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Postmodernism

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Arendt's totalitarianism theory helped to give birth to modern liberal leftism, more specifically, post-modernism, which states that

Alongside post-modernism, there was, at the same time, a rehabilitation of Christianism, as a part of the ideological war against communism/socialism in the Cold War: that meant a tendency to secularism and reason begun to be reversed in the West from the 70s onwards. Such "imbecilization" process is not new: it happened during the decline of the Roman Empire, during the late Severan dinasty and throughout the crisis of the Third Century and progressed with the reforms of Diocletian, reaching its appex with Constantine and Justinian. This period of time saw the economy of Rome collapse, while Christianism flourished.

In a postmodern world in which all all discourses are equally valid regardless of their truth-value, the claims of the ruling class are not exposed for the lies and imbecilities they are. Postmodernism as it actually exists - that is, with a supine media - thus helps to serve a reactionary function. 

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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The informational function of the media would be this to help us forget, to serve as the very agents and mechanism for our historical amnesia.

But in that cast of two features of postmodernism on which I have dwelt here -- the transformation of reality into images, the fragmentation of 'me' into a series of perpetual presents -- are bother extraordinary consolant with this process.

... We have seen that there is a way in which postmodernism replicates or reproduces -- reinforces -- the logic of consumer capitalism.

Frederic Jameson "Postmodernism and Consumer Society

[Nov 06, 2020] Postmodernist, in this context, usually means something like 'based on self-confident assertions that have no connection with reality

Nov 06, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

Gorgonzola Petrovna 10.24.20 at 3:13 pm (
35
)

Postmodernist, in this context, usually means something like 'based on self-confident assertions that have no connection with reality'. Or 'based on truthness '.

[May 14, 2020] Hollowing out the classic culture is what all Postmodernism is about

May 14, 2020 | www.unz.com

Anonymous [339] Disclaimer , says: Show Comment May 14, 2020 at 9:46 am GMT

@Rahan See:
https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=z4FPcXTKh1wC&oi=fnd&pg=PA4&dq=%22van+creveld%22++1996+Paramaters+%22Fate+of+the+State%22&ots=4D9yFjPkyO&sig=z2Hz5-E0Nz9vjv1QEzNFWYrsZck#v=onepage&q=%22van%20creveld%22%20%201996%20Paramaters%20%22Fate%20of%20the%20State%22&f=false

or search Google Scholar for: "van Creveld" Parameters 1996 "Fate of the State"

Classic article, and first mention of the "hollowing out". Current crackdowns are by a government that has lost most real power (e.g. can't even suppress retail theft and has given up by making it legal), and is trying to get public submission again by over-enforcing quarantine / isolation rules. The facade of even this level of control is cracking. The problem is not an overly controlling government, it is of a government that lacks legitimacy even from its supporters (one doesn't hear POC or even the Jewish establishments praising the American form of government, even when they control it; none of them regard it as legitimate. That's what Postmodernism, for example, is about.

[Apr 16, 2020] Postmodernism is a philosophical perspective that developed in the late twentieth century, having its sources in earlier philosophers such as Nietzsche and Heidegger, both of whom cut away at the notion of a stable, "objective" truth, the kind we use in everyday life and in science.

Apr 16, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

lizard , Apr 15 2020 18:46 utc | 15

@Lozion

Gladly. The book makes an interesting comparison between New Thought writers like Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote a book in 1952 titled The Power of Positive Thinking, and those who practice chaos magick. Both operate under the principle that there is real power to effect one's environment through directing one's will, manifesting what you want if your belief and willpower is strong enough (Peale had a big influence on Trump's dad and Trump himself).

This concept is like meth to a malignant narcissist .

the author also discusses how post-modernism fits in to creating the condition we have today. here's an excerpt:

Postmodernism is a philosophical perspective that developed in the late twentieth century, having its sources in earlier philosophers such as Nietzsche and Heidegger, both of whom cut away at the notion of a stable, "objective" truth, the kind we use in everyday life and in science. Simply put, the essence of postmodernism -- although it would deny that it has an "essence"--can be summed up in the phrase "anything goes." For postmodernism the kind of scientific, rational certainties that built the modern world, as well as traditional values such as truth, no longer apply; at least they are seen to be much less certain than was believed.

Well before it became a political buzzword, postmodernism knew all about being "post-truth," and was aware of the "alternative facts" and "fake news" that accompany that condition.

It could even be said that postmodernism and related schools like deconstructionism prepared the ground for the epistemological skepticism pervading western consciousness today, which Trump both abets and profits by.

Rarified notions of a pliant, flexible, relative "truth" trickled down from the metaphysical heights, and infected the popular mind with what the philosopher Paul Ricoeur called the "hermeneutics of suspicion," a kind of cynical nihilism that we take for granted as part of everyday life, and which Nietzsche, more than a century ago, predicted was on its way. Hence our conspiracy ridden world, to which Trump himself contributes.

For postmodernism, the dictum "Nothing is true, everything is permitted," attributed to Hasan bin Sabbah, "the Old Man of the Mountain," leader of the ancient Islamic sect of Ismailis called the Hashashin, or Assassins, is taken as given. The same goes for chaos magick.

[Mar 03, 2020] The neoliberals' cultural stock is in decline. caucus99percent

Notable quotes:
"... The eventual point of neoliberalism, then, is to exalt markets above people -- for the neoliberals, people are expendable but markets are superior. ..."
"... Postmodernism can give neoliberalism a cultural core ..."
"... The incubator regime for neoliberalism, as numerous authors have pointed out, was the regime in Chile under the dictatorial junta headed by Augusto Pinochet, beginning on the real September 11th, in 1973. The Department of Economics at the University of Chicago , the epicenter of neoliberal thought in America, was brought in to help Pinochet devise policy. Please keep in mind that neoliberals do not care one whit about democracy as long as the resultant regimes respect capitalism, and they're also okay with high death tolls for the same reason. Neoliberalism is a death culture. You live if you have money or if you have access to the government which invents money and forces you to use it. ..."
Mar 03, 2020 | caucus99percent.com

The neoliberals' cultural stock is in decline.

Cassiodorus on Sun, 03/01/2020 - 5:00pm The neoliberals' cultural stuck is in decline. When they had that suave dude Barack Obama telling everyone he was like Gandhi or Mandela, that was totally a thing. Cultural neoliberalism was rockin' da house as every branch of government, both state and Federal, was being awarded to Republicans . Then they put all of their eggs in the Hillary Clinton basket, waging a rather nasty campaign to get everyone to step in line while Clinton was and is very much about money and about the society of her John Birch Society daddy. (She and Bill did make great-looking hippies in the Sixties though, but you only see that in old photos.) Vote for her because Trump is Hitler or something.

Now they have what? Pete Buttigieg, who is smarter than you and who reeks insincerity from every pore of his skin as he delivers wooden imitations of Obama speeches? Michael Bloomberg, who brags about what he can buy? Grandpa Joe Biden, with initial-stage dementia? Hallmark card cop Amy Klobuchar, who will work with Republicans while helping maybe five or six people as she promised? Elizabeth "I'm in it for me" Warren? It's not like these people come naturally to cultural efflorescence -- they, after all, ran John Kerry, Al Gore, and Michael Dukakis -- but this has got to be a new low for them, expanding the field to twenty-plus candidates only to find themselves facing Super Tuesday with only this.

Philosophically, neoliberalism is a form of antihumanism . In an article in "American Affairs" (which I suggest you all read from beginning to end) the economist Philip Mirowski suggests several principles common to neoliberal thought. I'll just post one through four so as not to freak anyone out while making the point just as effectively:

(1) "Free" markets do not occur naturally. They must be actively constructed through political organizing.

(2) "The market" is an information processor, and the most efficient one possible -- more efficient than any government or any single human ever could be. Truth can only be validated by the market.

(3) Market society is, and therefore should be, the natural and inexorable state of humankind.

(4) The political goal of neoliberals is not to destroy the state, but to take control of it, and to redefine its structure and function, in order to create and maintain the market-friendly culture.

This then, is the core of neoliberal culture. The eventual point of neoliberalism, then, is to exalt markets above people -- for the neoliberals, people are expendable but markets are superior. It took a rabid nationalist like Donald Trump to end the war in Afghanistan , whereas faithful neoliberal Barack Obama kept the war around because it provided "markets" for weapons corporations. Neoliberals hate Bernie Sanders because he wants to get rid of some of the markets for health insurance -- as long as people are buying health insurance, the neoliberals don't care if anyone dies because they can't afford to use it.

... ... ...

Neoliberalism has been the dominant doctrine throughout the world's universities since the Eighties. Academic vogues such as "postmodernism" can serve as Trojan Horse concepts for hegemonic neoliberalism. Postmodernism, to own a definition, is an aesthetic concept involving the juxtaposition of radically differing aesthetic concepts and celebrating surface observations over "deeper meanings." The postmodern essence of visual art is in collage; the postmodern musical form is the medley. Postmodernism is innocuous when it combines medieval architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright, or when it combines classical music with rock and roll. Neoliberalism, however, sees in postmodernism a market, something to create new products and separate people from their money. Postmodernism can give neoliberalism a cultural core .

Postmodernism is what is behind Pete Buttigieg's assertion that people do not have to choose between revolution and the status quo . (Trust me, he's been to universities .) We just combine them in some kind of postmodern market. Never mind that such an idea eviscerates the concept of revolution.

The incubator regime for neoliberalism, as numerous authors have pointed out, was the regime in Chile under the dictatorial junta headed by Augusto Pinochet, beginning on the real September 11th, in 1973. The Department of Economics at the University of Chicago , the epicenter of neoliberal thought in America, was brought in to help Pinochet devise policy. Please keep in mind that neoliberals do not care one whit about democracy as long as the resultant regimes respect capitalism, and they're also okay with high death tolls for the same reason. Neoliberalism is a death culture. You live if you have money or if you have access to the government which invents money and forces you to use it.

The task of replacing neoliberalism with something else will be a daunting one. Neoliberals rule the planet today. It appears at this point that our primary weapon is the fact that the neoliberals don't really have any specific culture; instead, they speculate in culture for the sake of the fetishes of markets and money and property through which they destroy the planet, us, and ultimately themselves.

[Feb 27, 2020] Who Cares About the Truth by MICHAEL P. LYNCH

From the issue dated September 10, 2004 by MICHAEL P. LYNCH<
Notable quotes:
"... To paraphrase Nietzsche, the truth may be good, but why not sometimes take untruth if it gets you where you want to go? ..."
"... These are important questions. At the end of the day, is it always better to believe and speak the truth? Does the truth itself really matter? While generalizing is always dangerous, the above responses to the Iraq affair indicate that many Americans would look at such questions with a jaundiced eye. We are rather cynical about the value of truth. ..."
"... what we call truth is just another name for power. ..."
Sep 10, 2004 | Free Republic

In early 2003 President Bush claimed that Iraq was attempting to purchase the materials necessary to build nuclear weapons. Although White House officials subsequently admitted they lacked adequate evidence to believe that was true, various members of the administration dismissed the issue, noting that the important thing was that the subsequent invasion of Iraq achieved stability of the region and the liberation of the country.

Many Americans apparently agreed. After all, there were other reasons to depose the Hussein regime. And the belief that Iraq was an imminent nuclear threat had rallied us together and provided an easy justification to doubters of the nobility of our cause. So what if it wasn't really true?

To many, it seemed naοve to worry about something as abstract as the truth or falsity of our claims when we could concern ourselves with the things that really mattered -- such as protecting ourselves from terrorism and ensuring our access to oil.

To paraphrase Nietzsche, the truth may be good, but why not sometimes take untruth if it gets you where you want to go?

These are important questions. At the end of the day, is it always better to believe and speak the truth? Does the truth itself really matter? While generalizing is always dangerous, the above responses to the Iraq affair indicate that many Americans would look at such questions with a jaundiced eye. We are rather cynical about the value of truth.

Politics isn't the only place that one finds this sort of skepticism. A similar attitude is commonplace among some of our most prominent intellectuals. Indeed, under the banner of postmodernism, cynicism about truth and related notions like objectivity and knowledge has become the semiofficial philosophical stance of many academic disciplines. Roughly speaking, the attitude is that objective truth is an illusion and what we call truth is just another name for power.

Consequently, if truth is valuable at all, it is valuable -- as power is -- merely as means.

[Feb 27, 2020] The Incoherence of the Philosophers The Horror of Postmodernism by The Liberal Moonbat

Notable quotes:
"... The rundown is that a pseudointellectual retreat from rationalism invited its well-deserved ridicule too late, and may have been responsible for the needless and terrible demise of a great world civilization's halcyon era, for which the whole world suffers to this day. We need to learn from that. ..."
"... If you're wondering why you're suddenly being barraged with Orwellian jargon, charged with crimethink, seeing the issues you've been harping on for years suddenly turned against you as though you've never even heard of them, get aggressively assigned identities you've never had in your life and told that the person you've always been can't possibly exist, and that the consensus, however flawed and incomplete, of the past 50 years on many hard-fought issues is quite suddenly being treated as though it was all a nefarious lie (a la 9/11-flashback), here's the root of who and what to blame: ..."
"... "Postmodernism" as sociology, on the other hand, with its denial of the very existence of the individual, and obscene redefinitions of such sacred words as "Justice", is just all but explicitly totalitarian, and would have us believe that the entire 20th Century, with all its hard-fought, bitter-bought victories and miracles, was all for nothing. ..."
"... I don't think the establishment Democrats - spineless, capitalist, militarist, insular, and ultimately authoritarian - deserve to be let anywhere near the label "liberal". ..."
Apr 16, 2018 | caucus99percent.com
The title of this bit here refers to an 11th-Century work of Islamic theology, explained here: https://existentialcomics.com/comic/126

The rundown is that a pseudointellectual retreat from rationalism invited its well-deserved ridicule too late, and may have been responsible for the needless and terrible demise of a great world civilization's halcyon era, for which the whole world suffers to this day. We need to learn from that.

Everyone here needs to be aware of this, I'm afraid: The modern Western equivalent of The Incoherence . It explains so, so much.

If you're wondering why you're suddenly being barraged with Orwellian jargon, charged with crimethink, seeing the issues you've been harping on for years suddenly turned against you as though you've never even heard of them, get aggressively assigned identities you've never had in your life and told that the person you've always been can't possibly exist, and that the consensus, however flawed and incomplete, of the past 50 years on many hard-fought issues is quite suddenly being treated as though it was all a nefarious lie (a la 9/11-flashback), here's the root of who and what to blame:

https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-...

The fact that institutions of higher learning have been coddling this for so long, despite the special treatment it could not survive without, and despite the fact that it bears the mantle and exploits the public clout of science, education, liberalism, and diversity, just to destroy all those things, is particularly shameful. They might as well allow Dianetics as a legitimate alternative to psychology.

Below is what I personally maintain is the Greatest Political Cartoon In American History. Though it refers to only one issue, it elegantly explains nearly everything wrong with American political thought.

Liberal Moonbat on Sun, 04/15/2018 - 7:20am

That Helen Pluckrose piece is pretty funny. Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself .

When in doubt, scream and shout, run around in circles, and panic! Uh-huh. Postmodernism was the solution to an academic problem which arose in the Eighties with the proliferation of Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in the humanities. Nobody wanted to read another thesis or dissertation on Shakespeare, and all of the academic work had to be strictly original and pass increasingly onerous originality tests of the type employed by turnitin.com . Meanwhile the authors had to write these damn things if they were to receive diplomas and move on to teaching jobs. Postmodernism to the rescue! Postmodernism as such was an aesthetic movement, revealing with drab uniformity the juxtaposition of everything in an era in which everything was a commodity. Postmodernism is the Hamburger Helper of the academic humanities, a solution to a purely practical matter.

But Pluckrose continues to panic. Here she is characterizing the postmodern perspective:

Therefore the author of a text is not the authority on its meaning.

So? Perhaps Pluckrose needs to read more undergraduate papers, in which their authors evoke an eternal authorial struggle. "Say what you mean!" my teacherly red ink continually shouts at these undergraduates. Of course this is a problem when one's undergraduates write run-on sentences or sentence fragments. But does anyone really say what they mean? I suppose we can at least try harder. Meanwhile original meanings get lost in the procession of history. A prima facie example of this is "originalism" in Constitutional jurisprudence, which claims ultimate reliance on an "original meaning" of the Constitution -- you know, that one and only one original meaning the Founders intended. Never mind that said Founders were walking contradictions. Take for instance Thomas Jefferson, that eloquent waxer upon the virtues of freedom. Now ask Sally Hemings about him.

