YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

April 21, 2013

Fascism: what it is, what it is not

obama_change_hitler_lenin-mdm-e1318046441364When either political party or the alienated OWS crowd demonstrates, inevitably there will be a few Hitler signs among the various groups, at which point mass indignation sets in, with finger pointing and squeals: how dare you accuse me or my group of such a horrible affiliation! Everyone who gets angry is correct, and the carriers of the Hitler signs probably are angry too, but are also uneducated about the sources of “fascism” or “Nazism” or (in the case of Franco-dominated nationalist Spain, what is sometimes called “clerical fascism”).

There is massive confusion in both political parties about the nature of “fascism” so this blog tries to review European and American history from the Enlightenment to the present and bring some clarity to the matter. I apologize in advance for the compressed and reductive sentences that follow, but I will be close enough in my analysis.

Start with the invention of the printing press in the 16th century. This matters because 1. Mass literacy was enabled for the first time; and 2. The 20th century dictatorships were frequently blamed by conservatives on mass culture enabled by literacy and then the radio, movies, and television. Self-educated persons (autodidacts) have been the target of elites threatened with dispossession since ordinary people were first able to argue with their “betters” –who had previously interposed themselves between reader and printed page to tell the “lower orders” what the texts actually said. (Elites are still doing it, but now most have Ph.D.s in the humanities.)

The scientific revolution of the 17th century only made matters worse for elites. Now empiricism and worldliness seemed to have pushed mysticism and other-worldliness off the historical stage. The following “enlightenment” produced different results in different countries. England and France took one path, while Germany, under the name of Enlightenment, preserved mysticism and the related notions of “roots”, “national character,” and “Zeitgeist” (the spirit of an age).

The Industrial Revolution, made possible by the deists and “mechanical materialists” of the Enlightenment, terrified all previous ruling classes and institutions, for a numerous and skilled new industrial working class threatened to challenge their dominance. Lords and ladies did not know how to manage machines, and many made common cause with the industrial bourgeoisie to keep the new workers in harness. The Social Gospel in America, like its European counterparts (e.g. Bismarck’s social insurance), was aimed to alleviate the worst working conditions, to avoid dispossession by a revolutionary mob, one that could be inspired by either anarchism or communism, both strong in the 19th century, and both products of the French Revolution.

This is not a guillotine

This is not a guillotine

(By comparison, the American Revolution was a walk in the park, and tended to breed populists, angry debtors, or small utopian experiments limited by middle class values, as opposed to European socialism or anarchism theoretically grounded in Marx or Bakunin.)

Where we are so far: Confronted by a new, potentially dangerous class, European elites dreamed up ways to co-opt and contain their potential usurpers. One of their most potent weapons, apart from the welfare state, was the earlier conception of organic nationalism, a contribution of the Germans in league with ultraconservative opponents to Jacobinism, then to Napoleon. 19th century culture was characterized by insurgent nationalism, with inspiration taken from folk cultures. Progressivism in both America and Europe was an elite innovation that followed Germany in its top-down structure of buying off or co-opting the working class. It was the middle class professions who were designated and trained to keep the masses in line—as “healers,” bureaucrats, teachers, lawyers, intellectuals in the new media.

Enabled by the Great War, the Soviet coup of October 1917 was the event that spawned all future developments in the world. Its centrality to subsequent world history cannot be exaggerated, and all the right-wing movements that followed reacted to the phantasm of working-class dictatorship, including fascism in Italy, then the weak Weimar Republic (social democratic), then the conservative nationalists who put Hitler in power in Germany to stop communism in that country, then the Franco-led rebellion against the social democratic Spanish Republic. Each of these fascisms is distinct from the others, was rooted in European history, and cannot be transposed into the present, except for tiny fringe groups, annoying but of little consequence (with the exception of radical Nazified Islam, which is no fringe element).

LaRouche demonstration sign

LaRouche demonstration sign

Many conservatives in America, particularly the organic nationalists, want to pin Nazism on the Left, because of the word “socialist” in the name of the Nazi Party (Nationalist Socialist Workers Party). (For what “Socialist” meant to Nazis see https://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/,)This misconstrues what socialism meant to Hitler and his associates. “Socialist” referred to self-sacrifice for the sake of the “people’s community” for the Nazi conception of the state was Aryan: i.e., racially homogeneous and purified of [anti-social, individualistic] Jews. And Jews were held to be the embodiment of capitalist greed. By the late 1930s, the coalition between Nazis and conservative nationalists was broken, laying the groundwork for the Army revolt in the 1940s (the last gasp of conservative nationalism), and crushed by Hitler.

All three of the major fascisms were mystical and statist, and took the “Prussian Road” (state-controlled) to modernization. However, the various fascisms cannot be simply equated with communism, which gained many adherents as the culmination of progress and the final emancipation of the individual. For the various fascisms, progress was a bourgeois trick that led to uppity behavior in the working class, and there was much in these fascist cultures that leaned back toward bygone ages, medievalism and the Roman Empire, to be precise, whereas communism was future-oriented.

Take this example from one Spanish fascist calling for the “integrated state”: the speaker is Calvo Sotelo, the monarchist leader of those opposing the democratic Spanish constitution of 1931: “Against this sterile state I am proposing the integrated state, which will bring economic justice, and which will say with due authority: ‘no more strikes, no more lock-outs, no more usury, no more capitalist abuses, no more starvation wages, no more political salaries gained by a happy accident [pensions], no more anarchic liberty, no more criminal conspiracies against full production’. The national production will be for the benefit of all classes, all parties, all interests. This state many may call fascist; if this be indeed the fascist state, then I, who believe in it, proudly declare myself a fascist!” [quoted in Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, pp. 7-8]

As I have written before here, it was social democrats that distanced themselves from fascism, by mischievously equating communism and fascism/Nazism. Social democrats (today, the left-wing of the Democratic Party in America) disguise their own statism by declaring themselves anything but “totalitarian.”  But insofar as they copy the organic nationalism that enabled fascism, or impose a multicultural, covertly racist, discourse in public space, the social democrats may be viewed, as I do, as proto-fascist. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/, or https://clarespark.com/2011/02/10/multiculturalism-cui-bono/.)

We aren’t in an American variant of fascism yet. We still have two capitalist parties confronting one another, but with contrasting strategies for wealth creation: one is derived from Keynes, the other from von Mises, Hayek, and the Friedmans. We still have the Constitution and the various Amendments. That some opinion-leaders in each party are capable of calling their opponents totalitarians or fascists, is a symptom of their continued domination of mass education. Someone has to call them on it, and I have tried to do that here. Education reform that fails to outline the history I have summed up here is complicit with reaction.

We still have a working class majority along with a middle-class that can either torture their students or clients with half-truths, or could emancipate them with a proper political education, and both these classes remain up for grabs.

Where they go, goes liberty. (For the difficulties of defining “liberty” see https://clarespark.com/2016/03/17/what-does-liberty-signify/).



