YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

September 2, 2015

Catholics, Marxists, and a sprinkling of neocons

Cardinal Mindszenty sculpture, Wikipedia

Cardinal Mindszenty sculpture, Wikipedia

It has occurred to me that there is a close affinity between the early Marx essays and medieval Catholicism. The notion of “profit” (now called “greed”) was anathema during the Middle Ages, and considered a cause of decadence (See Mark La Rochelle’s note on the “just price” in the comments section.) Plus, those of my ex-friends on the Left who are professional scholars have found jobs at Catholic universities and colleges. It may be counter-intuitive, but such Catholic movements as liberation theology, and the Dorothy Day Catholic Workers movement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day) are more evidence that segments of the Church would have to mirror leftist rejection of Israel, siding with irredentist Palestinians; moreover Pope Francis has lined up with the left-leaning Green movement.

On the face of it, there could be no affinity between Catholicism and Marxism, for weren’t Catholics such as Cardinal Mindszenty (1892-1975) a major figure in the resistance to Communism before and after World War II? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zsef_Mindszenty).

And are not Catholics and evangelical Protestants, notwithstanding their doctrinal differences, on the same side in the culture wars, with both sides devoted to family life, and taking up arms against [jewified] modernity? Was not the chief item in the controversial Moynihan report on the alarming increase in black welfare assistance and illegitimacy, the reconstitution of the father-led nuclear family? (https://clarespark.com/2015/08/08/the-moynihan-report-march-1965-and-instability-in-the-black-family/).

The early Marx essays (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844) were not widely published and read until the turmoil of the 1960s (their first publication date was 1932). Anyone who has studied them must be struck by Marx’s argument that “money” is the “universal pimp”, turning ugliness into beauty. During the same period, he decried Jewish “hucksterism” as the obstacle to the Utopia that would be realized through communist revolution. Similarly, the influential German sociologist Max Weber, would describe the rise of capitalism after the Reformation as an onslaught against the lovely sensuality shattered by the iron cages of “materialism,” i.e., worldliness. (The German “radical” Werner Sombart (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Sombart), a colleague of Weber’s, would echo these sentiments, arguing that Jews were incapable of relating to Nature without mysticism:

“[We see “the teleological view”] in all those Jews who, with a soul-weariness within them and a faint smile on their countenances, understanding and forgiving everything, stand and gaze at life from their own heights, far above this world…Jewish poets are unable simply to enjoy the phenomena of this world, whether it be human fate or Nature’s vagaries; they must needs cogitate upon it and turn it about and about.  Nowhere is the air scented with the primrose and the violet; nowhere gleams the spray of the rivulet in the wood.  But to make up for the lack of these they possess the wonderful aroma of old wine and the magic charm of a pair of beautiful eyes gazing sadly in the distance…Goethe said that the essence of the Jewish character was energy and the pursuit of direct ends.” [End, Sombart quote}

Because of our hegemonic racialism, Marx is thought of as a Jewish materialist, though his Jewish father converted to Protestantism for social advancement in 1819. (http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2013/11/karl-marx-as-radical-protestant-infidel.html), and Marx (and his Leninist descendants) continue to rail against religion as the opiate of the masses, an element of feudal socialism (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Feudal+Socialism).

I have written about the “moderation” of ex-Marxists and ex-New Leftists before, especially in blogs about nostalgia for the Middle Ages, and especially an apparent desire for the return of the Good King, who stands with the People against the social chaos wrought by revolting factions (e.g., feminists!). The same reconstructed historians, political scientists, and journalists, may promiscuously use the term “totalitarianism” to equate communism with fascism (https://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics).

So did Cardinal Mindszenty.

cardinal-mindszenty-put-under-duress-newspaper-1956

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June 4, 2014

Did “bureaucratic rationality” cause the Holocaust?

“Devilish Children and the Civilizing Process”: Dream Theater

Don’t expect a sophisticated, historically correct account of either antisemitism or “the Holocaust” or the history of Israel to come out of the European or American Left. They have abandoned the pro-Enlightenment Marx for Lenin, Norbert Elias, and Foucault, and have gone native as well.

