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Bureaucracies

News Sociology of organizations Corporatism Best books about bureaucracy Recommended Links Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition The Deep State
The Fiefdom Syndrome Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners" The Iron Law of Oligarchy The Pareto Law Two Party System as Polyarchy Myth about intelligent voter Pluralism as a myth
Bureaucratic alienation Bureaucratic inertia Bureaucratic ritualism Bureaucratic avoidance of responsibility Obama Bait and Switch The Peter Principle Parkinson Law
Does the Government Bureaucracy Stifle Innovation? Military Bureaucracy Mayberry Machiavellians Lysenkoism Groupthink The authoritarian personality Double High Authoritarians
Principal-agent problem Elite Theory The psychopath in the corner office Analogy between corporate and psychopathic behavior Meetings mania Humor Etc

Introduction

Bureaucracy is an organizational model rationally designed to perform complex tasks efficiently. Bureaucratic organizations are typically large organizations, and they are characterized by formalized rules and regulations, systematic record-keeping and archiving of past decisions, formalized planning for the future, hierarchies of status, defined career paths (within the organization and across organizations), a concern for organizational identity, and other features.

Many of these features considerably vary across organizations, but government, military and international corporations as well as international organizations (UN, UNESCO, World Bank, IMF) are more or less typified forms. The army and most churches also belong to this category. The fact that bureaucracies are governed by rules make them something like staffed with human robots, where rules serve as a program governing the robot behavior. And as in sci-fi such robots very soon start to demonstrate behavior that was not designed by the programmers ;-).

For example, scholars and specialists often lament that once the bureaucracy commits itself to a course of action, it rarely adjusts its path. Bureaucracies prize continuity over innovation and cling to the prevailing orthodoxy even if that means moving strait till everybody start to fall from the cliff.  With the notable exception of the top layer of hierarchy ;-).

While each bureaucracy is created with particular mandate, like Frankenstein it very soon it escape the control of its creators and start living the life of its own, pursuing goals that might nothing to do, or worse completely opposite to those to achieve which it was created. At some point a new phenomenon called organizational culture emerge. the latter comprises an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values, communications practices, attitudes and assumptions. The elements fit together as a self-reinforcing system and are resistant to any attempt to change it. Hierarchy, with its attendant multiple layers of goals, roles, accountabilities, values and communication channels became entrenched.

Principal agent problem and the process of corruption of bureaucracy

Any bureaucracy is a political coalition that is designed to protect and enrich its members (see Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition). And that goal explicitly conflict with the goal of efficient and dispassionate service that they theoretically should provide. That means that there is inherent contradiction within any large bureaucratic organization. that also means that one of the most central problem of bureaucracies is Principal-agent problem  which is essentially another side of  The Iron Law of Oligarchy. This problem recently (in 2008) get some attention in respect to financial sector:

In political science and economics, the principal-agent problem or agency dilemma treats the difficulties that arise under conditions of incomplete and asymmetric information when a principal hires an agent, such as the problem that the two may not have the same interests, while the principal is, presumably, hiring the agent to pursue the interests of the former. The “agency problem” is an inherent dysfunction in all principal/agent relationships, a dysfunction so powerful that such relationships can never fully achieve their stated objectives.

. Here is how Wikipedia defines this relationship

The principal–agent problem or agency dilemma occurs when one person or entity (the "agent") is able to make decisions that impact, or on behalf of, another person or entity: the "principal". The dilemma exists because sometimes the agent is motivated to act in his own best interests rather than those of the principal. The agent-principal relationships is a useful analytic tool in political science and economics, but may also apply to other areas.

Common examples of this relationship include corporate management (agent) and shareholders (principal), or politicians (agent) and voters (principal).[1] For another example, consider a dental patient (the principal) wondering whether his dentist (the agent) is recommending expensive treatment because it is truly necessary for the patient's dental health, or because it will generate income for the dentist. In fact the problem potentially arises in almost any context where one party is being paid by another to do something, whether in formal employment or a negotiated deal such as paying for household jobs or car repairs.

The problem arises where the two parties have different interests and asymmetric information (the agent having more information), such that the principal cannot directly ensure that the agent is always acting in its (the principal's) best interests,[2] particularly when activities that are useful to the principal are costly to the agent, and where elements of what the agent does are costly for the principal to observe. Moral hazard and conflict of interest may arise. Indeed, the principal may be sufficiently concerned at the possibility of being exploited by the agent that he chooses not to enter into a transaction at all, when that deal would have actually been in both parties' best interests: a suboptimal outcome that lowers welfare overall. The deviation from the principal's interest by the agent is called "agency costs".[2]

“Looting” is a reasonably violent word that conveys with some degree of accuracy the essence of principal-agent problem in financial sector. Perverse incentives is more politically correct work meaning essentially the same.  Attempts to constrain financial looting using laws and regulation, or at the individual level, by a sufficiently powerful moral conscience proved inefficient.

Criminal prosecution is difficult as top officers amass considerable wealth and can afford the best defense money can buy. At the same time Stalinism-style purges, while definitely effective contradict norms of the modern societies.  Changing situation via regulation is difficult as financial oligarchy controls lawmakers and, as Obama election had shown, also might well controls the nomination of presidential candidates from both parties. 

There are three laws that govern this process of corruption:

Even in cases of indoctrination with ideology which inhibits those impulses, corruption of the organizational elite is a serious problem as collapse of the USSR demonstrated to the surprised world. Only an idiot (or PR prostitute ;-) would say that it was angry Russians who overthrow the Communist regime; in reality it was Communist elite, including KGB elite which changed flags and privatized the state resources.

This is the key to understanding complex dynamics in large organization, where bureaucracies that often engage in actions that look close to absurd (or are absurd) to the uninitiated, but are always directed on preservation and enhancement of power of top bureaucrats.  One of the most important features of bureaucracies is that along with "functional side" it also necessarily becomes a political coalition which relentless, consistently and skillfully fights for self-preservation and growth of its influence, often sacrificing "functional" part like pawns in the chess game.  As soon as self-preservation become the paramount concern, the original purpose of the bureaucracy to provide efficient and dispassionate service ("functional part") is subverted and buried beneath the higher priority activities of  providing benefits, increasing staffing, and, the most importantly, increasing budgets ("political part").

As soon as self-preservation become the paramount concern, the original purpose of the bureaucracy to provide efficient and dispassionate service ("functional part") is subverted and buried beneath the higher priority activities of  providing benefits, increasing staffing, and, the most importantly, increasing budgets ("political part").

Tendency of mature bureaucracies to pervert their organizational, functional goals necessitates periodic purges and reorganizations. One of the first political party which understood this complex dynamic were Bolsheviks, who under Stalin instituted periodic purges of  State-employed bureaucrats ("apparatchiks"), so that the fear for their well-being (and often life) served as a powerful countervailing force to the natural tendency of bureaucracy to pervert its goals. Which of course have had only temporary effect. 

In the USA similar mechanisms of appointing as head of government agencies by political appointees (who are often, unfortunately, are completely incompetent in the area of activity they were made responsible for) is much less effective, but also has its positive sides.  The US Congress looks more stagnant then the USSR Politburo with the average serving term of senators probably exceeding twice of more the term of a typical Politburo member.

Limitation of term of the President along with natural change of  political objectives  serves as a periodic, but very mild reorganizing force. This effect is watered down by the short term assigned to the presidency as in such short  period it is impossible to institute substantial changes in top departments such as Department of State and Department of Defense (which actually has budget larger then GDP of the USSR and is probably less efficient in spending those money that the socialist economy of the USSR). 

Intelligence community is another part that tend quickly escape the control and pervert the goal for which particular organization was created. Here natural tendency of any large bureaucracy to try to enlarge their sphere of influence and minimize the control from  above looks really menacing to the very existence of democratic government in the country as Church Committee discovered long ago. To members of the commission CIA looked more like a tail which wags the dog, then as a regular part of the government, and as Assassination of President Kennedy had shown this is really the case. And it was the chief of FBI J. Edgar Hoover   who convincingly proved that that idea of rotation of high level executives in the US government has well defined exceptions. None of presidents dared to touch him until he died in the office occupying it for almost 40 years (1935-1972).

In large corporation the role similar to Stalin purges can play periodic changing of location of headquarters, as election of president of the corporation and its board are typically formal and are run by the same clique that runs the organization.

Bureaucracies as perfect environment for authoritarians and sociopaths

Another negative side of bureaucracies is that they serve as perfect environment for Authoritarians (especially Double High Authoritarians)  as well as sociopaths. See The psychopath in the corner office and Analogy between corporate and psychopathic behavior

So it is interesting that the term psychopathic is applicable to bureaucracies too, not only to individuals. Bureaucracies can demonstrate several of typical psychopathic traits. Like psychopathic managers, bureaucracies often prevent subordinates doing their jobs and prevent employees fulfilling their duties. The term Psychopathic corporation is often used to highlight the connection between corporate psychopaths and modern government organizations and mega-corporations. Here is a short but very useful list from Our Church Administration is Critically Infected « Another Voice

1.Illogical Thinking: The lack of independent, critical thinking.

2. Highly Compartmentalized Minds: Authoritarians’ ideas are poorly integrated with one another.

3. Double Standards : When your ideas live independent lives from one another it is pretty easy to use double standards in your judgments. You simply call up the idea that will justify (afterwards) what you’ve decided to do.

4. Hypocrisy: The leaders of authoritarian movements sometimes accuse their opponents of being anti-democratic and anti-free speech when the latter protest against various books, movies, speakers, teachers and so on.

5. Blindness To Themselves: self-righteousness.

6. A Profound Ethnocentrism: Ethnocentrism means dividing the world up into in-groups and out-groups…….in-groups are holy and good…out-groups are evil and Satanic.

7. Dogmatism: the Authoritarian’s Last Ditch Defense: By dogmatism I mean relatively unchangeable, unjustified certainty. Loyal followers obey without questions…..

The key feature of such companies is  that do not treat employees as humans, they treat them as animals to be culled when appropriate. 

"The psychopathic company has no allegiance to the employees within, just to top management,"....
 "A psychopathic company is always playing a short-term parasitic game."

Bureaucracies are bad but often better than alternatives

Although multiple vices and tendency to convert rules into absurd of large bureaucracies are self-evident and huge volume of literature exists about perversions of bureaucracies, especially military bureaucracies (The Good Soldier Švejk ), this form of organization is not totally bad. At the same time progressive degradation of bureaucracies with age, perversion of goals and tendency for unwarranted extension of its influence and size are well established.

In other words, benefits to the proverbial “red tape” associated with bureaucracy do exist, but as its amount increase at some point all benefits dissipate and organization became totally parasitic. Quantity just turns into quality. At the same time strong mechanisms of self-defense and survival ensure that such a bureaucracy can last a long time past this point. And as Parkinson aptly stated perversion of use of resources is a rule not an anomaly.

Also level of competency of top bureaucrats are open to review as strong mechanisms within organization exist  that put loyalty to higher brass first and prevent promotion of competent people into higher levels of hierarchy as well as mechanisms of degradation of skills (and often IQ -- acquired idiocy) of previously competent members as they change roles during  climbing up the hierarchical ladder (The Peter Principle).

There is also a strong tendency of top layers of any large bureaucracy to form a oligarchy and cut oxygen for newcomers, and possibility of change.  In other words forming permanent organizational elite, much like aristocracies in the part. That's what Iron law of oligarchy is about.  So there can't be a democratic established bureaucracy, even in principle. Any established bureaucracy is by definition an oligarchy that often acts in concert and reflect interests of other oligarchic groups in society no matter what is the formal charter of the organization.

For example, bureaucratic regulations and rules help ensure that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes appropriate precautions to safeguard the health of Americans when it is in the process of approving a new medication. It does not work perfectly as it is often perverted by special interests, but it is better then nothing and might be even better then alternatives. The proverbial "red tape" associated with truckload of useless documents actually also serves positive role documenting pretty complex things, so that multiple players have common vision and if problems arise again, data exists for analysis and correction. Here how John Kenneth Galbright viewed the phenomena:

John Kenneth Galbraith, who took the analysis well beyond the manufacture of pins. According to Galbraith, much of the dynamism of the modern world could be attributed to the advance of science and technology, which in turn resulted from “taking ordinary men, informing them narrowly and deeply and then, through appropriate organization, arranging to have their knowledge combined with that of other specialized but equally ordinary men.”12

As Galbraith implied, specialization creates the need for coordination. Bureaucracies bring order out of potential chaos in two ways. The first of these is what people tend to think of when they hear the word bureaucracy: rules, regulations, and strict procedures. All bureaucracies make abundant use of explicit and implicit Standard Operating Procedures to guide and control the activities of their employees. This, of course, can be another source of frustration when dealing with a bureaucracy because there may be situations not covered by existing rules, or the rules may be of dubious appropriateness. But even more frustrations, as well as endless opportunities for corruption and abuse, would ensue if the members of an organization simply made decisions on the basis of personal connections or individual whims.

Along with the use of formal roles and rules, bureaucratic organizations coordinate the work of their members through another property that is distasteful to many: hierarchical authority. The structures of most bureaucratic organizations can be (and usually are) depicted in an organization chart that puts every position at a hierarchical level that clearly indicates who is subordinate or superordinate to whom. In addition to aiding in the coordination of work, organizational hierarchies serve a number of other functions, such as delineating responsibilities and motivating workers by holding out the prospect of promotion. Organizational hierarchies are especially prominent in military and paramilitary organizations such as police forces, where observing rules and obeying orders issued by superiors are of paramount importance. Other kinds of organizations can get by with more egalitarian structures, but some degree of hierarchical ranking will be found in all bureaucratic organizations.