March 28, 2011

Index to multiculturalism blogs

As I have shown throughout this website, the turn to “cultural history” or “multiculturalism” marked a sea change in the writing of American history. But few have traced the intellectual history of multiculturalism. I attribute this to an upper-class “moderate” response to movements from below. Here are a few of the blogs I have written that trace this widespread social pedagogy to its origins in the reaction of German Romantics to the “mechanical materialists” of the earlier 18th century French Enlightenment, though tribalism (ethnic ties) has a long history in human history.





https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/ (quotes Herman Melville’s White-Jacket)












https://clarespark.com/2011/12/15/gingrich-and-the-socially-constructed-nation-state/ (on Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft as defined by Toennies)



https://clarespark.com/2013/02/27/american-exceptionalism-retold/ (Read this first!)





December 11, 2009

“Don’t fence me in”: notes toward a workable consensus


a page from New Theatre, June 1936: Hitler as narcissist

Here is my utopian contribution to the theory of independent media–a hot topic in the era of the internet and blogging. It was directed to program producers and listeners to Pacifica Radio after years of observing how this “alternative” media outlet malfunctioned, even at its best. Given how polarized our political culture remains, I hope that readers of all ideological preferences will read the notes as a plea for a more constructive and creative dialogue. You might want to read these first: https://clarespark.com/2009/08/20/shakin-the-blues-away-primitivism-rock-n-roll-and-mental-health/, https://clarespark.com/2009/08/18/storming-pacifica-revising-my-view-of-pacifica-history-july-22-1999/, https://clarespark.com/2009/08/13/my-life-at-pacifica-radio-a-memoir-part-one/, and https://clarespark.com/2009/08/14/my-life-at-pacifica-part-two-with-gory-details-and-more-on-identity/.

[Christopher Simpson, 1994:] Entrepreneurial academics modeled the scientific tools needed for development of practical applications of communication-as-domination on those that had seemed so successful in the physical sciences: a positivist reduction of complex phenomena to discrete components; an emphasis on quantitative description of change; and claimed perspective of “objectivity” toward scientific “truth.”  With few exceptions, they assumed that mass communication was “appropriately viewed from [the perspective of] the top or power center…rather than from the bottom or periphery of the system (6)….U.S. social science, including mass communications research, helped elaborate rationales for coercing groups targeted by the U.S. government and Western Industrial culture generally (115).  Roughly similar psychological and linguistic structures seem to have played a role in certain phases of Turkish Ittyad efforts to exterminate Armenians during World War I, in atrocities during Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union, and in U.S. exploitation of former Nazis in intelligence operations.  There are many obvious differences, of course, between the psychological and linguistic dynamics of atrocities and those of psychological warfare projects.  Nonetheless, there are enough similarities to suggest that euphemistic “cover stories” are integral to much of modern political communication (144).[1]

[Reinhold Niebuhr, “The Truth in Myths,” 1937:]  …religion is forced to tell many little lies in the interest of a great truth, while science inclines to tell many little truths in the interest of a great lie.  The great truth in the interest of which many little lies are told is that life and history have meaning and the source and the fulfillment of that meaning lie beyond history.  The great lie in the interest of which science tells many little truths is that spatio-temporal realities are self-contained and self-explanatory and that a scientific description of sequences is an adequate analysis of causes. [2]

[Clare’s blog:]      Make no mistake, the culture wars will be fought to the death, and not because scientists do not “tolerate” religious values, but because there is no center, no middle-ground between secular and mystical world-views; either intellectual debate is worth the trouble, or it is a waste of time; either popular sovereignty is to be made rational and competent, or we should return to enlightened despotism.

Certain conclusions for theory and practice flow from my reflections on the devious cultural politics of nineteenth and twentieth-century America and Europe.  What has been most strenuously dismantled in the last tumultuous period of academic reform is The Big Lie of materialism, mega-weapon of Western Industrial culture (according to Christopher Simpson).  As I have tried to show throughout the blogs posted on this website,  however, most public “liberals” and “leftists” today (ethnocultural structuralists) are inheritors of social ideas that were never libertarian and universalistic.  These particular “multiculturalists” decapitate political animals insofar as they prejudge coherent narratives (i.e., authoritative, chronologically ordered, fact-based accounts) of historical change and conflict as totalitarian, racist, and genocidal.  We are toothless without the relatively objective criteria that would make elected authority accountable to its constituency, helpless in identifying the social divisions and antagonisms that most persuasively delineate the trajectory of history at any given moment.

Often with the best of intentions, the Populists and Progressives, the Leninist Left, the Frankfurt School critical theorists, and many New Left anti-racists admiring Simpson or Niebuhr advocated free speech and cultural relativism in ways that would logically undermine confidence in common readers scrutinizing rival political platforms, thus hindering  the coalition building necessary for earnest (goal-directed) politics.  The primitivists/libertines among them sought emancipation from the slavery of romantic love, finding equality in the acting out of repressed “instincts” that the workaholic bourgeoisie had squashed; some critics of essentialism/identity politics argue from the positions of Heraclitus and Nietzsche: the aristocratic radical (Cormac McCarthy?) again looks askance at uppity artisans, the murderous children of Cain.  Our generation of intellectuals might do well to distinguish between 17th-18th C. and late 20th C. conceptions of science, democracy, history and international brotherhood.

As the quotations from Lewis Hill, founder of Pacifica radio and his successors demonstrated, it was the class war that the Pacifica pacifists were to oppose most emphatically: good labor unions collaborated with business as corporatist liberalism (New Deal policies mimicking the happy family) preferred; however, given the conditions of the Depression, during which every class was in crisis, the managed good news Lewis Hill advocated could not report negotiation between equals though that fiction would be maintained in contract law.  Implicit in Hill’s ideology was the notion that misunderstandings in communication (the source of conflict?) could be removed through enlightened workplace anthropology.  Pacifica would radiate good feelings.  Similarly, reformed curricula and canons, overcoming Anglo-American/Hebraic “liberal” hubris, selfishness, and avarice, would breed empathic workers and managers.  Intractable differences were only racial or ethnic or gendered: the powerless would be typed according to biological imperatives, each group possessed of marvelously unique, equally idiosyncratic, rooted points of view that could be freely expressed on public or independent or reformed media, yet these perspectives were finally untranslatable to members of different linguistic communities.  Such rights of privacy, aka group expression, would be guarded by socially responsible businessmen and their deputized academics, fending off melting-pot sharpshooters to their Right.  So far and no farther would freedom, independence, and equality be tolerated.

“Radical subjectivism” asserted itself against “Marxist” postulations of ruling-class “hegemony” by insisting upon the inevitable multiplicity of points of view, of de-centered loci of power and authority. Individual character gave way to “social character.” As one professor of “applied Christianity” put it, referring to the work of Erich Fromm, Clyde Kluckhohn, and Henry Murray, “In order that any society may function well, its members must acquire the kind of character which makes them want to act the way they have to act as members of the society or of a special class within it. Fromm is thoroughly aware of the grave dangers in this ability of society to pressure us into becoming what society wants. But he realizes also that freedom is achieved only in social relations and that one becomes a self only within a group or a people.”[3]

Such “diversity” was seen as both descriptive and desirable.  Like community broadcasting itself, radical subjectivism was a rejection of white male domination, hence progressive, not a turn toward the archaic, the medieval and the barbaric.  In the etiquette of The New Pluralism-Without-Snakes-and-Spiders, there are no lies, save the Big One.  Given this marvel of constructive disengagement, how might alternative media planners counter the cacophony of corporatist liberalism?