I have just finished reading Enzo Traverso’s The Origins of Nazi Violence (The New Press, 2003), which seeks to set us straight about the vexed questions raised by the “historians’ debate” of 1986. Traverso takes on Ernst Nolte (the rightist who blames Nazism on the Soviet revolution), Francois Furet (the liberal who uses the word “totalitarian” to equate Nazism and Communism), in favor of such fashionable figures as Norbert Elias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Civilizing_Process), Max Weber, Adorno, Horkheimer, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, and Zygmunt Bauman.

Traverso, an Italian Trotskyist now teaching at Cornell University, fits perfectly into the academic Left in America, for (unlike Marx who favored the progressive bourgeosie), he pushes the Leninist line influenced by the antisemitic journalist J. A. Hobson (but also early Marx, as in “On The Jewish Question”), but with a twist. Whereas Hobson (like Marx) blamed the rule of money, specifically an international cabal of Jewish financiers and their seizing of mass media for modern wars, Traverso follows the Max Weber/Frankfurt School/cultural studies analyses that pin modern antisemitism on the Enlightenment, the all-controlling machines and division of labor initiated by the Industrial Revolution, and the brutalizing imperialism that it spawned. Traverso’s imagination contains an anti-Promethean Frankenstein fantasy populated by imperialists of Europe who flocked into Africa to swipe all their raw materials, open markets, massacred millions of “inferior” natives, and because of their rivalries initiated the Great War that further brutalized humanity and nationalized the masses. Enter Nazism and the steel helmet, symbol of the demise of the noble ancient warrior.

But wait! There is more. As a postmodernist and fierce opponent of science in service to the monsters, Traverso focuses on the biological metaphors applied to hapless victims. These images take on a life of their own, impelling the mass murders of Jews. Representations rule, ignoring the material interests that motivate leaders and the led. In the process, Traverso claims that the antisemitism of medieval or antique societies was entirely displaced in favor of scientific racism/social Darwinism. Thus the reader must not consider the lingering effects of Christian antisemitism in the 20th Century. (Or by extension, Muslim antisemitism today.)

Maddening science itself is to blame, but of course not the “science” of dialectical materialism. Or the pseudo-science of “social engineering” that explains Lysenkoism. For Traverso entirely discounts any role of heredity: all is environment in the shaping of human character.

I find it interesting that Traverso, a highly educated Europeanist, can utterly ignore the roles of the Germans Herder, Kant, and Fichte, in his intellectual history that nails the “Western” 19th century to the wall. For it was they who started the intellectual offensive on the “mechanical materialism” of the French Enlightenment, disempowering the all-too empirical, increasingly literate masses with their German Romantic notions of national character and the superiority of the Greek-influenced Germanic culture: a culture that celebrated the “rooted cosmopolitan” and laid the groundwork for today’s multiculturalism and cultural relativism. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/.

If it is difficult today to separate out progressive capitalists in the Democratic Party from hard-core communists, it may be their shared optimism that explains this strange alliance that is mis-educating our children. Taking heredity into account spoils their fun in demolishing the positive material and moral achievements of “civilization.” (For early Marx’s view of industrialism, technology, and the progressive bourgeoisie see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/.)

Oh, did I mention that the subjugation of women in non-Western countries elicits not a peep from the esteemed cultural historian from the Trotskyist Left?

elias

April 5, 2014

Standing up to bullying social democrats

 

FatCatArt.ru

FatCatArt.ru

I have been reading Peter Weiler’s biography of Ernest Bevin, a leading social democrat in early 20th century Britain, and it is a lucid guide to what social democrats (i.e., the moderate men) are and how they came to power. Weiler also explains populist antisemitism, which may be intrinsic to the social democratic world view. For labor reformer Bevin, socialism was all about controlling Shylock (p.74). (SD will be my shorthand for social democrats.)

The SD world view is this: they are not militants of the labor movement: their goal is not a worker’s state. Rather, they aimed for better wages, working conditions, and life chances for the once growing industrial working class. For the SDs, this would be accomplished through trade unionism and state power that would regulate capitalism, especially the financial sector. Professor Weiler calls this strategy corporatism or labourism. I call it proto-fascism. Many scholars refer to Italian Fascism as the “corporative state” or the “ethical state,” For the corporative state mediated between employers and workers, imposing harmony through state power. Many scholars compare the New Deal to the Mussolini solution to class warfare.