A final characteristic of bureaucratic organizations is their extensive use of, and reliance on, written records. It is no coincidence that the first extensive government bureaucracies emerged in Egypt, Babylonia, and China, places where written languages were first created and developed. As a practical matter, written records are essential for the preservation and dissemination of rules, regulations, and operating procedures, along with essential documents such as contracts, tax records, and voter registrations. What began thousands of years ago with the first scratching on clay tablets continues to a greatly magnified degree today, as modern information and communications technologies such as computerized databases and e-mail have extended the reach and potency of the written word

At this point, many readers are probably thinking that this discussion of bureaucracy is seriously divorced from reality as they have experienced it. And they are right—not only do bureaucracies in the real world often depart from the above principles, but the imputation that they are the embodiment of rationality seems quite a stretch. Here we will again simply note that an ideal type presentation of bureaucracy is only a starting point for further analysis, just as a mathematical description of the acceleration of a falling body has to first set aside the effects of air resistance in order to derive the formula for determining the rate at which the body gains speed. There will be numerous places in this book where real-world organizational structures and procedures and their consequences for the way work is done will be presented, along with the reasons for their departure from ideal-type bureaucracies. As a starting point, we need to consider which kinds of work environments are well suited to bureaucratic modes of organization and which are not.

Likewise, the impersonality of bureaucracies can have benefits. For example, an applicant must submit a great deal of paperwork to obtain a government student loan. However, this lengthy—and often frustrating—process promotes equal treatment of all applicants, meaning that everyone has a fair chance to gain access to funding. Formally bureaucracy discourages favoritism, meaning that on the surface friendships and political clout should have no effect on access to funding. Reality is totally different.

The concept of bureaucracy is closely linked with the concept of oligarchy. Any large corporate bureaucracy is an oligarchy. Corporate oligarchy is a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals, sometimes from a small group of educational institutions, or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for society or environment at large.

Bureaucracies may have positive effects on employees. Whereas the stereotype of bureaucracies is one of suppressed creativity and extinguished imagination, this is not the case. Social research shows that many employees intellectually thrive in bureaucratic environments. According to this research, bureaucrats have higher levels of education, intellectual activity, personal responsibility, self-direction, and open-mindedness, when compared to non-bureaucrats.

Another benefit of bureaucracies for employees is job security, such as a steady salary, and other perks, like insurance, medical and disability coverage, and a retirement pension.

Cons of bureaucracy

Programmers and system administrators rarely have anything good to say about bureaucracies, and their complaints may hold some truth. As noted previously, bureaucratic regulations and rules are not very helpful when unexpected situations arise. Bureaucratic authority is notoriously undemocratic, and blind adherence to rules may inhibit the exact actions necessary to achieve organizational goals.

Concerning this last point, one of bureaucracy's least-appreciated features is its proneness to creating “paper trails” and piles of rules. Governmental bureaucracies are especially known for this. Critics of bureaucracy argue that mountains of paper and rules only slow an organization's capacity to achieve stated goals. They also note that governmental red tape costs taxpayers both time and money. Parkinson's Law and the Peter Principle have been formulated to explain how bureaucracies become dysfunctional. They are pretty fascinating findings:

Climbing corporate ladder

Bureaucracies breed special type of careerists, for whom the sole , dominant orientation is not the well being of the organization, but personal climbing up the corporate layer (upj santoro sociology bureaucratic organizations)

Bureaucratic Organizations
Soc 0310

"Red tape" ... "You can't fight city hall" ... "climbing the corporate ladder" ... "suits" ... "clients" ... "the bottom line is the bottom line" .... We live in bureaucracies which penetrate every aspect of our existences. We are citizens, employees, unemployed, students, teachers, clerks, patients, customers, drivers, subscribers, debtors, prisoners, etc. All of these terms can be said to describe social roles that connect us to formal organizations.

In this course we will explore the nature of formal or bureaucratic organizations. We will look at bureaucracy and bureaucratic processes in five interrelated areas (see Hummel's Preface): socially, culturally, psychologically, linguistically, and most importantly, as a political system -- a system of power. Let's very briefly develop some working assumptions from these five areas. In one of his earlier writings, Karl Marx described bureaucracy like this:

"The principle of its knowledge is...authority, and its mentality is the idolatry of authority. But within bureaucracy the spiritualism turns into crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, faith in authority, the mechanism of fixed and formal behavior, fixed principles, attitudes, traditions. As far as the individual bureaucrat is concerned, the aim of the state becomes his private aim, in the form of the race for higher posts, of careerism."

But the real pioneer of the sociology of bureaucracy was Max Weber. Weber understood bureaucracy in much the same way as Marx. He understood bureaucracy as a principle of social organization which historically only comes into being with the modern state and as he said, with "the most advanced institutions of capitalism." Weber understood the growth of command by large-scale, alienating, and impersonal bureaucracies to be a historical principle of development in Western society, in a process that he called "rationalization."

Social organization would, to Weber, become progressively more machinelike. People would, as a result, lose more and more of their freedom and community control over everyday life. This would impose upon us the "iron cage of organization."

An important question addressed in this course is whether or not the bureaucratic form of organization itself and this progressive loss of freedom which Weber described as our fate, are inevitable? Are more human and humane forms of organization and society possible?

In emphasizing the study of bureaucracies as political systems we must look not just at the "intra-organizational" distribution of power and authority, but at bureaucratic organizations in the context of larger, even global political and economic contexts like the state, class, and market. Bureaucracies or formal organizations, which are for us the contexts in which we live our lives, are themselves contained in larger and more inclusive contexts of power.

Bureaucracy and social groups

Bureaucracies are inherently antidemocratic and promote authoritarian style of leadership, which focuses on instrumental concerns. This type of leader makes decisions independently and demands strict compliance from subordinates (Society the Basics, 6-e Chapter 5 -- Overview_

Social/Bureaucracy/aaa_Chapter_5.pdf

  1. To be able to identify the differences between primary groups, secondary groups, aggregates, and categories
  2. To be able to identify the various types of leaders associated with social groups
  3. To be able to compare and contrast the research of several different social scientists on group conformity
  4. To be able to recognize the importance of reference groups to group dynamics
  5. To be able to distinguish between ingroups and outgroups
  6. To understand the relevance of group size to the dynamics of social groups
  7. To be able to identify the types of formal organizations
  8. To be able to identify and describe the basic characteristics of bureaucracy
  9. To become aware of both the limitations of and informal side of bureaucracy
  10. To be able to consider ways of humanizing bureaucracy
  11. To consider the issue of the McDonaldization of society

CHAPTER REVIEW

SOCIAL GROUPS

Group Leadership Some research reveals that there are usually two types of leaders in social groups.

Bureaucracy as a formal organization

Today our lives seem focused around formal organizations, or large, secondary groups that are organized to achieve their goals efficiently.

Types of Formal Organizations Amitai Etzioni uses the variable of how members relate to the organization as a criterion for distinguishing three types of formal organizations. The first is termed a normative organization.

People join this type of organization to pursue some goal they consider morally worthwhile. These are sometimes also called voluntary associations. The second type is referred to as a coercive organization. These serve as a form of punishment (prisons) and treatment (mental hospitals). The third type identified are utilitarian organizations. These organizations provide material benefits in exchange for labor.

Origins of Bureaucracy Formal organizations date back thousands of years. Max Weber suggested that tradition, referring to sentiments and beliefs about the world passed from generation to generation, dominated the world view in preindustrialized societies. Focus was on the past, and so organizational efficiency was not of great concern.

Characteristics of Bureaucracies

PROBLEMS OF BUREAUCRACY

The Evolution of Formal Organizations


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Neocons the Echo of German Fascism Consortiumnews By Todd E. Pierce

March 27, 2015

Exclusive: The "f-word" for "fascist" keeps cropping up in discussing aggressive U.S. and Israeli "exceptionalism," but there's a distinction from the "n-word" for "Nazi." This new form of ignoring international law fits more with an older form of German authoritarianism favored by neocon icon Leo Strauss, says retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce.

With the Likud Party electoral victory in Israel, the Republican Party is on a roll, having won two major elections in a row. The first was winning control of the U.S. Congress last fall. The second is the victory by the Republicans' de facto party leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's recent election. As the Israeli Prime Minister puts together a coalition with other parties "in the national camp," as he describes them, meaning the ultra-nationalist parties of Israel, it will be a coalition that today's Republicans would feel right at home in.

The common thread linking Republicans and Netanyahu's "national camp" is a belief of each in their own country's "exceptionalism," with a consequent right of military intervention wherever and whenever their "Commander in Chief" orders it, as well as the need for oppressive laws to suppress dissent.

Leo Strauss, an intellectual bridge between Germany's inter-war Conservative Revolutionaries and today's American neoconservatives.

Leo Strauss, an intellectual bridge between Germany's inter-war Conservative Revolutionaries and today's American neoconservatives.

William Kristol, neoconservative editor of the Weekly Standard, would agree. Celebrating Netanyahu's victory, Kristol told the New York Times, "It will strengthen the hawkish types in the Republican Party." Kristol added that Netanyahu would win the GOP's nomination, if he could run, because "Republican primary voters are at least as hawkish as the Israeli public."

The loser in both the Israeli and U.S. elections was the rule of law and real democracy, not the sham democracy presented for public relations purposes in both counties. In both countries today, money controls elections, and as Michael Glennon has written in National Security and Double Government, real power is in the hands of the national security apparatus.

Benjamin Netanyahu's leadership role in the U.S. Congress was on full display to the world when he accepted House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address Congress. Showing their eagerness to be part of any political coalition being formed under Netanyahu's leadership, many Congressional Democrats also showed their support by attending the speech.

It was left to Israeli Uri Avnery to best capture the spirit of Netanyahu's enthusiastic ideological supporters in Congress. Avnery wrote that he was reminded of something when seeing "Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval."

Where had he heard that type of shouting before? Then it came to him: "It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval."

He added, "the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout 'Heil' but something unintelligible." Nevertheless, "the sound of the shouting had the same effect. Rather shocking."

Right-wing Politics in Pre-Nazi Germany

While Avnery's analogy of how Congress responded to its de facto leader was apt, it isn't necessary to go to the extreme example that he uses to analogize today's right-wing U.S. and Israeli parties and policy to an earlier German precedent. Instead, it is sufficient to note how similar the right-wing parties of Israel and the U.S. of today are to what was known in 1920s Weimar Germany as the Conservative Revolutionary Movement.

This "movement" did not include the Nazis but instead the Nazis were political competitors with the party which largely represented Conservative Revolutionary ideas: the German National People's Party (DNVP).

The institution to which the Conservative Revolutionaries saw as best representing German "values," the Reichswehr, the German Army, was also opposed by the Nazis as "competitors" to Ernst Rohm's Brownshirts. But the Conservative Revolutionary Movement, the DNVP, and the German Army could all be characterized as "proto-fascist," if not Fascist. In fact, when the Nazis took over Germany, it was with the support of many of the proto-fascists making up the Conservative Revolutionary Movement, as well as those with the DNVP and the Reichswehr.

Consequently, many of the Reichstag members that Uri Avnery refers to above as listening raptly and jumping up and shouting their approval of "The Leader" were not Nazis. The Nazis had failed to obtain an absolute majority on their own and needed the votes of the "national camp," primarily the German National People's Party (DNVP), for a Reichstag majority.

The DNVP members would have been cheering The Leader right alongside Nazi members of the Reichstag. DNVP members also voted along with Nazi members in passing the Enabling Act of 1933, which abolished constitutional liberties and dissolved the Reichstag.

Not enough has been written on the German Conservative Revolutionary Movement , the DNVP and the Reichswehr because they have too often been seen as victims of the Nazis themselves or, at worst, mere precursors.

The DNVP was the political party which best represented the viewpoint of the German Conservative Revolutionary Movement. The Reichswehr itself, as described in The Nemesis of Power by John W. Wheeler-Bennett, has been called a "state within a state," much like the intelligence and security services of the U.S. and Israel are today, wielding extraordinary powers.

The Reichswehr was militaristic and anti-democratic in its purest form and indeed was "fascist" in the term's classic definition of "an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization." Mussolini merely modeled much of his hyper-militaristic political movement on the martial values of the Reichswehr.

German Army officers even had authority to punish civilians for failing to show "proper respect." In its essence, the viewpoint of the DNVP and the Conservative Revolutionaries was virtually identical to today's Republican Party along with those Democrats who align with them on national security issues.

These groups have in common a worshipful attitude toward the military as best embodying those martial virtues that are central to fascism. Sister parties, though they may all prefer to be seen as "brothers in arms," would be Netanyahu's "national camp" parties.

German Conservative Revolutionary Movement

The Conservative Revolutionary Movement began within the German Right after World War I with a number of writers advocating a nationalist ideology but one in keeping with modern times and not restricted by traditional Prussian conservatism.

It must be noted that Prussian conservatism, standing for militaristic ideas traditional to Prussia, was the antithesis of traditional American conservatism, which professed to stand for upholding the classical liberal ideas of government embedded in the U.S. Constitution.

