“Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianis

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contrarianna
“Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianis

 

contrarianna

Chalmers Johnson reviews Sheldon Wolin's new book (its title contains a term that unavoidably comes to mind in recent years: "managed democracy" )
[url=http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/print/20080515_chalmers_johnson_on_... full review on truthdig[/url]
“Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism,
...
[Excerpt]
"To reduce a complex argument to its bare bones, since the Depression, the twin forces of managed democracy and Superpower have opened the way for something new under the sun: “inverted totalitarianism,” a form every bit as totalistic as the classical version but one based on internalized co-optation, the appearance of freedom, political disengagement rather than mass mobilization, and relying more on “private media” than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda that reinforces the official version of events. It is inverted because it does not require the use of coercion, police power and a messianic ideology as in the Nazi, Fascist and Stalinist versions (although note that the United States has the highest percentage of its citizens in prison—751 per 100,000 people—of any nation on Earth). According to Wolin, inverted totalitarianism has “emerged imperceptibly, unpremeditatedly, and in seeming unbroken continuity with the nation’s political traditions.”

The genius of our inverted totalitarian system “lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual. ... A demotion in the status and stature of the ‘sovereign people’ to patient subjects is symptomatic of systemic change, from democracy as a method of ‘popularizing’ power to democracy as a brand name for a product marketable at home and marketable abroad. ... The new system, inverted totalitarianism, is one that professes the opposite of what, in fact, it is. ... The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed.”

Among the factors that have promoted inverted totalitarianism are the practice and psychology of advertising and the rule of “market forces” in many other contexts than markets, continuous technological advances that encourage elaborate fantasies (computer games, virtual avatars, space travel), the penetration of mass media communication and propaganda into every household in the country, and the total co-optation of the universities. Among the commonplace fables of our society are hero worship and tales of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, action measured in nanoseconds, and a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose adepts are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge. Masters of this world are masters of images and their manipulation. Wolin reminds us that the image of Adolf Hitler flying to Nuremberg in 1934 that opens Leni Riefenstahl’s classic film “Triumph of the Will” was repeated on May 1, 2003, with President George Bush’s apparent landing of a Navy warplane on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to proclaim “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

On inverted totalitarianism’s “self-pacifying” university campuses compared with the usual intellectual turmoil surrounding independent centers of learning, Wolin writes, “Through a combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds, joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and wealthy individual donors, universities (especially so-called research universities), intellectuals, scholars, and researchers have been seamlessly integrated into the system. No books burned, no refugee Einsteins. For the first time in the history of American higher education top professors are made wealthy by the system, commanding salaries and perks that a budding CEO might envy.”

The main social sectors promoting and reinforcing this modern Shangri-La are corporate power, which is in charge of managed democracy, and the military-industrial complex, which is in charge of Superpower. The main objectives of managed democracy are to increase the profits of large corporations, dismantle the institutions of social democracy (Social Security, unions, welfare, public health services, public housing and so forth), and roll back the social and political ideals of the New Deal. Its primary tool is privatization. Managed democracy aims at the “selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry” under cover of improving “efficiency” and cost-cutting.
...
Imperialism and democracy are, in Wolin’s terms, literally incompatible, and the ever greater resources devoted to imperialism mean that democracy will inevitably wither and die. He writes, “Imperial politics represents the conquest of domestic politics and the latter’s conversion into a crucial element of inverted totalitarianism. It makes no sense to ask how the democratic citizen could ‘participate’ substantively in imperial politics; hence it is not surprising that the subject of empire is taboo in electoral debates. No major politician or party has so much as publicly remarked on the existence of an American empire....”

George Victor

I learned only recently that Eisenhower's ubiquitous military-industrial complex would have read "military-industrial-academic complex" if the general had had his way. Advisors had him strike out academe's role since it would have unleashed too many vengeful, articulate critics.

Chalmers Johnson holds up political science as the ultimate discipline even while - very properly - pointing to Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine,which is a work of political economy, casting light on exactly what is creating economic and political transformation in much of the "developing" world.

Ms Klein's work is first and foremost a critique of an economic theory in the violent overseas' employ of the corrupted system that Wolin apparently describes. Robert Reich's Supercapitalism tells what the Chicago School and the corporation has done to America itself: "The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Everyday Life."

A majority of citizens have been co-opted into playing the market so that their golden years can be spent in travel - or at least something more than fear of losing the house to medical bills. The corporation earning them that freedom through investments can't be all bad, eh? Eh?

And, of course, from day one of the invasion of Iraq, we have known that was all about a kind of "oily lebensraum". Well, whatever will keep the old SUV's going down the road in the style demanded by the great unwashed.

