Thursday, April 24, 2008

What does "to endorse" mean?

Feudalism term that emerged in the 17th century and has been used to describe European economic, legal, political, and social relationships that existed in the Middle Ages. Derived from the Latin word feudum (fief) but unknown to people of the Middle Ages, the term feudalism has been used most broadly to refer to medieval society as a whole and most narrowly to describe relations between lords and vassals. It also has been applied, often inappropriately, to non-Western societies where institutions similar to those of medieval Europe are thought to have existed. The many ways feudalism has been used have drained it of specific meaning, however, and caused some scholars to reject it as a useful concept for understanding medieval society.

Feudalism in its broadest sense has been understood as the entire interwoven fabric of medieval society. As described by Karl Marx and subsequent Marxist scholars, it is the stage in history that preceded capitalism and, as such, involved the entire social and economic structure of medieval Europe. Also known as manorialism or seignorialism, feudalism in this sense is a mode of agricultural production based on the relation between lords and the peasants who worked their own land and that of the lord. The peasants owed labour service to the lords, who provided military protection and also had extensive police, judicial, and other rights over the peasants. In this view, feudalism came to encompass all aspects of social organization and was characterized as a system that was both oppressive and hierarchical.

According to a narrower and more technical definition that is, nonetheless, more widely used, feudalism involves the exchange of allegiance for a grant of land (fief) between two people, usually men, of noble status. Although its roots have been traced to practices that existed in the Roman Empire and during the age of Charlemagne (742–814), feudalism thus defined may be said to have emerged in the 11th century. At that time, public authority broke down, traditional institutions were unable to maintain order, and private castles were built. During this so-called feudal anarchy, private relationships were established among the nobility in which weaker nobles attached themselves to stronger ones. To forge an alliance or settle a dispute, a fief was granted to the lesser noble in exchange for a vow of homage and service, often military. Feudalism was therefore a means to restore social order or at least limit the excesses that resulted from the collapse of public authority.
[Source: "Feudalism." Encyclopedia Britannica, Standard Edition. Chicago: 2008.]

Some seem to think it means "to swear allegiance." Back in the day, "subinfeudation" was the process by which one swapped loyalties in wars for protections and land. So "to endorse" certainly has echoes of feudalism.

Bill Fletcher speaks for himself, and you can hear it in his concision and bluntness. Kim Gandy talked circles around herself, when she tried to make sense of her candidate's incoherent pronouncements on the war, eventually spending more time talking about what Obama might've done had he been in the US Senate and listening to COLIN POWELL, ooh, scary man.

Fletcher again shines the light on the Clinton campaign's duplicity in claiming--and disclaiming--White House policy decisions. This is a core theme of the junior senator from New York's campaign. Prof. Harris-Lacewell nailed it, too, during her heated debate with Gloria Steinem back in January (01/14/2008): how can a feminist claim marrying her way into the White House as her own accomplishment?

After 35 years of subinfeudating herself to The Right People, does Sen. Clinton's argument boil down to, America, you owe me?

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher, let me ask you the question of single-payer, as well, why Barack Obama, you think, has not endorsed a single-payer healthcare system, which takes out the insurance industry and their profits from the healthcare equation.

BILL FLETCHER: Well, Amy, I can give this answer, but very bluntly, in part because I’m not speaking for the campaign, I actually think he’s been playing it too safe. I think that—and in that sense, I agree very much with what my friend Ted Glick was saying. I think that—you know, that there needs to be much more of a push on the issues, and I think that, unfortunately, Senator Obama has thought that this might hurt his coalition. So I do think he needs to be pushed.

But I want to say one other thing, Amy. I’m trying to figure out whether we’re in the same country when I hear these comments about Senator Obama’s alleged negativity. I mean, let’s be clear about who it was that kept the issue of Reverend Wright alive, who it was that implied that there was a problem with the relationship between Senator Obama and Bill Ayers in Chicago. I mean, there has been this undercurrent that comes very close to red-baiting that has been coming out of the campaign, which I think does a disservice to the Clinton campaign. So I think that there really is a time where people need to pull up and be a little bit more humble in their approach.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Kim Gandy, let me put that issue back to you, the issue of Hillary Clinton on negativity around Reverend Wright, on raising other issues that aren’t to do with basic issues in the campaign around healthcare, around war.

KIM GANDY: Certainly, my experience with the campaign was that they stayed away from the Reverend Wright issue. The first I recall Hillary Clinton saying anything about it was when she was asked what would she have done if this had been her pastor or if her pastor had said such things, and she said that she wouldn’t have continued going to that church. I don’t consider that a negative attack.

On the other hand, you know, Senator Obama ran ads saying that Hillary Clinton had advocated for NAFTA, which was, according to the—including her detractors, who were not—who were around at the time, even they say that she not only didn’t advocate for it, but actually argued against it inside the White House and urged that NAFTA not be undertaken. She said, “If we do this, we’ll never get healthcare.”

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher?

BILL FLETCHER: Senator Clinton can’t have it both ways, Amy. You know, she goes after Senator Obama about his associations with Reverend Wright and with Bill Ayers, yet wants people to see her as distinct from the Clinton White House, yet claiming that she’s ready to assume the presidency precisely because of her years in the Clinton White House. You simply cannot have it both ways.

See, what this really speaks to, Amy, is, bottom line, Senator Clinton cannot significantly distinguish herself on the issues from Senator Obama. And in that situation, unfortunately, what happens is that many people turn to issues that are a bit inflammatory, that are provocative, rather than getting to the issues. Again, I want to go back to what Ted was raising. This campaign should be focusing on the issues. The media should be focusing on the issues, and they should be pushing the candidates, including the candidate I support, Senator Obama, on them, and push them so that they’re specific about each of these questions.


January 14, 2008

Race and Gender in Presidential Politics: A Debate Between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell

GLORIA STEINEM: No, my first column on this subject was essentially taking to task the media, who were asking us, trying to force us to choose prematurely and asking me, “Are you supporting Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?” And I would always just say yes, because it seemed to me wrong that they were, you know, so forced on—so focused on this long before the primaries.

AMY GOODMAN: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, your thoughts on this discussion about race and gender?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I mean, honestly, I’m appalled by the parallel that Ms. Steinem draws in the beginning part of the New York Times article. What she’s trying to do there is to make a claim towards sort of bringing in black women into a coalition around questions of gender and asking us to ignore the ways in which race and gender intersect. This is actually a standard problem of second-wave feminism, which, although there have been twenty-five years now—oh, going on forty years, actually, of African American women pushing back against this, have really failed to think about the ways in which trying to appropriate black women’s lives’ experience in that way is really offensive, actually.

And so, when Steinem suggests, for example, in that article that Obama is a lawyer married to another lawyer and to suggest that, for example, Hillary Clinton represents some kind of sort of breakthrough in questions of gender, I think that ignores an entire history in which white women have in fact been in the White House. They’ve been there as an attachment to white male patriarchal power. It’s the same way that Hillary Clinton is now making a claim towards experience. It’s not her experience. It’s her experience married to, connected to, climbing up on white male patriarchy. This is exactly the ways in which this kind of system actually silences questions of gender that are more complicated than simply sort of putting white women in positions of power and then claiming women’s issues are cared for.

Now, what I know from the work that I’ve done on the Obama campaign is that there are tens of thousands of extremely hard-working white men and women, as well as black men and women, as well as actually a huge multiracial and interethnic coalition of people working for Barack Obama. And so, for Steinem to sort of make this very clear race and gender dichotomy that she does in that New York Times op-ed piece, I think it’s the very worst of second-wave feminism.

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