Inherent to those U.S. constitutional ideas was antipathy toward militarism and militaristic rule of any sort, though Native Americans have good cause to disagree. (In fact, stories of the American conquest of Native Americans with its solution of placing them on reservations were particularly popular in Germany early in the Twentieth Century including with Adolf Hitler).

Historians have noted that when the German Army went to war in World War I, the soldiers and officers carried with them "a shared sense of German superiority and the imagined bestiality of the enemy." This was manifested particularly harshly upon the citizens of Belgium in 1914 with the German occupation. Later, after their experience in the trenches, the Reichswehr was nearly as harsh in suppressing domestic dissent in Germany after the war.

According to Richard Wolin, in The Seduction of Unreason, Ernst Troeltsch, a German Protestant theologian, "realized that in the course of World War I the ethos of Germanocentrism, as embodied in the 'ideas of 1914,' had assumed a heightened stridency." Under the peace of the Versailles Treaty, "instead of muting the idiom of German exceptionalism that Troeltsch viewed with such mistrust, it seemed only to fan its flames."

This belief in German "exceptionalism" was the common belief of German Conservative Revolutionaries, the DNVP and the Reichswehr. For Republicans of today and those who share their ideological belief, substitute "American" for "German" Exceptionalism and you have the identical ideology.

"Exceptionalism" in the sense of a nation can be understood in two ways. One is a belief in the nation's superiority to others. The other way is the belief that the "exceptional" nation stands above the law, similar to the claim made by dictators in declaring martial law or a state of emergency. The U.S. and Israel exhibit both forms of this belief.

German Exceptionalism

The belief in German Exceptionalism was the starting point, not the ending point, for the Conservative Revolutionaries just as it is with today's Republicans such as Sen. Tom Cotton or Sen. Lindsey Graham. This Exceptionalist ideology gives the nation the right to interfere in other country's internal affairs for whatever reason the "exceptional" country deems necessary, such as desiring more living space for their population, fearing the potential of some future security threat, or even just by denying the "exceptional" country access within its borders — or a "denial of access threat" as the U.S. government terms it.

The fundamental ideas of the Conservative Revolutionaries have been described as vehement opposition to the Weimar Republic (identifying it with the lost war and the Versailles Treaty) and political "liberalism" (as opposed to Prussia's traditional authoritarianism).

This "liberalism," which offended the Conservative Revolutionaries, was democracy and individual rights against state power. Instead, the Conservative Revolutionaries envisaged a new reich of enormous strength and unity. They rejected the view that political action should be guided by rational criteria. They idealized violence for its own sake.

That idealization of violence would have meant "state" violence in the form of military expansionism and suppression of "enemies," domestic and foreign, by right-thinking Germans.

The Conservative Revolutionaries called for a "primacy of politics" which was to be "a reassertion of an expansion in foreign policy and repression against the trade unions at home." This "primacy of politics" for the Conservative Revolutionaries meant the erasure of a distinction between war and politics.

Citing Hannah Arendt, Jeffrey Herf, a professor of modern European history, wrote: "The explicit implications of the primacy of politics in the conservative revolution were totalitarian. From now on there were to be no limits to ideological politics. The utilitarian and humanistic considerations of nineteenth-century liberalism were to be abandoned in order to establish a state of constant dynamism and movement." That sounds a lot like the "creative destruction" that neoconservative theorist Michael Ledeen is so fond of.

Herf wrote in 1984 that Conservative Revolutionaries were characterized as "the intellectual advance guard of the rightist revolution that was to be effected in 1933," which, although contemptuous of Hitler, "did much to pave his road to power."

Unlike the Nazis, their belief in German superiority was based in historical traditions and ideas, not biological racism. Nevertheless, some saw German Jews as the "enemy" of Germany for being "incompatible with a united nation."

It is one of the bitterest of ironies that Israel as a "Jewish nation" has adopted similar attitudes toward its Arab citizens. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently proclaimed: "Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe."

Within Israel, these "Conservative Revolutionary" ideas were manifested in one of their founding political parties, Herut, whose founders came out of the same central European political milieu of interwar Europe and from which Netanyahu's Likud party is descended.

Ernst Junger

Author Ernst Junger was the most important contributor to the celebration of war by the Conservative Revolutionaries and was an influence and an enabler of the Nazis coming to power. He serialized his celebration of war and his belief in its "redeeming" qualities in a number of popular books with "war porn" titles such as, in English, The Storm of Steel, The Battle as an Inner Experience, and Fire and Blood.

The title of a collection of Junger essays in 1930, Krieg und Krieger (War and the Warriors) captures the spirit of America in the Twenty-first Century as much as it did the German spirit in 1930. While members of the U.S. military once went by terms such as soldier, sailor and marine, now they are routinely generically called "Warriors," especially by the highest ranks, a term never before used to describe what were once "citizen soldiers."

Putting a book with a "Warrior" title out on the shelf in a Barnes and Noble would almost guarantee a best-seller, even when competing with all the U.S. SEALS' reminiscences and American sniper stories. But German philosopher Walter Benjamin understood the meaning of Junger's Krieg und Krieger, explaining it in the appropriately titled Theories of German Fascism.

Fundamental to Junger's celebration of war was a metaphysical belief in "totale Mobilmachung" or total mobilization to describe the functioning of a society that fully grasps the meaning of war. With World War I, Junger saw the battlefield as the scene of struggle "for life and death," pushing all historical and political considerations aside. But he saw in the war the fact that "in it the genius of war permeated the spirit of progress."

According to Jeffrey Herf in Reactionary Modernism, Junger saw total mobilization as "a worldwide trend toward state-directed mobilization in which individual freedom would be sacrificed to the demands of authoritarian planning." Welcoming this, Junger believed "that different currents of energy were coalescing into one powerful torrent. The era of total mobilization would bring about an 'unleashing' (Entfesselung) of a nevertheless disciplined life."

In practical terms, Junger's metaphysical view of war meant that Germany had lost World War I because its economic and technological mobilization had only been partial and not total. He lamented that Germany had been unable to place the "spirit of the age" in the service of nationalism. Consequently, he believed that "bourgeois legality," which placed restrictions on the powers of the authoritarian state, "must be abolished in order to liberate technological advance."

Today, total mobilization for the U.S. begins with the Republicans' budgeting efforts to strip away funding for domestic civilian uses and shifting it to military and intelligence spending. Army veteran, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, exemplifies this belief in "total mobilization" of society with his calls for dramatically increased military spending and his belief that "We must again show the U.S. is willing and prepared to [get into] a war in the first place" by making clear that potential "aggressors will pay an unspeakable price if they challenge the United States."

That is the true purpose of Twenty-first Century Republican economics: total mobilization of the economy for war. Just as defeated German generals and the Conservative Revolutionaries believed that Germany lost World War I because their economy and nation was only "partially mobilized," so too did many American Vietnam War-era generals and right-wing politicians believe the same of the Vietnam War. Retired Gen. David Petraeus and today's neoconservatives have made similar arguments about President Barack Obama's failure to sustain the Iraq War. [See, for instance, this fawning Washington Post interview with Petraeus.]

What all these militarists failed to understand is that, according to Clausewitz, when a war's costs exceed its benefits, the sound strategy is to end the costly war. The Germans failed to understand this in World War II and the Soviet Union in their Afghan War.

Paradoxically in the Vietnam War, it was the anti-war movement that enhanced U.S. strength by bringing that wasteful war to an end, not the American militarists who would have continued it to a bitter end of economic collapse. We are now seeing a similar debate about whether to continue and expand U.S. military operations across the Middle East.

Carl Schmitt

While Ernst Junger was the celebrant and the publicist for total mobilization of society for endless war, including the need for authoritarian government, Carl Schmitt was the ideological theoretician, both legally and politically, who helped bring about the totalitarian and militaristic society. Except when it happened, it came under different ownership than what they had hoped and planned for.

Contrary to Schmitt's latter-day apologists and/or advocates, who include prominent law professors teaching at Harvard and the University of Chicago, his legal writings weren't about preserving the Weimar Republic against its totalitarian enemies, the Communists and Nazis. Rather, he worked on behalf of a rival fascist faction, members of the German Army General Staff. He acted as a legal adviser to General Kurt von Schleicher, who in turn advised President Paul von Hindenburg, former Chief of the German General Staff during World War I.

German historian Eberhard Kolb observed, "from the mid-1920s onwards the Army leaders had developed and propagated new social conceptions of a militarist kind, tending towards a fusion of the military and civilian sectors and ultimately a totalitarian military state (Wehrstaat)."

When General Schleicher helped bring about the political fall of Reichswehr Commander in Chief, General von Seekt, it was a "triumph of the 'modern' faction within the Reichswehr who favored a total war ideology and wanted Germany to become a dictatorship that would wage total war upon the other nations of Europe," according to Kolb.

When Hitler and the Nazis outmaneuvered the Army politically, Schmitt, as well as most other Conservative Revolutionaries, went over to the Nazis.

Reading Schmitt gives one a greater understanding of the Conservative Revolutionary's call for a "primacy of politics," explained previously as "a reassertion of an expansion in foreign policy."

Schmitt said: "A world in which the possibility of war is utterly eliminated, a completely pacified globe, would be a world without the distinction of friend and enemy and hence a world without politics. It is conceivable that such a world might contain many very interesting antitheses and contrasts, competitions and intrigues of every kind, but there would not be a meaningful antithesis whereby men could be required to sacrifice life, authorized to shed blood, and kill other human beings. For the definition of the political, it is here even irrelevant whether such a world without politics is desirable as an ideal situation."

As evident in this statement, to Schmitt, the norm isn't peace, nor is peace even desirable, but rather perpetual war is the natural and preferable condition.

This dream of a Martial State is not isolated to German history. A Republican aligned neoconservative, Thomas Sowell, expressed the same longing in 2007 in a National Review article, "Don't Get Weak." Sowell wrote; "When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can't help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup."

Leo Strauss, Conservative Revolutionaries and Republicans

Political philosopher Leo Strauss had yearned for the glorious German Conservative Revolution but was despondent when it took the form of the Nazi Third Reich, from which he was excluded because he was Jewish regardless of his fascist ideology.

He wrote to a German Jewish friend, Karl Loewith: "the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l'homme [inalienable rights of man] to protest against the shabby abomination."

Strauss was in agreement politically with Schmitt, and they were close friends.

Professor Alan Gilbert of Denver University has written: "As a Jew, Strauss was forbidden from following Schmitt and [German philosopher Martin] Heidegger into the Nazi party. 'But he was a man of the Right. Like some other Zionists, those who admired Mussolini for instance, Strauss' principles, as the 1933 letter relates, were 'fascist, authoritarian, imperial.'"

Strauss was intelligent enough when he arrived in the U.S. to disguise and channel his fascist thought by going back to like-minded "ancient" philosophers and thereby presenting fascism as part of our "western heritage," just as the current neocon classicist Victor Davis Hanson does.

Needless to say, fascism is built on the belief in a dictator, as was Sparta and the Roman Empire and as propounded by Socrates and Plato, so turning to the thought of ancient philosophers and historians makes a good "cover" for fascist thought.

Leo Strauss must be seen as the Godfather of the modern Republican Party's political ideology. His legacy continues now through the innumerable "Neoconservative Revolutionary" front groups with cover names frequently invoking "democracy" or "security," such as Sen. Lindsey Graham's "Security Through Strength."

Typifying the Straussian neoconservative revolutionary whose hunger for military aggression can never be satiated would be former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame and practitioner of the "big lie," who returned to government under President George W. Bush to push the Iraq War and is currently promoting a U.S. war against Iran.

In a classic example of "projection," Abrams writes that "Ideology is the raison d'etre of Iran's regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world." That can as truthfully be said of his own Neoconservative Revolutionary ideology and its adherents.

That ideology explains Bill Kristol's crowing over Netanyahu's victory and claiming Netanyahu as the Republicans' de facto leader. For years, the U.S. and Israel under Netanyahu have had nearly identical foreign policy approaches though they are at the moment in some disagreement because President Obama has resisted war with Iran while Netanyahu is essentially demanding it.

But at a deeper level the two countries share a common outlook, calling for continuous military interventionism outside each country's borders with increased exercise of authority by the military and other security services within their borders. This is no accident. It can be traced back to joint right-wing extremist efforts in both countries with American neoconservatives playing key roles.

The best example of this joint effort was when U.S. neocons joined with the right-wing, Likud-connected Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in 1996 to publish their joint plan for continuous military interventionism in the Mideast in "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," which envisioned "regime change" instead of negotiations. [See Consortiumnews.com's "How Israel Outfoxed U.S. Presidents."]

While ostensibly written for Netanyahu's political campaign, "A Clean Break" became the blueprint for subsequent war policies advocated by the Project for the New American Century, founded by neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan. The chief contribution of the American neocons in this strategy was to marshal U.S. military resources to do the heavy lifting in attacking Israel's neighbors beginning with Iraq.

With these policy preferences goes a belief inside each country's political parties, across the spectrum but particularly on the Right, that Israel and the United States each stand apart from all other nations as "Exceptional." This is continuously repeated to ensure imprinting it in the population's consciousness in the tradition of fascist states through history.

It is believed today in both the U.S. and Israel, just as the German Conservative Revolutionaries believed it in the 1920s and 1930s of their homeland, Germany, and then carried on by the Nazis until 1945.