No, I'd read Reich first for an understanding of what is taking place to bring about that "managed democracy", both in Canada and the U.S. Less dependent on American and German history. More critical of old postmodernist "us", doing it to ourselves.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by contrarianna:
[b] Imperialism and democracy are, in Wolin’s terms, literally incompatible, and the ever greater resources devoted to imperialism mean that democracy will inevitably wither and die. [/b]

I've never read anything of Wolin's before, but what he says here is so true about the failings of Liberal democracy. Post-Liberal democracy needs to be a new experiment in participatory democracy and returning to the people the power to judge power.

Richard Nixon realized full well that the Chicago School's brand of neoconservatism and democracy are incompatible. It's why he kept Friedman on as an advisor but continued doing a bad impression as Keynesian-conservative. The experiment in ultra right-wing conservative economics would have to wait until the overthrow of democracy in Chile.

jeff house

Sheldon Wolin has been among the most important political theoreticicians in the United States for at least a generation.

His book "Politics and Vision" was THE textbook on the history of political thought while I was a graduate student in the early 1970s.

Wolin is a RADICAL DEMOCRAT. He abhors all forms of what he calls "totalitarianisms", including the Soviet one. He is particularly critical of plebiscites as a form of totalitarian manipulation by those who control the state.

Undoubtedly, the idea of "totalitarianism" has previously referred to internal repression on a vast scale, while as Johnson writes, Wolin is aware this doesn't describe the United States:

quote:

“inverted totalitarianism,” a form every bit as totalistic as the classical version but one based on internalized co-optation, the appearance of freedom, political disengagement rather than mass mobilization, and relying more on “private media” than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda that reinforces the official version of events. It is inverted because it does not require the use of coercion, police power and a messianic ideology as in the Nazi, Fascist and Stalinist versions.

I am not sure that "internalized co-optation" should really be theorized using the same word as states based upon concentration camps and mass murder, though. Herbert Marcuse argued something similar in "One Dimensional Man", but I was never convinced.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


In sum, the mass media of the United States are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions and self-censorship, and without significant overt coercion. This propaganda system has become even more efficient in recent decades with the rise of the national television networks, greater mass-media concentration right-wing pressures on public radio and television, and the growth in scope and sophistication of public relations and news management.

Chomsky & Herman, [url=http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Herman%20/Conclusions_ManufacConsent.h... Consent[/url]

Who the hell is Sheldon Wolin?

contrarianna

quote:


Originally posted by M. Spector:
[b]Chomsky & Herman, [url=http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Herman%20/Conclusions_ManufacConsent.h... Consent[/url]

Who the hell is Sheldon Wolin?[/b]


Hardly an upstart, or a rider of Chomsky's coat tails:

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Wolin]Sheldon Wolin[/url]

contrarianna

quote:


Originally posted by jeff house:
[b]
I am not sure that "internalized co-optation" should really be theorized using the same word as states based upon concentration camps and mass murder, though. Herbert Marcuse argued something similar in "One Dimensional Man", but I was never convinced.[/b]

The fact that the US acheivement of "inverted" totalitarianism and "totalism" is maintained(at least within the homeland itself)without concentration camps and torture is, of course, the subject of the book.
Mass murder and (and now concentration camps and torture) outside the homeland is very much a feature of US imperialism.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Guantanamo Bay torture camp is only "outside the homeland" in the most technical sense. For all practical purposes it is on US soil.

Wolin exaggerates when he says that the totalitarianism of the US does not employ coercion, police power and a messianic ideology. The US today is like a giant prison where the screws will taser you if you step out of line. Mainstream politicians all spout the same messianic ideology of the USA as a force for civilization and benevolence in the world. As for coercion, well, that is merely disguised as choice.

[ 20 May 2008: Message edited by: M. Spector ]

jeff house

quote:


Wolin exaggerates when he says that the totalitarianism of the US does not employ coercion, police power and a messianic ideology.

Wolin would never say that because everyone knows that every state uses coercion.

But he CAN tell the difference between the Holocaust, for example, or the Gulag, and the US prison system.

In the US case, coercion is approximately 1/50,000 of that in Stalin's Russia, and 1 zillionth of that in Nazi Germany.

Just to get a sense of the real difference, ONE OUT OF EVERY FOUR citizens of Leningrad were sentenced to a term in the Gulag. Nazi numbers were even worse.

While US repression is real, only idiots claim that it is similar in extent to what real totalitarian systems did.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

FYI, Chalmers Johnson was the author of the expression "blowback" ... which has come to indicate the sort of unexpected consequence of US foreign policy (unexpected to a public unaware of CIA and covert US atrocities, that is) such as on September 11, 2001 in New York City. Furthermore, Johnson was using this expression when most others were unwilling to challenge the hegemonic narrative surrounding 9-11. [b]He had the gumption to say that 9-11 [i]was a predictable consequence of US foreign policy[/i][/b] and he backed it up with arguments and reasoning.

