Contesting realities

Jessica Whyte


In 2004, an unnamed Bush adviser accused a senior Wall Street Journal reporter of belonging to the “reality based
community”—a community that believed solutions stem from the judicious study of reality. “We're history's actors, “ he told the journalist, “and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Overwhelmingly, the response of those on the left, and of US progressives to this comment was to smugly deride the irrationalism and the arrogance of the Bush Administration. This paper, in contrast, will examine what is missed in the rush to accept membership of the reality based community. It will suggest that that the advisor's comments express something that was once a central tenet of the left: the belief that political action is capable of transforming reality. Today, on the left, this belief has been all but abandoned in the face of a seemingly unstoppable onslaught of free market capitalism and increasingly repressive state power. This paper will ask what it would mean today, to begin to re-imagine political action as capable of remaking the world.


"Reality based community" , politics, social movements, social action, "war on terror", human rights.

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