ENTER THE JEWS. As Weiler tells it, Bevin saw industrialists as natural allies to workers, whereas the money men were managing affairs in their own interests alone, cutting down profits for industrialists. Lowered profits meant that workers would have to take it on the chin, lowering wages so that fat cat financiers could maintain their outrageous life styles, while workers languished, unprotected and unloved. “Money” and heartlessness were ever associated with a fictional un-Christian animal called “the Jews.” Some major social theorists blamed “the Protestant spirit” for capitalism (e.g. Max Weber, C. Wright Mills), Protestantism being tinged with Hebraism and a particular love for the Old Testament. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/10/07/christian-socialism-as-precursor-to-orwell/.)

J. A. Hobson, a journalist, was read by “progressive” Brits and Americans alike (including Bevin), and it was he who was most aggressive in spreading the word that “the international Jew” not only was a cabal of money men, it controlled all newspapers and the media. (The Nation magazine in 1919 cited Hobson’s work: see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. Also https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.) The widely circulated Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a hot item in the Arab world today) made the further claim that the cabal would urge their readers to rise up and overthrow their nationalist masters, so that “the Jews” could move in, attack religion, and thus control the world, as was their inheritance as the Chosen People. Reform Jews ran away from this stereotype and many are ready to cave into a “binational state” in Israel as a way of pacifying their SD rulers and the Muslim world.

What does this have to do with standing up to bullying social democrats? As long as our intellectuals look to the state or any other bureaucracy or tribal entity to enforce “social justice” we are doomed to an eternity of authoritarian rule. Human rights do not encompass the rights of the corporative state (a.k.a. the welfare state) to substitute for individual choice and individual responsibility. Human rights are about standing up to illegitimate authority, wherever it may be hiding in the nooks and crannies of our consciousness. This task is not as easy as it sounds. (For part two of this essay see https://clarespark.com/2014/04/06/standing-up-to-bullying-social-democrats-2/.) midwest-map

September 8, 2013

Reading between the lines

Humpty-DumptyIn an often contentious thread on my Facebook page yesterday, I responded to a critic who suggested that I view my website as if it had the legitimacy of Biblical texts and rabbinic commentary. As part of my response, I argued that Biblical texts and associated commentary were “texts” susceptible to criticism and analysis (just as my blogs are meant to be by readers who fault my reasoning and/or facts).

Mine was postmodern talk (i.e., that all communications are “texts” susceptible to deconstruction) so this blog is about where I stand regarding postmodernism, which I do use selectively as part of my critical toolbox, along with “historicism” (See https://clarespark.com/2013/09/04/the-syria-crisis-and-historicism/.).

I.First, wherefore the term “postmodernism”? Here is the Wikipedia definition of the movement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism. Its critics are vehemently opposed to this movement in criticism because of its “nihilism,” its denial of “truth,” its challenge to the authority of “science,” its tendency to “anarchism,” and its “moral relativism.” In practice, the postmodernists often point to bureaucratic rationality (Max Weber, not Karl Marx!) and mechanistic thinking as the cause of such catastrophic phenomena as the Holocaust. Since the general tendency of cultural studies follows the postmodern/poststructuralist agenda, I will explain why I find much of it useful, if not all.

While in graduate school at UCLA, many postmodernists saw me as sympathetic to their cause, perhaps because I was doing “reader-reception theory” (exploring the drastically changing meanings assigned to Herman Melville’s texts since the 19thcentury). I.e., I was looking competing narratives that explained Melville’s sometimes difficult texts . There was a similar interest in my finding that many of the key Melville revivers were practicing psychological warfare, while in some cases, caving to academic pressures that conflicted with their spontaneous responses to Melville’s often ambiguous, even mysterious life and art.