Very impressive in his own right.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Incarceration rates in George W. Bush's America and Stalin's U.S.S.R.

U.S.S.R. (1950) ....... 1,423 per 100,000

U.S. (2002) ........... 2,298 per 100,000

Incarceration rates of black men in apartheid South Africa and contemporary America

South Africa (1993) ....... 851 per 100,000
U.S. (2002) ............... 7,150 per 100,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Policy Initiative, "The International Use of Incarceration", Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Fidel

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v697/rabblerabble/byrne.jpg[/img]

And Hey you, citizen! That's not the Stasi [url=http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071111-ex-att-employee-nsa-snoopi... your email and other personal communications[/url]

You don't know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSA

[ 20 May 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Michelle

Thanks for that last quote you pulled, M. Spector. Looks like an interesting book based on the review. I haven't read the book either, so take what follows with that in mind.

I'm still not sure that "inverted totalitarianism" is quite as bad as the real deal. I mean, it's bad. It's really bad, in fact. But you CAN still resist in the US to a much larger degree than you could in East Germany or the USSR, and certainly Nazi Germany.

There are some terrible examples of police and state abuse in the US, and I'm not saying there isn't. It's disgusting to read stories about people having their rights violated in the US, and of course, Guantanamo Bay is an obscenity.

But it's not like the average citizen is sent to Gitmo for saying that Bush is an idiot. There are lots of examples of people making political statements in the US that would've gotten you a one-way ticket to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany or to the Gulag in Soviet Russia.

Phone taps and internet spying are disgusting, I agree. But I think what they do with the information is a little different and less extreme than what totalitarian countries would have done with it. A close friend in the US that I talk to on the phone regularly hasn't been dragged away yet by secret police, and we talk politics all the time over the phone, and we say nothing kind about the current administration. I haven't been stopped at the border when crossing to the US and sent to Gitmo for my sins.

This probably has a lot to do with my white, sort-of-middle-class privilege and I realize the US is deeply racist (as is Canada). Perhaps if my friend's name was Mohammad and my name was Fatima, things might be different.

In any case, I think "inverted totalitarianism" is still a useful term, and a useful way to think about what is going on in the US, because it's important to see the direction that neocons in the US have been taking things. Just because they haven't reached the same degree of loss of liberty doesn't mean they aren't trying to get there, and it doesn't mean that they haven't gotten a decent way down the path.

This kind of terminology is good because it tells people where they're going if they allow their leaders to continue down the same path. If it's true that people are more worried now than they have been in the past about their personal safety for holding marginal political beliefs and resisting the mainstream, and if it's true that police are getting to the point where they taser people for non-violent resistance and get away with it, and people are getting thrown into Gitmo with no charges laid against them, and almost all the media in the country are doing nothing but parroting the mainstream party line and demonizing anyone who deviates...then clearly there is an attempt being made to have citizens internalize political oppression.

[ 21 May 2008: Message edited by: Michelle ]

George Victor

And here is the major - and most frightening - element in the corruption of the now largely ignorant nation buying Alberta's oil and natural gas and expected, by market devotees, to save our butt.
Go figure:

This selection from a Right wing, wing nut cabal I get mailings from: Newt Gingrich, Robert Novak, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan's conduit. When does the book burning begin. Front lawn of Langdon maybe. P

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N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Some of the nuggets in the Chalmers Johnson review:

1. “Our thesis ... is this: it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a putatively ‘strong democracy’ instead of a ‘failed’ one.”

It's useful to describe this totalitarianism BEFORE it has completed its development rather than lament about it afterwards. The reasons are obvious.

2. " ... from democracy as a method of ‘popularizing’ power to democracy as a brand name for a product marketable at home and marketable abroad ..."

[b]Democracy as a brand name[/b] rather than a way of making decisions. That's an excellent summary.

3. "That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from the government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate."

[b]Best Canadian example of such brainwashing: Support the Troops! [/b]

4. "Among the factors that have promoted inverted totalitarianism are the practice and psychology of advertising and the rule of “market forces” in many other contexts than markets, continuous technological advances that encourage elaborate fantasies (computer games, virtual avatars, space travel), the penetration of mass media communication and propaganda into every household in the country, and the total co-optation of the universities. Among the commonplace fables of our society are hero worship and tales of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, action measured in nanoseconds, and a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose adepts are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge."

That's just such a great quote I had to include it.

*************************

The only aspect of this book by Sheldon Wolin as reviewed by Johnson that I might find fault with is this habit of using abstract nouns to describe real things. Johnson notes that Wolin uses "Superpower" in a particularly confusing way, which is helpful to point out ... but it is perhaps also useful to point out that the current US campaign of "The War on Terror" also uses this technique.

