Tag Archives: counter neoliberalism

Fossils of Fuel

Ghosts in the Hollow from Jim Lo Scalzo on Vimeo.

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

Eugene V. Debs | src

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Would James Madison Roll In His Grave? Two parts


Alex Gibney, director of the new film Casino Jack (& The United States of Money,) also Oscar-winning director of “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” interviewed here by Andrew O’Hehir (Salon-link)

Key capture:

“the free market agenda that intends to destroy government”

This phrase leaps out because I’ve long wondered how philosophical Conservatism, unfettered capitalism, and, Judeo-Christian morality are ever reconciled.

In 2006 the filmmaker Danny Shechter produced the little-seen documentary, In Debt We Trust. It’s at your library, folks. So is Gibney’s Enron, the Smartest Boys In the Room. Leslie and Andrew Cockburn released their documentary American Casino last year.


It was a delicious moment when Justice Alito seemed perturbed at Obama stating the obvious during the SOTU. Sure, the majority affirmed the principal of free speech in certain terms.

“When Government seeks to use its full power, including includingthe criminal law, to command where a person may get hisor her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

But in this decision the majority morphed into activist* proponents of a living Constitution.

But might we not come to a point in the future where corporate money rallies to support ‘their’ law-and-order candidate so as to assure order against a surge in disorder provoked by severely economically beleaguered masses?

* There is simply no support for the view that the First Amendment, as originally understood, would permit the suppression of political speech by media corporations. The Framers may not have anticipated modern business and media corporations. (pg.44, CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION)

If James Madison were around, would he endorse concentration of power and wealth?

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Affectual Politics

Glenn Beck: “I really like our Constitution, I’d like to see it enacted. Let’s fix it and get back to where our founding fathers are.”

Loony, yet, “crazy ass sh*t, but. But, more than a few people do agree with Beck. This is so even if such people couldn’t tell you anything intelligent about what the founding fathers actually thought; what they contested among themselves; and what were their various radically liberal principles.

Here’s a conjecture (of mine) about ideology and history. There is no extant or past example of a form of governance for which it could be demonstrated that it’s procedures of governance wholly and absolutely are realized solely as a matter of adherence to ideological principles. This is falsifiable if it can be shown that there exists or has existed a form of governance for which, in its application of its principles, every instance was/is entirely consistent with principle.

Let’s imagine there are people who are committed to some set of principles in the following, narrow way:

Our endeavor is to instantiate a set of principles. We believe this for two reasons. First, because this set of principles is the best of all possible set of principles. Second, that the principles are best, is verified by the fact that their truth is the most reasonable truth upon which any possible set of principles could be based.

News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & country. We seek to uphold the rights of citizens under the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, Republican principles / ideals, transparent & limited government, free markets, liberty & individual freedom. The ARRA News Service is an outreach of the Arkansas Republican Assembly. However, all content approval rests with the ARRA Editor. While numerous positions are reported, our beliefs & principles remain fixed. mission

Our political climate in the U.S. is very interesting in this year, unfolding now, after the election of Mr. Obama. Several developments have taken me by surprise. Obama surprised me by not partnering his financial system bailout policies with policies aimed to help right the economy of main street from the bottom up. It was also surprising that he didn’t articulate in concrete, instrumental, terms what kind of reform he would endorse, and insist upon, to end the depredations of the speculation-driven shadow economy.

Then, he moved to reform health care and laid it in the laps of his congressional majorities.

In light of these developments, I’m not in any way surprised that people have been stirred to reactionary and (called by me,) restorative activism. Nor was it surprising that they oriented their dissent positively around their patriotism, and, negatively, around their primal fear that the government is posed to strip from him or her so-called freedoms.

I’ll let Missy, writing on her blog at TCUNation, the Social Network for Conservatives, explain:

But the worst part? It allows the federal gov’t to be in charge of every aspect of your life. Every decision you make on a daily basis can be linked to “healthcare.” You drive an SUV? You’re contributing to pollution & that increases asthma…..you need to pay more! Since we have direct access to all of your accounts we know you own a 4-wheeler. That’s dangerous………you need to pay more! We see that you eat at McD’s twice a week. That’s bad for you……you need to pay more! YOU OWN A GUN??? THAT’S DANGEROUS! YOU NEED TO PAY ALOT MORE!!