The key word is “ambiguity” along with “indeterminacy,” terms espoused by “pomos.”  Being an introspective person, I do find my own life to be ambiguous in the sense that I cannot relate a personal history with a definite cause and effect sequence. Where I depart from postmodernism is in its insistence that all of science is “a swindle”, or that “mechanical materialism” is a philistine element of the Enlightenment that caused “the Holocaust,”  or that all attempts at reconstructing the past are fool’s errands.

II. Second, a few words about cultural pluralism as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. It is undoubtedly offensive to some readers that I view the Bible as a text, rather than seeing it as God-originated revelation; I imagine that my Orthodox Jewish son-in-law would see my position as Talmudic and typically Jewish. One reason for the duration of our representative republic is the notion of tolerance and relatively free exchange of ideas. Whereas Europe was engulfed in war following the Reformation, the Founders very wisely insisted in a separation of Church and State: there would be no established state religion. The culture wars are fought over this point, and they have polarized the country around competing readings of the Constitution, with “secular progressives” read out of the polity by some pundits on the Right.

PluralismCenter_MikeGhouse_Pluralist

III. Third, the notion of “the will to power” (the title of one of Nietzsche’s books).  I have seen many Facebook comments attributing “the will to power” as the driving purpose of their ideological opponents. Indeed, in a past field exam for the U.S. history graduate students, one question asked us to comment on feminism as “the will to power.” I took this to be a hostile response to such usurpers of male authority as Anne Hutchinson in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But in my dissertation research, I noticed that aristocrats threatened with dispossession by partly emancipated women, Jews, and workers after the French Revolution, attacked these rising groups as motivated solely by a demonic, hence illegitimate, desire to control them. It is my view that Foucault and his followers come out of this aristocratic reaction to the rise of the bourgeoisie with its all-engulfing “cash nexus.”

During the period that I was shopping my book manuscript, an occasional reader would accuse me of too closely identifying with the dastardly Captain Ahab, and imagining that I had the right answer to the Melville problem, notwithstanding that I refused to conclude anything in particular other than the suppression of key documents in Melville’s life and art that would have made his more influential critics look really bad. There are problems that are insoluble, particularly where the human psyche and a dearth of primary source documents are involved.

Some other Melvilleans claimed that I was vindictive owing to my firing as Program Director of KPFK in 1982! Obviously, I, a female with strong views about censorship, must be possessed by “the will to power” over authoritative male literary historians.  Whereas I should have backed off and admitted that there are a “multiplicity of readings” on all matters of fact. For these nay-sayers I perhaps invoked Hawthorne’s sketch of the uppity, puffed-up “Woman” : Hester Prynne was modeled on Anne Hutchinson as Michael Colacurcio once argued.

As the late Norman J. Levitt insisted in his takedown of the postmodernists among the academic Left, some science is “settled.”  But the “bourgeois apologist” Levitt is dead, and I hear rumors that 2+2=5.

will to power

September 6, 2013

The “credibility” conundrum

credibilityWe are in the midst (or at the beginning of) the “Syria crisis”.  My observant Jewish friends and family are also engrossed in self-reflection, perhaps even atonement and reparations for those they have wronged over the past year. Not being an observant Jew myself, I am engrossed in how language is deployed during this massive attempt by a Democratic administration to achieve consensus over a policy that is controversial in both political parties.

The word of the day is “credibility”. Behold how it is used twice in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal , 9-6-13, p. A15, co-authored by Joseph Lieberman and Jon Kyl, and entitled “Inaction on Syria Threatens U.S. Security.” : …This is no longer just about the conflict in Syria or even the Middle East. It is about American credibility. Are we a country that our friends can trust and our enemies fear? Or are we perceived as a divided and dysfunctional superpower in retreat, whose words and warnings are no longer meaningful?…[We must put our country first]…That judgment should provide the foundation we need for a bipartisan strategy that protects America’s credibility and, in turn advances our security and prosperity.”  (my emph.)