In the latter case, as Zbignew Brezhinski mockingly noted, it is a war on an abstract noun. This is a war with no clearly defined goal or enemy and no way to describe how such a war might come to an end. It is an [i]endless[/i] war.

That aside, the Wolin book looks like a great read.

[ 21 May 2008: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Michelle:
[b]Phone taps and internet spying are disgusting, I agree. But I think what they do with the information is a little different and less extreme than what totalitarian countries would have done with it.[/b]

The East German Stasi never dreamed of having the NSA's ability to tap phone calls, mail, and a range of personal communications amounting to extreme monitoring and violations of privacy. The communists never demonstrated this same ruthless efficiency when it came to spying on their own people. It was said that the KGB were bothersome, but Russians could also tell them to bugger off without fear.

And I believe this is exactly what commentators in the U.S. and Canada are saying - that the totalitarian U.S. military state really is as bad as any before it in the last century. Not only does the U.S. spy on its own citizens, it's the world's biggest jailer of its own citizens. Uncle Sam imprisons Americans at rates far exceeding those of Stalin's USSR and Pic Botha's apartheid South Africa.

And then there are issues of which superpower was out for global domination. Cold warriors told everyone, it was the USSR's aim to takeover the world. But today we still have more than 730 U.S. military bases around the world and in Europe, supposedly to protect Europeans from a cold war threat that doesn't exist anymore. And NATO is attempting to carry on with cold war business by installing missile "defense" in former communist countries, even the though our new capitalist friends, the Russians, say they represent an offensive threat to them and China and refuse to give approval. The USA today is encircling its cold war enemies with offensive military threats and nuclear weapons, weapons which have no legitimate purpose like illegal wiretaps and policies to induce food crises and unprecedented human suffering worldwide are crimes against humanity.

What we have today is a vicious empire trying to assert military and economic domination of the world through globalization and deregulation. Millions of human beings were sacrificed to the capitalist economic long run several decades ago, and that situation hasn't changed with the new cash crop capitalism being forced on developing countries today. It's a monstrous ideology being forced on the world by a vicious empire.

Michael Hardner

quote:


The East German Stasi never dreamed of having the NSA's ability to tap phone calls, mail, and a range of personal communications amounting to extreme monitoring and violations of privacy. The communists never demonstrated this same ruthless efficiency when it came to spying on their own people. It was said that the KGB were bothersome, but Russians could also tell them to bugger off without fear.

This is a complete exaggeration. The idea that things are worse now than in the past is crazy.

We're not living in capitalism, we're living in modified capitalism. Canada and Western Europe have, over the past fifty years, adopted policies that encourage growth and prosperity while providing for a reasonable safety net. Yes, the US is far behind but they will continue to catch up.

A lot of this thread seems to involve chiming in with pessimistic ideas. If we are to be so pessimistic about things, then aren't we saying that progressive ideals we fought for were pointless ?

I for one would rather be positive about what most of the west has achieved through open democracy and discussion.

"Managed democracy" is just another coffee klatch discussion topic. The idea that democracy can be "managed" depends on the fact that people's basic needs are being met. If we were really that bad off, then democracy wouldn't be allowed.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]We're not living in capitalism...[/b]

You're living in cloud-cuckooland.

contrarianna

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]

"Managed democracy" is just another coffee klatch discussion topic. The idea that democracy can be "managed" depends on the fact that people's basic needs are being met. If we were really that bad off, then democracy wouldn't be allowed.[/b]


The fact that you are well fed, housed and content and you can still chat about democracy over coffee is no doubt a great solace--making irrelevant the fact that the US has carried out over 70 serious military interventions in other countries since WWII, many of which were designed to overthrow or prevent democracy.

Michael Hardner

quote:


You're living in cloud-cuckooland.

Looks like you missed the last half of that sentence....

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I'm not sure how productive it is, in any case, to compare present totalitarianisms with past ones. The most important thing, surely, is to do or say whatever it takes to mobilize the citizenry (an old-fashioned word I rather like) against the present threats.

If the author of this new book can arouse public interest and attention with his novel concepts and ideas, then bully for him.

Some have criticized authors like Chomsky, and this one as well perhaps, for providing an enumeration of the problems of imperialism that is so thorough as to be completely demoralizing and demobilizing. These aren't trivial concerns. The most harmful thing is to discourage people who have it in them to fight back and don't - because of that discouragement.

Class society, whatever ilk and whoever the ruling class is, provides a justification for itself that is virtually total. There is no room in the capitalist universe for a socialist, or any other, rival. The elaboration of what we are up against, therefore, must take a back seat to that which mobilizes people to fight back. That's basic social psychology, methinks; or, perhaps, it's simply the difference between the author of a book and, say, a political organization with radical social aims like overturning the capitalist applecart.