Let's skip to Pluckrose's conclusion:

In order to regain credibility, the Left needs to recover a strong, coherent and reasonable liberalism.

I don't see why. How about if we figure out what sort of utopian dream would be appropriate for our world in our day and age, and then decide afterward if we want to call it "liberalism"? Isn't the point of the "science" which Pluckrose regards so highly to put the conclusion at the end of one's research, rather than at the beginning?

I could go on, but this is long enough for a comment in a diary. up 0 users have voted. --

"The only possible good outcome for most Americans is a Sanders win. No other path leads anywhere decent." -- Ian Welsh

The Liberal Moonbat on Sun, 04/15/2018 - 12:49pm

"Postmodernism" may not be the ideal term

@Cassiodorus

Postmodernism to the rescue! Postmodernism as such was an aesthetic movement, revealing with drab uniformity the juxtaposition of everything in an era in which everything was a commodity.

That's a different kind of "Postmodernism" altogether, the kind associated with (if I'm not mistaken) such Chaotic gems as MAD Magazine, Monty Python, The Far Side , and the vibrant, innovative weirdness of a wide array of 1990s art, literature, and pop culture. My very bones are built on such things.

There's also "postmodern architecture", best known for being boring (my mother has been known to call it "post-architecture").

This, though? This is something entirely anathema. The aesthetic we call "postmodern" is liberating and innovative (at least as long as it stays in the hands of people who "get it"); it teaches that there are no rules, that life is a strange and beautiful carnival, that we can be whatever we want to be, and the world can be whatever we want it to be.

"Postmodernism" as sociology, on the other hand, with its denial of the very existence of the individual, and obscene redefinitions of such sacred words as "Justice", is just all but explicitly totalitarian, and would have us believe that the entire 20th Century, with all its hard-fought, bitter-bought victories and miracles, was all for nothing.

Cassiodorus on Sun, 04/15/2018 - 6:26pm
Let me briefly suggest here --

@The Liberal Moonbat @The Liberal Moonbat that it is "liberalism" itself that has run out of gas.

At any rate, to deal with the objections to postmodernism: it's a performative contradiction to be an academic writing against the idea of the individual, for higher-level academia exists to adorn the resumes of self-proclaimed individuals. I just don't see postmodernism, of whatever kind you care to distinguish, as anything but harmless, useless, and pointless outside of its obvious role in contributing to the resume-building efforts of professors in the humanities, and I haven't seen anything here to change my mind about that.

Rather, the problem is that the liberals have run out of new mechanisms whereby the liberal utopia might bear fruit. The liberal trend peaked a long time ago. And, in the meantime, liberal objections to the neoliberal utopia, the utopia of total market existence for everyone as enforced by government diktat, have become toothless. In the US context the liberals appear either blind to or despairing of the fact that the best they had for politics was Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and that their hero Bernie Sanders nullified himself by endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the French contest the best they had was Macron. I suppose that there are a few islands of sanity elsewhere. But liberalism does not contribute substantially to the longevity of such islands.

The Liberal Moonbat on Sun, 04/15/2018 - 4:42pm
That turns us to the definition of "liberalism", then

@Cassiodorus To me it just means...well, kind of just being a good, intelligent, and independent-minded person who learns from history and builds on it. If, as I've read the claim, "conservatism is the negation of ideology", I'd venture to describe liberalism as the absence of externally-derived ideology.

I don't think the establishment Democrats - spineless, capitalist, militarist, insular, and ultimately authoritarian - deserve to be let anywhere near the label "liberal".

Cassiodorus on Sun, 04/15/2018 - 6:57pm
Well the postcapitalists are "good, intelligent, and independent-minded" people who "learn from history and build on it."

@The Liberal Moonbat

The difference, of course, is that the postcapitalists want to jettison capitalism whereas most of the liberals want to "build on it."

"A well-regulated capitalism," they tell us, is the way to go, because history declares "Communism" anathema. Now perhaps not all liberals agree with this well-recited dogma, but its primary problem is that it does not touch capitalism's commodification of everything including governments. Thus liberals who believe in this dogma claim that they seek the best-possible accommodation with capitalism, and "well-regulated" means "regulated enough to look good." Politicians with the endorsement of liberals must keep the air and water clean in areas where the residents are rich enough to buy politicians.

Now of course the liberals will protest this characterization of them, proclaiming once again that they are "good, intelligent, and independent-minded." But where can they be seen imagining the world after capitalism? Kim Stanley Robinson at least tries:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/164911428?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

Kim Stanley Robinson, Keynote from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo .

The Liberal Moonbat on Mon, 04/16/2018 - 11:41am
Having formally studied economics I've come away with the conclusion that the very concept is, at best, nothing more than a kind of subtopic of history, and at worst, outright pseudoscience, if not religion.

@Cassiodorus

My attitude has since spread to much of the rest of that which bills itself as "social science" - sociology's one thing, of course, and so is modern psychology, having dumped Freud, but I think the notion of "social science" is finally revealing itself to mostly be just another disastrous 19th-Century conceit. Free will is kryptonite to science. "The economy", "society", "culture", people labor under these things because they believe they're unavoidably real, but it's really all just a game , and the rules can be almost whatever we want them to be.

You can try to make anything into a "science" - but not everything can or should. Case in point: After World War II, the Soviet Union decided that military strategy and tactics were a science, and that it had natural laws or whatever that could be honed to the same degree of precision as the laws of physics; with time, they believed, they'd be able to predict the outcome of a battle before a single shot had been fired. This "science" crashed and burned when they invaded Afghanistan.

As to the question of "what do we replace capitalism with?", my honest answer is: Nothing. Stop believing in "economics", and just do what makes sense based on situational necessity and a long-term vision of what we want. A "mixed economy" like those of Norway, 1970s Britain, or (arguably) New Deal America is really just an economy that has broken free of the religion of "economics," and plays by its own, common sense/common morality rules. The best economic policy MO I've ever heard of is Finland's: "Let's do what makes our people HAPPY!" (I read a dandy article about that a while back, but I can't seem to find it now).

travelerxxx on Mon, 04/16/2018 - 5:22pm
Like to read that...

@The Liberal Moonbat

The best economic policy MO I've ever heard of is Finland's: "Let's do what makes our people HAPPY!" (I read a dandy article about that a while back, but I can't seem to find it now).

TLM, if you recall that article, I'd be interested in reading it. You can shoot me a PM here.

arendt on Mon, 04/16/2018 - 3:57pm
Interesting, if overly long, talk by KSR

@Cassiodorus

I have seen his books for a long time, but never was that interested. Now that I know he is a politically active sci-fi writer - who is not a screaming libertarian fuckhead like Neal Stephenson or Vernor Vinge - I will pick up one of his books.

He says some very radical things (nationalize the banks, end austerity, stop burning fossil fuels), but he does so in such a droning, sophorific manner that you don't quite appreciate how extreme his stance is. Perhaps that is an intentional tactic.

Anyway, thanks for linking the video.

on the cusp on Sun, 04/15/2018 - 11:32am
I recently visited UAE.

I enjoyed a museum visit in Sharza, where one section of the complex had displays of incredible scientific contributions I had never associated with this part of the world.

When I left that section, everything became examples and displays of Islam. Korans, proper clothing, a few weapons. Thinking back, the science section pre-dated this philosopher.

I saw his influence, just didn't know it until today. Very interesting essay.

Azazello on Sun, 04/15/2018 - 2:21pm
Former philosophy major here.

I never could understand Postmodernism. Is this because I am a white male or because I find Enlightenment concepts more coherent and more useful in my everyday life and politics ?

Whatever, I remain happily stuck in the late 18th century.

Good to see a mention of Alan Sokal in the linked article.

MrWebster on Mon, 04/16/2018 - 12:05pm
What I remember about Shakespeare in college

And other literature courses was that the classes were about the schools of literary criticism on Shakespeare, rather than about the students doing a close reading of Shakespeare. And then of course, critiques on the schools of literary criticism.

[Nov 04, 2019] Postmodernism The Ideological Embellishment of Neoliberalism by Vaska

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Robert Pfaller: Until the late 1970s, all "Western" (capitalist) governments, right or left, pursued a Keynesian economic policy of state investment and deficit spending. (Even Richard Nixon is said to have once, in the early 1970ies, stated, "We are all Keynesians"). This lead to a considerable decrease of inequality in Western societies in the first three decades after WWII, as the numbers presented by Thomas Piketty and Branko Milanovic in their books prove. Apparently, it was seen as necessary to appease Western workers with high wages and high employment rates in order to prevent them from becoming communists. ..."
"... Whenever the social-democratic left came into power, for example with Tony Blair, or Gerhard Schroeder, they proved to be the even more radical neoliberal reformers. As a consequence, leftist parties did not have an economic alternative to what their conservative and liberal opponents offered. Thus they had to find another point of distinction. This is how the left became "cultural" (while, of course, ceasing to be a "left"): from now on the marks of distinction were produced by all kinds of concerns for minorities or subaltern groups. And instead of promoting economic equality and equal rights for all groups, the left now focused on symbolic "recognition" and "visibility" for these groups. ..."
"... Thus not only all economic and social concerns were sacrificed for the sake of sexual and ethnic minorities, but even the sake of these minorities itself. Since a good part of the problem of these groups was precisely economic, social and juridical, and not cultural or symbolic. And whenever you really solve a problem of a minority group, the visibility of this group decreases. But by insisting on the visibility of these groups, the policies of the new pseudo-left succeded at making the problems of these groups permanent – and, of course, at pissing off many other people who started to guess that the concern for minorities was actually just a pretext for pursuing a most brutal policy of increasing economic inequality. ..."
"... The connection to neoliberalism is the latter's totalitarian contention of reducing the entirety of human condition into a gender-neutral cosmopolitan self expressing nondescript market preferences in a conceptual vacuum, a contention celebrated by its ideologues as "liberation" and "humanism" despite its inherent repression and inhumanity. ..."
"... "..'identity politics,' which pretty much encapsulate the central concerns of what these days is deemed to represent what little of the 'left' survives, plays into the hands of the neoliberal ruling establishment(s), because at bottom it is a 'politics' that has been emptied of all that is substantively political.." ..."
"... Agreed. And the truth is that the message is much clearer than that of the critics, below. So it ought to be for the world, sliding into fascism, in which we live in might have been baked by the neo-liberals but it was iced by 57 varieties of Blairites . The cowards who flinched led by the traitors who sneered. ..."
"... 'identity politics,' which pretty much encapsulate the central concerns of what these days is deemed to represent what little of the 'left' survives, plays into the hands of the neoliberal ruling establishment(s), because at bottom it is a 'politics' that has been emptied of all that is substantively political, namely, the fight for an equitable production and distribution of goods, both material and cultural, ensuring a decent life for all. ..."
"... Why bother getting your hands dirty with an actual worker's struggle when you can write yet another glamorously "radical" critique of the latest Hollywood blockbuster (which in truth just ends up as another advert for it)? ..."
"... The One Per Cent saw an opportunity of unlimited exploitation and they ran with it. They're still running (albeit in jets and yachts) and us Proles are either struggling or crawling. Greed is neither Left or Right. It exists for its own self gratification. ..."
"... Actually, post-modernism doesn't include everybody -- just the 'marginalized' and 'disenfranchised' minorities whom Michel Foucault championed. The whole thing resembles nothing so much as the old capitalist strategy of playing off the Lumpenproletariat against the proletariat, to borrow the original Marxist terminology. ..."
"... if you don't mind me asking, exactly at what point do you feel capitalism was restored in the USSR? It was, I take it, with the first Five Year Plan, not the NEP? ..."
"... Also, the Socialist or, to use your nomenclature, "Stalinist" system, that was destroyed in the the USSR in the 1990s–it was, in truth, just one form of capitalism replaced by another form of capitalism? ..."
OffGuardian
Robert Pfaller interviewed by Kamran Baradaran, via ILNA
The ruling ideology since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even earlier, is postmodernism. This is the ideological embellishment that the brutal neoliberal attack on Western societies' welfare (that was launched in the late 1970s) required in order to attain a "human", "liberal" and "progressive" face.

Robert Pfaller is one of the most distinguished figures in today's radical Left. He teaches at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria. He is a founding member of the Viennese psychoanalytic research group 'stuzzicadenti'.

Pfaller is the author of books such as On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners , Interpassivity: The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment , among others. Below is the ILNA's interview with this authoritative philosopher on the Fall of Berlin Wall and "Idea of Communism".

ILNA: What is the role of "pleasure principle" in a world after the Berlin Wall? What role does the lack of ideological dichotomy, which unveils itself as absent of a powerful left state, play in dismantling democracy?

Robert Pfaller: Until the late 1970s, all "Western" (capitalist) governments, right or left, pursued a Keynesian economic policy of state investment and deficit spending. (Even Richard Nixon is said to have once, in the early 1970ies, stated, "We are all Keynesians"). This lead to a considerable decrease of inequality in Western societies in the first three decades after WWII, as the numbers presented by Thomas Piketty and Branko Milanovic in their books prove. Apparently, it was seen as necessary to appease Western workers with high wages and high employment rates in order to prevent them from becoming communists.

Ironically one could say that it was precisely Western workers who profited considerably of "real existing socialism" in the Eastern European countries.

At the very moment when the "threat" of real existing socialism was not felt anymore, due to the Western economic and military superiority in the 1980ies (that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall), the economic paradigm in the Western countries shifted. All of a sudden, all governments, left or right, pursued a neoliberal economic policy (of privatization, austerity politics, the subjection of education and health sectors under the rule of profitability, liberalization of regulations for the migration of capital and cheap labour, limitation of democratic sovereignty, etc.).

Whenever the social-democratic left came into power, for example with Tony Blair, or Gerhard Schroeder, they proved to be the even more radical neoliberal reformers. As a consequence, leftist parties did not have an economic alternative to what their conservative and liberal opponents offered. Thus they had to find another point of distinction. This is how the left became "cultural" (while, of course, ceasing to be a "left"): from now on the marks of distinction were produced by all kinds of concerns for minorities or subaltern groups. And instead of promoting economic equality and equal rights for all groups, the left now focused on symbolic "recognition" and "visibility" for these groups.

Thus not only all economic and social concerns were sacrificed for the sake of sexual and ethnic minorities, but even the sake of these minorities itself. Since a good part of the problem of these groups was precisely economic, social and juridical, and not cultural or symbolic. And whenever you really solve a problem of a minority group, the visibility of this group decreases. But by insisting on the visibility of these groups, the policies of the new pseudo-left succeded at making the problems of these groups permanent – and, of course, at pissing off many other people who started to guess that the concern for minorities was actually just a pretext for pursuing a most brutal policy of increasing economic inequality.

ILNA: The world after the Berlin Wall is mainly considered as post-ideological. Does ideology has truly decamped from our world or it has only taken more perverse forms? On the other hand, many liberals believe that our world today is based on the promise of happiness. In this sense, how does capitalism promotes itself on the basis of this ideology?

Robert Pfaller: The ruling ideology since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even earlier, is postmodernism. This is the ideological embellishment that the brutal neoliberal attack on Western societies' welfare (that was launched in the late 1970s) required in order to attain a "human", "liberal" and "progressive" face. This coalition between an economic policy that serves the interest of a tiny minority, and an ideology that appears to "include" everybody is what Nancy Fraser has aptly called "progressive neoliberalism". It consists of neoliberalism, plus postmodernism as its ideological superstructure.

The ideology of postmodernism today has some of its most prominent symptoms in the omnipresent concern about "discrimination" (for example, of "people of color") and in the resentment against "old, white men". This is particularly funny in countries like Germany: since, of course, there has been massive racism and slavery in Germany in the 20th century – yet the victims of this racism and slavery in Germany have in the first place been white men (Jews, communists, Gypsies, red army prisoners of war, etc.).

Here it is most obvious that a certain German pseudo-leftism does not care for the real problems of this society, but prefers to import some of the problems that US-society has to deal with. As Louis Althusser has remarked, ideology always consists in trading in your real problems for the imaginary problems that you would prefer to have.

The general ideological task of postmodernism is to present all existing injustice as an effect of discrimination. This is, of course, funny again: Since every discrimination presupposes an already established class structure of inequality. If you do not have unequal places, you cannot distribute individuals in a discriminating way, even if you want to do so. Thus progressive neoliberalism massively increases social inequality, while distributing all minority groups in an "equal" way over the unequal places.


MASTER OF UNIVE

Abbreviate & reduce to lowest common denominator which is hyperinflation by today's standards given that we are indeed all Keynesians now that leveraged debt no longer suffices to prop Wall Street up. Welcome to the New World Disorder. Screw 'postmodernism' & Chicago School 'neoliberalism'!