I. Discourse and critical method.

—–A. The ethnopluralists have been tracked throughout the blogs. To distinguish ourselves from these organic conservatives masked as genuine liberals we should avoid their buzz words insofar as they apply the terms of biological systems to social organization: e.g., “the community,” “the body politic,” “national character,” “group mind,” “roots,” “milieu,” “equilibria,” “cultural climate,” “balance” (understood as the harmony which ensues when two more or less hysterical people contradict or “check” each other), and “identity” (understood as essential group psychological characteristics transmitted in the genes).

—–B. We should challenge the deployment of the words “race” and “ethnicity” insofar as they are meant to describe hereditary intellectual capacity and other psychological characteristics, as opposed to the ideological construction of “group character” in historically specific moments of conflict.  We ask our audience to keep in mind this understanding of “race” and “ethnicity”: (1). Groups are treated differently on the basis of fictional categories that are supposedly “real” and uniformly applicable to everyone in the group. Such typing reinforces the divisive idea that we are not one species, hence cannot understand each other’s perceptions of reality.  Thus the need to defend and revise our possibly distorted assertions about politics to reach a consensus is made unnecessary: there are no universally perceptible facts, only “group facts.” (2). Even though we are one species, we are not necessarily perceived as such by others: the ideas of (always pure) “race” and “ethnicity” are plausible only as fictions too often considered  real.  (3). Antisemitism is not simply a variant of racism, but a particularly dangerous form of false consciousness because it strikes at “basic trust,” without which no rationally informed social action is possible.  Whereas racial prejudices may be overcome with contact, the switching Jew will always be a confidence-man, his promise of utopia (to know the truth, to build a more humane society) a ruse; the outcome is dangerous not only for Jews, but for the antisemite, because the target is her/his own critical intellect and emotions.  Hence Jews cannot overcome antisemitism through philanthropy or reminding the world about their contributions to modernity: it is precisely modernity and its promise, its open-endedness that is the threat. It is true that the Alien or the Stranger has always been distrusted by insular societies; but in the context of enlightened Europe, the content of the Jewish archetype was adapted to suit the needs of reactionaries. “Roots” secured the “identity” of the beleaguered institutions of the European Right  (comprised of the Church and landed aristocracy) against the “disintegrating” forces of liberal nationalism. Suddenly Jews were no longer convertible or useful; today’s “identity politics” are the tool of similar conservative localists, like the aristodemocrats described above. It is the same not-so-old “scientific racism” cleansed by association with Jewish cultural anthropologists like Boas and his students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. Again: there is no way to rescue German idealism.  It was formed in reaction to rationalism, democracy and the Enlightenment and will always oppose intelligent, democratic, universalistic forms of social organization.

—–C. The current litany for progressive journalists and academics is the study of “class, race, and gender” by which it is usually meant that structural position will entirely predict behavior, desire, and point-of-view, i.e., we are molded and stamped to act in our own behalf (hence participating wisely in pluralist politics, neither befuddled nor capable of perceiving universal human interests which could suggest different forms of political organization).  Besides ignoring distorted consciousness, this functionalist theory of class, race and gender conflates dissimilar categories of analysis.  Although the term is hotly debated, “class” can be defined with regard to the possession or non-possession of resources (money, tools, land, special scarce skills) enabling survival, either allowing persons to walk away from a bad contract or forcing them to work or starve.  Such ownership is not a matter of opinion, it is an objective fact in the world.  Similarly, gender difference is real: e.g., at different times women are more or less tied down by child-bearing and nursing.  But “race” and “ethnicity” are entirely socially constructed, which is not to say that culture (or climate) does not affect or partially predict behavior.  The issue for the twentieth century has been whether or not a better social environment can create “the new man” thus making it unnecessary for each generation to strive anew to rear critical thinkers with humanitarian values.  Lamarckians and muckrakers (like Hitler) want a quick fix; geneticists (should) advise patience and effort.  A Lockean-neo-Freudian approach would see class and gender as a set of conditions that limit experience, but against which we may struggle as we increasingly comprehend the ways we repress those ideas and feelings that threaten illegitimate authority.

—–D. A materialist discourse describes historically concrete individuals and the many institutions in which they are asked to function (the market, the state, the family, education, media, etc.).  This includes (1). Abstract and impersonal social property relations (class structure, how classes reproduce themselves, and class relations including relations between members of the same class who may be either cooperating, competing, or both);  (2). Social movements which may be challenging or acquiescing in the rules of the game; (3). The exercise of power within institutions and between individuals: how is authority made legitimate?  How is consent obtained: through analysis of the system (rational persuasion) or appeals relying upon emotionally charged language and archetypes, on veiled or naked force?  How are the concepts of multiplicity and diversity deployed for and against equal opportunity?  Are persons expected to resolve irreconcilable differences?  Do agitators create or exaggerate differences where none need exist?  (4). What are the sources of change, legal and illegal?  (5). How have powerful interests defined the social psychology of the society or group under consideration?  How have these assessments changed with transformations in modes of production?

——E. An organicist discourse confuses because groups and nation-states are treated as if they were individuals.  Thus for moralistic anti-American New Leftists, “America” is one very bad person, stealing Africans, exterminating Indians, raping the environment, tricking the masses with false promises of cultural freedom, etc.  Similarly “the West” and “Western science” are genocidal.  By contrast, a materialist discourse would identify historically specific individuals and groups, often buffeted by social forces producing destructive behavior.  Comparative history and sociology will reveal that the humanitarian, universalistic values espoused by “Western civilization” are still only partially realized in practice, along with the technology that may someday lighten drudgery and toil for everyone.  Hence we should ask, what are the economic and cultural preconditions that enable people to be creative, peaceful and tolerant?  How have earlier Leftists answered this question and what have we learned from their decisions?

When all of these arduous (but not impossible) tasks are accomplished, then rational communicators may be said to have reached a consensus on the facts of their condition.  Obviously, societies that see human motivation and history as inscrutable and chaotic, an unfinished dialogue between God, the World, the Flesh and the Devil (the Flesh-made Word?) will resist (to the death) such processes of analyses and synthesis. [4]

II. Earning trust of the audience.

A. Spotting the phony liberals/radicals/protofascists.  They say they are not fascists, meanwhile replicate the cultural practice of earlier aristocratic radicals/corporatist liberals with an antimodern, antidemocratic agenda.  Rather than institutional analysis they purge/muckrake, implying that good fathers will make the system work; “corruption” or exploitation may not be structural in origin, but solely the product of moral weakness, e.g., an immoderate will to power and greed or decadent effeminacy and narcissism (consumerism).  Conspirators make history; conspiracy theories have prestige among groups lacking political education.  How should we deal with their “paranoia”?  Indeed, I have been charged by both leftists and conservatives with conspiratorial thinking even where I demonstrate institutional sources of unethical behavior.  Such attempts to discredit destabilizing historical research are to be expected; it is a form of psychological warfare that may cause all of us to distrust our own perceptions, experiences, and educated sense of danger.  But there are real paranoids out there, and opportunistic radicals have indulged irrational fears and hatreds, for instance in their uncritical support of cultural nationalism and populism, indulging the petit-bourgeois radicalism which sees money or “finance capital” as the demonic enemy.