These liberal fanatics will most DEFINITELY use the federal gov’ts financial stake in your everyday lifestyle choices to CONTROL THEM. Your decisions will no longer be your own, they will be decisions that will be for the “collective good.” And they will be MANDATED & CONTROLLED by the gov’t. And in order to “nudge” you into compliance with their ideology of how you should live your life, they will simply put a financial burden on you if you choose differently.

The paranoia surprised me. How does one square paranoia with a normative conservative ethos that holds its funding principles to be both first, and, last, and to be foundational, and also holds these principles are the only possible enlightened goal granted by reasoning through the problem of governance? Where does paranoia fit in? Is it possible that such foundational principles are, in fact, extremely fragile?

I don’t think so. President Obama has offered a mild liberalism. The bank bailout was extraordinary, yet a Republican would have had to have done the same thing. (Creative destruction is a notion one can practically hold only when the bombs aren’t falling on your own head.) All such bailouts tend to occupy uncertain spots in any ideology. A bailout is above all expedient and unhooked from conventional, ideological morality. They’re grotesque too.

So far Obama’s maneuvering hasn’t been much like anything we associate, historically, with truly radical presidents; especially those with very novel views of the Constitution—such as Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, and Bush II. Nevertheless, the ideological principles survive, and this suggests underlying principles, aren’t at all fragile. This includes freedom given to be a result of, contingent upon, application of, ideological principles.

So why is paranoia evoked?

My tentative view is: affect is consequential in the current ‘social psychological framed’ ecology. Forged in the magical bake shop of projective identification, specific affect-laden estimations are on offer. So: a messianic leader is scapegoated so as to be the cause of knowing (i.e. unconsciously feeling,) that what is possessed, “freedom,” is to be stolen by the conspiratorial Other, (i.e. an alter.) This inflated threat is to be met and defeated by, ironically enough, the collective personal power of freedom-loving individualists. It’s worth noting that in some quarters, this evil goat is assumed to have super powers, or, alternately, is assumed to be the servant of hidden masters.

Putting the participation mystique aside–may Levi-Strauss rest in peace–what are the embedded chain-of-being regimes supposed in a clash between the red-in-blood red-tending-to-blue meme, and, the blue-tending-to-orange meme. These, given by Grave’s Spiral Dynamics, and, given by me in my deployment of a shadow dynamics* supposing the red shadow of blue conservatism’s ‘traditionalistic’ paternal chain of being comes to clash with the neoliberal paternal chain-of-being of Orange. Pre-modern, the red shadow of blue, collides here with the post-modern orientation toward technocratic problem-solving.

(Or, the atavistic self and identity, is felt to be threatened by the spectral, post-modern selves and identities. Perhaps, were one to dig into the narratives, one would find at their core a clash between the production of certainty and productions of uncertainty.)

Among many curious aspects of this clash, is the gravity given to an emotionalized, largely unconscious, sense of freedom. (I’ve written about this before.) What is it about a notional freedom that one can be dispossessed of, versus, other less vulnerable notions about freedom? Isn’t it interesting that the conservative concept of freedom-under-constraint, a necessary consequence of the pessimistic view of human nature, is subsumed in the shuffle through the emotionally-charged libertarian bake shop!

Then there is the conspiratorial tenor of magical narratives. Of course, it’s long-standing that the government is anthropomorphized to be a kind of beast, capable of devouring freedom. In this respect the conspiracy mongering of Ron Paul, or Michelle Bachman, comes to be of a piece with the extreme supernaturalized conspiracy advocates, David Ickes, Alex Jones, and Michael Tsarion. In turn, the current extremes are merely the contemporary waves of olden conspiracy theories. And, heck, why not share some air time with the truly deluded?

“they’ve been positioning…” they, theY, thEY, THEY!

*I have yet to go into this in detail. However, roughly, my proposal is that the vertical scale of Spiral Dynamic is configurable as a dynamic, oppositional scale. This is able to depict how higher and lower memes serve as descriptive categories, and schema, for shadow dynamics. For example, by such a dynamic scale, the shadow dynamics for the Blue Meme are discoverable as aspects of Red (below) and Orange (above). In my novel (or idiosyncratic,) view, the shadow dynamics then tend to fall (or regress,) toward the lower, more archaic order, while this unconscious propensity is galvanized by fear of the upward pull toward the newer, more complex order.

My notion here supposes that a concept of Blue freedom, will come to be defended at the lower, unconscious level of Red. Similarly, this defense is waged against a super-charged (by way of ‘social cognitized’ projection,) ‘controlling’ Orange. Grant this phenomenology, and the result is that fear of bureaucracy regresses to fear of collective control, control formulated to the scale conspiracy; “conspiracy” being the shadow concretization of Orange—in its worst form.