MOU

Danubium
There is no such thing as "post-modernism". The derided fad is an organic evolution of the ideologies of "modernity" and the "Enlightenment", and represents the logical conclusion of their core premise: the "enlightened self" as the source of truth instead of the pre-modern epistemologies of divine revelation, tradition and reason.

It does not represent any "liberation" from restrictive thought, as the "self" can only ever be "enlightened" by cult-like submission to dogma or groupthink that gives tangible meaning to the intangible buzzword, its apparent relativism is a product of social detachment of the intellectual class and its complete and utter apathy towards the human condition.

The connection to neoliberalism is the latter's totalitarian contention of reducing the entirety of human condition into a gender-neutral cosmopolitan self expressing nondescript market preferences in a conceptual vacuum, a contention celebrated by its ideologues as "liberation" and "humanism" despite its inherent repression and inhumanity.

The trend is not to successor or opponent, but rather modernism itself in its degenerative, terminal stage.

Monobazeus
Well said
bevin
"..'identity politics,' which pretty much encapsulate the central concerns of what these days is deemed to represent what little of the 'left' survives, plays into the hands of the neoliberal ruling establishment(s), because at bottom it is a 'politics' that has been emptied of all that is substantively political.."

Agreed. And the truth is that the message is much clearer than that of the critics, below. So it ought to be for the world, sliding into fascism, in which we live in might have been baked by the neo-liberals but it was iced by 57 varieties of Blairites . The cowards who flinched led by the traitors who sneered.

Norman Pilon
So cutting through all of the verbiage, the upshot of Pfaller's contentions seems to be that 'identity politics,' which pretty much encapsulate the central concerns of what these days is deemed to represent what little of the 'left' survives, plays into the hands of the neoliberal ruling establishment(s), because at bottom it is a 'politics' that has been emptied of all that is substantively political, namely, the fight for an equitable production and distribution of goods, both material and cultural, ensuring a decent life for all.

Difficult not to agree.

For indeed, "If you do not have unequal places, you cannot distribute individuals in a discriminating way, even if you want to do so."

Capricornia Man
You've nailed it, Norman. In many countries, the left's obsession with identity politics has driven class politics to the periphery of its concerns, which is exactly where the neoliberals want it to be. It's why the working class just isn't interested.
Martin Usher
It must be fun to sit on top of the heap watching the great unwashed squabbling over the crumbs.
Red Allover
The world needs another put down of postmodern philosophy like it needs a Bob Dylan album of Sinatra covers . . .
maxine chiu
I'm glad the article was short .I don't think I'm stupid but too much pseudo-intellectualism makes me fall asleep.
Tim Jenkins
Lol, especially when there are some galling glaring errors within " too much pseudo-intellectualism "

Thanks for the laugh, maxine,

Let them stew & chew (chiu) on our comments 🙂

Bootlyboob
As with any use of an -ism though, you need sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to using 'postmodernism'. Do you mean Baudrillard and Delueze? or do you mean some dirty cunt like Bernard Henri-Levy. There is a bit of a difference.
Bootlyboob
Ok, so Levi is not really a postmodernist. But still, there are philosphers of postmodernism that were, and still are, worth reading.
BigB
Postmodernism: what is it? I defy anyone to give a coherent and specific definition. Not least, because the one 'Classical Liberal' philosopher who did – Stephen Hicks – used the term as a blanket commodification of all post-Enlightenment thought starting with Rousseau's Romanticism. So PoMo has pre-Modern roots? When the left start playing broad and wide with political philosophical categories too – grafting PoMo onto post-Classical roots as a seeming post-Berlin Wall emergence what actually is being said? With such a depth and breadth of human inquiry being commodified as 'PoMo' – arguably, nothing useful.

Neoliberalism is Classic Liberalism writ large. The basic unit of Classicism is an individuated, independent, intentional, individual identitarianism as an atom of the rational ('moral') market and its self-maximising agency. Only, the 'Rights of Man' and the 'Social Contract' have been transfered from the Person (collectively: "We the People " as a the democratic sovereign power) to the Corporation as the new 'Neo-Classicist' supranational sovereign. Fundamentally, nothing has changed.

As pointed out below: this was already well underway by November 1991 – as a structural-function of the burgeoning Euromarkets. These were themselves on the rise as the largest source of global capital *before* the Nixon Shock in 1971. There is an argument to be made that they actually caused the abandoning of Breton Woods and the Gold Standard. Nonetheless, 1991 is a somewhat arbitrary date for the transition from 'High Modernity' to 'PostModernity'. Philosophers. political, and social scientists – as Wittgenstein pointed out – perhaps are victims of their own commodification and naming crisis? Don't get me started on 'post-Humanism' but what does PoMo actually mean?

As the article hints at: the grafting of some subjectivist single rights issues to the ultra-objectivist core market rationality of neoliberalism is an intentional character masking. Even the 'neoliberal CNS' (central nervous system) of the WEF admits to four distinct phases of globalisation. The current 'Globalisation 4.0' – concurrent with the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' – is a further development of this quasi-subjectivist propagandic ploy. Globalisation is now humanist, sovereigntist, environmentalist, and technologist (technocratic). Its ultimate *telos* is 'fully automated luxury communism' or the harmoniousness of man and nature under an ecolological *Tianxia* the sustainable 'Ecological Civilisation'. Which, I would hope, absolutely nobody is gullible enough to believe?

Who says the leopard cannot change its spots? It can, and indeed does. Neoliberalism is a big-data micromarketing driven technocratic engine of reproduction tailored to the identitarian individual. PoMo – in one sense – is thus the logical extremisation of Classical Liberalism which is happening within the Classical Liberal tradition. It is certainly not a successor state or 'Fourth Political Theory' which is one of the few things Aleksandr Dugin gets right.

This is why the term needs defintion and precisification or, preferably, abandoning. If both the left and right bandy the term around as a eupehemism for what either does not like – the term can only be a noun of incoherence. Much like 'antisemitism': it becomes a negative projection of all undesirable effects onto the 'Other'. Which, when either end of the political spectrum nihilates the Other leaves us with the vicious dehumanisation of the 'traditional' identitarian fascist centre. All binary arguments using shared synthetic terminology – that are plastic in meaning depending on who is using the term – cancel each other out.

Of which, much of which is objectified and commodified as 'PoMo' was a reaction against. A reaction that anticipated the breakdown of the identitarian and sectarian 'technological postmodern' society. So how can that logically be a 'reaction against' and an 'embelishment to' neoliberalism'?

This is not a mere instance of pedantry: I/we are witnessing the decoherence of language due to an extremisation of generalisation and abstraction of sense and meaning. That meaning is deferred is a post-structuralist tenet: but one that proceeds from the extreme objectivisation of language (one to one mapping of meaning as the analytical signified/signifier relationship) and the mathematicisation of logic (post-Fregian 'meta-ontology') not its subjectivisation.

If PoMo means anything: it is a rich and authentic vein of human inquiry that was/is a creative attempt to rescue us from a pure objectivist Hell (David Ray Griffin's "positive postmodernism"). One that was/is not entirely satisfactory; merely because it has not yet completed. In the midst: we have the morbid hybrid symptomatology of the old Classical Libertarian fascism trying to recuperate the new Universal Humanism for which PoMo is a meaningless label. Especially if it is used to character masque the perennial philosophy of Humanism that has been dehumanised and subjugated by successive identitarian regimes of knowledge and power since forever in pre-Antiquity.

We are all human: only some humans are ideologically more human than others is the counter-history of humanity. When we encounter such ideologically imprecise degenerative labels as 'PoMo' – that can mean anything to anyone (but favours the status quo) this makes a nonsense of at least 5,000 years of thought. Is it any wonder that we are super-ordinated by those who can better dictate who we are? Language is overpower and writing is supra-sovereign administration and bureaucracy over the 'owness' of identity. Its co-option by the pseudoleft is a complete denigration and betrayal of the potential of a new Humanism. The key to which is the spiritual recovery and embodiment of who we really are – proto-linguistically and pre-ontologically – before all these meaningless labels get in the way.

Bootlyboob
You said it better than I ever could.

Stephen Hick's book is quite the laugh. I tried to read it but it made no sense. From memory, it starts at Kant and Hegel and gets them completely wrong, (he even draws little charts with their ideas in tabulated form, WTF?) so I quickly deleted the .pdf. Any book that begins with a summary of these two philosophers and then thinks they can hold my attention until they get to their take on 'postmodernism' is sorely mistaken. Postmodernism is a made up label for about four or five French intellectuals in the 1970's that somehow took over the world and completely fucked it up. Why do I somehow not follow this line of 'thought'?

Reg
No, Postmodernism is a real thing, it is the capitalist assimilation of situationism to overcome the crisis of profit in the 70s caused by overproduction and the attempt by the 1% to recapture a greater a greater % of GDP that they had lost due to the post war settlement. This was an increasingly a zero sum game economy after Germany and Japan had rebuilt their manufacturing capacity, with the US constrained by a widening trade deficit and the cost of the cold and Vietnam war increasing US debt. The inflation spikes in the 70s is only reflective of these competing demands.

The problem of modernism is than peoples needs are easily saited, particularly in conditions of overproduction. Postmodern production is all about creating virtual needs that are unsatisfied. The desire for status or belonging or identity are infinite, and overcomes the dead time of 'valourisation' (time taken for investment to turn into profit) of capital by switching to virtual production of weightless capitalism. The creation of 'intangible asset's such as trade marks, while off shoring production is central. This is a form of rentier extraction, as the creation of a trade mark creates no real value if you have offshored not only production but R&D to China. This is why fiance, and free movement of capital supported by monetary policy and independent central banks are central to Postmodern neo-liberal production. The problem being that intangible assets are easy to replace and require monopoly protection supported by a Imperial hegemon to maintain rentier extraction. Why does China need a US or UK trade mark of products where both innovation and production increasingly come from China? How long can the US as a diminishing empire maintain rentier extraction at the point of a military it increasingly cannot afford, particularly against a military and economic superpower like China? It is no accident US companies that have managed to monetise internet technologies are monopolies, google, microsoft, Apple. An operating system for example has a reproduction cost of zero, the same can be said of films or music, so the natural price is zero, only a monopoly maintains profit.

The connection to situationism is the cry of May 68 'Make your dreams reality', which was marketised by making peoples dreams very interesting ones about fitted kitchens, where even 'self actualisation was developed into a product, where even ones own body identity became a product to be developed at a price. This is at the extreme end of Marxist alienation as not only work or the home becomes alienated, but the body itself.
David Harvey covers some of this quite well in his "The condition of Postmodernity". Adam Curtis also covers quite well in 'The Trap' and the 'Century of the self'.

BigB
I'm inclined to agree with everything you write. It would fall into what I called 'precisification' and actual definition. What you describe is pure Baudrillard: that capitalism reproduces as a holistic system of objects that we buy into without ever satisfying the artificial advertorial need to buy. What we actually seek is a holism of self that cannot be replaced by a holism of objects hence an encoded need for dissatisfaction articulated as dissatisfaction a Hyperrealism of the eternally desiring capitalist subject. But Baudrillard rejected the label too.

What I was pointing out was the idea of 'contested concept'. Sure, if we define terms, let's use it. Without that pre-agreed defintion: the term is meaningless. As are many of our grandiloquent ideas of 'Democracy', 'Freedom', 'Prosperity', and especially 'Peace'. Language is partisan and polarised. Plastic words like 'change' can mean anything and intentionally do. And the convention of naming creates its own decoherence sequence. What follows 'postmodernism'? Post-humanism is an assault on sense and meaning. As is the current idea that "reality is the greatest illusion of all".

We are having a real communication breakdown due to the limitations of the language and out proliferation of beliefs. Baudrillard also anticipated the involution and implosion of the Code. He was speaking from a de Saussurian (semiologic) perspective. Cognitive Linguistics makes this ever more clear. Language is maninly frames and metaphors. Over expand them over too many cognitive domains: and the sense and meaning capability is diluted toward meaninglessnes – where reality is no longer real. This puts us in the inferiorised position of having our terms – and thus our meaning – dictated by a cognitive elite a linguistic 'noocracy' (which is homologous with the plutocracy – who can afford private education).

Capitalism itself is a purely linguistic phenomena: which is so far off the beaten track I'm not even going to expand on it. Except to say: that a pre-existing system of objects giving rise to a separate system of thoughts – separate objectivity and subjectivity – is becoming less tenable to defend. I'd prefer to think in terms of 'embodiment' and 'disembodiment' rather than distinct historical phases. And open and closed cognitive cycles rather than discreet psycholgical phases. We cannot be post-humans if we never embodied our humanism fully. And we cannot be be post-modern when we have never fully lived in the present having invented a disembodied reality without us in it, which we proliferated trans-historically the so-called 'remembered present'.

Language and our ideas of reality are close-correlates – I would argue very close correlates. They are breaking down because language and realism are disembodied which, in itself is ludicrous to say. But we have inherited and formalised an idealism that is exactly that. Meaning resides in an immaterial intellect in an intangible mind floating around in an abstract neo-Platonic heaven waiting for Reason to concur with it. Which is metaphysical bullshit, but it is also the foundation of culture and 'Realism'. Which makes my position 'anti-Realist'. Can you see my problem with socio-philosophical labels now!? They can carry sense if used carefully, as you did. In general discourse they mean whatever they want to mean. Which generally means they will be used against you.

Ramdan
"the SPIRITUAL RECOVERY and embodiment of who we really are – PROTO-LINGUISTICALLY and PRE-ONTOLOGICALLY – BEFORE all these MEANINGLESS LABELS get in the way."

Thanks BigB. I just took the liberty to add emphasis.

Robbobbobin
Smarty pants (label).
Robert Laine
A reply to the article worthy of another Off-G article (or perhaps a book) which would include at a minimum the importance of non-dualistic thinking, misuse of language in the creation of MSM and government narratives and the need to be conscious of living life from time to time while we talk about it. Thankyou, BigB.
Simon Hodges
Don't you love how all these people discuss postmodernism without ever bothering to define what it is. How confused. Hicks and Peterson see postmodernists as Neo-Marxists and this guy sees them as Neoliberals. None of the main theorists that have been associated with Postmodernism and Post-Structuralism and I'm thinking Derrida, Baudrillard and Foucault here (not that I see Foucault as really belonging in the group) would not even accept the term 'postmodernism' as they would see it as an inappropriate form of stereo-typography with no coherent meaning or definition and that presupposing that one can simply trade such signifiers in 'transparent' communication and for us all to think and understand the same thing that 'postmodernism' as a body of texts and ideas might be 'constituted by' is a large part of the problem under discussion. I often think that a large question that arises from Derrida's project is not to study communication as such but to study and understand miss-communication and how and why it comes about and what is involved in our misunderstandings. If people don't get that about 'postmodern' and post-structuralist theories then they've not understood any thing about it.
BigB
You are absolutely right: the way we think in commodities of identities – as huge generalizations and blanket abstractions – tends toward grand narration and meaninglessness. Which is at once dehumanising, ethnocentric, exceptionalist, imperialist in a way that favours dominion and overpower. All these tendencies are encoded in the hierarchical structures of the language – as "vicious" binary constructivisms. In short, socio-linguistic culture is a regime of overpower and subjugation. One that is "philosopho-political" and hyper-normalises our discrimination.

Deleuze went further when he said language is "univocal". We only have one equiprimordial concept of identity – Being. It is our ontological primitive singularity of sense and meaning. Everything we identity – as "Difference" – is in terms of Being (non-Being is it's binary mirror state) as an object with attributes (substances). Being is differentiated into hierarchies (the more attributes, the more "substantial"- the 'greater' the being) which are made "real" by "Repetition" hence Difference and Repetition. The language of Dominion, polarization, and overpower is a reified "grand ontological narrative" constructivism. One dominated by absolutised conceptual Being. That's all.

[One in which we are naturally inferiorised in our unconscious relationship of being qua Being in which we are dominated by a conceptual "Oedipal Father" – the singularity of the Known – but that's another primal 'onto-theocratic' narrative the grandest of then all].

One that we are born and acculturated into. Which the majority accept and never question. How many people question not just their processes of thought but the structure of their processes of thought? A thought cannot escape its own structure and that structure is inherently dominative. If not in it's immediacy then deferred somewhere else via a coduit of systemic violence structured as a "violent hierarchy" of opposition and Othering.

Which is the ultimate mis-communication of anything that can be said to be "real" non-dominative, egalitarian, empathic, etc. Which, of course, if we realise the full implications we can change the way we think and the "naturalised" power structures we collectively validate.