In my view, good history drives out bad.  I respect the suspicions of oppressed people by identifying real historical conspiracies, but attempt to locate them at least partly in institutional imperatives and constraints.  Biographies will often demonstrate the clash between values and behavior, not because of the predilection for lying or hypocrisy, but because of class allegiance and mixed-messages dispensed by societies resisting the transition to a creative democracy  (e.g., multiculturalism is a form of “indirect rule”: an attempt to conciliate lower-class demands for autonomy while maintaining élite control).

B. The production of hopelessness.  College professors, like all intellectuals, have a choice; they may choose topics for research that examine class institutions and reform movements, showing how industrial societies, unlike their predecessors, produce the conditions for their possible transcendence or improvement.  Or, as is more often the case, professors may attack the “hegemony” of philistine puritans, the bourgeois businessmen who supposedly control their careers with an iron fist.  The first approach produces winning tactics and reasonable time lines for change; the second produces cultural despair, has chosen the bleak world-view of the dispossessed aristocrat railing against the false optimism of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.  The first approach emphasizes favorable conditions and possibilities for amelioration where they exist; the second dotes on human weakness, promotes dropping-out/ suicidal adventurism, ends with a sigh, in practice the passivity which only blesses the forces that are killing us. “Ah, Bartleby! Ah humanity!” and “God bless Captain Vere!”

C. Living with ambiguity and suspended judgments.  The condition of modernity is the unending search for truth, for an accurate description of ourselves and of the system (insofar as there is a single coherent system, which I doubt).  In my book, I called it Ahab’s “meandering railroad.” We inspect our closest attachments so that we may be less deluded about our own “pure” motives, desires for control, and other defenses against fear, anger, and rage.  It is a terrible thing to espouse radical politics for purposes of revenge, to mobilize others by stirring up traditional group hatreds.  I see no reason for any “democrat” to appeal to such emotions.  Marx’s irrational polemics stand in contrast to his ostensibly rational analysis of the capitalist system, to his compassionate account of the nightmare of tradition that burdens the brain of the living.  In my own experience, I have found that irrationally motivated radicals are identified by an attachment to labels: like conservative bureaucrats they want to file us in the proper drawers, the better to be manipulated, squashed if potentially “unmanageable” and “unpredictable.”

I doubt that I will ever be able conclusively to separate structure from agency, or pin Herman Melville or myself down.  What we are, where we were, where we are: these are portraits and maps that will more or less change as we revise and reconfigure the past and present, sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly working ourselves out of primitive fantasies and defenses.  Hence we emphasize the dynamics of change (not Jungian archetypes) in an atmosphere of safety and trust.  These comments about the fluidity of perception should not be marshaled to relativize the objective conditions of social institutions.  Whether or not workers are exploited, whether or not ordinary people have access to quality education, health care, mass media and state secrets, whether or not citizens are consulted about the decisions that affect their lives, the existence or non-existence of corporal punishment and other cruelties in the family, can all be established as facts in the real world.  Without an exhaustive and accurate assessment of  institutions (and they may be anarchic and messily unpredictable), we cannot test and judge “authority” or choose between rival claims for love and friendship.

How then will such values be expressed in practice?  If we wish to understand people in motion or mired in apathy we avoid typing people as conservatives, radicals, and liberals or as moderates and extremists as if everyone knew what that meant, as if these words had timeless meanings, as if no one ever changed her mind.  People have describable imaginations, values, and interests that may be modified in changing circumstances; these should be specified concretely.  Similarly, the appropriation of good buzz words in particular moments of struggle should be described: concepts such as pacifism, balance, the people, multiplicity, diversity, relativism, pluralism, and democracy may be claimed by democrats and authoritarians alike.  For instance, socialists might be pacifists in August 1914; American Nazi-sympathizers might be pacifists in 1938; during the same period isolationist conservatives might have feared that international war would create the conditions for another civil war (like the Russian Revolution).

Ideal formats for alternative or oppositional media cannot be prescribed in a vacuum.  “Innovation” and “experimentation” are good or bad insofar as they attempt to promote critical, independent thought and heightened awareness of ourselves and our environments, no foible left unexamined, no nuance of thought or feeling unexpressed.  If our goal is self-management and informed consent to management by experts, then there is no mystery about what to do and how to do it.  We must first determine the condition and preconceptions of our audience in all its varying states of consciousness.

If “commercial” (i.e., jewishly contaminated) mass media present a more or less phony aura of objectivity, self-control, and sanity should we defiantly praise subjectivism, stridency, and irrationality as “radical?”  I believe the competition should be praised for positive achievements where they exist; where their coverage of personalities and events falters, we should fill in the gaps and reconfigure the problem, if necessary, calling attention to the greater freedom that listener-sponsorship makes possible.  If we are not more objective, self-possessed, and rational, more open and scientific, more historically and sociologically informed, more respectful of the audience, more completely descriptive than “mass culture” and “mass media,” then there is no legitimacy to our claim for moral superiority.

Warmth need not yield to stridency or manipulative charm; nor should we talk down to the audience.  We ask ourselves if our revolts are primitivist, ascetic and sadomasochistic, the desire to be punished or to humiliate others; we may be pandering to sadism and masochism in the audience through the endless parade of atrocities and bondage.  Our élitism is communicated through excessive secrecy, obscurantism, false modesty, reductiveness, snideness, sloganeering, slang and obscenity.  We have a beautiful, expressive language that is hardly used; instead as radicals, we punkishly use the speech of the street to exhibit our trustworthiness.  Whom are we fooling?

[Bernard Mandeville, The Sixth Dialogue from Fable of the Bees, Vol.2, Oxford U. Press, 1924, first publ. 1714:]

 Cleomenes.  The natural Ambition and strong Desire Men have to triumph over, as well as persuade others, are the occasion for all this [fiery oratory].  Heightning and lowring the Voice, at proper Seasons, is a bewitching Engine to captivate mean Understandings; and Loudness is an Assistant to Speech, as well as Action is: Uncorrectness, false Grammar, and even want of Sense, are often happily drown’d in Noise and great Bustle; and many an Argument has been convincing, that had all its Force from the Vehemence it was made with: The Weakness of the Language it self may be palliatively cured by the strength of Elocution.

Horatio. I am glad that speaking low is the Fashion among well-bred People in England; for Bawling and Impetuosity I cannot endure.

Cleo. Yet this latter is more natural; and no Man ever gave in to the contrary Practice, the Fashion you like, that was not taught it, either by Precept or Example: And if Men do not accustom themselves to it, whilst they are very young, it is very difficult to comply with afterwards: But it is the most lovely, as well as the most rational Piece of good Manners, that human Invention has yet to boast of in the Art of Flattery; for when a Man addresses himself to me in a calm manner without making Gestures, or other Motions with Head or Body, and continues his Discourse in the same submissive Strain and Composure of Voice, without exalting or depressing it, he, in the first place, displays his own Modesty and Humility in an agreeable manner; and, in the second, makes me a great Compliment, in the Opinion which he seems to have of me; for by such a Behavior he gives me the Pleasure to imagine, that he thinks me not influenc’d by my Passions, but altogether sway’d by my Reason: He seems to lay his Stress on my Judgment, and therefore to desire, that I should weigh and consider what he says, without being ruffled or disturbed: No Man would do this unless he trusted entirely to my good Sense, and the Rectitude of my Understanding…(291-292).  When a Man has only his Words to trust to, and the Hearer is not to be affected by the Delivery of them otherwise, that if he was to read them himself, it will infallibly put Men upon studying not only for nervous Thoughts and Perspicuity, but likewise for Words of great Energy, for Purity of Diction, Compactness of Style, and Fullness as well as Elegancy of Expressions (293).