I asked my Facebook friends to state what they thought “credibility” signified. One answered with the definition of the word that Lieberman and Kyl probably agree with: there must not be a conflict between rhetoric and action. I prefer to dig a little deeper and ask, is the word “credibility” not connected to the notion of “credit worthiness”? Max Weber, protesting the lack of spirituality in the iron cages of materialism constructed by the capitalist spirit, alleged that Protestantism had made creditworthiness the test of what we now call “credibility.” The poet William Blake (a great favorite in the New Left)  preceded him in denouncing  [the money changers in the temple] in favor of “community” uncontaminated by filthy lucre.

world-connect-people-community-international

How did we become a superpower to begin with? Was it by overwhelming moral superiority, as that proto-progressive John Winthrop urged in the seventeenth century? Or was it the collapse of our rivals in the twentieth century, owing to disastrous and expensive European wars? Did we emerge as the only “superpower” rather by default because of our capitalist work ethic combined with the existence of a continent with virgin soil, untapped mineral resources and plenty of eager immigrants and ex-slaves to do the heavy lifting? And are our “divisions” easily overcome through a manly effort at will power?

The notion, advanced by Lieberman and Kyl, that divisive, partisan nay-sayers are the obstacles to unity, prosperity and security leaves me, well, incredulous.  No dissenter I have read is hell bent on weakening America. They all have realistic reservations about such matters as an exploding debt and the unforeseeable consequences of this belated intervention in what seems to me to be the least predictable, and most volatile region on earth. The sudden focus on the Syrian crisis may well be a Democratic machine initiative to change the subject and ultimately to destroy the Republican Party that would curb the welfare state. Mass media will cooperate without reflection: their format alone will break our concentration. See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/10/losing-focus-and-mass-media/.

US spending

February 14, 2013

Is there a “culture of violence”?

Tintoretto Origin of the Milky Way

Tintoretto Origin of the Milky Way

Ever since the Newtown massacre, in addition to calls for “gun control,” pundits have been tossing around the term “culture of violence” as yet another way to blame mental illness on the modern world, in this case, popular culture as manufactured by Hollywood, the music industry, and television producers.

This blog looks at some of the “culture of violence” explanations, criticizing them as ideological and non-explanatory. My villains are academics, pundits, and other “experts.”

The Marxist-Leninist slant: violence is built into the relationship between capital and labor, or employer and employee. The big guy confiscates the product that should rightfully belong to the little guy, who are not only the victims of (usually finance capital), but who are thoroughly alienated from the work process. Some call this “the Marxist theory of alienation.”

The Frankfurt School critical theorists (synthesizers of Marx and Freud): mass culture destroyed the radical will of the working class, bourgeoisifying what should have been the vanguard of the communist revolution and corrupting them with desires for material comfort. Erich Fromm, for instance, complained about The Escape From Freedom, and blamed the rise of Hitler on working class authoritarianism. More Eros recommended, but only a moderate amount. Tame that [Puritan] superego that sends revolting children off the deep end!

Antisemitic populists: Hollywood and the mass media have wrecked the family, particularly respect for paternal authority, aided by feminists. Male Jews are primarily blamed for their worldliness, love of gold (gelt), unleashed aggressiveness, thuggishness, and insatiable desire for the flesh of female Christians. This sounds weird and sick, but it is probably the most widespread form of protest today, though few will cop to it.

Cultural historians and the New Left. Only a follower of the famous German sociologist Max Weber would be so dopey as to find culture the route to understanding the emotions, expunging economic and political factors and substituting the power of myths, symbols, and [mis]representations in general that have fooled the masses into believing that we have a functioning democracy (I have some sympathy for this view). The entire cultural studies gang will describe America as possessing a culture of violence, for there can be no escape from the past in which prior white Americans slaughtered native Americans, raped the environment, prolonged chattel slavery, stole the Southwest from the Mexicans, marginalized women and gays, etc. etc. Thus violence is built into the American character.  To deny this is to align oneself and one’s associates with the most heinous characters in world history. 1930s Communists had a more favorable version of American history, seeing the bourgeoisie as having developed the productive forces that would enable working-class control. Some Progressives agreed with them, and feared the worst. (See the followers of Frederick Jackson Turner and his frontier thesis for this scenario. See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/18/whaleness-2/. )

Clare’s musings: There is no such thing as a culture of violence. Horror movies are probably deployed to serve as catharsis for necessarily repressed rage against the parents who have the thankless task of socializing their children from narcissistic little savages, into citizens prepared to participate in a democratic republic, to earn a living, and to rear responsible citizens of their own. However, our species is also suggestible. I do not know how those suffering from mental illness process the gory images so omnipresent in movies and crime shows on television. It would be a fine thing if “behaviorist” psychologists and psychiatrists tackled such problems, and were less attuned to labeling the various “disorders” in order to satisfy the FDA and other regulatory agencies, plus the drug companies who are sedating millions of Americans. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/05/17/beethoven-and-some-rosy-prometheans/, for its critique of behavior modification, the parent of cognitive psychology?)

terrier valentine

Liebestod. Happy Valentine’s Day and welcome to our Brave New World.