When people let their opinions be formed for them, and commodify Romanticism, German Idealism, Marxism, Phenomenology, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Existentialism, etc as the pseudo-word "PoMo" – only to dismiss it they are unbeknowingly validating the hegemony of power and false-knowledge over. Then paradoxically using those binary power structures to rail about being dominated!

Those linguistic power structures dominate politics too. The "political unconscious" is binary and oppositional which tends toward negation and favours the status quo but how many people think in terms of the psychopolitical and psycholinguistic algorithms of power and politics?

Derrida's project is now our project and it has hardly yet begun. Not least because cognitive linguistics were unkown to Derrida. That's how knowledge works by contemporising and updating previous knowledge from Structuralism to Post-Structuralism to

Nihilating anything that can be called "PoMo" (including that other pseudo-label "Cultural Marxism") condemns us to another 200 years of Classical Liberalism which should be enough impetus to compel everyone to embrace the positive aspects of PoMo! Especially post-post-structuralism that stupid naming convention again

Simon Hodges
I think a lot of people forget that both Derrida and Baudrillard died before the financial crisis. I don't think either of them like myself at that time paid much attention to economics and markets as they worked within very specific and focused fields. Derrida spent his whole life analysing phonocentrism and logocentrism throughout the history of philosophy and Baudrillard was more a cultural sociologist then anything else. They like most people assumed that neoliberalism was working and they enjoyed well paid jobs and great celebrity so they didn't have much cause to pay that much attention to politics. Following the Invasion of Iraq Derrida did come out very strongly against the US calling it the biggest and most dangerous rogue state in the world and he cited and quoted Chomsky's excellent work. We should also include the UK as the second biggest rogue state.

Once the GFC happened I realized that my knowledge on those subjects was virtually zero and I have since spent years looking at them all very closely. I think Derrida and Baudrillard would have become very political following the GFC and even more so now given current events with the yellow vests in France. Shame those two great thinkers died before all the corruption of neoliberalism was finally revealed. I believe that would have had a great deal to say about it Derrida at least was a very moral and ethical man.

Bootlyboob
I think you would like this essay if you have not read it already.

https://cidadeinseguranca.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/deleuze_control.pdf

Simon Hodges
There's a good video by Cuck Philosophy on YouTube covering control societies below.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_i8_WuyqAY?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&start=3&wmode=transparent

If anyone wants a good overview of postmodernism and post-structuralism Cuck philosophy has has some excellent videos covering the subject matter and ideas. He explains how postmodernism has nothing to do with identity politics and shows how Hick and Peterson have fundamentally misunderstood postmodernism. He also has 3 videos covering postmodern basics and some others on Derrida and Baudrillard. You will not find the concepts explained better though one can never give a comprehensive review as such things are essentially beyond us.

He puts too much weight on Foucault for my liking but that's just the fact that my understanding of postmodernism is obviously different to his because all of our largely chance encounters with different texts at different times, which mean that we all come away with slightly different ideas about what these things might mean at any given time. Even in relation to differences in our own ideas from day to day or year to year.

Bootlyboob
Yes, that's why I mentioned the article in relation to your earlier comment. I don't think any of these philosophers would have changed their stances based on the events 20 or 30 post their deaths. They essentially predicted the course that society has taken.
Simon Hodges
Judith Butler took part in the occupy wall street movement and she's a post-structuralist so she has clearly changed her mind since the GFC. Deleuze may have to a certain extent have predicted such things but that doesn't necessarily mean they would have been happy about them. Derrida always spoke of the 'democracy' to come. Instead what we are looking forward to is tech based technocratic totalitarianism. I don't go along with Deleuze on that matter anyway. I don't see a discreet transition from one to the other but rather see us having to endure the combined worst of both scenarios.
Bootlyboob
In relation to Peterson. I did write an email to him once and he wrote back to me saying he does indeed like the writings of Deleuze and Baudrillard. But it was a one line response. I'm still assuming he merely uses a false reading of Derrida as a prop to advance his own arguments.
Simon Hodges
Peterson doesn't understand that postmodernism is not the source of identity politics or cultural marxism. That source is Anglo sociology. I was doing an MSc in sociology back in 1994/95 and they had been transitioning away from Marx and class conflict to Nietzsche and power conflicts understood within a very simplistic definition of power as a simple binary opposition of forces between and 'oppressor' and a 'resistor'.

They borrow a bit from Foucault but they cannot accept his postmodern conclusions as power is necessarily revealed as a positive force that actually constructs us all: in which case one cannot really object to it on political grounds. Let's face it, these cultural ex-Marxists (now actually an elitist Nietzschean ubermench) don't seem to object to power's miss-functioning at all on any kind of institutional level but solely concentrate on supposed power relations at the personal level.

That's all if you buy into 'power'at all as such. Baudrillard wrote 'Forget Foucault' and that 'the more one sees power everywhere the less one is able to speak thereof'. I try and stay clear of any theory that tries to account for everything with a single concept or perspective as they end up over-determining and reductionist.

Steve Hayes
A major benefit (for the elites) of postmodernism is its epistemological relativism, which denies the fundamentally important commitments to objectivity, to facts and evidence. This results in the absurd situation where all the matters is the narrative. This obvious fact is partially obscured by the substitution of emotion for evidence and logic. https://viewsandstories.blogspot.com/2018/06/emotion-substitutes-for-evidence-and.html
Seamus Padraig
Yup. Among other things, po-mo 'theory' enables Orwell's doublethink .
BigB
This is exactly the misunderstanding of a mythical "po-mo 'theory'" – if such a thing exists – that I am getting at. 'Po-mo theory' is in fact a modernity/postmodernity hybrid theory. Pomo theory is yet to emerge.

For instance: Derrida talked of the 'alterity' of language and consciousness that was neither subjectivist nor objectivist. He also spoke of 'inversion/subversion' – where one bipolar oppositional term becomes the new dominant ie 'black over white' or 'female over male'. This, he made specifically clear, was just as violent a domination as the old normal. How is this enabling 'doublethink'.

If you actually study where Derrida, Baudrillard, Deleuze; etc where taking their 'semiotics' it was to the 'Middle Way' of language – much the same destination as Buddhism. This is the clear and precise non-domination of either extreme of language. Only, they never supplied the praxis; and their followers and denigrators where not as prescient.

There is so much more to come from de Saussurian/Piercian semiotics and Bergsonian/Whiteheadian process philosophy. We have barely scratched the surface. One possibility is the fabled East/West synthesis of thought that quantum physics and neuroscience hint at.

What yo do not realise is that our true identity is lost in the language. Specifically: the Law of Identity and the Law of the Excluded Middle of our current Theory of Mind prevent the understanding of consciousness. To understand why you actually have to read and understand the linguistic foundations of the very theory you have just dismissed.

Robbobbobin
"Specifically: the Law of Identity and the Law of the Excluded Middle of our current Theory of Mind prevent the understanding of consciousness."

Yes, but. What do you mean by " our current Theory of Mind"?

Tim Jenkins
Was that a promo for Po-mo theory, BigB ? (chuckle)
BigB
In fact: if followed through – PoMo leads to the point of decoherence of all narrative constructivism. Which is the same point the Buddhist Yogacara/Madhyamaka synthesis leads to. Which is the same point quantum physics and contemporary cognitive neuroscience leads to. The fact of a pre-existent, mind-independent, objective ground for reality is no longer tenable. Objectivism is dead. But so is subjectivism.

What is yet to appear is a coherent narrative that accommodates this. Precisely because language does not allow this. It is either subjectivism or objectivism tertium non datur – a third is not given. It is precisely within the excluded middle of language that the understanding of consciouness lies. The reason we have an ontological cosmogony without consciousness lies precisely in the objectification and commodification of language. All propositions and narratives are ultimately false especially this one.

Crucially, just because we cannot create a narrative construction or identity for 'reality' – does not mean we cannot experience 'reality'. Which is what a propositional device like a Zen koan refers to

All linguistic constructivism – whether objective or subjective – acts as a covering of reality. We take the ontological narrative imaginary for the real 'abhuta-parikalpa'. Both object and subject are pratitya-samutpada – co-evolutionary contingent dependendencies. The disjunction of all dualities via ersatz spatio-temporality creates Samsara. The ending of Samsara is the ending and re-uniting of all falsely dichotomised binary definitions. About which: we can say precisely nothing.

Does this mean language is dead? No way. Language is there for the reclamation by understanding its superimpositional qualitiy (upacara). A metaphoric understanding that George Lakoff has reached with Mark Johnston totally independently of Buddhism. I call it 'poetic objectivism' of 'critical realism' which is the non-nihilational, non-solipsistic, middle way. Which precisely nihilates both elitism and capitalism: which is why there is so much confusion around the language. There is more at stake than mere linguistics. The future of humanity will be determined by our relationship with our languages.

vexarb
@BigB: "The fact of a pre-existent, mind-independent, objective ground for reality is no longer tenable. Objectivism is dead."

Do you mean that there is more to life than just "atoms and empty space"? Plato, Dante and Blake (to name the first 3 who popped into my head) would have agreed with that: the ground of objective reality is mind -- the mind of God.

"The atoms of Democritus, and Newton's particles of Light,
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright".

Tim Jenkins
Funnily enough, I was only writing just yesterday on OffG's 'India's Tryst with Destiny' article, just what poor standards we have in the Education of our children today, in urgent need of massive revisions, which I've highlighted and how the guilt lays squarely on the shoulders of Scientists & Academia in our Universities, from Physics to History & Law & the 'Physiology of Psychology' these guys really just don't 'cut it' anymore resting on Laurels, living in Fear and corrupted by capitalism >>> wholly !

Somebody should be shot, I say for Terrorist Acts !

Corruption is the Destruction of Culture &

"The Destruction of Culture is a Terrorist Act", now officially,
in international Law @UNESCO (thanks, Irina Bokova)

Would the author of this piece like to review & correct some obviously glaring errors ?

George
Good article. On this topic, I read an essay by the late Ellen Meiksins Wood where she noted that our splendid "new Left" are all at once too pessimistic and too optimistic. Too pessimistic because they blandly assume that socialism is dead and so all struggles in that direction are futile. Too optimistic because they assume that this (up till now) bearable capitalism around them can simply continue with its shopping sprees, pop celebrity culture, soap operas, scandal sheets, ineffectual though comfortable tut-tutting over corrupt and stupid politicians and – best of all – its endless opportunity for writing postmodernist deconstructions of all those phenomena.

Why bother getting your hands dirty with an actual worker's struggle when you can write yet another glamorously "radical" critique of the latest Hollywood blockbuster (which in truth just ends up as another advert for it)?

Fair Dinkum
During the 50's and 60's most folks living in Western cultures were happy with their lot: One house, one car, one spouse, one job, three or four kids and enough money to live the 'good life' Then along came Vance Packard's 'Hidden Persuaders' and hell broke loose.

The One Per Cent saw an opportunity of unlimited exploitation and they ran with it. They're still running (albeit in jets and yachts) and us Proles are either struggling or crawling. Greed is neither Left or Right. It exists for its own self gratification.

Seamus Padraig
Excellent article and very true. Just one minor quibble:

This coalition between an economic policy that serves the interest of a tiny minority, and an ideology that appears to "include" everybody is what Nancy Fraser has aptly called "progressive neoliberalism".

Actually, post-modernism doesn't include everybody -- just the 'marginalized' and 'disenfranchised' minorities whom Michel Foucault championed. The whole thing resembles nothing so much as the old capitalist strategy of playing off the Lumpenproletariat against the proletariat, to borrow the original Marxist terminology.

Stephen Morrell
The following facile claim doesn't bear scrutiny: "At the very moment when the "threat" of real existing socialism was not felt anymore, due to the Western economic and military superiority in the 1980ies (that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall), the economic paradigm in the Western countries shifted."

The economic paradigm shifted well before the 1980s and it had nothing to do with "Western economic and military superiority in the 1980ies". The death knell of Keynesianism was sounded with the de-linking of the US dollar and the gold standard in 1971 and the first oil crisis of 1973. Subsequently, the 1970s were marked by a continuous and escalating campaign of capital strikes which produced both high inflation and high unemployment ('stagflation') in the main imperial centres. These strikes persisted until the bourgeoisie's servants were able to implement their desired 'free market' measures in the 1980s, the key ones being smashing of trade union power and consequent devastation of working conditions and living standards, privatisation of essential services, dissolution of social welfare and all the rest. All in the name of 'encouraging investment'.

The fear of 'existing socialism' (and of the military might of Eastern Europe and the USSR) persisted right up to the restoration of capitalism in the USSR in 1991-92. The post-soviet triumphalism (to that moronic and ultimate post-modernist war cry, 'The End of History') only opened the floodgates for the imposition of the neoliberal paradigm over the whole globe. The real essence of the 'globalisation' ideology has been this imposition of imperial monopoly and hegemony on economically backward but resource-rich countries that hitherto could gain some respite or succour from the USSR and Eastern Europe as an alternative to the tender mercies of the World Bank and IMF whose terms correspondingly centred on the neoliberal paradigm.

The key class-war victories of the 1980s by the ruling class, especially in the main Anglophone imperial centres (exemplified by the air traffic controllers strike in Reagan's US and the Great Coal Strike in Thatcher's England), were the necessary condition to them getting their way domestically. However, the dissolution of the USSR not only allowed the imperialists to rampage internationally (through the World Bank, IMF, WTO, etc) but gave great fillip to their initial class-war victories at home to impose with impunity ever more grinding impoverishment and austerity on the working class and oppressed -- from the 1990s right up to fraught and crisis-ridden present. The impunity was fuelled in many countries by that domestic accompaniment to the dissolution of the USSR, the rapidly spiralling and terminal decline of the mass Stalinist Communist parties, the bourgeoisie's bogeyman.

Finally, productivity in the capitalist west was always higher than in post-capitalist countries. The latter universally have been socialised economies built in economically backward countries and saddled with stultifying Stalinist bureaucracies, including in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Capitalist productivity didn't suddenly exceed that in the USSR or Eastern Europe in the 1980s.

So, overall, the 'triumph' of the neoliberal paradigm didn't really have much to do with the imperialist lie of "Western economic and military superiority in the 1980ies". That fairytale might fit into some post-modernist relativist epistemology of everything being equally 'true' or 'valid', but in the real world it doesn't hold up empirically or logically. In Anglophone philosophic academia at least, post-modernism really picked up only after Althusser strangled his wife, and hyper-objectivist structuralism correspondingly was strangled by hyper-subjectivist post-modernism.

Seamus Padraig

The death knell of Keynesianism was sounded with the de-linking of the US dollar and the gold standard in 1971 and the first oil crisis of 1973.

Not really, no. In fact, we still do have Keynesianism; but now, it's just a Keynsianism for the banks, the corporations and the MIC rather than the rest of us. But check the stats: the governments of West are still heavily involved in deficit spending–US deficits, in fact, haven't been this big since WW2! Wish I got some of that money

Tim Jenkins
I find this kind of a pointless discussion on Keynes & so on

"Capitalism has Failed." Christine Lagarde 27/5/2014 Mansion House

"Socialism for the Rich" (Stiglitz: Nobel Economic laureate, 2008/9)

More important is the structuring of Central Banks to discuss and
Richard A. Werner's sound observations in the link

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1057521915001477

Riddle me this Seamus: this year we just got a new statue of Woodrow Wilson in Plovdiv BG.
Last year we got a statue of John no-name McCain in Sofia Bulgaria
See the patterns in the most poverty stricken EU nation ?
Not difficult !

vexarb
Seamus, me too! At least, wish I could get some of my own money back.
Tim Jenkins
Whenever I think about some serious R.O.I. of time & money & family contributions to Tech. Designs, lost in the '80's, I have to play some music or switch to Zen mode 🙂
vexarb
@Tim: "R.O.I (Return On Investment)". The first time I have come across that P.O.V (Point Of View) on this site. The essence of Darwin's theory of evolutionary progress: to slowly build on an initial slight advantage. The 80s (I was there), Maggie Snatcher, Baroness Muck, no such thing as Society, the years that the Locust has eaten. Little ROI despite a tsunami of fiat money swirling around the electronic world. Where is the ROI from capital in the WC.Clinton / B.Liar / Brown regimes, that were so boastful of their economic policies. Where are the snows of yesteryear?
Tim Jenkins
Well said, Stephen: this wholly weird wee article certainly begs the question, how old is & where was this tainted memory & member of academia in the 'Winter of '79' ? and how could he have possibly missed all the denationalisation/privatisation, beginning with NFC and onwards, throughout the '80's, under Thatcher ? Culminating in screwing UK societal futures, by failing to rollout Fibre Optic Cable in the UK, (except for the Square Mile city interests of London) which Boris now promises to do today, nationwide,

a mere 30 years too damn late, when it would have been so cheap, back then and production costs could have been tied to contracts of sale of the elite British Tech. at that time

http://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/how-the-uk-lost-the-broadband-race-in-1990-1224784/2

Worth reading both part one & two of that link, imo scandalous !

