YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 18, 2010

Whaleness (2)

Mortimer Adler, co-founder Great Books Foundation

[Alfred C. Neal writing about the achievements of The Committee For Economic Development in Business Power and Public Policy, 1981, p.10.]  I cannot conclude these introductory observations without disclosing why a policy-making process that combines academic, professional, and government expertise with business acumen is likely to be better than others that do not employ that combination.  Academic and professional people are highly skilled in formulating policy alternatives in a kind of game that employs the symbols, relationships, and intellectual constraints of their disciplines.  The number of possible policy alternatives for resolving problems in social science is limited only by the imaginations of the scientists, which is high, or by the condition and assumptions that they impose to reduce the almost endless proliferation of possibilities in a world of uncertainty.  Assumptions and conditions are the security blankets of the social scientist’s mind.  Policy-making executives are similarly constrained in their choices by considerations of goal-acceptability and costs and benefits, as well as by considerations of organizational capability, public acceptance, and effective leadership needed to initiate and carry out policy decisions.  The interplay of all these inputs to the policy-making process is seldom explicit, but the interaction of good minds employing their intellectual capabilities is, I am convinced, the basis for much better policy making than we have had.  It is the description and analysis of such interactions over many years and the consequences of the policies resulting from that process, that constitute the main stuff of this book.

[Cultural historian Sander L. Gilman maps and hops with the Other, Difference and Pathology, 1985, 129:]  Certainly no stereotypes have had more horrifying translations into social policy than those of “race.”  Tied to the prestige of nineteenth-century science, the idea of racial difference in the twentieth century became the means for manipulating and eventually destroying entire groups.  The following essays document how easily racial stereotypes have been linked with images of pathology, especially psychopathology.  In this case the need to create the sense of difference between the self and the Other builds upon the xenophobia inherent in all groups.  That which defines one’s group is “good,” everything else is frighteningly “bad.” The cohesiveness of any group depends on a mutually defined sense of identity, usually articulated in categories that reflect the group’s history….We cannot eradicate images of difference, but we can make ourselves aware of the patterns inherent in these images.

The goal of studying stereotypes is not to stop the production of images of the Other, images that demean and, by demeaning, control.  This would be the task of Sisyphus.  We need these stereotypes to structure the world.  We need crude representations of difference to localize our anxiety, to prove to ourselves that what we fear does not lie within….The stereotypical categories that we use are rarely without some point of tangency with reality (biological, social, medical) but their interpretation is colored by the ideology that motivates us. [S. Gilman, 240].

[E. L. Doctorow,”A Gangsterdom of the Spirit,” Nation, Oct. 2, 1989, 352-353.  Commencement address to Brandeis University, May 21, 1989, suppressed by The New Republic, printed as another blow for freedom of speech by Nation.]…I will venture to say that insofar as Mr. Reagan inserted his particular truth into the national American mind he made it the lobotomizing pin of conservative philosophy that has governed us and is continuing to govern us to this very moment.

…A decade ago you did not have college students scrawling racial epithets or anti-Semitic graffiti on the room doors of their fellow students.  You did not have cops strangling teen-age boys to death or shooting elderly deranged women in their own homes.  You did not have scientists falsifying the results of experiments, or preachers committing the sins against which they so thunderously preached.  A generation or so back, you didn’t have every class of society, and every occupation, widely, ruggedly practicing its own characteristic form of crime.

So something poisonous has been set loose in the last several years…To speak of a loss of cohesion in society, a loss of moral acuity, is tiresome.  It is the tiresome talk of liberalism.  In fact, part of this poisonous thing that I’m trying to describe is its characteristic way of dealing with criticism: It used to be enough to brand a critic as a radical or a leftist to make people turn away.  Now we need only to call him a liberal.  Soon “moderate” will be the M word, “conservative” will be the C word and only fascists will be in the mainstream.  And that degradation of discourse, that, too, is part of this something that is really rotten in America right now….As an unacknowledged legislator, I am giving you not a State of the Union Address but a State of the Mind of the Union Address.