Israeli Herut Party

The Knesset website describes the original Herut party (1948-1988) as the main opposition party (against the early domination by the Labor Party). Herut was the most right-wing party in the years before the Likud party came into being and absorbed Herut into a coalition. Its expansionist slogan was "To the banks to the Jordan River" and it refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Jordan. Economically, Herut supported private enterprise and a reduction of government intervention.

In "A Clean Break," the authors were advising Netanyahu to reclaim the belligerent and expansionist principles of the Herut party.

Herut was founded in 1948 by Menachem Begin, the leader of the right-wing militant group Irgun, which was widely regarded as a terrorist organization responsible for killing Palestinians and cleansing them from land claimed by Israel, including the infamous Deir Yassin massacre.

Herut's nature as a party and movement was best explained in a critical letter to the New York Times on Dec. 4, 1948, signed by over two dozen prominent Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt.

The letter read: "Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the 'Freedom Party' (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.

"It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine. (…) It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin's political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents. …

"Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future."

According to author Joseph Heller, Herut was a one-issue party intent on expanding Israel's borders. That Netanyahu has never set aside Herut's ideology can be gleaned from his book last revised in 2000, A Durable Peace. There, Netanyahu praises Herut's predecessors – the Irgun paramilitary and Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, a self-declared "terrorist" group. He also marginalizes their Israeli adversary of the time, the Hagana under Israel's primary founder and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

Regardless of methods used, the Stern Gang was indisputably "fascist," even receiving military training from Fascist Italy. One does not need to speculate as to its ideological influences.

According to Colin Shindler, writing in Triumph of Military Zionism: Nationalism and the Origins of the Israeli Right, "Stern devotedly believed that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' so he approached Nazi Germany. With German armies at the gates of Palestine, he offered co-operation and an alliance with a new totalitarian Hebrew republic."

Netanyahu in his recent election campaign would seem to have re-embraced his fascist origins, both with its racism and his declaration that as long as he was prime minister he would block a Palestinian state and would continue building Jewish settlements on what international law recognizes as Palestinian land.

In other words, maintaining a state of war on the Palestinian people with a military occupation and governing by military rule, while continuing to make further territorial gains with the IDF acting as shock troops for the settlers.

Why Does This Matter?

Sun-Tzu famously wrote "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."

When we allow our "Conservative Revolutionaries" (or neoconservative militarists or proto-fascists or whatever term best describes them) to make foreign policy, the United States loses legitimacy in the world as a "rule of law" state. Instead, we present a "fascist" justification for our wars which is blatantly illicit.

As the American political establishment has become so enamored with war and the "warriors" who fight them, it has become child's play for our militarists to manipulate the U.S. into wars or foreign aggression through promiscuous economic sanctions or inciting and arming foreign groups to destabilize the countries that we target.

No better example for this can be shown than the role that America's First Family of Militarism, the Kagans, plays in pushing total war mobilization of the U.S. economy and inciting war, at the expense of civilian and domestic needs, as Robert Parry wrote.

This can be seen with Robert Kagan invoking the martial virtue of "courage" in demanding greater military spending by our elected officials and a greater wealth transfer to the Military Industrial Complex which funds the various war advocacy projects that he and his family are involved with.

Kagan recently wrote: "Those who propose to lead the United States in the coming years, Republicans and Democrats, need to show what kind of political courage they have, right now, when the crucial budget decisions are being made."

But as Parry pointed out, showing "courage," "in Kagan's view – is to ladle ever more billions into the Military-Industrial Complex, thus putting money where the Republican mouths are regarding the need to 'defend Ukraine' and resist 'a bad nuclear deal with Iran.'" But Parry noted that if it weren't for Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, Kagan's spouse, the Ukraine crisis might not exist.

What must certainly be seen as neo-fascist under any system of government but especially under a nominal "constitutional republic" as the U.S. claims to be, is Sen. Lindsey Graham's threat that the first thing he would do if elected President of the United States would be to use the military to detain members of Congress, keeping them in session in Washington, until all so-called "defense cuts" are restored to the budget.

In Graham's words, "I wouldn't let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We're not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts."

And he would have that power according to former Vice President Dick Cheney's "unitary executive theory" of Presidential power, originally formulated by Carl Schmitt and adopted by Republican attorneys and incorporated into government under the Bush-Cheney administration. Sen. Tom Cotton and other Republicans would no doubt support such an abuse of power if it meant increasing military spending.

But even more dangerous for the U.S. as well as other nations in the world is that one day, our militarists' constant incitement and provocation to war is going to "payoff," and the U.S. will be in a real war with an enemy with nuclear weapons, like the one Victoria Nuland is creating on Russia's border.

Today's American "Conservative Revolutionary" lust for war was summed up by prominent neoconservative Richard Perle, a co-author of "A Clean Break." Echoing the views on war from Ernst Junger and Carl Schmitt, Perle once explained U.S. strategy in the neoconservative view, according to John Pilger:

"There will be no stages," he said. "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there . . . If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

That goal was the same fantasy professed by German Conservative Revolutionaries and it led directly to a wartime defeat never imagined by Germany before, with all the "collateral damage" along the way that always results from "total war."

Rather than continuing with this "strategy," driven by our own modern Conservative Revolutionaries and entailing the eventual bankrupting or destruction of the nation, it might be more prudent for Americans to demand that we go back to the original national security strategy of the United States, as expressed by early presidents as avoiding "foreign entanglements" and start abiding by the republican goals expressed by the Preamble to the Constitution:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Todd E. Pierce retired as a Major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in November 2012. His most recent assignment was defense counsel in the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions. In the course of that assignment, he researched and reviewed the complete records of military commissions held during the Civil War and stored at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

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45 comments for "Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism"

  1. tateishi

    March 27, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Good article. Often people forget that Germany is a very aggressive war mongers, sending soldiers to many areas, and actually it started Yugoslavian war together with the US. It also has many people who believe that they are Aryans, Hitler's imaginary race, though there are real Aryans peaceful one in the mountains of Iran, etc.

    • Lutz Barz

      March 28, 2015 at 5:23 am

      The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.

    • Lutz Barz

      March 28, 2015 at 5:24 am

      The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.

    • Lutz Barz

      March 28, 2015 at 5:24 am

      The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.

    • Lutz Barz

      March 28, 2015 at 5:25 am

      The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.

    • Lutz Barz

      March 28, 2015 at 5:25 am

      The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.

    • Steve

      March 29, 2015 at 11:07 am

      A very strange comment from a presumed Iranian especially. Germany is not aggressive at all since WW2, which was a result of much aggression by several nations starting with Japan and Italy. German soldiers have gone almost nowhere since then, a limited deployment in Afghanistan being the main case. Germany did not start the "Yugoslavian war" at all, which was begun by Serbia attacking Slovenia and Croatia after they voted and declared independence. Aryanism is very rare in Germany today, and far more belligerent language comes out of Iran than Germany, Iran having swapped Aryanism for Islamism to little if any benefit.

      As for the article itself, it makes the common error of imputing excessive influence to a limited era of German militarism, whilst ignoring the far more globally influential records of Western colonial and Communist militaristic imperialism, as well as Italian Fascism which was the more influential model for many amenable to such ideas, with its aggressive colonial and corporatist notions, and successful attainment of power a decade before Hitler's.

    • msc15@ymail.com

      March 29, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Yea, but lesson is that USA is the continuation and revival of nazi ideology carrying its propound ideology of "exceptionalism". The neo conservative hawkish holding the belief that USA has the right to interfere in others countries internal affairs, that USA is above the law, that USA is predestinated by providence to spread its civilization and more others imperialists beliefs.

  2. F. G. Sanford

    March 27, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Concur. A common slogan of the political opposition in the 1930's was, "Fascism Means War!" It was true then, and it's still true today. The Major speaks the truth. I hope someone is listening.

  3. bobzz

    March 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    This piece tracks well with Charles Derber's, Morality Wars: How Empires, the Born Again, and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of Good. Hitler was rabid on the subject of morality (i.e., favored it). He was well received by many professional theologians, and the church generally swung in line. Not enough of the Barmen's Confession. This is another parallel with America and Israel and a major contributor to exceptionalism.

  4. John

    March 27, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Very true. The relationship of fascism and warmongering was described by Aristotle as the tactics of the tyrant over a democracy: fascist leaders must promote war and internal policing because it is the sole basis of their demand for power: they must create, provoke, or invent foreign enemies to demand power as "protectors" and accuse their opponents of disloyalty. They must appeal to the bully-boys as their militant wing, so they produce pseudo-philosophies of dominance.

    Fascism must at times be clarified in meaning to avoid limitation to specific historical instances, and it should be understood in those instances, but in is actually a very simple and universal attitude. It is nothing but the behavior and propaganda of bully boys. They are selfish, ignorant, hypocritical and malicious youths and abusive husbands and fathers, who glory in their small circle of the intimidated and push everyone around as a principal life skill. Those who extend that circle by operating small businesses, or as military or police officers, create and approve rationalizations of special rights. There is no real "exceptionalism" belief or philosophy of national/religious/ethnic superiority, it is just outright propaganda for bullying. They are quite stupid, and yet quickly pick up the methods of fascism, so it is not worth much analysis.

  5. John

    March 27, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I should add that the resurgence of fascism and its strength in the US and Israel is due to its association with economic concentrations. In business, the spoils go not to the inventor or ingenious professional as claimed in business propaganda: the spoils go to the bully-boy. Those who rise to the top in the corporate world are not the brilliant professionals or the effective managers who shine at lower levels. The path upwards is limited to those who come out on top wars between groups in collusion, who are without exception scheming bully-boys. There is no other way to the top. Only the methods are different from politics. So only bully-boys have great economic power.

    In the US, economic concentrations did not exist when the Constitution was written, so it provides no protection at all for the institutions of democracy from economic power. Economic powers controlled elections and the press in the 19th century, so there has been no way to even debate the issue, and now that control is almost absolute. Those are the powers obtainable only by bully-boys, the predominant fascists of Nazi Germany and the US, and no doubt Israel. So the US has been loosely controlled by fascism for a long time, and that control is nearly total now. Only the propaganda to rationalize this changes to sell the policies to the intimidated.

  6. Randy

    March 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    War is inevitable.. You simply cannot deny this and anyone who does is just dreaming… The world cannot live in some perpetual peace forever, what will happen when oil, water, and even living space runs out? Will you watch your family starve to death while the people over in the next town are eating to their hearts content?

    As much as you want to deny it, Hitler had it right. Peace is only attainable through war, and can only be won for your own people. There cannot be world peace, and the events of today proves it. Hitler and Japan was defeated more than 50 years ago, where is the peace? There will come a day where money will be worthless, the only currency will be strength, only those rich in this currency will survive. How nature intended it to be.

    Hitler knew this, and was preparing his own country, the rest of the world took the Banker path, and look where that led us.

    • Zachary Smith

      March 27, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      The world cannot live in some perpetual peace forever, what will happen when oil, water, and even living space runs out?

      Has it occurred to you that oil is only one of the many energy sources, and that the amount of water on Earth is basically a fixed quantity? Living space? Consider contraception combined with incentives, and disincentives for having babies galore.

      Can't help but notice you didn't mention Global Warming as a gnawing problem. Why?

      Finally, WHY is this site a magnet for the Hitler Fan Club?

      • Randy

        March 27, 2015 at 3:52 pm

        The idea is that resources run out, right? I wasn't going to list everything. There is not a infinite amount of resources in this world, you can continue living in your fairy tale world if you'd like but I will not.

        Even the soil that we grow food in will one day become unusable if it is abused like it is today. Global warming is a result of your delusion of world peace. Nature hits back when you delay and ignore up its rule for to long.. There would be no Global Warming problem i

        • Zachary Smith

          March 27, 2015 at 4:00 pm

          Global warming is a result of your delusion of world peace.

          As I suspected.

          No doubt wind turbines kill the cute birdies.

          And contraception is some sort of sin.

    • John

      March 27, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      Randy, be careful to avoid traps here:
      1. Wars will continue in history, but that is not a justification for doing wrong.
      2. When groups are in conflict, good leadership avoids war because it causes great wrongs. Sometimes it cannot be avoided, usually due to bad leadership. But of course that does not justify unnecessary war.
      3. Peace is not obtained by war. Sometimes it results from a successful defense against wrongful war, sometimes it is only the peace after a wrongful war succeeds. Those who prefer peace want to avoid unnecessary war. They are not afraid of necessary defense.
      4. Those who want to keep the US from unnecessary wars know more about the world's cultures and problems and solutions than those who always think of war as a solution. They know that our security depends upon making friends among a wild variety of cultures at different stages of development. That is done by helping the unfortunate even when we disagree with them, and we can't expect much from them in return. Wars mainly make us enemies, and those who promote wars conceal those failures. That's what this site is about.

    • holycowimeanzebra

      March 27, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      Gee, we couldn't just talk like adults about the importance of having fewer children? War and killing is the only method of human population control?

    • holycowimeanzebra

      March 27, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      Gee, we couldn't just talk like adults about the importance of having fewer children? War and killing is the only method of human population control?

    • zhu bajie

      March 30, 2015 at 1:03 am

      Nonsense. War is caused by fighting.