Nice wholly suitable reference to Althusser 😉 say no more.

Talk about 'Bonkers' 🙂 we shan't be buying the book, for sure 🙂

Your comment was way more valuable. Do people get paid for writing things like this, these days. I was just outside Linz for 2 months, just before last Christmas and I found more knowledgeable people on the street, in & around Hitler's ole' 'patch', during his formative years, on the streets of Linz: where the joke goes something along the lines of

"If a homeless unemployed artist can't make it in Austria, he has nothing to fear, knowing that he can be on the road to becoming the Chancellor of Germany in just another year "

BigB
I was right with you to the end, Stephen. Althusser killed his wife for sure: but he was deemed insane and never stood trial. He was almost certainly suffering from a combination of conditions, exacerbated by a severe form of PTSD, as we would call it now.

Whether or not one has sympathy for this has become highly politicised. Classic Liberals, anti-communists, and radical feminists always seem to portray the 'murder' as a rational act of the misogynistic male in the grips of a radical philosophy for which wife murder is as natural a consequence as the Gulag. His supporters try to portray the 'mercy' killing of Helene as an 'act of love'. It wasn't that simple though, was it? Nor that black and white.

I cannot imagine what life was like in a German concentration camp for someone who was already suffering from mental illness. From what I have read: the 'treatment' available in the '50s was worse than the underlying condition. He was also 'self-medicating'. I cannot imagine what the state of his mind was in 1980: but I am inclined to cut him some slack. A lot of slack.

I cannot agree with your last statement. Althusser's madness was not a global trigger event – proceeding as a natural consequence from "hyper-subjectivist post-modernism". Which makes for a literary original, but highly inaccurate metaphor. Not least because Althusser was generally considered as a Structuralist himself.

Other than that, great comment.

Stephen Morrell
I understand your sentiments toward Althusser, and am sorry if my remarks about him were insensitive or offensive. However, I know from personal experience of hardline Althusserian academic philosophers who suddenly became post-modernists after the unfortunate incident. The point I was trying to make was that his philosophy wasn't abandoned for philosophical reasons but non-philosophical, moral ones. It wasn't a condemnation of Althusser. It was a condemnation of many of his followers.

I made no claim that this was some kind of 'global trigger event'. Philosophy departments, or ideas as such, don't bring change. If post-modernism didn't become useful to at least some sectors of the ruling class at some point, then it would have remained an academic backwater (as it should have). Nor that post-modernism was some kind of 'natural consequence' of structuralism (which is what I think you meant). Philosophically, it was a certainly one reaction to structuralism, one among several. Other more rational reactions to structuralism included EP Thompson's and Sebastiano Timpinaro's.

As Marx said, "the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas" [German Ideology], and if the ruling class finds some of them useful they'll adopt them. Or as Milton Friedman, one of the main proponents of neoliberalism, proclaimed: "Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around." Post-modernism, as a philosophy 'lying around', serves as a nice philosophical/ideological fit for the intelligentsia to rationalise the anti-science ideology the ruling class today is foisting on rest of the population.

Politically, Althusser was disowned by many French leftists for his support of the thoroughly counter-revolutionary role of the Stalinist PCF in the 1968 May events. His authority lasted for over a decade longer in the Anglophone countries.

Lochearn
"In Anglophone philosophic academia at least, post-modernism really picked up only after Althusser strangled his wife, and hyper-objectivist structuralism correspondingly was strangled by hyper-subjectivist post-modernism."

Wonderful sentence. I'll keep that – if I may – for some imaginary dinner table with some imaginary academic friends.

Tim Jenkins
I was thinking exactly the same and imagining the window of opportunity to provoke some sound conversation, after some spluttering of red w(h)ine
Stephen Morrell
Thank you. I'll rephrase it to improve it slightly if you like:

In Anglophone philosophic academia at least, post-modernism really picked up only after Althusser strangled his wife, and in revenge hyper-objectivist structuralism was strangled by hyper-subjectivist post-modernism.

Red Allover
Mr. Morrell's use of the phrase "stultifying Stalinist bureaucracies," to describe the actually existing Socialist societies of the Eastern bloc, indicates to me that he is very much of the bourgeois mind set that he purports to criticize. This "plague on both your houses" attitude is very typical of the lower middle class intellectual in capitalist countries, c.f. Chomsky, Zizek, etc.
Stephen Morrell
On the contrary, all the remaining workers states (China, North Korea, Viet Nam, Laos and Cuba) must be defended against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution despite the bureaucratic castes that hold political power in these countries. Political, not social, revolutions are needed to sweep away these bureaucracies to establish organs of workers democracy and political power (eg soviets) which never existed in these countries (unlike in the first years of the USSR).

To his last days, the dying Lenin fought the rising bureaucracy led by Stalin, but Russia's backwardness and the failure of the revolution to spread to an advanced country (especially Germany, October 1923) drove its rise. Its ideological shell was the profoundly reactionary outlook and program of 'Socialism in One Country' (and only one country). And while Stalin defeated him and his followers, it was Trotsky who came to a Marxist, materialist understanding of what produced and drove the Soviet Thermidor. Trotsky didn't go running off to the bourgeoisie of the world blubbering about a 'new class' the way Kautsky, Djilas, Shachtman, Cliff, et al. did.

The restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union was a profound defeat for the working class worldwide, as it would be for the remaining workers states. Now if that's a 'bourgeois mindset' of a 'lower middle class intellectual', be my guest and nominate the bourgeois or petty bourgeois layers that hold such views. Certainly Chomsky, Zizek et al. couldn't agree with such an outlook, but it's only the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists who contend that the workers states are 'socialist' or 'communist'. Only a true post-modernist could delude themselves into concurring, or claim that the political repression, censorship and corrupting bureaucratism of the Stalinist regimes were indeed not stultifying.

Red Allover
Thanks for your intelligent response. I am very familiar with the Trotskyist positions you outline. I could give you the Leninist rebuttal to each of them, but you are probably familiar with them as well. I don't want to waste your time, or mine. However, if you don't mind me asking, exactly at what point do you feel capitalism was restored in the USSR? It was, I take it, with the first Five Year Plan, not the NEP?

Also, the Socialist or, to use your nomenclature, "Stalinist" system, that was destroyed in the the USSR in the 1990s–it was, in truth, just one form of capitalism replaced by another form of capitalism? Would this summarize your view accurately?

Stephen Morrell
Capitalism was restored in the USSR in 1991-92. Stalinism was not another form of capitalism, as the Third Campists would contend. The Stalinist bureaucracy rested on exactly the same property relations a socialist system would which were destroyed with Yeltsin's (and Bush's) counterrevolution. Last, I've never labelled the Stalinist bureaucracy as a 'system'.
GMW
Perhaps if you changed your moniker to: "Troll Allover" one could take you seriously, well, not really – 'seriously' – but at least in a sort of weird, twisted & warped post-modern sense – eh?
Red Allover
I'm sorry, what is the argument you are making? I know name calling is beneath intelligent, educated people.

[Oct 23, 2019] The treason of the intellectuals The Undoing of Thought by Roger Kimball

Highly recommended!
Supporting neoliberalism is the key treason of contemporary intellectuals eeho were instrumental in decimating the New Deal capitalism, to say nothing about neocon, who downgraded themselves into intellectual prostitutes of MIC mad try to destroy post WWII order.
Notable quotes:
"... More and more, intellectuals were abandoning their attachment to the traditional panoply of philosophical and scholarly ideals. One clear sign of the change was the attack on the Enlightenment ideal of universal humanity and the concomitant glorification of various particularisms. ..."
"... "Our age is indeed the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds ," he wrote near the beginning of the book. "It will be one of its chief claims to notice in the moral history of humanity." There was no need to add that its place in moral history would be as a cautionary tale. In little more than a decade, Benda's prediction that, because of the "great betrayal" of the intellectuals, humanity was "heading for the greatest and most perfect war ever seen in the world," would achieve a terrifying corroboration. ..."
"... In Plato's Gorgias , for instance, the sophist Callicles expresses his contempt for Socrates' devotion to philosophy: "I feel toward philosophers very much as I do toward those who lisp and play the child." Callicles taunts Socrates with the idea that "the more powerful, the better, and the stronger" are simply different words for the same thing. Successfully pursued, he insists, "luxury and intemperance are virtue and happiness, and all the rest is tinsel." How contemporary Callicles sounds! ..."
"... In Benda's formula, this boils down to the conviction that "politics decides morality." To be sure, the cynicism that Callicles espoused is perennial: like the poor, it will be always with us. What Benda found novel was the accreditation of such cynicism by intellectuals. "It is true indeed that these new 'clerks' declare that they do not know what is meant by justice, truth, and other 'metaphysical fogs,' that for them the true is determined by the useful, the just by circumstances," he noted. "All these things were taught by Callicles, but with this difference; he revolted all the important thinkers of his time." ..."
"... In other words, the real treason of the intellectuals was not that they countenanced Callicles but that they championed him. ..."
"... His doctrine of "the will to power," his contempt for the "slave morality" of Christianity, his plea for an ethic "beyond good and evil," his infatuation with violence -- all epitomize the disastrous "pragmatism" that marks the intellectual's "treason." The real problem was not the unattainability but the disintegration of ideals, an event that Nietzsche hailed as the "transvaluation of all values." "Formerly," Benda observed, "leaders of States practiced realism, but did not honor it; With them morality was violated but moral notions remained intact, and that is why, in spite of all their violence, they did not disturb civilization ." ..."
"... From the savage flowering of ethnic hatreds in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to the mendacious demands for political correctness and multiculturalism on college campuses across America and Europe, the treason of the intellectuals continues to play out its unedifying drama. Benda spoke of "a cataclysm in the moral notions of those who educate the world." That cataclysm is erupting in every corner of cultural life today. ..."
"... Finkielkraut catalogues several prominent strategies that contemporary intellectuals have employed to retreat from the universal. A frequent point of reference is the eighteenth-century German Romantic philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder. "From the beginning, or to be more precise, from the time of Plato until that of Voltaire," he writes, "human diversity had come before the tribunal of universal values; with Herder the eternal values were condemned by the court of diversity." ..."
"... Finkielkraut focuses especially on Herder's definitively anti-Enlightenment idea of the Volksgeist or "national spirit." ..."
"... Nevertheless, the multiculturalists' obsession with "diversity" and ethnic origins is in many ways a contemporary redaction of Herder's elevation of racial particularism over the universalizing mandate of reason ..."
"... In Goethe's words, "A generalized tolerance will be best achieved if we leave undisturbed whatever it is which constitutes the special character of particular individuals and peoples, whilst at the same time we retain the conviction that the distinctive worth of anything with true merit lies in its belonging to all humanity." ..."
"... The geography of intellectual betrayal has changed dramatically in the last sixty-odd years. In 1927, intellectuals still had something definite to betray. In today's "postmodernist" world, the terrain is far mushier: the claims of tradition are much attenuated and betrayal is often only a matter of acquiescence. ..."
"... In the broadest terms, The Undoing of Thought is a brief for the principles of the Enlightenment. Among other things, this means that it is a brief for the idea that mankind is united by a common humanity that transcends ethnic, racial, and sexual divisions ..."
"... Granted, the belief that there is "Jewish thinking" or "Soviet science" or "Aryan art" is no longer as widespread as it once was. But the dispersal of these particular chimeras has provided no inoculation against kindred fabrications: "African knowledge," "female language," "Eurocentric science": these are among today's talismanic fetishes. ..."
"... Then, too, one finds a stunning array of anti-Enlightenment phantasmagoria congregated under the banner of "anti-positivism." The idea that history is a "myth," that the truths of science are merely "fictions" dressed up in forbidding clothes, that reason and language are powerless to discover the truth -- more, that truth itself is a deceitful ideological construct: these and other absurdities are now part of the standard intellectual diet of Western intellectuals. The Frankfurt School Marxists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno gave an exemplary but by no means uncharacteristic demonstration of one strain of this brand of anti-rational animus in the mid-1940s. ..."
"... Historically, the Enlightenment arose as a deeply anti-clerical and, perforce, anti-traditional movement. Its goal, in Kant's famous phrase, was to release man from his "self-imposed immaturity." ..."
"... The process of disintegration has lately become an explicit attack on culture. This is not simply to say that there are many anti-intellectual elements in society: that has always been the case. "Non-thought," in Finkielkraut's phrase, has always co-existed with the life of the mind. The innovation of contemporary culture is to have obliterated the distinction between the two. ..."
"... There are many sides to this phenomenon. What Finkielkraut has given us is not a systematic dissection but a kind of pathologist's scrapbook. He reminds us, for example, that the multiculturalists' demand for "diversity" requires the eclipse of the individual in favor of the group ..."
"... To a large extent, the abdication of reason demanded by multiculturalism has been the result of what we might call the subjection of culture to anthropology. ..."
"... In describing this process of leveling, Finkielkraut distinguishes between those who wish to obliterate distinctions in the name of politics and those who do so out of a kind of narcissism. The multiculturalists wave the standard of radical politics and say (in the words of a nineteenth-century Russian populist slogan that Finkielkraut quotes): "A pair of boots is worth more than Shakespeare." ..."
"... The upshot is not only that Shakespeare is downgraded, but also that the bootmaker is elevated. "It is not just that high culture must be demystified; sport, fashion and leisure now lay claim to high cultural status." A grotesque fantasy? ..."
"... . Finkielkraut notes that the rhetoric of postmodernism is in some ways similar to the rhetoric of Enlightenment. Both look forward to releasing man from his "self-imposed immaturity." But there is this difference: Enlightenment looks to culture as a repository of values that transcend the self, postmodernism looks to the fleeting desires of the isolated self as the only legitimate source of value ..."
"... The products of culture are valuable only as a source of amusement or distraction. In order to realize the freedom that postmodernism promises, culture must be transformed into a field of arbitrary "options." "The post-modern individual," Finkielkraut writes, "is a free and easy bundle of fleeting and contingent appetites. He has forgotten that liberty involves more than the ability to change one's chains, and that culture itself is more than a satiated whim." ..."
"... "'All cultures are equally legitimate and everything is cultural,' is the common cry of affluent society's spoiled children and of the detractors of the West. ..."
"... There is another, perhaps even darker, result of the undoing of thought. The disintegration of faith in reason and common humanity leads not only to a destruction of standards, but also involves a crisis of courage. ..."
"... As the impassioned proponents of "diversity" meet the postmodern apostles of acquiescence, fanaticism mixes with apathy to challenge the commitment required to preserve freedom. ..."
"... Communism may have been effectively discredited. But "what is dying along with it is not the totalitarian cast of mind, but the idea of a world common to all men." ..."
Dec 01, 1992 | www.moonofalabama.org

On the abandonment of Enlightenment intellectualism, and the emergence of a new form of Volksgeist.

When hatred of culture becomes itself a part of culture, the life of the mind loses all meaning. -- Alain Finkielkraut, The Undoing of Thought

Today we are trying to spread knowledge everywhere. Who knows if in centuries to come there will not be universities for re-establishing our former ignorance? -- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)

I n 1927, the French essayist Julien Benda published his famous attack on the intellectual corruption of the age, La Trahison des clercs. I said "famous," but perhaps "once famous" would have been more accurate. For today, in the United States anyway, only the title of the book, not its argument, enjoys much currency. "La trahison des clercs": it is one of those memorable phrases that bristles with hints and associations without stating anything definite. Benda tells us that he uses the term "clerc" in "the medieval sense," i.e., to mean "scribe," someone we would now call a member of the intelligentsia. Academics and journalists, pundits, moralists, and pontificators of all varieties are in this sense clercs . The English translation, The Treason of the Intellectuals , 1 sums it up neatly.

The "treason" in question was the betrayal by the "clerks" of their vocation as intellectuals. From the time of the pre-Socratics, intellectuals, considered in their role as intellectuals, had been a breed apart. In Benda's terms, they were understood to be "all those whose activity essentially is not the pursuit of practical aims, all those who seek their joy in the practice of an art or a science or a metaphysical speculation, in short in the possession of non-material advantages." Thanks to such men, Benda wrote, "humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honored good. This contradiction was an honor to the human species, and formed the rift whereby civilization slipped into the world."

