YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 29, 2012

The Neutered State

Statue of Freedom, 1863

For a start, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statism . My blog looks at different things.

Competing visions of the authoritarian state

  1. It is the executive committee of the bourgeoisie, and is dependent upon finance capital  (Lenin). It should be overthrown in the interest of the working class (workers and peasants) and led by politically conscious communist intellectuals/planners, who represent and give voice to the exploited masses.
  2. It is, or should be, the embodiment of popular will and the voice of the people (progressives, left-leaning social democrats, sociologist Maurice Zeitlin for instance). The Obama      administration is more and more a blend of numbers one through four.
  3. Owing to rationalization  and the development of “experts,” the modern state is not dependent on any  one class, but is an autonomous entity with its own power drive to persist      (Michael Mann, Max Weber?)
  4. The state and the nation are indivisible (fascism). There are no dissenting individuals; all citizens are merged in the state, which may be organized through syndicati (Italian    Fascism, i.e., the corporative state). Multiculturalism or identity politics create little “fascisms” in which blood and soil inheritance or rootedness supplant the roving, evolving,  reconfiguring mind of the Enlightenment.

Versus the minimalist state, advanced by Founding Fathers. Unlike the authoritarian states, there are no mystical bonds to provide “cohesion.” The Constitution, assuming that human nature was imperfect, was designed for a representative republic, not a “democracy” that signified democratic rule by, for instance, debtors seeking to evade creditors, not to speak of post-New Deal layabouts (e.g. the newly “entitled”).

Prometheus (Rubens)

By contrast, in the progressive dispensation, the mediator has become a central figure. The notion that all conflicts can be reconciled with the perfectly rational mediator, who, with artfulness and certain techniques, can bring the warring parties to their senses, restoring “community” or “common ground,” originated in management-labor conflicts in the 1920s. In this case, the State is held to be neutral, above the fray of quarreling classes, genders, or nation-states. The United Nations was designed to serve this antiwar purpose. The notion that all conflict can be settled through mediation by the neutral state or the United Nations would be funny were it not so dangerous. For those who have succumbed to the neutral/neutered State, there can be no creative vision, no conversation that goes beyond trivia, no fertile innovations, no fruitful conflict leading to a new consensus.

(For a related blog see http://clarespark.com/2010/04/04/what-is-truth/, but also http://clarespark.com/2012/06/16/the-social-history-racket/. The political tactic of displaying rescued victims diverts attention away from the growth of state power and its increasing opacity.)

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12 Comments »

  1. […] As I watched Mitt Romney’s most recent stump speeches, noting his emphasis on bipartisanship, my heart sank, for the current polarization is not about matters that are easily conciliated through finding “common ground” or “compromise.” Romney’s is the voice and admonition of the moderate man, avatar of the neutered state (see http://clarespark.com/2012/06/29/the-neutered-state/). […]

    Pingback by “Capitalism” is on the line « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — November 7, 2012 @ 8:09 pm | Reply

  2. Are you an economist? Or a follower of those who have or who continue to despise “the money power”? You sound like Ezra Pound. What is a hypertrophy of finance? I would think that there is a distinction to be made between crooked and honest bankers. Look to well known “progressives” for at least some of the problems that concern you.

    Comment by clarespark — July 20, 2012 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

  3. […] moderates can be found in both political parties today, arguing for “the neutral state.” (see http://clarespark.com/2012/06/29/the-neutered-state/, with its bizarre notion that all conflict can be reconciled by the artful, manipulative […]

    Pingback by Communist ideas go mainstream « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — July 19, 2012 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

  4. […] http://clarespark.com/2012/06/29/the-neutered-state/ Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by Index to Fourth of July blogs « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — July 4, 2012 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

  5. Did John Roberts provide some progressive dispensation for the masses? He certainly scored a big point with the looters.

    Unfortunately, Obamacare is a done deal. People want free stuff and Barry Obama will continue to have a fire sale.

    Comment by Right Thinking — July 3, 2012 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

  6. Quite an intriguing typology, according to which Obama is at one and the same time Leninist, populist/social democrat, an advocate of the autonomous state, and fascist. I would characterize him as a politician, like all his colleagues Democratic and Republican, whose every utterance and policy is best understood as designed to win the next election.