    • frank scott

      March 30, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      war, slavery and general ignorance are "inevitable" so long as people are mentally enslaved enough to tolerate them…the only thing inevitable about life is death…the rest is all subject to at least some measure of control, whether those are called political, religious or scientific..belief in such nonsense as above guarantees the continued master race-self chosen people-ism the article's writer is trying to contend with, call attention to and end..hitler was right about some things and wrong about most, like obama, bush, clinton, reagan and all other "leaders" of the status quo.

    • frank scott

      March 30, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      death is inevitable but the rest of life is subject to control by concerned, thoughtful and informed humans..war is inevitable only if the opposite type of humans continue and if they do it may be that all of us will lose continuity, fulfilling their dreadfully negative religious belief..the article seems to be at least trying to locate sources for some of the diseased madness that prevails but talk of "inevitable" war is an example of the disease.

  7. Gregory Kruse

    March 27, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Mr. Pierce appears to be a good example of a person who "knows himself, and knows his enemy", for indeed the Kagans and Cheneys of these times are enemies of the people. Unfortunately, most of the people don't know it yet, and in fact don't know themselves. It is absolutely dumbfounding to hear strains of Fox News coming from the mouths of otherwise seemingly decent and intelligent people who have the facility to think for themselves, but find it easier to parrot a TV station. I rue the fact that history and what served for political education in my youth led me to believe that there were no real enemies of democracy anymore. Reading back now through the history of Europe after the War of 1812 in Russia until WWI, I have come to appreciate the strength of fascist sentiment and passion, and I fairly tremble at the thought of the possible rise of another Otto von Bismark or Adolph Hitler in what we think of as "modern" times. There is only one ray of hope for me and that is the writing of such as Pierce, Parry, and some others scattered about the internet. It isn't clear to me that people will wake up and perceive the path we are on and in dreadful fear force a change of direction, but if not, we will learn again what it is to suffer unimaginable horror.

    • Zachary Smith

      March 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      It is absolutely dumbfounding to hear strains of Fox News coming from the mouths of otherwise seemingly decent and intelligent people who have the facility to think for themselves, but find it easier to parrot a TV station.

      Dumbfounding is right!

      Sometime back I was astonished to hear a relative at least as bright as myself (and educated at the same University) tell me that Fox was the ONLY news source which could be trusted. She'd moved from Indiana to the deep South years ago and sort-of "gone native". It was an ordeal to remain calm and use lip-glue.

  8. Theodora Crawford

    March 27, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Excellent discussion and worth the challenge of a thought-provoking and complex argument about governance and war. Today's environment is frightening with so much negative opinion, an absurd sense of US "exceptionalism" and unthinking faith in the power of war (clinched by a nuclear option as last resort).

    Alas, we have the government we deserve.

  9. Abe

    March 27, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    In 1926, German political theorist Carl Schmitt wrote his most famous paper, "Der Begriff des Politischen" ("The Concept of the Political"), in which he developed his theory of "the political".

    For Schmitt, "the political" is not equal to any other domain, such as the economic, but instead is the most essential to identity. As the essence of politics, "the political" is distinct from party politics.

    According to Schmitt, while churches are predominant in religion or society is predominant in economics, the state is predominant in politics. Yet for Schmitt the political was not an autonomous domain equivalent to the other domains, but rather the existential basis that would determine any other domain should it reach the point of politics (e.g. religion ceases to be merely theological when it makes a clear distinction between the "friend" and the "enemy").

    Schmitt, in perhaps his best-known formulation, bases his conceptual realm of state sovereignty and autonomy upon the distinction between friend and enemy. This distinction is to be determined "existentially," which is to say that the enemy is whoever is "in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible." (Schmitt, 1996, p. 27)

    For Schmitt, such an enemy need not even be based on nationality: so long as the conflict is potentially intense enough to become a violent one between political entities, the actual substance of enmity may be anything.

    Although there have been divergent interpretations concerning Schmitt's work, there is broad agreement that "The Concept of the Political" is an attempt to achieve state unity by defining the content of politics as opposition to the "other" (that is to say, an enemy, a stranger. This applies to any person or entity that represents a serious threat or conflict to one's own interests.) In addition, the prominence of the state stands as a neutral force over potentially fractious civil society, whose various antagonisms must not be allowed to reach the level of the political, lest civil war result.

    Leo Strauss, a political Zionist and follower of Vladimir Jabotinsky, had a position at the Academy of Jewish Research in Berlin. Strauss wrote to Schmitt in 1932 and summarized Schmitt's political theology thus: "[B]ecause man is by nature evil, he therefore needs dominion. But dominion can be established, that is, men can be unified only in a unity against – against other men. Every association of men is necessarily a separation from other men… the political thus understood is not the constitutive principle of the state, of order, but a condition of the state."

    With a letter of recommendation from Schmitt, Strauss received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to begin work, in France, on a study of Hobbes. Schmitt went on to become a figure of influence in the new Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.

    On 30 January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. The SA and SS led torchlight parades throughout Berlin. Germans who opposed Nazism failed to unite against it, and Hitler soon moved to consolidate absolute power.

    Following the 27 February Reichstag fire, the Nazis began to suspend civil liberties and eliminate political opposition. The Communists were excluded from the Reichstag. At the March 1933 elections, again no single party secured a majority. Hitler required the vote of the Centre Party and Conservatives in the Reichstag to obtain the powers he desired. He called on Reichstag members to vote for the Enabling Act on 24 March 1933.

    Hitler was granted plenary powers "temporarily" by the passage of the Enabling Act. The law gave him the freedom to act without parliamentary consent and even without constitutional limitations.

    Schmitt joined the Nazi Party on 1 May 1933. Within days of joining the party, Schmitt was party to the burning of books by Jewish authors, rejoicing in the burning of "un-German" and "anti-German" material, and calling for a much more extensive purge, to include works by authors influenced by Jewish ideas.[

    In July 1933, Schmitt was appointed State Councillor for Prussia (Preußischer Staatsrat) by Hermann Göring and became the president of the Vereinigung nationalsozialistischer Juristen ("Union of National-Socialist Jurists") in November. He also replaced Hermann Heller as professor at the University of Berlin (a position he held until the end of World War II).

    Schmitt presented his theories as an ideological foundation of the Nazi dictatorship, and a justification of the Führer state with regard to legal philosophy, in particular through the concept of auctoritas. Half a year later, in June 1934, Schmitt was appointed editor-in-chief of the Nazi news organ for lawyers, the Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung ("German Jurists' Journal").

    In July 1934, he published "The Leader Protects the Law (Der Führer schützt das Recht)", a justification of the political murders of the Night of the Long Knives with the authority of Hitler as the "highest form of administrative justice (höchste Form administrativer Justiz)".

    Schmitt presented himself as a radical anti-semite and also was the chairman of a law teachers' convention in Berlin in October 1936, where he demanded that German law be cleansed of the "Jewish spirit (jüdischem Geist)", going so far as to demand that all publications by Jewish scientists should henceforth be marked with a small symbol.

    Nevertheless, in December 1936, the SS publication Das schwarze Korps accused Schmitt of being an opportunist, and called his anti-semitism a mere pretense, citing earlier statements in which he criticized the Nazis' racial theories. After this, Schmitt resigned from his position as "Reichsfachgruppenleiter" (Reich Professional Group Leader), although he retained his post as a professor in Berlin, and his post as "Preußischer Staatsrat".

    After World War II, Schmitt refused every attempt at de-nazification, which effectively barred him from positions in academia. Despite being isolated from the mainstream of the scholarly and political community, he continued his studies especially of international law from the 1950s on.

    In 1962, Schmitt gave lectures in Francoist Spain, two of them giving rise to the publication, the following year, of Theory of the Partisan, in which he qualified the Spanish civil war as a "war of national liberation" against "international Communism."

    Schmitt regarded the partisan as a specific and significant phenomenon that, in the latter half of the twentieth century, indicated the emergence of a new theory of warfare.

    At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the most simple formulation of Schmitt's friend-enemy distinction was enunciated by this intellectual giant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sfNROmn7bc

    In that Schmittian fulmination known as the Bush Doctrine, the "partisan" is transformed into the "terrorist," no longer "internal" but a truly "global" enemy to be destroyed wherever found.

    As further codified by the Obama Doctrine: the decider has the right.

    The world-ordering, planet-appropriating doctrine of American exceptionalism has no space in its Grossraum (great space) concept for a "Eurasia."

    The very enunciation of a "Eurasian" political sphere is a "terrorist" act, and all those associated with such "lunacy" are "enemies" to be annihilated.

  10. John

    March 28, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Junger was not so pro-war when he lost his son in WW11.

  11. John

    March 28, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Junger was not so pro-war when he lost his son in WW11.

  12. Dato

    March 28, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Just as defeated German generals and the Conservative Revolutionaries believed that Germany lost World War I because their economy and nation was only "partially mobilized

    One would like to know wherein lay the premises of such a belief. Indeed, the general staff of the Reich laid out plans and performed actions for a "total war", and the effects, once the war ended, were hard to oversee: Not only were there scant resources and only barely functioning capital infrastructure left after the war, people were actually dying of hunger in the streets (made worse by the entente's continuing blockade even into 1915). Maybe all the information was hard to come back then.

    From "Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism" by Astore and Showalter, p 40ff:

    The war, Hindenburg noted, had become a colossal Materialschlacht, or material struggle, waged by modern industrial juggernauts. The western front in particular witnessed organized destruction on a scale theretofore thought impossible. Staggered by the sheer wastage of modern war, all combatants sought with varying degrees of success to mobilize their economies. The so-called Hindenburg Program was Germany's concerted attempt to mobilize fully, if somewhat belatedly, for total war. Improving the efficiency of economic mobilization was certainly a worthwhile goal. Hindenburg's, and especially Ludendorff's, key mistake was to presume that an economy could be commanded like an army. The end result was a conflict of effciencies. What was best for the army in the short term was not necessarily best for the long-term health of the economy. Furthermore, as economic means were mobilized to the fullest, the sacrifices required and incurred by modern warfare's destructive industrialism drove Germany, as well as the Entente powers, to inflate strategic goals to justify national sacrifice. Extreme economic mobilization encouraged grandiose political and territorial demands, ruling out opportunities for a compromise peace, which Hindenburg and Ludendorff rejected anyway. Under their leadership, imperial Germany became a machine for waging war and little else. And Hindenburg and Ludendorff emerged as Germany's most committed merchants of death.

    Nothing in Hindenburg's background prepared him for the task of overseeing an economic mobilization. Thus, he left details to the technocrat Ludendorff. Aided by Lieutenant Colonel Max Bauer, Ludendorff embarked on a crash program to centralize and streamline the economy. Fifteen separate district commands in Germany needed centralizing if economic mobilization was to be rationalized; rivalries among federal, state, and local agencies needed to be curtailed. As enacted, the Hindenburg Program sought to maximize war-related production by transforming Germany into a garrison state with a command economy. Coordinating the massive effort was the Kriegsamt, or War Office, headed by General Wilhelm Groener.

    Yet, Ludendorff's insistence on setting unachievable production goals led to serious dislocations in the national economy. Shell production was to be doubled, artillery and machine gun production trebled, all in a matter of months. The German economy, relying largely on its own internal resources, could not bear the strain of striving for production goals unconstrained by economic, material, and manpower realities. The release of hundreds of thousands of skilled workers from military duty back to the factories, which led to short-term increases in the production of armaments, did not solve critical and systemic shortages of labor. Large-scale deportation and impressment of Belgian workers was a stopgap that only further alienated world opinion, notably in the United States. In the aggregate, the high level of autonomy enjoyed by the military contributed to wasteful duplications of effort and patterns of bureaucratization that eventually defied even the Germans' gift for paperwork.

  13. Brad Owen

    March 28, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Excellent article. I still think the Financial Oligarchy, which currently holds the "Imperium" in City-of-London/Wall Street jointly, are the financial enablers of these "Conservative Revolutionaries". One of the main tasks of an Empire is to PREVENT any rival power structure (such as a legitimate Republic taking root within a colony, becoming a powerful nation-state, and becoming most attractive to the other subjugated colonies…the ONLY basis for U.S. "exceptionalism", and our one unforgivable "sin" in the, now covert, British Empire) from arising within its' Realm. The witless conservative revolutionaries are enabled by the Financier/Emperors (think of Grand daddy Prescott; bagman for the NAZIs) PRECISELY because they will lead to "the eventual bankrupting and destruction of the Nation", as Major Pierce says, thus being rid of a dangerous Republic within their Empire. These policies and wars are meant to destroy US, here, in America, and lead us, and the World, FAR AWAY from the wisdom of our Preamble. BTW, Kaiser's Germany, and Dr. Sun Yat Sen, were influenced by "Lincoln's economists" Henry Carey and Friedrich Liszt…the "republican infection" was spread far and wide, after Lincoln's victory in his proxy war with the British and French empires (The Russian Empire, as always, was USA's quiet ally in that war).

  14. Peter Loeb

    March 28, 2015 at 6:45 am

    NAMING NAMES…

    The history of fascism is helpful, It remains that it is a common tendency of liberals/
    progressives to believe in the illusion that one person, one party exchanged for another
    will transform a society (any society).

    As Naseer Aruri documents in his incisive book, DISHONEST BROKER, that the US has collaborated with Zionism for decades, Both US political parties have been complicit. This
    has been the case for 35 years prior to the current Administration and certainly was the
    case going back as far as Harry Truman.(Aruri's brief book was written just prior to
    the election of Obama.)