 BLOOD AND DIRT

      Ralph Bunche once said, “Democracy, to be lived at all, must be lived broadly.” The organicism that I analyze throughout this YDS series is not just a tic, more or less regrettable, but a consciously constructed strategy to delimit political aspiration by circumscribing political possibilities; it represents itself as acting in the interests of peace, science and democracy, meanwhile attacking the critical tools (materialism, empiricism, critical reason) that would make science and democracy realizable.  Organicism tries to blunt the critical tools that empowered lower-class autodidacts in a century whose central trope (they say, following Freud) was sexuality, not modernity as science and an excellent popular education.  For Sander Gilman there is no radical Enlightenment, no rational mind that could peer at irrational behavior, then imagine social arrangements that might reduce the “anxiety” Gilman finds natural.  Rather we are told (without self-criticism, even though we are all irrational) that there is an eternally given and inevitable “xenophobia” that would make talk of Rousseauvian solidarity (social bonds as contractual, not given) psychologically naive.  Finally we are left with the contradictory message that stereotypes are constructed, but also, in some unstated way, reflective of historical experience; although stereotypes are tangentially related to “biological, social, medical” reality, we should strive to understand that stereotypes are, in some unspecified way, bogus.

These thinkers are not allies of the labor movement as it once existed: their agenda was made clear in Gordon Allport’s influential and constantly reprinted post-war Freedom Pamphlet, The ABC’s of Scapegoating.[1]  Denouncing “prejudice,” Allport, a colleague and ally of Henry A. Murray at Harvard, advised Americans to learn to live with pluralism: whites should stop scapegoating blacks, Christians should stop scapegoating Jews, “labor” should stop scapegoating “the spokesmen for ‘business,’ and conservatives should stop confusing liberals with communists by scapegoating F.D.R.[2]  A Harvard psychologist has asked us to look inside and check our “moral cancer” (p.7), our projections or archetypes, as Jung and Murray would say.  But we do not look inside to probe physiological facts and relationships that link all humanity beneath the skin; we do not look outside to see the objective structures (class societies—and I include women as a class) that impede cooperation and development for all by constructing an unyielding “subjectivity” and a propensity to evil as the human condition.  Instead we fix our attention on “boundaries” and “roots” that may not be leveled or exposed as fiction by “Jewish” science and “Jewish” (because deracinating) internationalism.  Now that Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies have been institutionalized within academe as a conservative accommodation to potentially unifying social movements, blood and soil pluralism may be with us for the duration, as will therefore the contradictory and vague adjurations from “progressive” radical subjectivists who say that stereotypes are both rational and irrational.[3]

Not that the organicists are willing to allow contending pluralities to slug it out: that could eventuate in “the tragedy of the Civil War” as Frederick Jackson Turner warned Woodrow Wilson [AHR, 1942, 548].  William Diamond thought that “distinguished and stimulating” historians like Turner, armed with knowledge, must intervene; Turner knew best how to apply “American sectional and party history to world organization,” so as to keep the Bolsheviki serpent from creeping under the fence.  Alfred C. Neal of the Committee For Economic Development, told Americans that businessmen enlightened by academic experts knew best.  Doctorow told Brandeis students that poets knew best.  Turner, Neal and Doctorow, unacknowledged legislators all, advised their readers and listeners to go shopping for (or bring back) the moderate man who abides in the neutral state: the good father, a paragon of self-control and disinterestedness capable of harmonizing the conflicting and extremist demands of sections and biologically/culturally differentiated “groups,” tucking all his children into bed without favoritism.  The formula is plain: DO NOT try to merge your interests with those of your fellow-creatures, promiscuously defined; DO join the group in which you are naturally rooted; purge the system of venomous false promises and infantilizing utopian demands: evacuate these poetically-yet-scientifically designated poisons and heal the National Mind, then you will be ready for those very high levels of interaction and interplay that permit conciliation and compromise. And if all conflicts were susceptible to mediation, who could disagree?