According to Benda, however, this situation was changing. More and more, intellectuals were abandoning their attachment to the traditional panoply of philosophical and scholarly ideals. One clear sign of the change was the attack on the Enlightenment ideal of universal humanity and the concomitant glorification of various particularisms. The attack on the universal went forward in social and political life as well as in the refined precincts of epistemology and metaphysics: "Those who for centuries had exhorted men, at least theoretically, to deaden the feeling of their differences have now come to praise them, according to where the sermon is given, for their 'fidelity to the French soul,' 'the immutability of their German consciousness,' for the 'fervor of their Italian hearts.'" In short, intellectuals began to immerse themselves in the unsettlingly practical and material world of political passions: precisely those passions, Benda observed, "owing to which men rise up against other men, the chief of which are racial passions, class passions and national passions." The "rift" into which civilization had been wont to slip narrowed and threatened to close altogether.

Writing at a moment when ethnic and nationalistic hatreds were beginning to tear Europe asunder, Benda's diagnosis assumed the lineaments of a prophecy -- a prophecy that continues to have deep resonance today. "Our age is indeed the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds ," he wrote near the beginning of the book. "It will be one of its chief claims to notice in the moral history of humanity." There was no need to add that its place in moral history would be as a cautionary tale. In little more than a decade, Benda's prediction that, because of the "great betrayal" of the intellectuals, humanity was "heading for the greatest and most perfect war ever seen in the world," would achieve a terrifying corroboration.

J ulien Benda was not so naïve as to believe that intellectuals as a class had ever entirely abstained from political involvement, or, indeed, from involvement in the realm of practical affairs. Nor did he believe that intellectuals, as citizens, necessarily should abstain from political commitment or practical affairs. The "treason" or betrayal he sought to publish concerned the way that intellectuals had lately allowed political commitment to insinuate itself into their understanding of the intellectual vocation as such. Increasingly, Benda claimed, politics was "mingled with their work as artists, as men of learning, as philosophers." The ideal of disinterestedness, the universality of truth: such guiding principles were contemptuously deployed as masks when they were not jettisoned altogether. It was in this sense that he castigated the " desire to abase the values of knowledge before the values of action ."

In its crassest but perhaps also most powerful form, this desire led to that familiar phenomenon Benda dubbed "the cult of success." It is summed up, he writes, in "the teaching that says that when a will is successful that fact alone gives it a moral value, whereas the will which fails is for that reason alone deserving of contempt." In itself, this idea is hardly novel, as history from the Greek sophists on down reminds us. In Plato's Gorgias , for instance, the sophist Callicles expresses his contempt for Socrates' devotion to philosophy: "I feel toward philosophers very much as I do toward those who lisp and play the child." Callicles taunts Socrates with the idea that "the more powerful, the better, and the stronger" are simply different words for the same thing. Successfully pursued, he insists, "luxury and intemperance are virtue and happiness, and all the rest is tinsel." How contemporary Callicles sounds!

In Benda's formula, this boils down to the conviction that "politics decides morality." To be sure, the cynicism that Callicles espoused is perennial: like the poor, it will be always with us. What Benda found novel was the accreditation of such cynicism by intellectuals. "It is true indeed that these new 'clerks' declare that they do not know what is meant by justice, truth, and other 'metaphysical fogs,' that for them the true is determined by the useful, the just by circumstances," he noted. "All these things were taught by Callicles, but with this difference; he revolted all the important thinkers of his time."

In other words, the real treason of the intellectuals was not that they countenanced Callicles but that they championed him. To appreciate the force of Benda's thesis one need only think of that most influential modern Callicles, Friedrich Nietzsche. His doctrine of "the will to power," his contempt for the "slave morality" of Christianity, his plea for an ethic "beyond good and evil," his infatuation with violence -- all epitomize the disastrous "pragmatism" that marks the intellectual's "treason." The real problem was not the unattainability but the disintegration of ideals, an event that Nietzsche hailed as the "transvaluation of all values." "Formerly," Benda observed, "leaders of States practiced realism, but did not honor it; With them morality was violated but moral notions remained intact, and that is why, in spite of all their violence, they did not disturb civilization ."

Benda understood that the stakes were high: the treason of the intellectuals signaled not simply the corruption of a bunch of scribblers but a fundamental betrayal of culture. By embracing the ethic of Callicles, intellectuals had, Benda reckoned, precipitated "one of the most remarkable turning points in the moral history of the human species. It is impossible," he continued,

to exaggerate the importance of a movement whereby those who for twenty centuries taught Man that the criterion of the morality of an act is its disinterestedness, that good is a decree of his reason insofar as it is universal, that his will is only moral if it seeks its law outside its objects, should begin to teach him that the moral act is the act whereby he secures his existence against an environment which disputes it, that his will is moral insofar as it is a will "to power," that the part of his soul which determines what is good is its "will to live" wherein it is most "hostile to all reason," that the morality of an act is measured by its adaptation to its end, and that the only morality is the morality of circumstances. The educators of the human mind now take sides with Callicles against Socrates, a revolution which I dare to say seems to me more important than all political upheavals.

T he Treason of the Intellectuals is an energetic hodgepodge of a book. The philosopher Jean-François Revel recently described it as "one of the fussiest pleas on behalf of the necessary independence of intellectuals." Certainly it is rich, quirky, erudite, digressive, and polemical: more an exclamation than an analysis. Partisan in its claims for disinterestedness, it is ruthless in its defense of intellectual high-mindedness. Yet given the horrific events that unfolded in the decades following its publication, Benda's unremitting attack on the politicization of the intellect and ethnic separatism cannot but strike us as prescient. And given the continuing echo in our own time of the problems he anatomized, the relevance of his observations to our situation can hardly be doubted. From the savage flowering of ethnic hatreds in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to the mendacious demands for political correctness and multiculturalism on college campuses across America and Europe, the treason of the intellectuals continues to play out its unedifying drama. Benda spoke of "a cataclysm in the moral notions of those who educate the world." That cataclysm is erupting in every corner of cultural life today.

In 1988, the young French philosopher and cultural critic Alain Finkielkraut took up where Benda left off, producing a brief but searching inventory of our contemporary cataclysms. Entitled La Défaite de la pensée 2 ("The 'Defeat' or 'Undoing' of Thought"), his essay is in part an updated taxonomy of intellectual betrayals. In this sense, the book is a trahison des clercs for the post-Communist world, a world dominated as much by the leveling imperatives of pop culture as by resurgent nationalism and ethnic separatism. Beginning with Benda, Finkielkraut catalogues several prominent strategies that contemporary intellectuals have employed to retreat from the universal. A frequent point of reference is the eighteenth-century German Romantic philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder. "From the beginning, or to be more precise, from the time of Plato until that of Voltaire," he writes, "human diversity had come before the tribunal of universal values; with Herder the eternal values were condemned by the court of diversity."

Finkielkraut focuses especially on Herder's definitively anti-Enlightenment idea of the Volksgeist or "national spirit." Quoting the French historian Joseph Renan, he describes the idea as "the most dangerous explosive of modern times." "Nothing," he writes, "can stop a state that has become prey to the Volksgeist ." It is one of Finkielkraut's leitmotifs that today's multiculturalists are in many respects Herder's (generally unwitting) heirs.

True, Herder's emphasis on history and language did much to temper the tendency to abstraction that one finds in some expressions of the Enlightenment. Ernst Cassirer even remarked that "Herder's achievement is one of the greatest intellectual triumphs of the philosophy of the Enlightenment."

Nevertheless, the multiculturalists' obsession with "diversity" and ethnic origins is in many ways a contemporary redaction of Herder's elevation of racial particularism over the universalizing mandate of reason. Finkielkraut opposes this just as the mature Goethe once took issue with Herder's adoration of the Volksgeist. Finkielkraut concedes that we all "relate to a particular tradition" and are "shaped by our national identity." But, unlike the multiculturalists, he soberly insists that "this reality merit[s] some recognition, not idolatry."

In Goethe's words, "A generalized tolerance will be best achieved if we leave undisturbed whatever it is which constitutes the special character of particular individuals and peoples, whilst at the same time we retain the conviction that the distinctive worth of anything with true merit lies in its belonging to all humanity."

The Undoing of Thought resembles The Treason of the Intellectuals stylistically as well as thematically. Both books are sometimes breathless congeries of sources and aperçus. And Finkielkraut, like Benda (and, indeed, like Montaigne), tends to proceed more by collage than by demonstration. But he does not simply recapitulate Benda's argument.

The geography of intellectual betrayal has changed dramatically in the last sixty-odd years. In 1927, intellectuals still had something definite to betray. In today's "postmodernist" world, the terrain is far mushier: the claims of tradition are much attenuated and betrayal is often only a matter of acquiescence. Finkielkraut's distinctive contribution is to have taken the measure of the cultural swamp that surrounds us, to have delineated the links joining the politicization of the intellect and its current forms of debasement.

In the broadest terms, The Undoing of Thought is a brief for the principles of the Enlightenment. Among other things, this means that it is a brief for the idea that mankind is united by a common humanity that transcends ethnic, racial, and sexual divisions.

The humanizing "reason" that Enlightenment champions is a universal reason, sharable, in principle, by all. Such ideals have not fared well in the twentieth century: Herder's progeny have labored hard to discredit them. Granted, the belief that there is "Jewish thinking" or "Soviet science" or "Aryan art" is no longer as widespread as it once was. But the dispersal of these particular chimeras has provided no inoculation against kindred fabrications: "African knowledge," "female language," "Eurocentric science": these are among today's talismanic fetishes.

Then, too, one finds a stunning array of anti-Enlightenment phantasmagoria congregated under the banner of "anti-positivism." The idea that history is a "myth," that the truths of science are merely "fictions" dressed up in forbidding clothes, that reason and language are powerless to discover the truth -- more, that truth itself is a deceitful ideological construct: these and other absurdities are now part of the standard intellectual diet of Western intellectuals. The Frankfurt School Marxists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno gave an exemplary but by no means uncharacteristic demonstration of one strain of this brand of anti-rational animus in the mid-1940s.

Safely ensconced in Los Angeles, these refugees from Hitler's Reich published an influential essay on the concept of Enlightenment. Among much else, they assured readers that "Enlightenment is totalitarian." Never mind that at that very moment the Nazi war machine -- what one might be forgiven for calling real totalitarianism -- was busy liquidating millions of people in order to fulfill another set of anti-Enlightenment fantasies inspired by devotion to the Volksgeist .

The diatribe that Horkheimer and Adorno mounted against the concept of Enlightenment reminds us of an important peculiarity about the history of Enlightenment: namely, that it is a movement of thought that began as a reaction against tradition and has now emerged as one of tradition's most important safeguards. Historically, the Enlightenment arose as a deeply anti-clerical and, perforce, anti-traditional movement. Its goal, in Kant's famous phrase, was to release man from his "self-imposed immaturity."

The chief enemy of Enlightenment was "superstition," an omnibus term that included all manner of religious, philosophical, and moral ideas. But as the sociologist Edward Shils has noted, although the Enlightenment was in important respects "antithetical to tradition" in its origins, its success was due in large part "to the fact that it was promulgated and pursued in a society in which substantive traditions were rather strong." "It was successful against its enemies," Shils notes in his book Tradition (1981),

because the enemies were strong enough to resist its complete victory over them. Living on a soil of substantive traditionality, the ideas of the Enlightenment advanced without undoing themselves. As long as respect for authority on the one side and self-confidence in those exercising authority on the other persisted, the Enlightenment's ideal of emancipation through the exercise of reason went forward. It did not ravage society as it would have done had society lost all legitimacy.

It is this mature form of Enlightenment, championing reason but respectful of tradition, that Finkielkraut holds up as an ideal.

W hat Finkielkraut calls "the undoing of thought" flows from the widespread disintegration of a faith. At the center of that faith is the assumption that the life of thought is "the higher life" and that culture -- what the Germans call Bildung -- is its end or goal.

The process of disintegration has lately become an explicit attack on culture. This is not simply to say that there are many anti-intellectual elements in society: that has always been the case. "Non-thought," in Finkielkraut's phrase, has always co-existed with the life of the mind. The innovation of contemporary culture is to have obliterated the distinction between the two. "It is," he writes, "the first time in European history that non-thought has donned the same label and enjoyed the same status as thought itself, and the first time that those who, in the name of 'high culture,' dare to call this non-thought by its name, are dismissed as racists and reactionaries." The attack is perpetrated not from outside, by uncomprehending barbarians, but chiefly from inside, by a new class of barbarians, the self-made barbarians of the intelligentsia. This is the undoing of thought. This is the new "treason of the intellectuals."

There are many sides to this phenomenon. What Finkielkraut has given us is not a systematic dissection but a kind of pathologist's scrapbook. He reminds us, for example, that the multiculturalists' demand for "diversity" requires the eclipse of the individual in favor of the group . "Their most extraordinary feat," he observes, "is to have put forward as the ultimate individual liberty the unconditional primacy of the collective." Western rationalism and individualism are rejected in the name of a more "authentic" cult.

One example: Finkielkraut quotes a champion of multiculturalism who maintains that "to help immigrants means first of all respecting them for what they are, respecting whatever they aspire to in their national life, in their distinctive culture and in their attachment to their spiritual and religious roots." Would this, Finkielkraut asks, include "respecting" those religious codes which demanded that the barren woman be cast out and the adulteress be punished with death?

What about those cultures in which the testimony of one man counts for that of two women? In which female circumcision is practiced? In which slavery flourishes? In which mixed marriages are forbidden and polygamy encouraged? Multiculturalism, as Finkielkraut points out, requires that we respect such practices. To criticize them is to be dismissed as "racist" and "ethnocentric." In this secular age, "cultural identity" steps in where the transcendent once was: "Fanaticism is indefensible when it appeals to heaven, but beyond reproach when it is grounded in antiquity and cultural distinctiveness."

To a large extent, the abdication of reason demanded by multiculturalism has been the result of what we might call the subjection of culture to anthropology. Finkielkraut speaks in this context of a "cheerful confusion which raises everyday anthropological practices to the pinnacle of the human race's greatest achievements." This process began in the nineteenth century, but it has been greatly accelerated in our own age. One thinks, for example, of the tireless campaigning of that great anthropological leveler, Claude Lévi-Strauss. Lévi-Strauss is assuredly a brilliant writer, but he has also been an extraordinarily baneful influence. Already in the early 1950s, when he was pontificating for UNESCO , he was urging all and sundry to "fight against ranking cultural differences hierarchically." In La Pensée sauvage (1961), he warned against the "false antinomy between logical and prelogical mentality" and was careful in his descriptions of natives to refer to "so-called primitive thought." "So-called" indeed. In a famous article on race and history, Lévi-Strauss maintained that the barbarian was not the opposite of the civilized man but "first of all the man who believes there is such a thing as barbarism." That of course is good to know. It helps one to appreciate Lévi-Strauss's claim, in Tristes Tropiques (1955), that the "true purpose of civilization" is to produce "inertia." As one ruminates on the proposition that cultures should not be ranked hierarchically, it is also well to consider what Lévi-Strauss coyly refers to as "the positive forms of cannibalism." For Lévi-Strauss, cannibalism has been unfairly stigmatized in the "so-called" civilized West. In fact, he explains, cannibalism was "often observed with great discretion, the vital mouthful being made up of a small quantity of organic matter mixed, on occasion, with other forms of food." What, merely a "vital mouthful"? Not to worry! Only an ignoramus who believed that there were important distinctions, qualitative distinctions, between the barbarian and the civilized man could possibly think of objecting.

Of course, the attack on distinctions that Finkielkraut castigates takes place not only among cultures but also within a given culture. Here again, the anthropological imperative has played a major role. "Under the equalizing eye of social science," he writes,

hierarchies are abolished, and all the criteria of taste are exposed as arbitrary. From now on no rigid division separates masterpieces from run-of-the mill works. The same fundamental structure, the same general and elemental traits are common to the "great" novels (whose excellence will henceforth be demystified by the accompanying quotation marks) and plebian types of narrative activity.

F or confirmation of this, one need only glance at the pronouncements of our critics. Whether working in the academy or other cultural institutions, they bring us the same news: there is "no such thing" as intrinsic merit, "quality" is an only ideological construction, aesthetic value is a distillation of social power, etc., etc.

In describing this process of leveling, Finkielkraut distinguishes between those who wish to obliterate distinctions in the name of politics and those who do so out of a kind of narcissism. The multiculturalists wave the standard of radical politics and say (in the words of a nineteenth-century Russian populist slogan that Finkielkraut quotes): "A pair of boots is worth more than Shakespeare."