    Netanyahu's supposed "shock" to Washington is that his blatant racism and opposition to
    the "peaceful negotiations" of two so-called "sovereign" nations made such good PR. One commenter observed that it was like asking the lamb to "negotiate" with the wolf. Aruri
    repeats that the US, which has always supported the oppressor(Israel), could act as"mediator" thus excluding international law altogether. (Aruri blames in equal measure PLO's Arafat who agreed to "occupation by consent" (Aruri).

    Netanyahu blew the US "cover" for just a second. The next Democratic leadership if it is
    Hillary Clinton as President or Chuck Schumer as Democratic leader has never been
    noted for any sympathy for Palestinians aka "the inferior race" (Israelis). Both Clinton and
    Schumer have represented New York State in the US Senate. Both want to elect more members of their party (Democratic) and to use the dollars of wealthy US Jews in accomplishing this.

    The voices of the hundreds of thousands who lose their jobs as disposeable (except in
    campaign rehetoric) have less and less meaning. The very rich are the beneficiaries and they lay off thousands of workers and managers to move to low wage and more compliant
    location with high tech ease.

    From my perspective, the only means to delay this is economic. On the one hand it is
    BDS but on a larger field it is the weakness of the US economy and others of the West.

    Recalling that it was WW II that "solved" the Great Depression and not the ineffective programs of FDR's "New Deal" (See Gabriel Kolko, MAIN CURRENTS IN MODERN AMERICAN
    HISTORY). Todd E. Pierce does not mention the so-called global "revolution" but as the
    French have phrased it "La revolution se mange" (" The revolution eats itself") Everyone
    wants someone else to fight their battles for them at no cost to themselves.

    Pierce does not evaluate the power relationships weakening virtually all governments
    today. Inequality has eaten us up (we have eaten ouselves!).

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

  15. muggles

    March 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Extremely good essay today by Todd Pierce. Very impressive scholarship and insight, particularly in the light of his impressive military career.

    Many good comments posted also, despite the inevitable odor of anti Semitism found in some, always the case when "Germany" is part of the topic. "Bankers", etc. Much easier to stereotype than to think.

    Yes, France and Britain were also hyper militaristic in the 19th century, far more than Germany, which of course wasn't united until the very end of that century, which meant that while some German states were quite active militarily in the period (Prussia) it didn't act as a "nation" as it did later in the 20th century.

    France lost most of the militarist ideology after two crushing defeats in the World Wars and post colonial failures. Britain maintained that outlook despite the World Wars but the wars devastated the economic ability and imperial reach which had sustained that view, despite the persistent Churchill worship. Thatcher's defense of the tiny Falklands was merely an almost comic echo of times past. Still, today in many British intellectual circles (if not in actually participating in the armed forces) military worship continues.

    Germany today has now lost most of its taste for war. Instead it leads Europe economically. Butter rather than guns.

    Pierce's essay highlights the sinister influence of Leo Strauss, something that libertarian historian-economist Murray Rothbard warned about several decades ago as well. As Godfather of the neocons, Strauss is the intellectual architect of today's bloodlust American political establishment. His being Jewish was the only thing which kept him from being a full fledged Hitlerite.

    So neocons, many themselves Jewish (though many not) are mere slightly less crazy fascists as were the interwar German nationalists who easily jumped into the Nazi bed when the cult of personality overwhelmed the German rightwing.

    There has long been a cult of war worship, going back to ancient times. The fact that warfare brings death and disease and horrible injury doesn't matter. The fact that it destroys wealth and human prosperity and harmony is ignored. Individuals are crushed to the greater "good" of arms against whatever enemy can be found. Sociopaths and psychopaths use militarism as the path to "greatness."

    That much of the American "right" is in the thrall of the pseudo fascist neocon ideology of Straussian war worship as the path to "security" and "national greatness" should be the red blinking "danger-danger!" light for every thinking American.

    Thanks Mr. Pierce.

  16. Steve Naidamast

    March 28, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I have not thoroughly read this article but will do so after I print it out.

    However I would like to add that though there were quite a few people in 190s Germany that were proponents of warfare there is a slow but increasing amount of research that is beginning to show that Adolph Hitler was not the war-monger western historians have made him out to be. In addition, after the advent of war in 1939, up through 1941, Hitler was making peace overtures to the west, which Britain continuously ignored and rejected.

    This too was done up through 1915 by Germany in World War I, which Britain also
    ignored.

    As recent research is beginning to show, it was not Germany who was itching for
    war in 1939 but in fact Britain and Poland. And war is what they eventually got and
    very much to Britain's and Poland's demise as the former lost her empire and the latter was
    swallowed up by Soviet Russia.

  17. Coleen Rowley

    March 28, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Great article showing how history repeats! But most of your points, with the exception of Boehner's invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress and more Democrats than Republicans backing Obama's negotiation strategy with Iran, apply as much to the Democrat as Republican Party leadership. I think I even read where Robert Kagan may back Hillary Clinton whilst his fellow PNAC founder William Kristol will back Bush or whatever Republican wins the nomination. The neocon ideology seems to be fully in control of both parties.

    • Bob Van Noy

      March 29, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      Thank you Coleen for your comment. I share your concern that a Clinton/Bush race will be one in the same. I'm desperately hoping we get neither as candidates because it will mean "business as usual".

  18. hisoricus

    March 28, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    One of the most startling things I've found in reading "Nazi propaganda" is their dead-on accurate prediction of America's coming role as a primary threat to world peace, in its rulers' quest for total global domination. The United States was routinely mocked in the German press as the phony "democracy of dollars" controlled by the plutocrats of Wall Street – gosh, how'd they ever get a wacky idea like that, huh?

    Hitler clearly stated in Mein Kampf "we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions."

    Hitler attempted to rapidly build Germany into a global power that would be capable of fending off the twin threats of capitalist imperialism from the west and totalitarian communism from the east – but these forces were too strong: the "new Germany" never had a chance of survival. Eighty million Germans faced a billion-strong British empire that was determined to destroy all economic rivals, and had centuries of experience in mass murder and destruction in the Third World. Add to this the 320 million people of a communist USSR and a capitalist USA whose elites could agree on only one thing, that Germany's astoundingly successful experiment in national socialism must first be annihilated and then its true character erased from history.

    Today the German government's cruel treatment of Jews – who made up one half of one percent of Germany's population, by the way – is all that most people know of National Socialism, which is rather like remembering America's Founders only as the brutal slaveholders and Indian killers that they were.

    Ask yourself: how is it evenly remotely possible that the second German war could be the only time in our history that our leaders did not lie to us about why we were supposed to hate and butcher a people who had done us no harm?

    • Monster from the Id

      March 28, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      Hoooo boy, the delusion is strong in this one…

  19. richard vajs

    March 29, 2015 at 8:54 am

    One good thing about the "coming together" of the fascist Republican Party and the fascist Israeli Likud Party – it will make for a unified target. As I've heard military drill instructors advise, "You people need to spread out – one hand grenade would get you all!". I look forward to no separation between the two and the tossing of that grenade.

    • Coleen Rowley

      March 29, 2015 at 10:34 am

      First I need to make clear I'm against bombing. Anyone. I'm in the "war is not the answer; war is a crime; war is waste; war is a lie; war is hell camp. I think individuals are justified in valid "self defense" but not the nation-state or ethnic-religious type tribalism that Carl Schmitt apparently referred to as the "political" groupings that justify and benefit from "pre-emptive" wars of aggression. It IS a slippery slope but still we must stick to principles.

      But with that said, the Likud-inspired AIPAC and other Israeli fronts were very much aware of your drill sergeant's advice, Richard. The Israel lobbyists were highly effective in the past, in contrast to other political lobbies (who generally favored one party or the other), simply because they did "spread out" and were able to infiltrate both Republican and Democratic parties (as well as their corresponding "think tanks") so as to better control the whole US government.

      The Boehner invite of Netanyahu, Republican Militarist Senator Cotton's letter and the exposing of AIPAC's forcing of Democratic congresspersons to now oppose their own Party Leader, Obama, in order to launch war on Iran, could be significant in ending that control of both parties by splitting the parties. Bush's former UN Ambassador and top neocon John Bolton's outright and explicit call for bombing Iran in the NYT helps pull off the mask and expose what the neocons are after. Middle of the road Democratic congresspeople, almost all of whom are normally are hard-pressed to not vote and give AIPAC anything it wants, may find it easier to publically explain how they cannot in good conscience vote this one time, for the Israel Lobby and what the terrible new war it wants.

      And my guess is the reason Kristol and Kagan would be splitting their support, if that does materialize, Kristol for Bush and Kagan for Clinton, would be exactly in line with your old drill sergeant's advice.

  20. Solon

    March 29, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    re: "Avnery's analogy of how Congress responded to its de facto leader was apt"

    The analogy could not be less apt.

    The German leaders were in their own nation, addressing the concerns of their own people, concerns including the debasement of their culture, the debasement of their money, high unemployment, challenges in finding food, riots and mob violence incited by Communist and Bolshevic subversives, and chaos in their political system. Promises were made to the German people by their leaders to solve their problems, a plan was laid out and most of the promises were kept: within 4 years, Germans were employed, the economy was revitalized with public works spending, and the people's morale was unified around German cultural values. Several of their international problems were settled without violence, as the people demanded and the NSDAP government promised.

    On the other hand, the leader of a foreign state stood before a representative body in which only 16% of the people have any confidence. He told this body that their leader should not be trusted, and they cheered.
    The representatives of the people pledged their fealty to this leader of a foreign state and promised to send him more taxpayer money to kill more of the people whose lands and homes the foreign state is stealing. None of the concerns of the American people — for jobs, for relief from high food prices, for adequate treatment of 50,000 military persons wounded in wars fought at the behest of the same foreign leader — none of those concerns were addressed by the cheering crowd.

    This author suffers from Hitler Derangement Syndrome: his thinking is so suffused with the relentlessly propagandized notion that Hitler and NSDAP are the embodiment of evil that his analysis is forced and his judgments flawed.

    An assessment of the full panoply of facts and evidence will reveal that it was not Hitler and NSDAP but the forebears of the same man who sought to — and came pretty close to succeeding in subverting the US political system.

    The German people under NSDAP leadership were reclaiming their government and culture, and for that they cheered.

    Their resistance to the ideology that Strauss and his cohort sought to impose on Germans was an affront to the pro to-neocons, and so they organized with warmongering British and manipulative American leaders to destroy Germany and incinerate the German people in what C E Hughes called the first use of weapons of mass destruction as a means of terror against a civilian population.

  21. zhu bajie

    March 30, 2015 at 1:23 am

    The comparison is interesting, but it a comparison between Japanese Militarism and the US permanent war regime would also be enlightening. Neither the US nor Japan have or had a charismatic orator, a Mussolini or a Hitler.

  22. zhu bajie

    March 30, 2015 at 1:58 am

    Re "exceptiohnalism," Lewis' _The American Adam_ should be read. The idea that Americans can do no wrong has been around since the early days of the Republic.

  23. Paul E. "Marbux" Merrell, J.D.

    March 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Re: "It was left to Israeli Uri Avnery to best capture the spirit of Netanyahu's enthusiastic ideological supporters in Congress."

    I disagree with that sentence, albeit it's a judgment call. But I don't think Avnery is even in the running. The best capture of that I've seen is Noy Alooshe's masterful video remix of the event itself. .

  24. hbm

    March 31, 2015 at 3:06 am

    You don't get Nazis without Ashkenazis.

    Why should Neocons be at all surprising?

  25. Rob

    April 2, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I enjoyed the article, but I cannot agree that Netanyahu is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Rather, he is a prop in the ongoing drama known as "Republicans doing everything in their power to oppose and embarrass President Obama and the Democrats."

    I have long advocated that those public figures who agitate for war should be sent into the battlefield along with all able bodied members of their families. That would quickly put an end to chicken hawk warmongers. The exception would be Charles Krauthammer, who is paralyzed in his lower extremities. That man should be sent into battle in his wheelchair.

[Aug 27, 2013] The Unconscious Civilization by John Ralston Saul

Amazon.com

Writing in the same iconoclastic spirit he brought to Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, Canadian writer Saul offers a damning indictment of what he terms corporatism, today's dominant ideology. While the corporatist state maintains a veneer of democracy, it squelches opposition to dominant corporate interests by controlling elected officials through lobbying and by using propaganda and rhetoric to obscure facts and deter communication among citizens.

Corporatism, asserts Saul, creates conformists who behave like cogs in organizational hierarchies, not responsible citizens. Moreover, today's managerial-technocratic elite, while glorifying free markets, technology, computers and globalization, is, in Saul's opinion, narrowly self-serving and unable to cope with economic stagnation.

His prescriptions include eliminating private-sector financing from electoral politics, renewing citizen participation in public affairs, massive creation of public-service jobs and a humanist education to replace narrow specialization. His erudite, often profound analysis challenges conservatives and liberals alike with its sweeping critique of Western culture, society and economic organization.

LeeBoy (Pine Bluff, Arkansas)

A coup d'etat in slow motion?, August 12, 2005

A key premise of the book is that a life worth living, the so-called examined life, the fully aware life cannot take place without individuals in the society being fully conscious - or without seeking the kind of self-knowledge that readily can be translated into action.