[ 21 May 2008: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]

Michael Hardner

quote:


The fact that you are well fed, housed and content and you can still chat about democracy over coffee is no doubt a great solace--making irrelevant the fact that the US has carried out over 70 serious military interventions in other countries since WWII, many of which were designed to overthrow or prevent democracy.

And I protested against almost all of these interventions. The relevant question is what are we living in today and what needs to change ?

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

quote:


Michael Hardner: The idea that things are worse now than in the past is crazy.

What the sociologists call social stratification is getting worse. Data regarding the US, for example, indicates that social mobility is worsening in that country ... so much so that Europe is being compared favorably in terms of social mobility.

On a gut level it is also obvious. Many people no longer even consider the possibility that they will own their own home, like their parents did, and have abandoned this dream long ago.

We can see it in demographics - where more and more women postpone having children for later on, putting themselves, incidently, at higher risk for related health issues, trying to earn and/or save more money prior to having children. Some couples have no children at all.

These are things, and there are many more, that cannot be shrugged off by arm waving about the crazinesss of others.

quote:

MH: If we are to be so pessimistic about things, then aren't we saying that progressive ideals we fought for were pointless ?

No. It means there has to be a much better fightback, both to defend current gains and to forge ahead with new gains. Good and workable ideas should not be abandoned because the enemies of those ideas are currently successful.

Michael Hardner

NB,

quote:

What the sociologists call social stratification is getting worse. Data regarding the US, for example, indicates that social mobility is worsening in that country ... so much so that Europe is being compared favorably in terms of social mobility.

On a gut level it is also obvious. Many people no longer even consider the possibility that they will own their own home, like their parents did, and have abandoned this dream long ago.

We can see it in demographics - where more and more women postpone having children for later on, putting themselves, incidently, at higher risk for related health issues, trying to earn and/or save more money prior to having children. Some couples have no children at all.

These are things, and there are many more, that cannot be shrugged off by arm waving about the crazinesss of others.

No. It means there has to be a much better fightback, both to defend current gains and to forge ahead with new gains. Good and workable ideas should not be abandoned because the enemies of those ideas are currently successful.


I can come up with similar a list of things to be optimistic about. Then what ? Pessimists and optimists will never agree on whether things are fabulously fantastic or drearily dismal.

And is the improvement or deterioration due to managed democracy ? Are we materially better off ? If not, why do we not complain ? Are we spiritually better off ?

And - embedded in your note is the assumption that gains are zero sum. That there is a winner and a loser. This is not the case.

Good and workable ideas tend to succeed, and they have done so.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I don't see how you jump to this conclusion about zero sums. Although I would hasten to add that if oil supplies, and other resources, are peaking then it's obviously time to consider new ways to help the poor by expropriating the rich.

However, there can still be cause for social explosions if things are improving for everyone ... if the rich and the super rich are rocketing ahead and the gap between the rich and poor keeps widening to a gigantic chasm ... Relative poverty is as much a cause of problems as so-called absolute poverty.

This is, of course, aside from the managed democracy that makes involvement in orthodox electoral politics, say, a waste of time and a sham, and blocks entirely any chance of substantial change for the powerless.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]NB,

I can come up with similar a list of things to be optimistic about. Then what ? Pessimists and optimists will never agree on whether things are fabulously fantastic or drearily dismal.

And is the improvement or deterioration due to managed democracy ? Are we materially better off ? If not, why do we not complain ? Are we spiritually better off ?

And - embedded in your note is the assumption that gains are zero sum. That there is a winner and a loser. This is not the case.

Good and workable ideas tend to succeed, and they have done so.[/b]


An awfully long and involved way to say:

[img]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/97/Meher_Baba_5.jpg[/img]

[ 21 May 2008: Message edited by: Lard Tunderin' Jeezus ]

George Victor

At the risk of again "chiming in with pessimistic ideas", would you care to suggest why Susan Jacoby and Al Gore and a host of others are comparing present-day discourse in "America", from the White House on down, with the public's interest in ideas at the time of the American Revolution.
The "founding fathers" - you know, framers of the constitution, etc. - are compared with the current crop.
Anyone suggesting that its all been an improvement since '76 can only be compared to the churchmen who found something positive in the Lisbon quake and that inspired Voltaire to pen Candide.
When current rabble (2008 variety)are discussing books, the vitality of ideas, the apparent reaction to those ideas, their relevancy on a planet where another million of George W.'s "folks" are added to the already crowded scene every five days (oh I know, pessimism again)it sure as hell has to be "okay" to quote frightening old Al(Gore) if reality means anything at all.
Perhaps fiction is your thing? A Pride and Prejudice world, or that of Emma, removed from the cannons of Wellington's peninsular campaign, far from the channel fleet and other such nastiness?