Gentlemen prefer pre-modern societies (or do they?) because they are judenrein, free of complicating facts and dubious speculation: patriarchal, pastoral, holistic, communitarian, stable, healing, virtuous, and soulful.  There is a continuity between Burkean concepts of natural sublimity and terror and Carlylean romantic conservatism; the Anglo-American culture promoted by Melville’s closet American Tory monarchist in Mardi, the Oxford historian Edward Augustus Freeman (another source of Turner-type theories of expansionism mentioned in Mood, 1943) and James Thomson (“B.V.”); the Weltanschauung disseminated by the Macmillan family (publishers of The English Men of Letters Series, edited by the Fabian/Tory/Mussolini enthusiast J.C. Squire, which brought out the Tory John Freeman’s Melville biography in 1926, and publisher of the Journal of American History quoted above); Frederick Jackson Turner’s “American sectionalism and the geography of political parties”; the belief in “national character” promoted by Jungian psychologists, hereditarian racism in the eugenics of Lothrop Stoddard and William McDougall, the nativist radicalism of Van Wyck Brooks, Lewis Mumford, and Henry A. Murray, some nativist assumptions in the American Studies movement, and the “anticapitalism” of the New Left.  Gentlemen and sectors of the New Left speak with the accents of Jeffersonian agrarianism; gentlemen and some New Leftists prefer “Melville” and the delicious specter of whaleness that does him in.  In spite of family quarrels between bohemians and crypto-bohemians in the Melville industry, these men, along with “Melville,” occupy the vital center of the political spectrum, not the subversive margins as some critics might imagine.  In the vital center, it is not elites and non-elites that confront each other, but the Anglo-Saxon countryside and the Jewified city: the latter naughty and finally off-limits.  Using the oft-proscribed tool of comparative historical analysis, I have surmised that veterans of authoritarian families are not perversely blind to impersonal and abstract social processes, but have projected their forbidden resentment at being “moulded” onto bad Jews and modern women, the perverse manufacturers of modernity.  For romantic conservative Jungians (not many Freudians) “individuation” signified separation from the moral mother, Jew of the Home.  By contrast, the radical bourgeois Freud sought treatments that fostered autonomy and separation from idealized authority.  Perhaps Gilman and other semioticians are so merged with authority, so invaded by recoiling and alien Ishmaels (“fierce and irresistible” “English Tartars”), and so helpless and confused that they must constantly “beat the boundaries”[4] to differentiate themselves from the “m(other)” from whom they have never separated, and whose mixed-messages forced them to retreat from the task of autonomy [5] into an armored corporatism, [6] into an ironic acquiescence with the “narcissistic disorder” their analyses of stereotypes and “splitting” is supposed to alleviate.

“Modernism” (a misnomer) may be understood as a repository for genteel anti-Semitism insofar as artists are in “primitivist” revolt against the modern world that has nourished and elevated the critical spirit identified with “the corrosive Jewish intellect,”[7] the witch who unmasks the happy family and identifies incompatible expectations thus inciting “civil wars.” As a representation of the impersonal capitalist market, the Jewish principle destroys the warm, face-to-face interactions  that supposedly moderated relations between master and man, substituting the remote and faceless stock exchange for paternalistic bosses, balefully introducing “political class cleavage” [Mein Kampf, 1940, 432].  As a representation of modernity (gestating liberalism and its feared offspring, socialism), the Jewish principle destroys family and sectional unity (T. S. Eliot’s “native culture”), the shared blood and rootedness in the common soil that links the best of past and present. The Jewish principle would substitute a levelling, polluting internationalist identity thus confiscating a man’s wife, children, dogs, cats, cows and chickens, leaving him prey to “six-lane motorways,” Big Brother’s centralized machinery, and other rats. [8]

We are not accustomed to seeing such connections because official American culture since 1917 has drawn sharp distinctions between Western “democracy” and German or Soviet “autocracy.”[Gruber, 1975]  Since Melville’s death in 1891, “critical thought” has been increasingly on the defensive.  After 1945, the victorious West did not hold a conference to examine the economic, social, political, and cultural sources of fascism and genocide.  Rather, propagandists declared the German nation collectively insane, while covertly admiring Hitler’s methods of mind-control and pretended the Western powers knew nothing of the Holocaust until 1945.[9]  While some psychologists joined Theodore Adorno, inventing the F-Scale to measure the nuances of “the authoritarian personality” [10] (a spectrum of prefascist “types” who would be contrasted with the Genuine Liberal, [11] other conservatives claiming to be sane liberals [12] purged crazy and destructive (“Jewish”) leftists and left-liberals, spreading a miasma of fear that has never dissipated.  American Jews could read the handwriting on the wall: the noisy, abrasive culture of cities and class politics would have to be jettisoned as a condition of economic survival.  American Jews who wanted jobs in academia or in the media had better embrace the tradition of “honest Anglo-Saxon democracy” and shadow-dappled country lanes that had defined itself against both Jewish materialism and against fascism and Nazism. [13]  The marching bands and country airs, the discourse of organicism that had been recognized as imperialist and protofascist before the war,[14] was acceptable to such esteemed postwar Jewish intellectuals as Lionel Trilling, Harry Levin, and Alfred Kazin.  What the postwar intellectuals did was miraculous though not original: like earlier reactionaries, the protofascist material world was off limits, while the Christian-Platonic order became the sanely (s)mothered democracy.  There was no place for modern women or radical Jews in the protocols of the moderate men.