Saul maintains that we have a "new religion," the blind pursuit of self-interest. It is led by an ideology of "corporatism," which has deformed the American ideal of a life worth living into one devoid of a concept of the common public good. Through it, one of America's most noble ideas, that of "rugged individualism" has been sullied, distorted and transformed into an ideology of selfishness; an ideology that has so manipulated our reality that our the language and knowledge, usually placed in the service of actions and designed to improve our way of life, has become useless.

The corporate compartmentalization of, and distortion of public knowledge, and the accompanying enforced conformity has so confused us and has so muted our voices that knowledge no longer has any effect on our consciousness nor on our actions. Individual selfishness as "modeled" by corporate self-interest has hi-jacked Western civilization as we have come to know it.

The book describes how corporatism has accomplished this feat: It has used its own ideology of self-interest (and the promise of certainty that all ideologies promote) to render us passive and conformist in areas that matter and non-conformist in those that do not. This new pseudo or false individualism has the effect of immobilizing and disarming our civilization intellectually and thus renders it unconscious.

The most important way it does this is by denying and undermining the legitimacy of the individual as the primary unit and defender of, as well as the center of gravity of the public good. The public good becomes deformed by, and subordinate to, and equated with the narrow pursuit of corporate self-interests, as most often defined by the pursuit of profits and associated corporate perks. The hedonistic model of the corporate life is projected on to society writ large as the only life worth living.

The impetus for placing corporate interests (and the corporate model of our humanity) at center stage in the drama of Western Civilization, seems to have come about through the misconception that rugged individualism, democracy and our current understanding of the public good were once defined by, depend on, and proceed directly from, the pursuit of economic interests. This is a misconception because in actual fact exactly the reverse is true: It was notions of the public good as defined by democracy and individualism that gave rise to economic interests, and not the other way around.

Moreover, economic models have been so spectacularly wrong and unsuccessful, that they could not have survived without an ideology that renders the public unconscious. Saul suggests that even the best economic models amount to little more than passive tinkering. The fact that we have come to rely on them -- even though we know they are seriously flawed and have little or no basis in reality -- is compelling evidence of our lack of memory and thus, of our lack of collective consciousness.

According to the author, it is the proper use of knowledge and memory that renders us conscious (and thus by extension, also renders us human). The misuse of knowledge and memory through corporate and technological, manipulation, specialization and compartmentalization is just a deeper form of collective denial.

Said differently, (corporate generated) specialization creates its own illusions. When knowledge actually becomes confused and is sufficiently narrowed, compartmentalization promotes the illusion that knowledge is multiplied when in fact it has shrunken. It leaves the impression that more rather than less knowledge is being created. It promotes the illusion that truth is only what the specialist can measure; that "managing is doing," (and more importantly that a managerial class is important and necessary). Finally, it creates the illusion that the ideology, which promotes corporatism, produces certainty (the main job of any ideology).

These illusions all have facilitated the corporate takeover of what would otherwise be seen as, the public interest. By doing so, the legitimacy of the individual as the center of gravity of the public good is crowded out, undermined and denied.

Thus the management elite, (with their suitcases full of money to buy off our elected representatives) like a cancer, is let loose on society. It lives within its own insulated cocoon creating an artificially interiorized sense of its own importance, wellbeing and its own distorted vision of civilization as a whole. Insulated from within, the management elite is free to grow without bounds, without accountability, and in complete disregard for the reality "out there," and always only to satisfy and service its own selfish needs. Truth is not in the world "out there" but is in what the professionals can measure and whatever is reported to these insulated elites. The deeper the insulated managerial class retreats into its own interiorized illusions of reality, the more confused language becomes and the less likely knowledge can be translated into actions that will effect the wider reality, and thus the public good.

In its pursuit to deny the legitimacy of the public good and to replace it with corporate econometric models of reality, Saul has traced the history of this process and gives many examples of how it works: through media propaganda, films, ads, music, sports and style-and always through insinuations of what is considered proper thought and ways of behaving.

One of the better examples he gives is how unemployment keeps getting redefined downward with no relation to the reality of the labor market but mostly to suit the needs of the neo-cons (the courtiers of the corporate elites). Or how, even as companies are losing money and are laying-off large numbers of ordinary workers, the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites continue to rise - often even until the very day the companies actually go bust.

Another example given is how through the process of globalization, that by the year 2020 the U.S. will be fully reduced to a Third World country. We are told that our future standard of living will depend entirely on globalization. Here globalization (like its companion concept, productivity) is a synonym for pegging workers' wage rates to the lowest wages available worldwide. It is never mentioned in such discussions that the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites will actually rise significantly as this "mother of all least common denominators economic formulas" is being applied to the lower end of the economic class scale. Taken to its logical conclusion, the salary of U.S. workers will equal those of Chinese peasants by 2020; and the corporate elites all will be filthy rich like Sam Walton. This "Wal-Martization" of America is already well in train.

Why are we so susceptible to being manipulated by corporate generated ideology and power? Saul gives an answer: We have an addictive weakness for large illusions that are tied to power and that can simplify our worldview by promising emotional certainty. The examples he gives are none other than the great religions themselves, and their spin-offs of Marxism, fascism and most of the autocratic governments of the past, including Hitler's Third Reich.

The roads to serfdom, or to fascism or communism (or pick your own ism) all intersect at the same ideology reference points: they begin as enforced social and political orthodoxy and conformity: first fashion and style; then the social enforcement of ways of thinking; and then patriotism is made into a religious-like requirement; after which rights and free speech are suppressed in the name of national security or loyalty to the state. One-by-one laws are suspended and then arbitrary arrests and disappearances begin; and finally the country is rendered completely passive and unconscious - compressed into a pseudo-patriotic religious trance.

In the modern era, this progression is by now all too familiar: It leads directly to the de-legitimatization of the citizen as the primary defender of the public good. This just as inevitably leads to handing over power to those whose self-interests are larger than their dedication to the preservation of the public good or even to the preservation and defense of the state itself.

The citizen then ceases to be able to determine what is, and is not real. He becomes immobilized like a child, unable to judge what is in his own best interests -- let alone what is in the best interest of the public good or the state. He is then forced to sing for his dinner and to dance to the corporate tune for any sense of wellbeing or self-worth. The "public good" becomes completely subordinate to the "corporate good."

What Saul admonishes us about is already imminently clear: that the kind of society we have is determined by where the true source of legitimacy lies. Today legitimacy in America -- that is its power, organization, and influence -- lies not in the vote and in stylized but impotent public citizen participation, but in the hands of the lobbyists, the technocrats, and the anti-democratic and anti-patriotic corporate vampires.

Saul did not need to tell us that all the serious decisions are now made in the back rooms without consulting the people. The best "the people" can hope for (and indeed what they yearn for) is that the decisions made over their heads will at least retain a semblance of emotional ideological purity.

While the corporate robber barons sneak out the back door to their off-shore tax havens (with the nations valuables in tow), the public good has been distorted and transformed into little more than "What I have" or into bumper sticker sized emotionalisms: the advancement of creative design and the right to post the Ten Commandments on the court house steps, abortion and gun rights, anti-Affirmative Action, states rights, etc. Because of its lack of consciousness, Americans have lost the ability to conceptualize a common good larger than their own immediate individual narrowly defined self-interests.

How do we get out of this coup d'etat in slow motion? Saul's answer is that we must change the dynamics of the process but he gives few specifics on how this can be done. This a great and very sobering read. Five stars.

Joyce (Bonham, Texas)

Makes the complex understandable, November 29, 2012

Saul has unusual skill in making complex entanglements understandable, colorful, and often humorous. His satire is biting. His irony is satisfying. His writing is dense with fresh insights about difficult subjects, so reading him is challenging at times but worth the effort. In this book, Saul explores how the dictatorship of reason unbalanced by other human qualities (common sense, ethics, intuition, creativity, memory) leads to the rational but antidemocratic structures of corporatism. He lays out the historical roots of corporatist doctrines (going back to Plato) and how they are so woven into our social fabric that they threaten the practice of democracy. He notes how our civilization is blinded to its true character by sentiment and ideology and argues that while Fascism was defeated in World War II, its corporatist doctrines are powerfully influencing our society today.

For Saul, one central aspect of the corporatist doctrine is its hijacking of the term "individualism," defining it as self-absorption or selfishness. Both Left and Right positions are based upon that definition. The Left agrees with the Right that individualism is selfishness, only it wants individual rights to be equally distributed and more fair. Whereas Saul talks about individualism thus:

"Rights are a protection from society. But only by fulfilling their obligations to society can the individual give meaning to that protection. . . Real individualism then is the obligation to act as a citizen."

And further:

"The very essence of corporatism is minding your own business. And the very essence of individualism is the refusal to mind your own business. This is not a particularly pleasant or easy style of life. It is not profitable, efficient, competitive or rewarded. It often consists of being persistently annoying to others as well as being stubborn and repetitive."

And further still:

"Criticism is perhaps the citizen's primary weapon in the exercise of her legitimacy. That is why, in this corporatist society, conformism, loyalty, and silence are so admired and rewarded."

Saul discusses the role that four economic pillars play in either accentuating or reducing our unconscious state as citizens: (1) the marketplace, (2) technology, (3) globalization, and (4) money markets.

Here is my summary of his lessons on these four.

  1. The danger of using the marketplace as our guide is that we are limiting ourselves to the narrow and short-term interests of exclusion. If we wish to lead society we must calculate inclusive costs.
  2. Business schools (following the "scientific management" Frederick Taylor brought to Harvard) treat men and women as mechanisms to be managed along with machines. And we are lining up students behind machines, educating them in isolation when what is really needed is to show them how they can function together in society.
  3. Trade cannot in and of itself solve societal problems. The main effect of globalization has been to shift the tax burden from large corporations onto the middle class. Adam Smith's repeated admonition has been ignored. It is: high wages are essential to growth and prosperity.
  4. Money is not a value in itself. Money in money markets is not available for taxation, and it doesn't really exist. It is pure speculation. We must see what is truly of value to society and reward those things.

This is only a bit of the clarity Saul's book gives us as citizens about what we are dealing with, empowering us with weaponry to overcome the Fascistic creation of corporatism.

Christopher (Seattle, Washington, USA)

A roundhouse shot at corporatist, group-think American life, March 19, 2002

"Are we truly living in a corporatist society that uses democracy as little more than a pressure release valve?"

Not satisfied with hurtling the literary hand-grenade of the 1990's, "Voltaire's Bastards", into the midst of our oblivious Western society, John Ralston Saul has now equipped his metaphorical sniper rifle, and in his crosshairs is the 'deviant class' which has destabilized our American dream. In "The Unconscious Civilization", Saul targets `corporatist' groups, the special interests (both economic and social) which have lulled citizens into replacing their own thoughts with those of factions who magically (and absurdly) claim to represent their beliefs and dreams.

"One of the difficulties faced by citizens today is making sense of what is presented as material for public debate, but is actually no more than the formalized propaganda of interest groups. It is very rare now in public debate to hear from someone who is not the official voice of an organization."

Characteristic of Saul's previous work, "The Unconscious Civilization" is a firm, wind-knocking shot to the gut. But luckily for you, your opponent is also teaching you how to fight. Hear him shout: `Stand up, slothful citizen. Your constitution is failing.'

"The statistics of our crisis are clear and unforgiving. Yet they pass us by--in newspapers, on television, in conversations--as if they were not reality. Or rather, as if we were unable to convert knowledge into action."

Do you feel protected by the Internet, by the millions of voices which you feel will conglomerate to represent you? So how's it working for you so far? Sure we have information, but what the hell good is it doing for the spirit of our nation?

"Knowledge is more effectively used today to justify wrong being done than to prevent it. This raises an important question about the role of freedom of speech. We have a great deal of it. But if it has little practical effect on reality, then it is not really freedom of speech. Without utility, speech is just decorative."

In this work, Saul scopes out the corporatist mindset, the coalescence of many minds into one body with only one voice (corpus from Latin, meaning body), which has invaded business, politics, and civil society alike. The result is chilling, for when we rise to speak, we find our individual words have different meanings to each of these bodies. As a consequence, we are learning to speak less.

"In a corporatist society there is no serious need for traditional censorship or burning, although there are regular cases. It is as if our language itself is responsible for our inability to identify and act upon reality."

We may be blind to the corporatist processes, but we should be able to fairly see their results. In politics: 38% voter turnout rates, lowest political convention viewership, the quashing of third-party voices; in business: the plastering of disclaimers, sloganeering, and that opaque wall of business-speak between every salesman and their customer; in civil society: the inability to progress in conversation without soundbites, and the number of people who flat-out don't want to talk to you.

This partition of words has not obstructed John Ralston Saul, though. An advocate of "aggressive common sense", Saul portrays himself correctly as a classic liberal, defender and klaxon for the citizen, neither champion nor foe of the marketplace.

"The market does not lead, balance, or encourage democracy. However, properly regulated it is the most effective way to conduct business."

"Every important characteristic of both individualism and democracy has preceded the key economic events of our millennium. What's more, it was these characteristics that made most of the economic events possible, not vice-versa."

John Ralston Saul's work consists of five chapters loosely based off a series of 1995 lectures at the University of Toronto. Like "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul here is discursive and entertaining; each chapter is a new dive into an invigorating Arctic lake of realization. Chapter One, "The Great Leap Backwards" launches the assault. The remaining chapters focus on reconstruction... their titles: "From Propaganda to Language", "From Corporatism to Democracy", "From Managers and Speculators to Growth", "From Ideology Towards Equilibrium".