Michael Hardner

NB,

quote:

I don't see how you jump to this conclusion about zero sums. Although I would hasten to add that if oil supplies, and other resources, are peaking then it's obviously time to consider new ways to help the poor by expropriating the rich.

I got it from this quote:

quote:

No. It means there has to be a much better fightback, both to defend current gains and to forge ahead with new gains.

quote:

However, there can still be cause for social explosions if things are improving for everyone ... if the rich and the super rich are rocketing ahead and the gap between the rich and poor keeps widening to a gigantic chasm ... Relative poverty is as much a cause of problems as so-called absolute poverty.


Explosion sounds violent... In the 1930s they had to be wary of poor and hungry men. It's hard to imagine, and really to justify people being violent because they aren't AS rich...


quote:

This is, of course, aside from the managed democracy that makes involvement in orthodox electoral politics, say, a waste of time and a sham, and blocks entirely any chance of substantial change for the powerless.


The fact that we're even talking about "relative welath" means that there is some power in the powerless.

George Victor

What fatuous nonsense MH. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Michael Hardner

George,

quote:

At the risk of again "chiming in with pessimistic ideas", would you care to suggest why Susan Jacoby and Al Gore and a host of others are comparing present-day discourse in "America", from the White House on down, with the public's interest in ideas at the time of the American Revolution.

I don't understand your question. You want me to comment on others' comparisons between today and revolutionary America ?

quote:

The "founding fathers" - you know, framers of the constitution, etc. - are compared with the current crop.
Anyone suggesting that its all been an improvement since '76 can only be compared to the churchmen who found something positive in the Lisbon quake and that inspired Voltaire to pen Candide.

I wouldn't say that everything has improved but certainly individual wealth and well being has improved overall.

quote:

When current rabble (2008 variety)are discussing books, the vitality of ideas, the apparent reaction to those ideas, their relevancy on a planet where another million of George W.'s "folks" are added to the already crowded scene every five days (oh I know, pessimism again)it sure as hell has to be "okay" to quote frightening old Al(Gore) if reality means anything at all.
Perhaps fiction is your thing? A Pride and Prejudice world, or that of Emma, removed from the cannons of Wellington's peninsular campaign, far from the channel fleet and other such nastiness?


My God, your posts are equally tortured and sophisticated. I didn't take enough English to get the references... Sorry... Seriously. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

The quality of dialogue among the learned classes may be in decline, as I myself probably exemplify. But the learned classes didn't include the millions of people that they include today.

Michael Hardner

quote:


What fatuous nonsense MH.

How so ?

I can't imagine going back in time and explaining to Arthur Evans (I'm related to him btw) that we're fighting for pay-per-view TV.

George Victor

If the writings of Jane Austen are unknown territory, perhaps fiction is not your thing.

But it would be oh so helpful to see a response to some figures, like Voltaire and his Candide to be reassured that you read anything at all?

What DO you use as a base for your tendentious and tedious little homilies? [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

MH, your remarks come across as obtuse. Que-jumping by rich people, in regard to medical treatment that they get ahead of others, who die, is public knowledge. It prolongs the lives of those who can afford it [i]and ends the lives of those who can't afford it[/i]. There are plenty of other examples in which the "relative" differences between the rich and the super-rich on the one hand, and the rest of us, on the other hand, is a very serious matter.

Trivialize it all you like. That reflects more on the shallowness of your own views, however.

[ 21 May 2008: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]

Michael Hardner

GV,

quote:

If the writings of Jane Austen are unknown territory, perhaps fiction is not your thing.

But it would be oh so helpful to see a response to some figures, like Voltaire and his Candide to be reassured that you read anything at all?

What DO you use as a base for your tendentious and tedious little homilies?


Figures as in "numbers" or figures as in "public figures" such as yourself ?

I use my observations of the world in general as a basis for my opinions, sifted through many years of wisdom and foolishness. I find it hard to believe that people who remember the bygone years can think that they were "better" than what we have today.

Of course, our goal is perfection. We all want Nirvana - not the band. Peace on earth. Milk and honey. Soy milk.

We shouldn't get despondent over the failure to achieve perfection, though.

George Victor

Nobody's despondent at this end. And only the unread would suggest that there was anything better about "life chances" back when.

But it has been suggested (above) that rationality and reasoning have had a better day.

Your "figures" response, MH, is testimonial to that concern.

Michael Hardner

quote:


But it has been suggested (above) that rationality and reasoning have had a better day.

I don't know if I should be taken as a general sign of decline. As a particular example of decline, sure. My friends and family constantly remind me of this fact, as do passers by.