NOTES:


[1] Gordon Allport, ABC’s of Scapegoating (Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, 1983, ninth rev. ed., first publ. 1948).

[2] Allport, p.26 and passim.

[3] Robert Miles, Racism (London and New York: Routledge, 1989) is a summary and critique of scholarly literature, with a useful bibliography. Miles is writing from the Left and using semiotic analysis; he does not look at narratives and metamorphoses, but mechanically reifies Self/Other; such static formulations do not explain connections between the variables of class, gender, “race” and ethnicity.

[4] A ritual in rural England, in which the earth is flogged to delimit the land owned by the parish, a declaration of boundaries.

[5] Cf. Erich Fromm, Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), 135-136. “…Freud thought as a child of his time.  He was a member of a class society in which a small minority monopolized most of the riches and defended its supremacy by the use of power and thought control over those it ruled.  Freud, taking this type of society for granted, constructed a model of man’s mind along the same lines.  The “id,” symbolizing the undeducated masses, had to be controlled by the ego, the rational élite.  If Freud could have imagined a classless and free society he would have dispensed with the ego and the id as universal categories of the human mind.  In my opinion the danger of a reactionary function of psychoanalysis can only be overcome by uncovering the unconscious factors in political and religious ideologies.  Marx in his interpretation of bourgeois ideology did essentially for society what Freud did for the individual.  But it has been widely neglected that Marx outlined a psychology of his own that avoided Freud’s errors and is the basis of a socially oriented psychoanalysis.  He distinguished between instincts which are innate, such as sex and hunger, and those passions like ambition, hate, hoarding, exploitativeness, et cetera, which are produced by the practice of life and in the last analysis by the productive forces existing in a certain society, and hence can be subject to change in the historical process.”  I was impressed with this essay when I first read it, but now I think Fromm was unfair to Freud and to the radical liberals. What makes Marx different from his class conscious predecessors is his view of the inevitability of revolution at the hands of the working-class. Marxists have taken this prediction to mean that they should separate themselves from liberal reformers, designated as worse enemies to the toiling masses than the traditional Right.  I am arguing here that such positions are grounded in irrational institutional and psychological processes that Freud helped us to uncover; for purposes of this essay I am emphasizing the double-bind and the identification of liberal reform with the moral mother, seen as a hypocrite and crazy-making.

As I have tried to show, all conflations of social/historical processes with processes of natural history (catastrophic or gentle) is a mystification that may contribute to immobility in the face of objective dangers to our species and to the earth.  Classes are not strata, revolutions are not volcanic eruptions or avalanches, either “gradualism” or “revolution” may be unnecessarily cruel and violent to the living who suffer (the latter a point made by Mark Twain).  There can be no archetypal rule for radical conduct, no cast of characters that retain their auras, no escape from analysis grounded in the specific and unique matter at hand.

[6] Turner did not advocate ethnic separatism; rather he, like Thomson, imagined a welding together of various (white) European stocks into one nationality, but discreetly guided by a class unmistakably English in its imputed administrative skills.

[7] Jung, quoted in Webb, Occult Establishment.

[8] Cf. Hitler, Mein Kampf on “filth and fire” spawned by parliamentary democracy; the credulous, swindled masses: the Big Liars were the Jewish press: 66-84,99,328, 379.

[9] See Deborah Lipstadt, Beyond Belief, 1986. Also NYT Book Review, April 4, 1948, p.7.  J.R. Rees, The Case of Rudolph Hess was described as “but one more page in the history of mentally ill people who governed a continent.”  A photograph of Hess emphasizes his crazed and staring eyes; both Hess and Hitler are described as romantics and mystics, not as bearers of conservative Enlightenment.  Murray report (Hitler was a combination of Byron and a thug); and Langer report, for FDR and the OSS, 1943 (see below).

