America Is a Nation of Javerts: Lessons from LES MISERABLES
In this episode, I interview Jim Carey, host of ‘The Left is Dead,’ a podcast about news, politics, and culture from a leftist lens. We discuss one of Jim’s favorite works of fiction, the novel LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo, and its relevance to the societal and political turmoil we see today.
Jim talks about how the U.S. has basically become an entire nation of Javerts—moral absolutists obsessed with control and punishment—and how a lack of class consciousness, revolutionary zeal, and a broad coalition with the working class prevents our ability to find real solutions to the biggest problems of our day. He also talks about the moral and political lessons that can be taken away from LES MISERABLES, particularly from the characters of Valjean, Fantine, Marius, and the young revolutionaries whose uprising becomes a failure we can learn from.
We also compare the novel and its socio-political objectives with adaptations of it in pop culture such as the Broadway musical and various film and TV adaptations. I spend a fair amount of time praising the PBS miniseries version and ragging on the Broadway musical for failing to cultivate a more meaningful level of class consciousness among its viewers.