The thread, though, is about this idea of inverted totalitarianism. Maybe part of that phenomenon is about the decline of rationality and reasoning but surely not all of it.

George Victor

Love to end with agreement on that point at least MH
[img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

jeff house

quote:


The East German Stasi never dreamed of having the NSA's ability to tap phone calls, mail, and a range of personal communications amounting to extreme monitoring and violations of privacy

It doesn't surprise me that you are privy to the dreams of the Stasi! I think there is a true fit there, birds of a feather and all that.

East Germany was a deep-died police state. Here'swhat wiki says:

quote:

The Stasi infiltrated almost every aspect of GDR life. In the mid-1980s, a network of civilian informants, Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (IMs, Unofficial Collaborators), began growing in both German states; by the time East Germany collapsed in 1989, the Stasi employed an estimated 91,000 employees and 300,000 informants. About one of every 50 East Germans collaborated with the Stasi — one of the most extensive police infiltrations of a society in history. In 2007 an article in BBC stated that "Some calculations have concluded that in East Germany there was one informer to every seven citizens."

And The New York Review of Books has a good review of a STASI-themed film going the rounds:

quote:

In that larger scheme of things, East Germany, unlike Nazi Germany, was but a sideshow. The Stasi was modeled on the KGB and not, as many people vaguely imagine, on the Gestapo. As the archives of other Soviet bloc states are opened, we find that their secret police worked in very similar ways. Perhaps the Stasi was that little bit better because it was, well, German; but there are so many larger horrors in the files of the KGB. And we should not forget that the subtle psychological terror of the Stasi state depended, from the first day to the last, on the presence of the Red Army and the willingness of the Soviet Union to use force. When that went, the Stasi state went too.

But the apologists for the police state live on.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by jeff house:
[b]

But the apologists for the police state live on.[/b]


[url=http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/GAN412A.html]Aint it the truth[/url], Jeff. They even hired real Nazis to run the spy ops out of West Germany. We welcomed actual war criminals into the west with open arms and denied Soviet and Israeli extradition requests for decades. One war criminal told a 60 minutes reporter that brandishing his SS tattoo was proof enough of his anticommunist credentials for British and Canadian immigration officials at the end of the war. Thousands of them should have been lined up against a cement wall at dawn, no cigarette or blindfold. sieg HEIL! sieg HEIL!! sieg HEIL!!!

The Soviets never hid the fact that their's was a high security militarized state. 30 million dead Russians after western aggression against the revolution part two. In that country, "never again" meant just that after moving the line of defence westward by the same layer of countries they liberated from the Nazis. The Soviets never apologized for it. Not once, and you'll never prod or cajole the likes of me into apologizing for that slice of history either, Jeff. It was what it was, and I don't agree with either your one-sided version or personal opinion of it.

And so besides a certain person with whom we're both familiar with in this thread, who do Yanqui imperialists believe they are fooling today? The USSA is the most highly militarized, nuclear-powered repressive gulag state in world history. But unlike their former cold war adversaries, Yanquis refuse to admit it. And that's what's so insidious about this Orwellian state to the south of us, our largest trading partners in crime.

[ 21 May 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]

This is a complete exaggeration. The idea that things are worse now than in the past is crazy.

We're not living in capitalism, we're living in modified capitalism.[/b]


I understand that things are quite different here since before WWI when capital reined supreme. Certain concessions were made to working class North Americans between then and the 1960's to early 70's. Many, many Canadians and Americans were martyred by a terrible economic depression and two world wars. Capitalism is predatory by its ideological nature. Linda McQuaig described in All You Can Eat how those concessions were beginning to be won from powerful capitalists at a time when full voting rights weren't yet in place. And babblers have argued convincingly that our democracy needs updating today still. What is amazing is how those social and economic concessions have been eroded since the 1980's, and since dissolution of the USSR. America's cold war era fiction author Robert Ludlum described how we in the west have lost certain freedoms since the end of the cold war. People don't feel quite as free anymore and for good reasons.

[url=http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Herman%20/Afghan_ESal_Iraq_Elections.h... S. Herman[/url] describes just three countries' electoral democracies that were interfered with and managed in recent times. And there were dozens more before them. Have you ever wondered why North Americans could buy things like coffee and bananas and sugar as cheaply as we were able to for so many years? We were never paying workers like "Juan Valdez" the real price for those things during the cold war era, either here or among what represented about two-thirds of the countries of the world, the so-called "free world" [url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=next_topic&f=5&t=002486&g... A brief history of the vicious empire[/url] for Michael's eyes only.

[ 22 May 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Michael Hardner

Of course it would be ridiculous to say that the fight for peace and prosperity has been won.

But looking at the links reveals a lot of examples from the cold war, which seems to back up my point that in absolute terms certain aspects of life today are better than they were.