September 8, 2012

What is a materialist?

What is a materialist? This question cannot be answered without asking what is an organic conservative.  See https://clarespark.com/2010/03/05/organic-conservatives-and-hitler/, in which I give examples taken from my book on the Melville Revival. That essay takes patience and time, so I will attempt a more accessible account below.

This blog focuses entirely on what we mean by materialists and materialism, since the meanings of this term have proliferated, and are frequently deployed in partisan propaganda, but rarely with a definition of what the term signifies.

As a term of abuse, materialism refers to the excessive consumption promoted by free market capitalism, often viewed as a self-serving innovation of “the International Jew.” Leftists, whether of the Democratic Party or of the hard Left, believe that the desire for Things has taken precedence over Love thy Neighbor, and produced a loathsome narcissism, and worse, “bourgeoisifying” what should have been a revolutionary working class. Such love of material comfort, it is alleged, has only served to place the “rootless” individual into the iron cage of materialism (Max Weber), for such a one has emptied herself of “spirituality”.

Minimalist architecture and design addressed the froufrou of excessive ornamentation with a return to simplicity, even austerity. And neoclassical austerity is the preferred style of communism and related ideologies interested in high quality mass production that would re-spiritualize the irreligious urban masses. (One branch of feminist art addressed such austerity as typical of the male sensibility, and produced in reaction, pattern painting. Some of its leading artists have been Miriam Schapiro and Joyce Kozloff, notwithstanding their liberal or leftist sympathies. I could have added Judy Chicago to this group, in her rehabilitation of painting on china or embroidery, once considered to be crafts practiced by women, and demeaned accordingly.)

Joyce Kozloff image

Materialism as empiricism, as a route to knowledge known to some Greek philosophers, was mostly a product of the Reformation and then the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, but even a materialist like Hobbes warned against the untrammeled search for truth as a dangerous “passion.” (Catholic scholars have pointed out that much science was developed by medieval monks, and they are right.)

The German Enlightenment of the 18th century was reactionary as it undermined “materialism” with its mystical notion of national character and Zeitgeist or “the spirit of the age.” Society was held together by mystical bonds of blood and soil, but Herder, the chief proponent of “national character” arranged his different societies in a hierarchy that favored Germans and ancient Greeks. See https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/.

To conclude this short blog, a materialist historian looks at the evidence of this world, although with a skeptical eye, for we understand that we are capable of misreading primary sources, and that primary source materials are themselves sometimes wrong or distorted by diarists, the records of courts, etc. (Or primary source materials may be hidden by secretive tyrants, an ongoing problem for historians and the better journalists.) We also tend to look to similar material interests as a route to social solidarity, not to mystical bonds that are posited by the organic conservatives (e.g. populists/progressives asserting “the public interest” over the ever-selfish “individual”). And the latter mystics are found all over the political spectrum.  To see “things as they are” is no easy matter, and beware of those experts who abuse “evidence” to please a client or an institution or a political party. For more on this point, see (https://clarespark.com/2013/12/13/culture-wars-religion-and-the-neurotic-historian/.)

Note: My use of the Bauhaus and its neoclassical underpinnings (mystical) are derived from Barbara Haskell’s essay in the catalog to the recent exhibition of Lyonel Feininger’s career in Germany and America. See  http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/LyonelFeininger. Haskell explains that the Bauhaus (Feininger was a member) attempted to revive the medieval unity of arts and crafts, i.e., as a restoration of spirituality. This was a powerful insight for me.

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 https://clarespark.com/2010/04/04/what-is-truth/, but also https://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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