The various cultures, institutions and social movements we encounter, like all human phenomena, are difficult, if not impossible, fully to comprehend: still we should be wary of simplistic calls for “complexity.”  Rather than a healthy respect for the difficulty of achieving precise and relatively complete accounts of our condition, such warnings (directed at “levellers”?) may mean that we can’t ever know what we are experiencing: events are just too over-determined, too individualized, too particularistic, too mystical, too mysterious.  What was Hayek saying about the “social process which nobody has designed and the reasons for which nobody may understand”?  Was his statement descriptive of the present (1946), or was he saying that, given the limits of research into the motives and actions of others, at any period a Titanic, perhaps unfeasible project, the unfettered market offers the least coercive form of regulation and the most efficient and accurate marker of merit?  Shouldn’t “the Left” engage these and other libertarian arguments with an open mind? Is it not a sign of intellectual and moral weakness when opponents do not engage each other’s facts and programs, no holds barred? Can we say that either side of a debate is “scientific” when they do not engage?

Eloquence and sublimity are not achieved through bombast and obfuscation, but almost rush forth when we have mastered the precision and subtlety of language, when we care for others, as artists, giving them everything we’ve got, understanding suffering and sincerely striving to alleviate it.  In my own experience as a teacher and broadcaster, I have found that “ordinary” people–non-intellectuals–often ask for my assistance in illuminating the historical background of everyday problems; they appreciate being pushed a bit, they do not expect perfection from me or themselves, but self-criticism and progress.  I have succeeded when listeners and readers feel more confident in their own capacities to penetrate, comprehend and at least partially master reality.  Aristocratic radicals will scoff at such aspirations as the rotten odor of mechanical materialism.

Cultural cues are transparent when all the relevant conflicts are brought to conscious awareness; psychological warfare can be decoded and made as easy to read as comic books.  However, “prudence” and the defense of “expertise” forbid the direct, unpretentious communication of institutional or personal goals and operations.  “Two-way communication” is subtly authoritarian when we have not equal access to technology, facts, and skills; we have the microphone, they have the telephone.  We should not abuse our authority.  For instance “call-in” shows, like seminars, usually do not allow follow-up questions; hence may not identify areas of agreement, partial agreement or impasse.  Instead these interchanges sound like a play by Ionesco; the participants take turns speaking into the void.  To put it another way, program hosts ask for feedback from listeners, but do not necessarily act upon legitimate criticisms by self-examination or further research and reflection, nor do they often address the anxieties, rational and irrational alike, that have produced hostile responses.

Trust requires a prolonged period of testing through the individual and group processes of interactivity; this endless, boundless, sometimes joyful, sometimes painful process of testing authority, made meaningful through ongoing self-education and group education, is the distinctive feature of democratic institutions.

Notes: [1] Christopher Simpson, Science of Coercion: Communication Research & Pyschological Warfare 1945-60 (Oxford U.P. 1994).

[2] Reinhold Niebuhr, 1937, reprinted in Gail Kennedy, ed., Evolution and Religion: The Conflict Between Science and Theology in Modern America (D.C. Heath, 1957): 94.

[3]  Roger L. Shinn, The Search for Identity: Essays on the American Character (New York: Harper & Row, for the Institute for Religious and Social Studies, 1964), 2-3. Shinn is quoting from a Fromm essay of 1944 “Individual and Social Origins of Neurosis,” American Sociological Review Vol.9 [1944], pp.380-384, and reprinted in Personality in Nature, Society, and Culture, Clyde Kluckhohn and Henry A. Murray, editors (Knopf, 1948), 407. Shinn tips his hat to Gunnar Myrdal’s American Dilemma, p. x, a theme taken up in the essay by Kyle Haselden, “Race–And The Divided American Soul,” 133-152. But Myrdal, under the influence of Ralph Bunche, described “the American Creed,” not group character. For this author, however, the American character is divided and marred. “…the racial problem more than any other single factor has been the crux of our history. …the clash of the white man and Negro in American society–has had more influence on developing American character than any other single factor.” Haselden blames white racism for its handling of a “racially different minority in the social structure.” (p.137) The author ends with an appeal to moderation, avoiding “Uncle Tomism on the one extreme and aggressive black nationalism on the other” (152).

The call for inclusion, balance and stability within a restored natural American character runs throughout. See Harold K. Schilling, “The Transforming Power of the Sciences,” 39-54. Religion, not science, should direct the future. Using Loren Eiseley’s term “lethal factor,” Schilling warns of the coming apocalypse: “Since science has taught us what nature is really like, and what it means to be “natural,” we now realize that with the arrival of man on earth, there appeared a disturbing, lethal factor that has somehow upset the balance, self-consistency and naturalness of nature. Sometime in his history man has succeeded in producing an ever more destructive black whirlpool that is threatening to drag both him and his world into the bottomless abyss of death and oblivion. (Italics in original, p.54.)

[4] Students of alternative media should study the influence of evangelical Catholicism (revolutionary conservatives, the born-again moderns) in the theorizing of public broadcasting (as well as the formation of the academic disciplines of cultural history and the history of science, confessional psychoanalysis, and the ideology of “cultural pluralism”).  See Calvert Alexander, The Catholic Literary Revival (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1935), with its conclusion calling for a Catholic “free press” (copying the independent publications of Jews, Communists and Socialists) to combat the pernicious influence of mass media.

September 5, 2009

The Fallen Flesh Brigade (repaired)

    As I have been trying to demonstrate in prior blogs, free thought in the academy has been circumscribed, generally away from the public eye.  Led by cultural anthropologists and other social theorists of the Right (masquerading as the Left), science tout court has been vigorously opposed by the humanities, not for its excesses, but for its allegedly flawed methodology. These positions can be subtle and invisible to readers not acquainted with the contested history of the West.  For instance, intellectual historian David Hollinger, a professor teaching at UC Berkeley (the top-rated history department in the country) has begun his collected essays Science, Jews, and Secular Culture (Princeton U.P., 1996) by invoking Walter Lippmann, who thought that universities had a crucial part to play in public life. “A faith in the unique importance of secular inquiry to the making of a good society had been inherited from the people who built the American universities between the Civil War and World War I, and was then renewed and expanded during the prodigious growth of American higher education that followed World War II.” Hollinger goes on to argue that the Jews who “quietly entered” university faculties since the last war have further weakened the hold of Christian ideas. Did he mean to imply that Jewish professors manipulated science as their weapon, a weapon that produced the Bomb? Hollinger does not think there is anything antisemitic or anti-intellectual about his book; indeed, he is an avowed pluralist, an anti-essentialist, and faithful defender of the Enlightenment repudiating “blood and history”; it is just that he thinks ethnicity/religion is an overarching and explanatory category that applies whether or not “Jews” like Lippmann or J. Robert Oppenheimer had any ties to Judaism whatsoever.       