Let's back up a bit. What metrics do you think should be used if we were to objectively try to measure some kind of long term improvement of the world's social situation ?

RosaL

The whole trend worries me somewhat. References to "what we have lost as a nation" seem to suggest a belief that the American project is fundamentally good and that the thing to do is recover it, that "managed democracy" is a corruption rather than a natural working out of the original project.

It's kind of like that slogan, "Take back America". Take back? It's a backward-looking politics, a "return to the sources", a return to some kind of "pure" capitalism, rather than a rejection of it.

But if American liberals have begun to notice one or two things, maybe that's a good thing [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] At least they have publishers and an audience....

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]Of course it would be ridiculous to say that the fight for peace and prosperity has been won.

But looking at the links reveals a lot of examples from the cold war, which seems to back up my point that in absolute terms certain aspects of life today are better than they were.[/b]


There are links describing Honduran-style death squads and "Salvador option" in Iraq.

The U.S. still interferes in Central and Latin America. Rumsfeld announced increased military aid to Latin America several months ago. U.S. Liberal Democrats have made sure that the world's foremost school for export of torture and terror is still open for business:http://www.SOAW.org

quote:

[b]Let's back up a bit. What metrics do you think should be used if we were to objectively try to measure some kind of long term improvement of the world's social situation ?[/b]

This is a good question, and I think babblers will provide a lengthy-long list of concessions that need to be won back and won for the first time. I think we start with the need to modernize our electoral systems in North America followed by democratization of banking and finance. Autocracies and plutocracies are well short of the mark.

Michael Hardner

RosAl

Well, I would say that most people agree with the American project, at least at the beginning.

Are you a monarchist ?

RosaL

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]RosAl

Well, I would say that most people agree with the American project, at least at the beginning.

Are you a monarchist ?[/b]


Maybe they do. That's a tribute to "managed democracy" in my view!

No, I'm not a monarchist [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

Michael Hardner

Hey Fidel,

quote:

This is a good question, and I think babblers will provide a lengthy-long list of concessions that need to be won back and won for the first time. I think we start with the need to modernize our electoral systems in North America followed by democratization of banking and finance. Autocracies and plutocracies are well short of the mark.

This is good, but I'm looking for as much of an objective take on things as possible. I want to look at new data first, then form an opinion.

Calling them 'concessions' seems to be a bad first step. [img]tongue.gif" border="0[/img]

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]Hey Fidel,

This is good, but I'm looking for as much of an objective take on things as possible. I want to look at new data first, then form an opinion.[/b]


Most of the authors of those short web essays are independent Canadian as well as American journalists. Some are retired U.S. State Department officials, Can-Am university professors, former U.S. military officers, and one or two defectors of the CIA, specialists on Latin America and Europe who left "the company" due to their consciencious objection to "the American project" as they observed first-hand during the cold war through to today as private commentators.

quote:

[b]Calling them 'concessions' seems to be a bad first step. [img]tongue.gif" border="0[/img] [/b]

Yes perhaps. Globalization and deregulation are the Trojan horse, the justification for creating "U.S. interests" in every country, and at the same time, removing power of democratically-elected governments to act in sovereign economic and other affairs. And wepve come to understand what the implications are for sovereign nations once the vicious empire gets its hooks in through lop-sided trade deals and remote control of their economies by IMF appointed central bankers. Canada today looks more like a resource-rich northern colony governned by successive weak colonial administratorships and autocratic governments in Ottawa. Canada has become an experiment in decentralized right-wing Libertarian economy for feeding cheap energy resources to corporate America. We elect cosmetic governments in both countries with real control of the U.S. by embedded bureaucrats, Pentagon capitalists and permanent shadow government. Cheney, Rumsfeld and some number of these chickenhawks today were embedded in U.S. government decades ago. Most of them are pathological liars and sociopaths to the extreme. They are what's left of the scum of the earth from the cold war era. For centuries, money chased power. With the "American project", it's just the opposite, and U.S. and British hawks represent the largest threat to democracy everywhere.

[ 22 May 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

quote:


I want to look at new data first, then form an opinion.

What, exactly, is 'new data'?

And why is a long-term historical perspective seemingly being discounted?

Michael Hardner

LTJ

By 'new data' I mean new to me...

I do want to see long-term data...

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]RosAl

Well, I would say that most people agree with the American project, at least at the beginning.

Are you a monarchist ?[/b]


Do you mean the original colony that was founded by the English version of the Taliban. Look up Cromwell if you don't understand the reference.

Or maybe the merchants revolt that was fueled at its outset by paying for mobs to burn down the Loyalist press?

I am not a monarchist but I do hold a deep and abiding distrust of the country whose history includes ethnically cleansing my ancestors, invading my country and various sabre rattlings like 54 40 or Fight.

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