    I must take issue with your denigration of mediation and mitigation. Without such, society enters a state of civil warfare in which the weak will be annihilated or subjugated by the strong. This has happened recently in Syria, Lebanon during the 1970’s, and Yugoslavia in the 90’—not a pretty sight. The wars of history are instances of similar breakdowns in the international order.

    Finally, you would make a more convincing case against the relativity of knowledge were you to refute the premises and reasoning behind radical skepticism—a philosophical position of far greater antiquity than postmodernism and cultural relativism.

    Comment by david gansel — June 30, 2012 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

    • I have nothing against mediation when compromise is possible; i.e., both parties are able and willing to compromise. As for radical skepticism, I was trained in science, and do not believe that radical skepticism is anything but religion in another guise. That is, it presumes that we are victims of fallen flesh and original sin, see through a glass darkly, etc. That science progresses and corrects its mistakes over time, is what I believe. My whole website is about this. If you want to say that “facts” may be contested, I am with you, but some things are settled. Skeptics don’t like to hear this.

      Comment by clarespark — June 30, 2012 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

      • Take a look at the Wikipedia entry on Pyrrhonism, a school dating back to the first century BC, and thus not contaminated by the doctrines of Xtianity. When applied to religious dogma during the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries, it contributed to the emergence of empiricism and hence to that of scientific thought.

        Comment by david gansel — June 30, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  7. […] I looked for images of Pontius Pilate on the internet, and was not surprised to see a website entitled “What is truth” that asserted the subjectivity and relativity of all knowledge. That is the winning line in our age of multiculturalism, an ideology and a practice that asserts that cultural (read “racial”) differences mean just that: we cannot reach each other over the “racial” or national divide to arrive at an agreement over what is or what is not a fact, as opposed, say, to an opinion based on limited knowledge. That we are all entirely irrational is now the ruling ideology, and if you want a job in academe or wish to ingratiate yourself with the mass media establishment, you had better adhere to that line. Sadly, some persons of my acquaintance who have a background in science, seem to doff their hats to power when they leave their laboratories or classrooms. When challenged, they wash their hands and defer to force. (For a related blog see http://clarespark.com/2012/06/29/the-neutered-state/.) […]

    Pingback by “What is truth?” « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — June 30, 2012 @ 12:21 am | Reply

  8. I like your general classification here, and I think broad sketches like this are very helpful in orienting people to a large topic. I’d like to question one term however.

    > the roving, rootless, reconfiguring mind of the Enlightenment

    The word “rootless” doesn’t strike me as correct here. I think the Enlightenment mind you’re trying to capture here might better be called “mobile” or “evolutionary” rather than rootless. Because I’m historically minded, I always look for the roots to everything; they are always there and are inescapable. The contrast you’re trying to make (I think) is between a static, immobile, fixed, deterministic, essentialist view (blood-and-soil), and a mobile, changing, adapting, evolutionary view (Enlightenment). In this mobile world you’ve got roots of course — everyone begins somewhere — but you can move from your starting point, change, adapt, merge, redefine, and end up somewhere different. That kind of anti-essentialist view is one of the core ways-of-thinking in evolutionary biology, where it’s known as “population thinking.”

    Bob

    Comment by Bob — June 29, 2012 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

    • I agree with you and am going to substitute another word for “rootless” or explain why I used it as contrast to rooted cosmopolitans, the staple category of identity politics, copying Herder’s German Romantic notion of national character (and Zeitgeist).

      Comment by clarespark — June 29, 2012 @ 10:58 pm | Reply

      • You might find these brief notes on essentialism and evolutionary biology, written for students, to be a helpful illustration of how these ideas are talked about in that field:

        http://rjohara.net/teaching/middlebury/bi-496-essentialism

        To someone with a background in evolutionary biology, identity politics always appear to be constructed on a foundation that’s been known to be empirically false for well over a century. (But then plenty of people still base their actions on astrology and all sorts of other superstitions too.)

        Comment by Bob — June 30, 2012 @ 4:46 pm


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