Those whom Finkielkraut calls "postmodernists," waving the standard of radical chic, declare that Shakespeare is no better than the latest fashion -- no better, say, than the newest item offered by Calvin Klein. The litany that Finkielkraut recites is familiar:

A comic which combines exciting intrigue and some pretty pictures is just as good as a Nabokov novel. What little Lolitas read is as good as Lolita . An effective publicity slogan counts for as much as a poem by Apollinaire or Francis Ponge . The footballer and the choreographer, the painter and the couturier, the writer and the ad-man, the musician and the rock-and-roller, are all the same: creators. We must scrap the prejudice which restricts that title to certain people and regards others as sub-cultural.

The upshot is not only that Shakespeare is downgraded, but also that the bootmaker is elevated. "It is not just that high culture must be demystified; sport, fashion and leisure now lay claim to high cultural status." A grotesque fantasy? Anyone who thinks so should take a moment to recall the major exhibition called "High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture" that the Museum of Modern Art mounted a few years ago: it might have been called "Krazy Kat Meets Picasso." Few events can have so consummately summed up the corrosive trivialization of culture now perpetrated by those entrusted with preserving it. Among other things, that exhibition demonstrated the extent to which the apotheosis of popular culture undermines the very possibility of appreciating high art on its own terms.

When the distinction between culture and entertainment is obliterated, high art is orphaned, exiled from the only context in which its distinctive meaning can manifest itself: Picasso becomes a kind of cartoon. This, more than any elitism or obscurity, is the real threat to culture today. As Hannah Arendt once observed, "there are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect, but it is still an open question whether they will be able to survive an entertaining version of what they have to say."

And this brings us to the question of freedom. Finkielkraut notes that the rhetoric of postmodernism is in some ways similar to the rhetoric of Enlightenment. Both look forward to releasing man from his "self-imposed immaturity." But there is this difference: Enlightenment looks to culture as a repository of values that transcend the self, postmodernism looks to the fleeting desires of the isolated self as the only legitimate source of value.

For the postmodernist, then, "culture is no longer seen as a means of emancipation, but as one of the élitist obstacles to this." The products of culture are valuable only as a source of amusement or distraction. In order to realize the freedom that postmodernism promises, culture must be transformed into a field of arbitrary "options." "The post-modern individual," Finkielkraut writes, "is a free and easy bundle of fleeting and contingent appetites. He has forgotten that liberty involves more than the ability to change one's chains, and that culture itself is more than a satiated whim."

What Finkielkraut has understood with admirable clarity is that modern attacks on elitism represent not the extension but the destruction of culture. "Democracy," he writes, "once implied access to culture for everybody. From now on it is going to mean everyone's right to the culture of his choice." This may sound marvelous -- it is after all the slogan one hears shouted in academic and cultural institutions across the country -- but the result is precisely the opposite of what was intended.

"'All cultures are equally legitimate and everything is cultural,' is the common cry of affluent society's spoiled children and of the detractors of the West." The irony, alas, is that by removing standards and declaring that "anything goes," one does not get more culture, one gets more and more debased imitations of culture. This fraud is the dirty secret that our cultural commissars refuse to acknowledge.

There is another, perhaps even darker, result of the undoing of thought. The disintegration of faith in reason and common humanity leads not only to a destruction of standards, but also involves a crisis of courage. "A careless indifference to grand causes," Finkielkraut warns, "has its counterpart in abdication in the face of force." As the impassioned proponents of "diversity" meet the postmodern apostles of acquiescence, fanaticism mixes with apathy to challenge the commitment required to preserve freedom.

Communism may have been effectively discredited. But "what is dying along with it is not the totalitarian cast of mind, but the idea of a world common to all men."

Julien Benda took his epigraph for La Trahison des clercs from the nineteenth-century French philosopher Charles Renouvier: Le monde souffre du manque de foi en une vérité transcendante : "The world suffers from lack of faith in a transcendent truth." Without some such faith, we are powerless against the depredations of intellectuals who have embraced the nihilism of Callicles as their truth.

1 The Treason of the Intellectuals, by Julien Benda, translated by Richard Aldington, was first published in 1928. This translation is still in print from Norton.

2 La Défaite de la pensée , by Alain Finkielkraut; Gallimard, 162 pages, 72 FF . It is available in English, in a translation by Dennis O'Keeffe, as The Undoing of Thought (The Claridge Press [London], 133 pages, £6.95 paper).

Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. His latest book is The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press)

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[Aug 24, 2019] Elusive and allusive indeterminacy characterizes everything in the culture of postmodernity

Notable quotes:
"... To say "we will never know" is the mantra of a postmodern culture created to keep people running in circles. (Note the commentaries about the Jeffrey Epstein case.) Elusive and allusive indeterminacy characterizes everything in the culture of postmodernity. ..."
"... The ruling ideology since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even earlier, is postmodernism. This is the ideological embellishment that the brutal neoliberal attack on Western societies' welfare (that was launched in the late 1970s) required in order to attain a "human", "liberal" and "progressive" face. ..."
"... This coalition between an economic policy that serves the interest of a tiny minority, and an ideology that appears to "include" everybody is what Nancy Fraser has aptly called "progressive neoliberalism". It consists of neoliberalism, plus postmodernism as its ideological superstructure. ..."
"... Money buys souls, and the number of those who have sold theirs is numerous, including those leftists who have been bought by the CIA, as Cord Meyer, the CIA official phrased it so sexually in the 1950s: we need to "court the compatible left." He knew that drawing leftists into the CIA's orbit was the key to efficient propaganda. ..."
"... For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but taking the money of the super-rich, the JFK assassination and the truth of September 11, 2001 are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did. ..."
"... By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell's crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda. ..."
Aug 24, 2019 | off-guardian.org

People hunger for these stories, not for the real truth that impacts their lives, but for the titillation that gives a frisson to their humdrum lives. It is why post-modern detective stories are so popular, as if never solving the crime is the point.

To say "we will never know" is the mantra of a postmodern culture created to keep people running in circles. (Note the commentaries about the Jeffrey Epstein case.) Elusive and allusive indeterminacy characterizes everything in the culture of postmodernity.

Robert Pfaller, a professor at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria and a founding member of the Viennese psychoanalytic research group "stuzzicandenti," put it clearly in a recent interview :

The ruling ideology since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even earlier, is postmodernism. This is the ideological embellishment that the brutal neoliberal attack on Western societies' welfare (that was launched in the late 1970s) required in order to attain a "human", "liberal" and "progressive" face.

This coalition between an economic policy that serves the interest of a tiny minority, and an ideology that appears to "include" everybody is what Nancy Fraser has aptly called "progressive neoliberalism". It consists of neoliberalism, plus postmodernism as its ideological superstructure.

The propagandists know this; they created it. They are psychologically astute, having hijacked many intelligent but soul-less people of the right and left to do their handiwork.

Money buys souls, and the number of those who have sold theirs is numerous, including those leftists who have been bought by the CIA, as Cord Meyer, the CIA official phrased it so sexually in the 1950s: we need to "court the compatible left." He knew that drawing leftists into the CIA's orbit was the key to efficient propaganda.

For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but taking the money of the super-rich, the JFK assassination and the truth of September 11, 2001 are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did.

By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell's crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda.

[Sep 07, 2018] Neomodernism - Wikipedia

Highly recommended!
Sep 07, 2018 | en.wikipedia.org

Ágnes Heller

Ágnes Heller's work is associated with Moral Anthropology and "probing modernity's destiny for a non-predatory humanism that combines the existential wisdom of ancient theory with modern values." [1]

Neomodernism accepts some aspects of postmodernism's critique of modernism, notably that modernism elevated the world view of dominant groups to the status of objective fact, thereby failing to express the viewpoint of " subaltern groups," such as women and ethnic minorities. However, in her view, neomodernism rejects postmodernism as:

Victor Grauer

In 1982, Victor Grauer attacked "the cult of the new," and proposed that there had arisen a "neo-modern" movement in the arts which was based on deep formal rigor, rather than on "the explosion of pluralism." [2] His argument was that post-modernism was exclusively a negative attack on modernism, and had no future separate from modernism proper, a point of view which is held by many scholars of modernism. [2]

Carlos Escudé

In "Natural Law at War", a review essay published on 31 May 2002 in The Times Literary Supplement (London, TLS No. 5174), Carlos Escudé wrote: "Postmodern humanity faces a major challenge. It must solve a dilemma it does not want to face. If all cultures are morally equivalent, then all human individuals are not endowed with the same human rights, because some cultures award some men more rights than are allotted to other men and women. If, on the other hand, all men and women are endowed with the same human rights, then all cultures are not morally equivalent, because cultures that acknowledge that 'all men are created equal' are to be regarded as 'superior,' or 'more advanced' in terms of their civil ethics than those that do not." Escudé's brand of neomodernism contends with "politically-correct intellectuals who prefer to opt for the easy way out, asserting both that we all have the same human rights and that all cultures are equal."

Andre Durand and Armando Alemdar

Published their own Neomodernist Manifesto in 2001. The Neomodern Manifesto posits criteria for a revitalised approach to works of art founded on history, traditional artistic disciplines, theology and philosophy. Durand's and Alemdar's Neomodernism views art as an act of expression of the sublime; in Neomodern painting as a representation of the visual appearance of things with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty, truth, and good. Neomodern works of art via mimesis interpret and present the universe and man's existence, in line with the belief that the reality we live is but a mirror of another universe that can only be accessed through inspiration and imagination.

Gabriel Omowaye

Gabriel Lolu Omowaye, in his speech 'A new challenging time' to a group of college students in Nigeria, in 2005, took a different approach to neomodernism. He viewed neomodernism as a political philosophy that became more prominent in the early 21st century. To him, it involves common goal and joint global effort - universalism - to address arising global challenges such as population growth, natural resources, climate change and environmental factors, natural causes and effects, and health issues. Omowaye posited that political will is the major driver of economic necessities. As a result, he added that neomodernism involves limited government-regulated liberalism along with high drive innovation and entrepreneurship, high literacy rate, progressive taxation for social equity, philanthropism, technological advancement, economic development and individual growth. He perceived the quest for equal representation of men and women in the neomodern era as a strong signal for advent of postmodernism. So also, the quest for youths engagement in resourceful and rewarding ways especially in governance, peace building and self-productivity has not taken a formidable shape than it is at this time. As far as he was concerned, he believed most of these challenges were not adequately tackled in preceding eras and the arising challenges thus stated were not prepared for and that cause for change in mentality and thinking which the neomodern era is providing for solutions to the era's challenges, with a prospective view to global stability and social inclusion. His philosophical thought premised on a fact that new times require new approaches from new reasonings, even if some applicable ideas or methologies could be borrowed from the past, an acute form of paradigm-shift.

Omowaye believed in idealism as guiding realism and in turn, realism as defining idealism. Moral concepts cannot be wished away from social norms, but evolving social trends dissipate morality in form of religion and logical standards and adheres to current norms in form of 'what should be'. Consequently, the manner at which 'what should be' is driven at in the modern and postmodern eras, being widely accepted became 'what is'. The manner at which the damage of the new 'what is' is hampering development process in the form of higher mortality rate and decadence of cultural good, calls to question the ideology behind the norms that are less beneficial to a wider society in form of globalization. The world as a whole through technological advancement became a global community particularly, in the 21st century. Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan then stated that the "suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere". Champions of neomodern age such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson in the field of philanthropy expounded their vision to encompass the global community in social good such as alleviating poverty, eradicating diseases, enhancing literacy rates and addressing climate changes.

Technological advancement of the neomodern era however has its downturns in that it added to the decadence in cultural good such that people everywhere, especially high number of youths follow the trends in the new 'what is', which include social celebrities in the form of dressing, sexual activities, extravagancies, and less interest in learning and even, working but more interest in making money. Money became a value-determinant than utility. This brought about frauds in various sectors. This latter aspect is not limited to youths but even company executives, and politicians of many societies. Technological advancement has made privacy less safer for intrusion and people more safer for protection. The supposedly good of technological advancement in the neomodern era has included whistle blow such as Wikileaks' Julian Assange. The more good has been in the level of innovations and innovators it has sprung up such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and easier business models and broader social connectivity. This latter part has lessened more amity in immediate environment and many people tend to live more in the virtual world neomodern technological advancements have created.

Neomodernism checks more into the current relative way of living of people and the society to correct necessary abnormalities and to encourage virtues and values within the global community in the 21st century.

In furtherance, Gabriel Omowaye's view of neomodernism was that knowledge comes from learning and experience, and wisdom primarily from intuition. Knowledge is a variable of set occurrences of that which happens to a man and that which a man seeks to know. Knowledge is vital and good for discretion but a minor part of discernment wherein what is known might not be applicable. Intuition is a function of the mind and the mind, not seen, and yet unknown to the carrier, is a function of what put the thoughts, ideas and discretion in it. Wisdom without knowledge is vague, and knowledge without wisdom, unworthy. Wisdom perfects knowledge, and in the absence of either, the sole is delusory.

[Jun 17, 2017] In cyberpunk, there are no more grand narratives about progress and triumph. Humans have nowhere to go and decay is globalized by Robert Mariani

Jun 01, 2017 | theamericanconservative.com

The most tantalizing predictions of cyberpunk never came true. There are no gangs of cyborgs ruling shantytowns in New York City and there are no corporations larger than the federal government. But the sci-fi subgenre envisions such dystopias being underpinned by something subtler: the state of man's soul when there are no longer limits.

The 1980s provided fertile ground for the piercing new vision of science fiction pioneered by William Gibson and his contemporaries. The global capitalism of Reagan and Thatcher ceded agency from nation-states to nation-agnostic corporations. Less obvious but just as important was the fact that the space race was over and Star Trek 's naivety was laid bare. Computers, not spaceships, would become the measure of progression towards the future. The sleek, utopian vision of the mid-century futurism was further discredited by soaring crime in urban centers.

Modernity that was once expected to bring matching space unitards instead brought radical self-expression. The overabundance of choice, these authors suggested, leads to decadence, decay and a society where people can't see clearly without losing their humanity.

And so the heroes of cyberpunk are outsiders -- the punks to which the genre owes half its name. In cyberpunk, there are no more grand narratives about progress and triumph. Humans have nowhere to go and decay is globalized; this is sci-fi without the comforting thought of alien life. Readers experience an Earth where the concept of "place" has passed its expiration date. Protagonists, like the megacorporations they tangle with, exist across borders, anywhere being as familiar or foreign as anywhere else. Neon Japanese syllabary studs skyscrapers that loom over the crowded downtowns of American cities. Virtual reality is at once a catalyst and a coping mechanism for social breakdown.

What is an individual to do in the face of such brutal atomization? Why, he takes individualism to its perverse conclusions, William Gibson's Neuromancer suggests. Take the following passage:

His face was a simple graft grown on collagen and shark-cartilage polysaccharides, smooth and hideous.

The novel implies that the character might appear a little later with a completely different face. Self was another uncertainty that had been sloughed off by ceaseless momentum. Even the author's jargon serves to impart a feeling of unfamiliarity.

We're starting to live in a time when such terrible and wondrous things are not only technically possible but socially acceptable. Headlines were made last month over a fetal lamb being grown in an artificial uterus. The creature, invaded with tubes, suckles and kicks inside its bulging, rippling enclosure. The juxtaposition of twitching organism and sterile, utilitarian plastic is simply cyberpunk. Gender is going the way of that thug's cartilage-grown face. Male and female is looking more like Coke and Pepsi, with some opting to make their own artisanal cola blends. As rootlessness moves from exception to rule, obligations to others begin to look like hindrances. It isn't difficult to see how three-parent babies in polycarbonate wombs fit into all of this.

Change is fast these days. We can feel acceleration that was once only perceptible between generations. At the same time, the past is more crystallized than it's ever been before. Today's everyman, immersed in a data-sphere orders of magnitude more efficient than any library, can see more clearly than ever that things were different in an ever-familiar past. A world with meaning resolves ever sharper as we speed away from it.

But the left-liberal ethic that was once a vantage point from which the genre's founders saw so far is now fogging their sight, restricting them to toiling within the status quo. Cyberpunk has come true in ways that makes progressives uncomfortable if they are unpacked. The genre's founders married a criticism of corporations to the dreary aesthetic of rootlessness, but progressivism only offers a critique of the former on its own merits. Take away the violence and grit and you get Brave New World , a world that the gender ideologue can't levy an argument against. Consumerization of the body, reproduction and social relations lost their conspicuous ugliness when they were rebranded as "liberation." (Outside of sci-fi, the only major literary figure who tackles these issues , Michel Houellebecq, is painted as a reactionary.)