[10] Here is Horkheimer’s formulation in the Preface to the influential work of 1950, The Authoritarian Personality:  “This is a book about social discrimination.  But its purpose is not simply to add a few more empirical findings to an already extensive body of information.  The central theme of the work is a relatively new concept–the rise of an “anthropological” species we call the authoritarian type of man.  In contrast to the bigot of the older style he seems to combine the ideas and skills which are typical of a highly industrialized society with irrational or anti-rational beliefs.  He is at the same time enlightened and superstitious, proud to be an individualist and in constant fear of not being like all the others, jealous of his independence and inclined to submit blindly to power and authority.  The character structure which comprises these conflicting trends has already attracted the attention of modern philosophers and political thinkers.  This book approaches the problem with the means of socio-psychological research.  Max Horkheimer, Preface, The Authoritarian Personality, 1950, ix.  Cf. Meinecke on the technocrat/monomaniac as base for Nazism, below.

[11] T.W. Adorno, et al, The Authoritarian Personality, 1950; Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, 1949.

[12] T.W. Adorno, et al., Authoritarian Personality, 975.  This is the prescription pessimistically bequeathed by the Adorno group as it advocates revolutionary changes in child-rearing, understanding that without structural economic change, no adjustment is possible; here they conservative reformers defending the embattled New Deal. (Both Henry Murray’s and Harold Lasswell’s works are listed in recommended reading): “It would not be difficult, on the basis of the clinical and genetic studies reported in this volume, to propose a program which, even in the present cultural pattern, could produce nonethnocentric personalities.  All that is really essential is that children be genuinely loved and treated as individual humans…For ethnocentric parents, acting by themselves, the prescribed measures would probably be impossible.  We should expect them to exhibit in their relations with their children much the same moralistically punitive attitudes that they express toward minority groups–and toward their own impulses…[Many other] parents…are thwarted by the need to mould the child so that he will find a place in the world as it is.  Few parents can be expected to persist for long in educating their children for a society that does not exist, or even in orienting themselves toward goals which they share only with a minority.”

[13] Villard, 1919, Frederick Jackson Turner, 1921, Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, 1935.  In a group of essays written in 1893-1918, and fearing the “recoil” now that free lands were used up, Turner called for a class-conscious social history to compete with un-American Marxist historical materialism; the state university would dig deep into the earth to extract the golden nuggets of the talented lowly, who would then mediate the antagonisms between capital and labor: “By training in science, law, politics, economics and history the universities may supply from the ranks of democracy administrators, legislators, judges and experts for commissions who shall disinterestedly and intelligently mediate between contending interests.  When the words “capitalistic classes” and “the proletariate” can be used and understood in America it is surely time to develop such men, with the ideal of service to the State, who may help to break the force of these collisions, to find common grounds between the contestants and to possess the respect and confidence of all parties which are genuinely loyal to the best American ideals” (“Pioneer Ideals,” 1910, Frontier, 1921, 285).  George Rawick commented to me upon Turner’s ugly anti-Semitism that surfaces in his papers. I have not yet examined Turner’s unpublished works, but Turner, no less than T.S. Eliot, would say that “freethinking Jews” could not be an American “type;” perhaps they were the “European type” into which freedom-loving Americans were apparently evolving in the early twentieth century.

[14] See Ellis Freeman on proto-Nazi propaganda in Western culture and in America, Conquering The Man in the Street (N.Y.: Vanguard Press, 1940).

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3 Comments »

  1. [...] first of two blogs on the antics of the moderate men who tamed Herman Melville. For Part two see http://clarespark.com/2010/06/18/whaleness-2/. You will find yourself at the end of a journey smack in the middle of the Democratic Party and [...]

    Pingback by Whaleness | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — April 29, 2013 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

  2. [...] (See the followers of Frederick Jackson Turner and his frontier thesis for this scenario. See http://clarespark.com/2010/06/18/whaleness-2/. [...]

    Pingback by Is there a “culture of violence”? « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — February 14, 2013 @ 8:37 pm | Reply


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