      Like other cultural historians, Hollinger believes that “Protestant hegemony” persisted until the 1960s (with a brief interlude of ethnopluralism in the thought of Randolph Bourne and Horace Kallen before the Immigration Act of 1924).  There is no consideration of the ethnopluralist vision of Hitler and Goebbels or their primitivist predecessors, entailing the leadership of the Socialist racial State that would bring joy to the weeping world once the tyrannical Jews and their materialist analyses were removed. Nor does he examine the ways in which the Jews who were awarded professorships might have accommodated their thought to a WASP establishment, adopting cultural explanations for conflict that had never lost their supremacy over materialist ones in history or literature, namely that the flowering of national character from the grass roots would reanimate decadent societies, that “individuation” meant freedom from the repressive and depressing rule of law that had originated with the Mosaic code.


         Thanks to the sociologists following Durkheim and Weber, we can deal with conflict on the expansive terrain of the culture wars, inside cultural formations that “have a life of their own.” Gone is the concept of society as a collection of individuals, positioned with regard to economic interests and political choices and curious about the decisions and motives of powerful individuals and agencies who make policy in response to social forces that are not always visible or explicable on rational grounds.  The anti-racist liberals in the universities tell us we must have “affiliations,” multiple and overlapping, else there can be no national identity, no unum in the rooted pluribuses, just the easy-to-recognize uniforms of the racial community (that no sane conservative could bear). Also disappeared are the macro-economic changes that would explain the increased polarization of the 1980s and 90s.[1] 


 One would think that the academic Left would have cleared all this up with some hard facts and a review of racial theory as it has evolved, but no; it is the failure of those who profess to represent the interests of workers and the neglected and abandoned of our country that I find most distressing.  “The Left” has brought neither history nor analytic clarity to this momentous debate; it is indeed one of the players in obscuring the long and short-term causes of the so-called culture wars. This lapse is linked to other errors, instances of amnesia, namely, the intellectual lineage of the democratic tradition that leftists are supposed to be carrying forward against all challenges from the forces of reaction.



       Hollinger is at one with New Dealers and their allies on the Left in his periodization of repression directed against free thought.  “The Cold War” or “McCarthy-ite” assault on critical thought did not launch the repression associated with the establishment of the national security state in 1947 and the Republican backlash against the New Deal as they have argued. With this formulation the democratic pluralists, as these conservative reformers call themselves, mask ongoing upper-class resistance to democratic processes and mass education since notions of science and democracy took hold in antiquity. It was a defensive élite response intensified after the Reformation and the invention of the printing press, formulations and reformulations of cosmopolitanism, species-unity, natural law, natural rights and equality in the Enlightenment debates over slavery, and made particularly urgent in mid-1930s America as domestic radicalism/antifascism made significant gains, provoking “moderate” solutions to economic crisis and creeping fascism.



     The subject of prior blogs was this very clique of social psychologists and “cultural historians; it is they who dominate the humanities in America and who put forth the diagnosis of scapegoating to explain “prejudice,” powerfully affecting the direction of postwar ameliorative social movements and demands for better race relations. Following their lead, cultural nationalist media reformers demand positive images to build esteem in stigmatized ethnic or racial groups, often holding the bad Jews of Hollywood and/or the secular academy responsible for maliciously disseminating negative images as the means to further their own nefarious schemes to dominate the world.  But for these Progressive social pathologists, bigotry is rarely viewed as plausible, adaptive, and inevitable because (however crudely) it feeds off and rationalizes rivalry and subordination in either autarchic or competitive free market economies. Economic relations tend to be absent from their analyses because cultural, i.e., religious, explanations explain all of social life: God made diversity and we celebrate the perfection of the world as it is. The vivid and earthy polyglot culture of cities, properly understood, could be the antidote to the etiolating genteel tradition.



     Social conflict, they argue, arises from hubris; the rationalistic scientists think their models have absolute authority, usurping God’s.  Mammon, like the moral mother of the nineteenth-century, has overstepped her bounds. Told as the story of Icarus such overreaching explains the horrors of human history.  Discreetly bounded “communities” are the longed-for alternative to “consumerism.” When thinkers like Hollinger criticize Protestant hegemony, it is the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament they may have in mind; their target is the Hebraic radical puritan whose egalitarian, universalist and messianic ideals could not be absorbed and deflected by the Christian-Platonic organic conservatives—the classicist Robert Hutchins for one. By conflating the most right-wing and nativist Protestant evangelicals with the radical protestants, Hollinger and other ethnopluralists make their elimination a victory for the forces of democracy, not a rout for radical liberals. 



    Of course “negative images” may function to confuse and further split groups who must unite to further their own class interests, and who should be wondering if abstract, impersonal social forces and property relations are the root sources of their suffering or malaise; e.g., physicians continue to locate the sources of “stress” primarily in (poorly managed) individuals, not structurally flawed class or caste institutions.  Lacking such curiosity, troubled individuals and persecuted groups may fatally misdirect their righteous indignation, resorting to conspiracy theories and terror to explain and ameliorate their condition, unable to decide whether structural transformation or incremental improvements are appropriate measures to effect their aims.  



     The romantic conservatives/cultural nationalists I have introduced reify distinctions between “Self” and “Other,” embracing ethnopluralism–a “rooted” localism that, while apparently condemning elitism, in practice may be exaggerating differences between groups needing, and already possessing, common ground.  Even the past becomes Other; each incomparable, finally inscrutable event is an example of historische Individualität. [2]  For intellectual descendants of J.G. von Herder [3] and other German idealists, history is a subset of a poetic natural history: unlike the mechanical Staatsnation (whose bogus liberties are the source of selfishness and anomie), the Kulturnation is rooted in blood and soil; each nationality is uniquely shaped by a combination of instinct and the physical environment.  No culture is inferior to any other as long as each one springs from the Volksgeist; toward that end the Volk must throw off alien cultural domination.  Following Kant and Herder, one modern pedagogue resisted what he called the arbitrary, repressive and formalistic devices of the Middle Ages in coping with the racial mingling that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.  Such harsh discipline in the process of assimilating the foreigner hampers true, because rooted, individuality and freedom: [4]  We don’t have to be, must not be, “Jewish.”  



       Recent research into the history of the humanistic sciences suggests that sociological investigations of human institutions are conducted with ideal organic models lurking in the background: progress has been understood as the throwing off of an invading force (e.g. the “jewified” bourgeoisie) to permit “natural growth” to return.  We need the tools of eighteenth-century materialism to determine exactly how established institutions have actually operated by studying their evolution and the political context in which institutions developed or became obsolete.  How else can we devise new experimental institutional forms to further human development in democratic, scientifically informed directions?  