Gibson's upcoming book, Agency , has a plot one would expect from a lesser author: the future is awful because Trump was elected president. This might seem like a perplexing lack of creativity, but consider the intervening third of a century. Gibson was in the business of scrutinizing Frankensteinization when it was a distant flight of fancy. But becoming a Frankenstein monster of hormones and surgery is here and celebration is mandatory. Dialing down one's own ability to notice things to the level of a Daily Kos commenter becomes a matter of survival. This new subject matter reflects the aesthetics of culture that snapped his leash: lifeless and brutal in its insipid repetition.

Stories motivated by political disappointment are doomed to be forgotten as the election cycle resets. Cyberpunk, on the other hand, is more popular now than even during its literary heyday of the 80s. The blockbuster Ghost in the Shell hit theaters earlier this year and will be followed by a sequel to the seminal Blade Runner in October. Their combined budget probably exceeds that of every cyberpunk film that came before (there aren't many.) Cyberpunk 2077 is set to cost around $100 million, making it the most expensive role-playing video game ever made. If we put on our cyberpunk goggles, all of this means something. Capitalism is a computer that processes desire.

Cyberpunk is not becoming marketable because it offers a solution for society. The message is clear that, in face of inexorable rot, the individual loses his sanity or loses his soul. What the genre does offer is a third choice: to view breakneck dehumanization as a roller coaster ride. There is grim exhilaration in the acceptance that an awesome decline cannot be stopped. A future that was once dark and hopeless is now dark and beautiful when one dives headlong into it. Ugliness becomes thrilling and alienation becomes adventure. The homogenous, numbing light of Brave New World's dystopia is replaced by the dreamy atmosphere of neon-lit alleys. Sisyphus can't change his fate, but he can refuse to nod and clap, blank-eyed, at the world's loss of meaning.

Robert Mariani is the opinion editor at The Daily Caller and the co-founder of Jacobite , a magazine of the post-political right. Follow him on Twitter @robert_mariani

[Sep 27, 2012] Reactionary postmodernism

Sep 27, 2012 | stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com

There's one thing not happening today which should be. People are not ridiculing Nick Clegg, at least no more so than usual. But they should be, because one part at least of his speech yesterday was downright stupid:

Who suffers most when governments go bust? When they can no longer pay salaries, benefits and pensions? Not the bankers and the hedge fund managers, that's for sure. No, it would be the poor...

Of course, this is plain wrong. In countries with their own central banks, governments cannot go bust because the central bank can simply print money to buy government debt: this is what QE is. Of course, this might or might not be a bad idea. But Clegg didn't argue this. He just made a prat of himself.

However, my point is not to condemn Clegg; I'll not flog that dead horse. Instead, it's to note that the MSM seem to have ignored this. His speech was reported with the usual post-conference bromides rather than along the lines of "Deputy Prime Minister shows himself to be crass idiot."

There are two things going on here.

First, the Overton window has shifted so far away from rational policy discussion that blatant falsehoods not only do not provoke the derision they deserve, but actually go unchallenged.

Secondly, this is another example of fact-free politics. Despite Edward Docx's obituary last year, postmodernism is alive and well.

Which brings me to what's really troubling about Clegg's remark. Docx claims that postmodernism was a good thing because:

Once you are in the business of challenging the dominant discourse, you are also in the business of giving hitherto marginalized and subordinate groups their voice.

The fact that Clegg can get away with errant nonsense challenges this optimism. In a postmodern world in which all all discourses are equally valid regardless of their truth-value, the claims of the ruling class are not exposed for the lies and imbecilities they are. Postmodernism as it actually exists - that is, with a supine media - thus helps to serve a reactionary function.

September 27, 2012 | Permalink

Indeed. Of course, when the utterances have zero credibility, exposing their deficiencies becomes something of a waste of effort.

Oh, and I think the last para's nonsense is probably more arrant then errant... ;-)

There is a serious danger that by promoting such blatant nonsense, Clegg and his party (my party...) becomes a laughing stock. If we haven't already...

I think the last para's nonsense is probably more arrant then errant

Errant nonsense is a better phrase, because none of us actually know what arrant means except as an intensifier to nonsense.

@Chris

"Of course, this is plain wrong. In countries with their own central banks, governments cannot go bust because the central bank can simply print money to buy government debt: this is what QE is."

Forgive me if I am wrong but I thought it had been made unlawful for EU governments to issue bonds to their central banks?

Is not QE different from the case where central banks buy a fresh issues of bonds directly from the government? Is it not the case that under QE the central bank buys back previously issued government bonds that are held by the private sector?

Is it not in fact more accurate to ask "Who suffers most when governments can't sell their debt?"

"It's not the poor who don't have savings that get devalued, it's the bankers and the hedge fund managers"

Clegg wasn't attempting to make a statement of fact, he was pushing an ideological line. He shares the neoliberal belief of the Tories that the poor are dependants of government while bankers and hedgies are not. When the parasite is big enough, it becomes indistinguishable from the host.

Postmodernism is alive and well because it is the ideological expression of neoliberalism in art: taste is reduced to the judgement of the market; anything is permissible so long as it is paid for.

Clegg is betting that the electorate will be impressed by the LibDem's mere presence on the government stage, despite fluffing their lines and tripping over the props. When you have to make a virtue of unprincipled opportunism, then facts are no more relevant than integrity.

Spreading lies about economics has become the mission of the corrupt ruling class everywhere.

In the case of the euro area it is possible that the masses would be better off if say Spain exited and devalued. A new devalued currency would spread the pain of adjustment widely by means of price rises and open up the possibility of growth. All would suffer but all would gain the unemployed especially over time. The current policy is just cuts and more cuts with deflation. That is the policy that hurts the poor.

Clegg should be asked to explain if we have no money how the state has kept the banks going and still is with huge subsidies. A bottomless pit seems to open up with new fiat money when the Banks require it. That has become corruption on a huge scale. By free market logic the lame ducks of finance should have been shot. If they are to be saved then they should have been required to share the gains as a premium for the support they have and are receiving. Instead we have reverse Robin Hood. Making Bankers richer and the rest poorer.

Clegg and co are wicked little men doing the opposite of what they pretend to believe in. It is more wilful blindness then mere stupidity.

Are you not being a bit over-punctilious there? And hiding a lot of loose ends behind "that might or might not be a bad idea"?

I am not an admirer of, er, vulgar monetarism, but I did not think QE was a remedy of unlimited extensibility. Sure, governments can run the printing presses at warp speed and beyond, but don't the historical precedents suggest that eventually the official values of the banknotes and their real purchasing power start heading in opposite directions? Following which it is unlikely to be much consolation to the disabled pensioner that her bread line has to waggle past the splat zones where ruined financiers are hitting the tarmac.

Obviously the standard of political oratory has lapsed far below that of the golden age we all remember so well, but surely Clegg's speech was making the highly plausible and non-technical point that if the economy goes completely tits up it will be ordinary people who are in the shit, while the rich and super-rich might have some likelihood of avoiding it.

"surely Clegg's speech was making the highly plausible and non-technical point that if the economy goes completely tits up it will be ordinary people who are in the shit,"

Err what is the economy now if not "completely tits up" and how are the 'poor' getting on at the moment? If the record increase in food kitchens, and save the children, and other charities linked usually with much poorer countries, warning of huge increases in deprivation in children isn't a case of 'ordinary people who are in the shit' then I'd hate to see what is.

As for the scourge of hyperinflation, I'm not sure there are too many signs of anything like that. There are many signs of zero or negative growth though. I thought invocations of hyperinflation was the preserve of knuckle headed german bundesbank types. Obviously I was mistaken!

"In countries with their own central banks, governments cannot go bust ..."

So what are you understanding by 'go bust'? I would have taken Clegg to mean 'default', in which case sovereign default is certainly a possibility. You may recall that Tim Worstall delights in listing recent sovereign defaults every time someone makes this claim: we can start with Argentina within the last decade.

It would be more accurate to say that a government never has to go bust -- though one may prefer to for various reasons.

"You may recall that Tim Worstall delights in listing recent sovereign defaults every time someone makes this claim: we can start with Argentina within the last decade."

First of all Tim Worstall is a raging ideologue who is best ignored, and secondly, Argentina's problems are explained here by Bill Mitchell.


"Case study: Argentina 2001-2002 …

In April 1991, Argentina adopted a rigid peg of the peso to the dollar and guaranteed convertibility under this arrangement. That is, the central bank stood by to convert pesos into dollars at the hard peg.

The choice was nonsensical from the outset and totally unsuited to the nation's trade and production structure. In the same way that most of the EMU countries do not share anything like the characteristics that would suggest an optimal currency area, Argentina never looked like a member of an optimal US-dollar area.

For a start the type of external shocks its economy faced were different to those that the US had to deal with. The US predominantly traded with countries whose own currencies fluctuated in line with the US dollar. Given its relative closedness and a large non-traded goods sector, the US economy could thus benefit from nominal exchange rate swings and use them to balance the relative price of tradables and non-tradables.

Argentina was a very open economy with a small non-tradables domestic sector. So it took the brunt of terms of trade swings that made domestic policy management very difficult.

Convertibility was also the idea of the major international organisations such as the IMF as a way of disciplining domestic policy. While Argentina had suffered from high inflation in the 1980s, the correct solution was not to impose a currency board.

The currency board arrangement effectively hamstrung monetary and fiscal policy. The central bank could only issue pesos if they were backed by US dollars (with a tiny, meaningless tolerance range allowed). So dollars had to be earned through net exports which would then allow the domestic policy to expand.

After they introduced the currency board, the conservatives followed it up with widescale privatisation, cuts to social security, and deregulation of the financial sector. All the usual suspects that accompany loss of currency sovereignty and handing over the riches of the nation to foreigners.

The Mexican (Tequila) crisis of 1995 first tested the veracity of the system. Bank deposits fell by 20 per cent in a matter of weeks and the government responded with even further financial market deregulation (sale of state banks etc)

These reforms loaded more foreign-currency denominated debt onto the Argentine economy and meant it had to keep expanding net exports to pay for it. However, things started to come unstuck in the late 1990s as export markets started to decline and the peso became seriously over-valued (as the US dollar strengthened) with subsequent loss of competitiveness in the export markets.

Lumbered with so much foreign-currency sovereign debt the decline in the real exchange rate (competitiveness) was lethal.

The domestic economy by the late 1990s was mired in recession and high unemployment.

And then the "Greek scenario" unfolded. Yields on sovereign debt rose as bond markets started to panic – a vicious cycle quickly became embedded.

In 2000, the government tried to implement a fiscal austerity plan (tax increases) to appease the bond markets – imposing this on an already decimated domestic economy. The idiots believed the rhetoric from the IMF and others that this would reinvigorate capital inflow and ease the external imbalance. But for observers, such as yours truly, it was only a matter of time before the convertibility system would collapse.

Why would anyone want to invest in a place mired in recession and unlikely to be able to pay back loans in US dollars anyway?

In December 2000, an IMF bailout package was negotiated but further austerity was imposed. No capital inflow increase was observed. Duh!

The government was also pushed into announcing that it would peg against both the US dollar and the Euro once the two achieved parity – that is, they would guarantee convertibility in both currencies. This was total madness.

Economic growth continued to decline and the foreign debts piled up. The government (April 2001) forced local banks to buy bonds (they changed prudential regulation rules to allow them to use the bonds to satisfy liquidity rules). This further exposed the local banks to the foreign-debt problem.

The bank run started in late 2001 – with the oil bank deposits being the first which led to the freeze on cash withdrawals in December 2001 and the collapse of the payments system.

The riots in December 2001 brought home to the Government the folly of their strategy. In early 2002, they defaulted on government debt and trashed the currency board. US dollar-denominated financial contracts were forceably converted in into peso-denominated contracts and terms renegotiated with respect to maturities etc.

This default has been largely successful. Initially, FDI dried up completely when the default was announced. However, the Argentine government could not service the debt as its foreign currency reserves were gone and realised, to their credit, that borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would have required an austerity package that would have precipipated revolution. As it was riots broke out as citizens struggled to feed their children.

Despite stringent criticism from the World's financial power brokers (including the International Monetary Fund), the Argentine government refused to back down and in 2005 completed a deal whereby around 75 per cent of the defaulted bonds were swapped for others of much lower value with longer maturities.

The crisis was engendered by faulty (neo-liberal policy) in the 1990s – the currency board and convertibility. This faulty policy decision ultimately led to a social and economic crisis that could not be resolved while it maintained the currency board.

However, as soon as Argentina abandoned the currency board, it met the first conditions for gaining policy independence: its exchange rate was no longer tied to the dollar's performance; its fiscal policy was no longer held hostage to the quantity of dollars the government could accumulate; and its domestic interest rate came under control of its central bank.

At the time of the 2001 crisis, the government realised it had to adopt a domestically-oriented growth strategy. One of the first policy initiatives taken by newly elected President Kirchner was a massive job creation program that guaranteed employment for poor heads of households. Within four months, the Plan Jefes y Jefas de Hogar (Head of Households Plan) had created jobs for 2 million participants which was around 13 per cent of the labour force. This not only helped to quell social unrest by providing income to Argentina's poorest families, but it also put the economy on the road to recovery.

Conservative estimates of the multiplier effect of the increased spending by Jefes workers are that it added a boost of more than 2.5 per cent of GDP. In addition, the program provided needed services and new public infrastructure that encouraged additional private sector spending. Without the flexibility provided by a sovereign, floating, currency, the government would not have been able to promise such a job guarantee.

Argentina demonstrated something that the World's financial masters didn't want anyone to know about. That a country with huge foreign debt obligations can default successfully and enjoy renewed fortune based on domestic employment growth strategies and more inclusive welfare policies without an IMF austerity program being needed.

The clear lesson is that sovereign governments are not necessarily at the hostage of global financial markets. They can steer a strong recovery path based on domestically-orientated policies – such as the introduction of a Job Guarantee – which directly benefit the population by insulating the most disadvantaged workers from the devastation that recession brings.

However, the other lesson that Rogoff and his ilk don't emphasise – is that pegging a currency to another, guaranteeing convertibility and then allowing the financial sector to "dollarise" your economy (drown it in foreign currency-denominated debt) – is a sure way to force the country into financial ruin.

It has nothing to do with the volume of public debt issued in the local currency by a government which has sovereignty in that currency."

http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=11444

Governments can still go bust if they issue enough Inflation Protected bonds.

"Governments can still go bust if they issue enough Inflation Protected bonds."

The St. Louis Fed wrote in their report,

"As the sole manufacturer of dollars, whose debt is denominated in dollars, the U.S. government can never become insolvent, i.e., unable to pay its bills.6 In this sense, the government is not dependent on credit markets to remain operational. Moreover, there will always be a market for U.S. government debt at home because the U.S. government has the only means of creating risk-free dollar-denominated assets (by virtue of never facing insolvency and paying interest rates over the inflation rate, e.g., TIPS-Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities). Together with the unusually high, but manageable, level of the current debt, these facts imply that the current U.S. government can wait out any short-term economic developments until long-run growth is restored.7 Further, without an immediate need to drastically reduce the debt, the mechanism between high debt and slow growth loses most of its credibility."

Go to these sites if you want to discuss it further, they're the experts on the matter.

http://moslereconomics.com/2012/09/10/st-louis-fed-gets-it/#comments

http://mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/someone-finally-gets-it.html

"Governments can still go bust if they issue enough Inflation Protected bonds."

Don't do that then. Better still don't issue any bonds at all.

I do get fed up with these "Cars with square wheels are really stupid and don't work, therefore cars are a bad idea" comments.

PoMo thought has its origins in the work of Paul de Man (a Nazi collaborator) and, further back, Nietzsche (a lunatic much admired by the Nazis and Joey Barton). No surprise it's reactionary, then.

You may not much care for either Zoe Williams or Polly T in the Guardian, but both are MSM commentators who attacked Clegg's speech on much the same points as here.

"First of all Tim Worstall is a raging ideologue who is best ignored, and secondly, Argentina's problems are explained here by Bill Mitchell."

Fair enough, now explain the other 799 government defaults as described in "This Time It's Different".

Pre-fiat defaults (pre-1971) are not the same as post-fiat defaults.

If only I could print my own money to relieve my debt issues. I have had trouble with debt for quite sometime. However, about 3 months ago I decided to seek a professional that offers debt management services. Since then, my financial situation has steadily improved. I can't wait til my head is above water again, but for anyone who has financial issues I would recommend seeing a professional immediately.

President Kirchner see above, has more balls then the whole British and European establishment despite being a girl. She shows how you deal with foreign neo liberal crooks. Offer them some money or no money on their ill gotten swag. The choice is theirs. That is what you can do if you rule for the nation rather then act as tools of crooks.

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Last modified: May 15, 2020