“infantilisation” of culture being a key concept here). It’s no great difference to switch back and forth from a “nanny state” to a “daddy state”, is it? A mere swing of the pendulum. There’s something even of the ancient mythic in conceiving of power as being either paternal or maternal, Sky Father or Earth Mother, and much political propaganda, framing or “perception management” does precisely this — play upon childish fears or hopes of “the strong man” fatherly or the nurturing maternal. It’s mythic.

  11. Michael October 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm | #

    The guy who really nailed down this parent concept of power is cognitive scientist George Lakoff. He separates our thinking into strict father vs. nurturing parent. Check him out at

  12. Brahmski October 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm | #

    Yeah Lakoff identifies these contrasting forms of paternalism, but which is worse? Nowadays domination through infantalizing “nurturing” helping can be pretty bad too, no?

    • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 12, 2012 at 8:19 am | #

      It strikes me that one could talk about Foucault’s idea of biopower vs. spectacular power as a shift to the maternal from the paternal.

  13. matt October 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm | #

    @ Corey Robin,

    A bit off topic, but I don’t where else I should ask the question.

    Earlier I read this excellent piece on the Golden Dawn in Greece ( and there were some aspects of it that reminded me of Nietzsche (who you’ve been quoting on your tumblr page) as well as the Italian esotericist Julius Evola. One quote especially caught my eye from the article: ““Romanticism as a spiritual movement and classicism would have overcome the decadent subculture that has eroded the white man.”

    When I read that, it struck me as a little Nietschean, but also reminded me of what little I had read of Evola. Both men were concerned–as far as I can tell–with how modern life corrupts mankind (emphasis on man). That is, with what they perceived de-humanizing effects of modern life and how to respond to them. I know that in the Reactionary Mind you touched on Nietzsche a bit, but I was wondering if you could discuss how thinkers like Nietzsche and Evola influence modern right wing/fascist thought.

    And, off off-topic, are you aware if there is any semblence of anti-capitalism in right wing political philosophy?

    Sorry for the rambling, and thanks in advance for the response.

    • Scott Preston October 31, 2012 at 11:59 pm | #

      I read the article, but I don’t see any reason to associate it with Nietzsche. The attempts by fascist political formations to appropriate Nietzsche as one of their own pretty much fizzles out when Nietzsche’s full views become known. Nietzsche detested bigots of all kinds. “We shall acquiesce in no state of affairs in which the bigot is on top” he wrote, and his contempt for anti-Semites proved an embarrassment for the Nazis who tried to appropriate his image for their movement.

      I have little doubt that Nietzsche would have despised fascists as something subhuman, as the very contrary of his “transhuman” type (the most appropriate translation, it seems to me, of übermensch). Nietzsche also expressed great admiration for Islam (I think it was the Sufi branch that most intrigued him) and believed it was necessary for Europeans to engage with Islam (or Buddhism, for that matter) in order to achieve clarification of their own values. (“In times of peace a warrior goes to war against himself” is the principle of jihad itself). I know for a fact that some passages in Also Sprach Zarathustra are actually plagiarised from Islamic sources (particularly, the works of Rumi. And it’s not the only time Nietzsche has been indicted for plagiarism).

      I’ve even read Nazi intellectuals cite Meister Eckhart as their proto-type, which is a real head-scratcher, unless one actually descends to their level of “rationality” and reads Eckhart with the same vulgar-minded perversities and distortions.

      I’ve always found that Nietzsche’s “aristocratic radicalism” has more in common with William Blake’s revolutionary “spiritual radicalism” than with anything that resembles ideology.

  14. Jack Parsons November 2, 2012 at 12:32 am | #

    Yup! And Ann Coulter is an Angry Harpy Mommy.

  15. Dene Karaus August 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm | #

    The email you requested I send –

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