     Liberals and leftists have not systematically examined the nuances of antidemocratic propaganda in the West though they confidently denounce the overpowering influence of “the media.”  This cultural failure is partly a product of conservative ascendancy since the radical 1890s-World War I period in which corporatist liberals (the “progressives” or “moderate” conservatives) appropriated the prestige of science and progress to discredit the radical liberals. In reaction the corporatist liberals promoted a new/old species of organic conservatism widely practiced in Europe; the Christian-Platonic Great Chain of Being was revitalized in the pseudo-democratic idea of an international federation of folkish states, sometimes known as aristo-democracy (see the writings of Randolph Bourne, Horace Kallen, or the eugenicists Stoddard, McDougall).  Romantic anticapitalism, expressed today as communitarianism and a resurgent arts and crafts movement, was transmitted by the German Romantics and common to Herder, Kant, Burke, Goethe, Hegel, Blake, Coleridge, Carlyle, Ruskin, the von Humboldts and William Morris, to name a few.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries this irrationalist ideology was represented as “materialism” and “the new social history” derived from Frederick Jackson Turner; after the war as “genuine liberalism” represented by T.W. Adorno in The Authoritarian Personality (1950).     


    Some Marxists and New Leftists (the critical theorists) have similarly rejected radical liberalism for this reactionary but “cosmopolitan” and “progressive” ideology: such Leftists are more accurately joined to the defensive progressive reaction to the mass politics furthered by the American and French Revolutions; they too have stigmatized the critical processes associated with empiricism (an epistemology grounded in observable facts, experience, and inductive logic) as excessively cerebral, detached, cancerous and corrosive to “cohesion” or “the Heart.” In their demonology, radical liberals sometime appear as the rootless cosmopolitan or the defiant Romantic Wandering Jew, but also as the domineering market or the jacobin or crazy scientist or as a (switching) two-faced femme fatale/moral mother.


Bottoms-Up. The German Romantics and their descendants have co-opted radical Enlightenment concepts (tolerance, the rejection of innate ideas and fallen flesh as determinants of “human nature,” the cultural biases of the participant-observer) and practices (introspection, scientific materialism, the comparative history and analysis of political and economic institutions).  These “enlightened” concepts and practices were then turned against “the lower orders.”  For instance, the social psychology of “progressivism” transforms the common-sense perception of objective social conflicts and clashing interests into personal, anti-social symptoms of “xenophobia,” “prejudice” or “scapegoating,” i.e., distorted vision of “the Other.”  Insofar as they are conservative Freudians and Jungians, the progressive psychologists attribute negative “stereotypes” to individual weakness and social irresponsibility: Entirely inner conflicts (Oedipal or pre-Oedipal in origin) are projected onto the outer world; this social world could be made harmonious through “integration”; i.e., discreet purges aka correct adjustments or through the emotionally mature recourse to administrative remedies.  In their moralistic, muckraking diagnostics it is possible to construct an entire Weltanschauung in which an entitity called “the Jews” possesses the god-like omnipotence attributed by Christians to the Devil; all modern social movements that question religious authority in favor of empirical investigation of both the natural world and the structures and practices of human institutions will be characterized as false friends to the people, for this world is controlled by our Great Adversary, the archetypal confidence-man represented by the power of filthy lucre aka “finance capital.”  



     It is my argument that “the new social history,”  like “cultural history” has an antisemitic sub-text that few cared to identify after World War II.  But before the murder of European Jewry, writers were less tactful.  J. Mace Andress was head of the Boston Normal School; his lucid book tracing the lineage from Herder to Franz Boas introduced this unknown forefather to fellow teacher-trainers.  His tolerance broke down, however, when giving advice about Bible appreciation: “The Bible Herder regarded as the deepest source of wisdom, and the biblical stories he considered as important means toward education.  In the handling of the Bible stories he recommended the greatest care.  All that was essentially Jewish, not Christian, should be avoided” (168).        Like moderates before him, Andress was looking to moral reform as the basis for socially responsible capitalism; for a progressivism that restored the hierarchical organic social relations of the Middle Ages into micro-units, relieving local élites of competing loyalty to either the universal Catholic Church or to the universal brotherhood and egalitarianism preached by the “Hebraic” Radical Reformation.  Andress’ rhetoric suggests that the essentially Jewish character (God as Devil) is construed as rationalism: “[The rationalist type] of philosophy had made a conquest of the intellectual world, and with self-complacency, looked upon its work and called it good.  The millennium of life was a paradise guided solely by reason; that was sufficient unto itself for everybody at any time and under every condition.  Reason was regarded as the only measure of the values of life.  With contempt it turned to the past to see mirrored there the gloom, fanaticism, and ignorance due to irrationalism!  This brand of philosophy was quite important, thoroughly dogmatic, and quite unsympathetic with historical thought.  The world was to be created anew by man’s power of reason” (52).  

     Herder, like his teacher Hamann, grasped the superior power of faith and spirit; these would unify humanity against the divisiveness imposed by [modern Jews, scientists, radical puritans] (53). Titans need not be Prometheans; ordinary folk, resisting the syren call of democratic citizenship could become gods. Excerpts from the Andress protocols for the new race pedagogy follow.


“Kant gave to the world…a new sense of spiritual freedom.  He taught that the individual is able to build his own world.  No matter what your condition in life, your world may become glorious if only you will make it so.  ‘Its spirituality is your own creation, or else is nothing.  Awake, arise, be willing, endure, struggle, defy evil, cleave to good, strive, be strenuous, be devoted, throw into the face of evil and depression your brave cry of resistance, and then this dark universe of destiny will glow with a divine light.  For you have no relations with the eternal world save such as you make for yourself.’  This sort of philosophy was a call to the individual to arise to self-mastery and self-realization.  Kant believed that the world is not beyond us but is the deepest truth within us.  As we master this truth we conquer the discordant tendencies of our own lives…With Kant [German idealism] said the world is indeed the world as built by self-consciousness; but the real world is the world of the genius, the poet, the artist.  It refused to interpret the world according to reason or the moral law, but in terms of sentiment, emotion, and heart longings.  Romanticism found its chief interest in man’s wealth of divine emotions (Andress, 29-30).” 
“We have noted again and again [Herder’s] opposition to the rationalist philosopher.  Men like Rousseau and Hamann had already led the way, but it was Herder who first put the reactionary movement on a firm basis and gave it solidity.  This was not a result merely of his revulsion of feeling, but because he penetrated beyond to a conception of human life as an organic whole.  He was the first to adopt the historical method in the effort to find meaning in the world as a whole.  Bossert said of Herder that he ‘created the historical method which revived the study of language, literature and religion, and he applied it with such authority and such competence that he rendered for a long time any other method impossible’…In his search for origins both in science and history he foreshadowed the progress of culture for a century after his time…It is no exaggeration to say that Herder foreshadowed the modern trend in psychology…His method, as might be expected, is the genetic….(Andress, 278, 279).” 
     “Herder’s service to religion was monumental. Here again we find him a foe of the Aufklärung, which would make everything amenable to common understanding, which attempted to force truth into the narrow moulds of intellectualism.  As a follower of Rousseau and Hamann, Herder entertained a profound contempt for such rationalistic procedure.  He was not impressed by the merely traditional, the dogmas, the artificiality of churches.  He tried to find the genuine religious feelings of the people which had become largely suppressed by rules and dogma.  As a student of civilization, he went back to the study of the ancient and primitive religions with enthusiasm, intelligence and insight.  Although often reflecting the spirit of traditionalism and the spirit of the past, he was remarkably open minded.  The bigot finds nothing to praise in religions outside his own; but Herder was superior to the littleness of mind often characteristic of the theologian (Andress, 283-84).” 
     “When we stop to think that the science of sociology was unknown in the eighteenth century, we begin to realize how penetrating was Herder’s insight.  He was mindful of the progress of the individual, his enthusiasm for individuality and his rebellion against formalism did not prevent his understanding the real significance of the past, the relation of the individual to the group, and the contribution of society as a whole to culture.  In a broad way Herder in his philosophy of culture lays the foundation for a race pedagogy, which stated tersely would read: in the teaching of a people we should build upon their culture not try to destroy it.  The world-wide efforts to convert primitive peoples to Christianity, the forcing of a foreign culture upon an alien conquered people, are examples of the violation of this pedagogy.  The social philosophy of Herder suggests the beginnings of sociology and social psychology and the recognition of the social aspects of education and culture.  Again we find Herder the Bahnbrecher, one standing on the tiptoe of expectancy for the gates of the nineteenth century to swing wide open, a blazer of new trails for humanity (Andress, 298).” 
A Change of Spectacles.  While class hierarchies and national character are natural, (Jewish) bigotry is not.  The (Jewishly-inspired) scientific revolution plainly ruptures traditional social bonds; like the national chauvinism which would impose “reason and the moral law” on “alien” cultures, such artifice could only be catastrophic.  German Romanticism corrects the death-ray vision of the new science: in the process of self-cultivation or Bildung, sub-divided humanity, like Leibnitz’s monads, are properly seen as units in a grand, gradually evolving whole, judenrein, hence moving onward and upward toward God-like perfection, harmony and equilibrium, each living out its unique potential in the universal Becoming (Werden).     