Moderately mistitled (resulting in a one-point demerit in the overall review score), a more appropriate title for this book would have been "The Corporatist Civilization". A true attack on the `unconscious' among us would have been welcome, though Saul does meander briefly into this realm, with a few sections that fit cozily into the overall thesis:

"Perhaps the difficulty with the psychoanalytic movement is that from the beginning it has sent out a contradictory message: Learn to know yourself--your unconscious, the greater unconscious. This will help you to deal with reality. On the other hand, you are in the grip of great primeval forces--unknown and unseen--and even if you do know and see them, it is they who must dominate."

One-quarter the size of "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul this time out initiates a concise attack: on utopias, ideology, technocracy, demagoguery, and group mentality... all of which direct the individual to replace their view of the world with that of an `official spokesman', eerily reversing the vector of our society towards a fascist state. An insightful read; terse, but somewhat condensed and abstract at places. The trade-offs are more than acceptable, though. Steel yourself for a barrage of Truth.

seydlitz89

Lacks The Big Picture, July 3, 2000

John Ralston Saul is considered one of the great humanist essayists of this time. That is true but he is also very much a man of our times, with both the advantages and disadvantages of the current Weltanschauung. I bought this book after having read some rather rave reviews and had high expectations. I can't say that I have got anything from this book that I didn't already have or suspect. He's reinforced some of my opinions without adding to my empherical knowledge to back them. The concept of the individual, individualism if you will, is dominant today, representing a narrow and superficial deformation of the Western idea. Market Capitalism does not guarantee democracy; you can have poor democracies and prosperous dictatorships. Today we are in an unconscious process of masochistic suicide destroying the very substance of our public institutions, institutions which were the products of decades of thought and democratic debate, all in the pursuit of making things more `effective', more `business-like'. . . So according to Saul, and on target IMHO, but what does this all mean? What can we draw from these intermediate conclusions?

He then goes on to describe the crisis that grips the West, which he dates from 1973. Bureaucratic thinking and rationalization continue to manipulate our perceptions, dominate and drive our existence, controlled by what he describes as `Corporatism'. He states,

"the corporatist movement was born in the nineteenth century as an alternative to democracy. It proposed the legitimacy of groups over that of the individual citizen." Pp16-17

Napoleon, Hegel and Bismarck helped the process along by emphasizing rule by elites and adherence to the state. This was all only a lead up to the great

"new all-powerful clockmaker god - the marketplace - and his archangel, technology. Trade is the marketplace's miraculous cure for all that ails us. . . I would suggest that Marxism, fascism and the marketplace strongly resemble each other. They are all corporatist, managerial and hooked on technology as their own particular golden calf." Pp19-20

...Weber warned of the dangers of bureaucracy, of how capitalism mated with ever increasing rationalization and technological innovation would become a very difficult beast to control. He also warned against the subversion of democratic institutions by powerful non-democratic groups with oligarchic tendencies. Saul's view on the triumph of rationalism is also, by the way, influenced by Weber. So instead of damning Weber he should be thanking him. Here we see the tendency so common among US (and Canadian) intellectuals today of putting the blame for their perceived crisis on foreign thinkers (usually German or French) who have some how lead the well-intentioned, but all too trusting North Americans astray. Alan Bloom, on the right, was guilty of the same thing in his The Closing of the American Mind. In all, this tendency represents a mixing up of cause and effect. If you want to look for a foreign culpret, how about the English Utilitarians who put morally accepted self-interest and quest for profit in the service of individual gain above anything else? An attitude that has since then been enthusisatically and uncritically accepted by the mass of American intellectuals.

What is Saul's solution? Persistent public commitment by the citizenry can turn the tables on corporatism. But how, given the power that Saul says the elites have to manipulate and control all the spheres of our existence? What of their ability to define "freedom" in wholly consumerist terms, making it a mere matter of material choice? As long as the US Constitution allows for majority rule, the public will have the last say, but how to mobilize the public, how to educate them as to defending their best interests when the reigns of mass communication are in the hands of the corporatists? How do we make the interests of society take priority over the interests of profit? The moral dilemma in all this is ignored by Saul who distrusts anyone who even mentions it. Unable to follow Nietzsche's lead he stumbles. Nietzsche, alas a foreigner, was also primarily a moralist. Morals are important since they shape the way that we adjust to the struggle for our very existence in an ever more competitive world. While a sense of the spiritual is necessary, the vast bulk of our actions, the reality we must deal with in our every day lives, is economic due to the pervasive market system which is the very air we breathe. It is therefore very much man-made, synthetic, something that has been grafted onto society, not a component of it. Morals are as necessary now as when we lived in small farming communities, since it is by working together, by accepting each others' strengths and weaknesses, by learning to control our own impulses and irrational drives and by accepting the inate worth of each person that we insure not only our own but the survival of our species in the coming hard winter. A, "myth-building" exercise you say, but is it any more a myth than that of "the Market corrects itself and all we need do is trust in it"?

Since the end of the 18th Century we in the West have lost almost every remnant of our pre-Capitalist past. We have forgotten our entire community or social or human-to-human history, we are unable to recall when an action did not infer some sort of self-benefit. We fail to see that the so-called Third World is as we were two hundred years ago. It is not a question of scientific or technological or commercial progress, in the most human sense, but of the maturing and decay of an ideological-based social system.

Saul's main drawback is that he lacks the indepth knowledge of the numerous disciplines necessary for this very complex subject. That and `distance' since he approaches the problem with far too many preconceptions. A much better book in a related subject is Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation. His history of the market economy provides much of the background necessary to illuminate our current situation. Few if any thinkers today have the breadth of knowledge to provide the big picture of our current post-modern situation. Men like Max Weber, who had a encyclopedic knowledge of several wide fields of study no longer walk the earth. Still a much more refined, yet wide view which would include a fuller understanding of social economics, history, political science, sociology, theology and philosophy is necessary in order to get a grip on the tendencies which are slowly eating away our society and threaten to turn us all into what Max Weber described as "a culture of specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart".

Herbert L Calhoun

Wake up and Smell the Oil Wal-Mart Shoppers, August 10, 2005

If the doubling, in less than a year, of the price of oil for no discernable reason (with no end in sight), and with absolutely no reaction from us or our government is not evidence that something is terribly wrong with our collective mind. Then surely an order of magnitude increase in the cost of medical care and prescription drugs, and the quintupling of our health insurance (for those of us who have any), should be.

Or, one might have imagined that the juxtaposition of soaring corporate profits (in these very same areas) with an effective reduction in "actual wages" everywhere else, would also have shaken us from our deep collective slumber?

Or maybe the fact that we have been led into yet another war for no defensible reasons and without either an exit strategy or a fighting plan -- a war whose justifications and rationale keeps changing with each increased attack from the terrorists as our national debt continues to soar -- would have shaken us out of our passivity.

While our government's response to the needs of the "rank-and-file" is increasingly non-existent, or completely ineffectual, and the "managerial class" continues to rob us blind as they laugh all the way to the bank; we are obsessed with the risk of breast implants, abortion rights, hanging the Ten Commandments in the public square, reality shows (that are anything but real), Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, and how to continue to win at the game of "Democrats and Republicans (or liberals and conservatives, or Blacks versus Whites, or males versus females, or pick your own senseless emotional dichotomy)."

But the very best evidence yet of our lack of consciousness and proof that our society is being thrown under the bus while we watch in horror with our eyes wide open, is when the most devastating critique of our own slothfulness is also the sanest, most compassionate and most eloquent.

Saul in this trenchant sanity check of the society that leads the Western World realizes that the time for vitriol and shouting has long since passed. That is why with eloquence, understated passion and with measured but devastating logic and reason (that quality he so distrusts), he has issued a broadside at the foundation stone of what ails our society most: Rampant and immoral Corporatism.

And even though in the end, his prescription for how we are to extricate ourselves from this dilemma is unconvincing, he has laid the necessary groundwork for serious thinking to begin. If "the people" in Western Democracies are ever to regain control of their minds, and then eventually their societies; Saul's ideas in this small volume must inevitably be contended with.

A Customer

Saul is a modern secular prophet!, March 28, 1999

You can add the name John Ralston Saul to those of Noam Chomsky, Ivan Illich, Franz Fanon (and who else?) on your list of the key late 20th century 'global conspiracy theorists' - people who are visionary seers/prophets who have unorthodox views and make outrageous pronouncements on this and that, but with whom you have to broadly agree. Because they operate outside the conventions of fixed ideologies, they're able to see the broader picture, and see more deeply into the nature of things.

The Unconscious Civilization - the 1995 Massey Lectures - was written in an oral style by Canadian freelance intellectual, essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul.

His thesis is disarmingly simple: in the long line of history's totalitarianisms, we can now add undemocratic 'corporatism'.

Our society, he argues, is only superficially based on the individual and democracy.

John Boyd's Art of War

The American Conservative

Off and on for about 20 years, I had the honor of working with the greatest military theorist America ever produced, Col. John Boyd, USAF. As a junior officer, Boyd developed the energy-management tactics now used by every fighter pilot in the world. Later, he influenced the designs of the F-15 and F-16, saving the former from becoming the turkey we are now buying in the F-35 and making the latter the best fighter aircraft on the planet. His magnum opus, a 12-hour briefing titled "Patterns of Conflict," remains a vast mine of military wisdom, one unlikely to be exhausted in this century.

Boyd is best known for coming up with the OODA Loop or Boyd Cycle. He posited that all conflict is composed of repeated, time-competitive cycles of observing, orienting, deciding, and acting. The most important element is orientation: whoever can orient more quickly to a rapidly changing situation acquires a decisive advantage because his slower opponent's actions are too late and therefore irrelevant—as he desperately seeks convergence, he gets ever increasing divergence. At some point, he realizes he can do nothing that works. That usually leads him either to panic or to give up, often while still physically largely intact.

The OODA Loop explains how and why Third Generation maneuver warfare, such as the German Blitzkrieg method, works. It describes exactly what happened to the French in 1940, when Germany defeated what was considered the strongest army on earth in six weeks with only about 27,000 German dead, trifling casualties by World War I standards. The French actually had more and better tanks than the Germans.

It is also a partial explanation for our repeated defeats by Fourth Generation non-state entities. Our many layers of headquarters, large staffs, and centralized decision-making give us a slow OODA Loop compared to opponents whose small size and decentralized command enable a fast one. A Marine officer stationed with our counter-drug traffic effort in Bolivia told me the traffickers went through the Loop 12 times in the time it took us to go through it once. I mentioned that to Colonel Boyd, and he replied, "Then we're not even in the game."

Another of Boyd's contributions to military theory explains more of our failure in recent conflicts. To the traditional levels of war—tactical, operational, and strategic—Boyd added three new ones: physical, mental, and moral. It is useful to think of these as forming a nine-box grid, with tactical, operational, and strategic on one axis and physical, mental, and moral on the other. Our armed forces focus on the single box defined by tactical and physical, where we are vastly superior. But non-state forces focus on the strategic and the moral, where they are often stronger, in part because they represent David confronting Goliath. In war, a higher level trumps a lower, so our repeated victories at the tactical, physical level are negated by our enemies' successes on the strategic and moral levels, and we lose.

Boyd had a reservoir of comments he repeated regularly, one of which was, "A lot of people in Washington talk about strategy. Most of them can spell the word, but that's all they know of it." The establishment's insistence on an offensive grand strategy, where we attempt to force secular liberal democracy down the throats of every people on earth, is a major reason for our involvement and defeat in Fourth Generation conflicts. A defensive grand strategy, which is what this country followed successfully through most of its history, would permit us to fold our enemies back on themselves, something Boyd recommended. With us out of the picture, their internal fissures, such as those between Sunni and Shiites in the Islamic world, would become their focus. But as usual, Boyd was right: virtually no one in Washington can understand the advantages of a defensive grand strategy.

Being involved in every conflict on earth is useful if the real game is boosting the Pentagon's budget rather than serving our national interests. Here too Boyd had a favorite line. He often said, "It is not true the Pentagon has no strategy. It has a strategy, and once you understand what that strategy is, everything the Pentagon does makes sense. The strategy is, don't interrupt the money flow, add to it."

Perhaps Boyd's most frequently uttered warning was, "All closed systems collapse." Both our military and our policy-making civilian elite live in closed systems. Because Second Generation war reduces everything to putting firepower on targets, when we fail against Fourth Generation opponents, the military's only answer is to put more firepower on more targets. Ideas about other ways of waging war are ignored because they do not fit the closed Second Generation paradigm. Meanwhile, Washington cannot consider alternatives to our current foreign policy or grand strategy because anyone who proposes one is immediately exiled from the establishment, as was Boyd himself. It says something about our current condition that the greatest military theorist we ever produced retired as a colonel. At John's funeral in Arlington, which I attended, most of the people in uniform were junior Marine officers. His own service, the Air Force, was barely represented.

John's work was often elegant, but in person he was always the direct, and sometimes crude, fighter pilot. Boyd's favorite, inelegant phrase for defeating one of his many opponents in the Pentagon was "giving him the whole enchilada right up the poop chute." That is what history will shortly give this country if we continue to allow closed systems to lead us. Boyd's work, which is best summarized in Frans Osinga's book Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, could put us on a different course. But learning from Boyd would require open systems in Washington. Perhaps after the establishment collapses, Boyd can help us pick up the pieces.

William S. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook and director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.