     Explicating the elusive concept of Bildung, the distinguished and revered cultural historian George L. Mosse approvingly cited Herder: “Man must grow like a plant, as Johann Gottfried von Herder put it, striving to unfold his personality until he becomes a harmonious, autonomous individual engaged in a continual quest for knowledge.” [5]  Although the German Romantics founded the disciplines of comparative literature, comparative religion, cultural anthropology, social psychology and “modern race pedagogy,” to insist on universal ethical rules or standards or analytic tools would violate the tenets of their “anti-élitist” progressive movement. [6]  For the “cultural materialists” among them “class” is a “socially constructed” category, with no more objectivity in the real world than ugly images of race; for these irrationalists, the inductive scientific method and the monolithic, hegemonic Enlightenment (“the West” as personified in comic-book characters like Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse) remain the sources of iconoclasm and genocidal fascist bureaucracies—the inevitable products of levelling, totalitarian “mass politics” and a discredited Whiggish, covertly imperialist “master narrative.”


       The search for origins, the “genetic” method of their “new historicism,” exists solely to delegitimate the claims of science for universal validity; new historicists have mocked the “plodding bourgeois virtues” that “downplay” “character, individuality and point-of-view.” [7]  The searching spotlights of irrationalists, however, cannot be turned upon themselves lest their own schematic diagnostics be relativized as tendentious pronouncements from upper-class controlled institutions; hence the widespread antagonism to Freudian introspection or any declaration of personal interest in the outcomes of their own assertions (aka ‘investigations’).  Such tactful silences would be intolerable if practiced by the scientists who, it is claimed by the new historicists, are inevitably bought and sold by the Big Money.  Hitler, a self-styled critical, independent analyst, said the same about “Jewish Bolshevism” as a front for finance capital. 



An orgy of obscurantism. My review of the Fallen Flesh Brigade, then, retrieves the history of the antifascist “liberals” who have shaped social psychology in the twentieth century, and who have not been able to explain mass death in the past, nor to prevent its recurrence in the present.  I continue to study institutional sources of dead-end politics and other social pathologies, including primitivism, apathy, sadomasochism, and necrophilia.  I have summoned the ghost of Herman Melville to show the difficulties in achieving autonomy (the precondition for democratic participation) in societies that refuse appropriate structural transformation while simultaneously promoting “freedom,” “democracy,” and “critical thought.”  Racism, sexism, homophobia, artistic censorship, anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, family violence, and elitism as they have been defined in today’s social movements will be re-assessed in this political and institutional context.  Artists’ depictions of modernity and its alleged social pathologies should be compared to those of leading journalists and academics treating the same issues.  



     We may observe that petit-bourgeois intellectuals–the sometimes defiant, sometimes conforming middle-managers who occupy the teaching and healing professions and who create media–have, owing to class origin, education, allegiance and interest, been structurally driven to identify with a declining “aristocracy.”  The middle-managers tend to reject Eros (the life-affirming rainbow sighted by attractive popular democratic movements), for Thanatos (the bleak response of the still-controlling old order looking into a future in which it, the owning-class, could be dispossessed)–hence the flight of middle-management to sadomasochistic social relations as self-discipline or “adjustment” to élite-controlled, pseudo-democratic, unevenly emancipated institutions.  For some progressives, pain melts away as they rosily merge into the All. To a rationalist like myself, amazed but not intimidated by the power of irrational psychological processes, the progressives are a disaster: in their “radical” and “pacifist” but finally völkisch and reactionary ideology there can be no unified social action, no self-management or informed consent to management by experts, no concept of the independent artist, scientist, or any (relatively) autonomous, dissenting individual, no constructively critical intellectual: open-minded and, along with a collective of other critical thinkers, meandering purposefully toward either provisional or solid conclusions.

           [1] See David A. Hollinger, Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism (N.Y., Basic Books, 1995); James L. Nolan, Jr. ed., The American Culture Wars: Current Contests and Future Prospects (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996).

            [2] See Jerry Z. Muller, The Other God That Failed: Hans Freyer and the deradicalization of European conservatism (Princeton U.P., 1987).

            [3] My description of German Romanticism and its core beliefs is taken from J. Mace Andress, Johann Gottfried Herder as an Educator (New York: G.E. Stechert, 1916).

            [4] Andress, p.251.

            [5] George L. Mosse, Confronting The Nation: Jewish and Western Nationalism (Brandeis U. Press, 1993): 133; he was citing Hans Weil, 1930.  But Mosse qualified his approbation, perhaps in defense of his stigmatized homosexuality.  The concept of Sittlichkeit anchored the individual in the “restrictive moral order” of middle-class respectability.

            [6] Andress, p.303.

            [7] George Levine, “The Ambiguous Ethics of Self-Annihilation,” paper given 4/26/97, UCLA symposium, “The Values of Science.” Levine argued that Victorian scientists (e.g., Darwin) had merely substituted submission to Nature for the old submission to religious authority; the fantasy of liberty gave power to their bogus heroic efforts; enabling servants were absent from their narratives; (referring to the followers of Gross and Levitt, authors of The Higher Superstition) their moralistic rhetoric is full of vehemence and rage.  Similar arguments were offered by the other participants: “all knowledge is local,” there is no such thing as “value-free inquiry” or “absolute objectivity” in the academy or anywhere else, etc.

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