This is consistent—well, at least it is to me—with the mental procedures via which contested, soft conceptions–such as freedom–are reduced, reified and objectified. Then the reified conception’s opposite, in this case anti-freedom, is realized and nailed to the alter. Thus, a collective complex is constellated.

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The Sweat Lodge of World Transformation

Scary, but also worth a read: For Some Seeking Rebirth, Sweat Lodge Was End John Doughtery – New York Times: October 21, 2009

The story summarizes the horrific manslaughter that resulted from a sweat lodge conducted by new age con man James Arthur Ray in Sedona, October 8. Three died, eighteen were hospitalized, and, Ray has yet to be charged. Ray herded paying customers into a dangerous environment and then—literally—allowed three to perish. His state of consciousness can easily be characterized: oblivious. On the website for the deadly new age huckster Ray, he offers bona-fides.

Throughout his life, James Arthur Ray has studied and been exposed to a wide diversity of teachings and teachers – from his collegiate learning and the schools of the corporate world, to the ancient cultures of Peru, Egypt and the Amazon. Armed with this comprehensive and diverse background in behavioral sciences, coupled with his experience as a successful, entrepreneur, and an avid thirst for spiritual knowledge, James boasts the unique and powerful ability to blend the practical and mystical into a usable and easy-to-access formula for achieving true wealth across all aspects of life.

I’ll return to this shortly.

Speaking of hucksters, here’s some excerpts of a pitch received from Ken Wilber, October 15.

This is Ken Wilber, and I wanted to take a moment to write you and tell you of the first and only organization that is the exclusive outlet of my Integral work and all projects connected with it. The organization is called Integral Life, co-founded by myself and my CEO, Robb Smith.

I’m truly excited by this organization and its development, because for the first time in history, although there are hundreds of projects and organizations and websites inspired by my work, this is the first one that has my personal seal of approval. The projects, partner organizations, academic journals and books, blogs and forums all have a quality checked by me to personally guarantee that my Integral model is being used accurately. That’s the problem with these hundreds of other applications of my work. As much as I truly appreciate the inspired use of my model by them, there are often misinterpretations of its leading ideas, resulting in less than truly Integral results.

What is an ‘integral result?’

Here’s what it looks like, symbolically speaking:

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Negative Omega

[Liberalism] knows that an individual is nothing fixed, given ready-made. [Individuality] is something achieved, and achieved not in isolation but with the aid and support of conditions, cultural and physical–including in “cultural,” economic, legal and political institutions as well as science and art. Liberalism knows that social conditions may restrict, distort and almost prevent the development of individuality. It therefore takes an active interest in the working of social institutions that have a bearing, positive or negative, upon the growth of individuals who shall be rugged in fact and not merely in abstract theory. It is as much interested in the positive construction of favorable institutions, legal, political and economic, as it is in removing abuses and overt oppressions. John Dewey – The Future of Liberalism (1934) *

Until now, capitalism has always seemed to be inextricably linked with democracy; it’s true there were, from time to time, episodes of direct dictatorship, but, after a decade or two, democracy again imposed itself (in South Korea, for example, or Chile). Now, however, the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken.

This doesn’t mean, needless to say, that we should renounce democracy in favour of capitalist progress, but that we should confront the limitations of parliamentary representative democracy. The American journalist Walter Lippmann coined the term ‘manufacturing consent’, later made famous by Chomsky, but Lippmann intended it in a positive way. Like Plato, he saw the public as a great beast or a bewildered herd, floundering in the ‘chaos of local opinions’. The herd, he wrote in Public Opinion (1922), must be governed by ‘a specialised class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality’: an elite class acting to circumvent the primary defect of democracy, which is its inability to bring about the ideal of the ‘omni-competent citizen’. There is no mystery in what Lippmann was saying, it is manifestly true; the mystery is that, knowing it, we continue to play the game. We act as though we were free, not only accepting but even demanding that an invisible injunction tell us what to do and think.

In this sense, in a democracy, the ordinary citizen is effectively a king, but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king whose decisions are merely formal, whose function is to sign measures proposed by the executive. The problem of democratic legitimacy is homologous to the problem of constitutional democracy: how to protect the dignity of the king? How to make it seem that the king effectively decides, when we all know this is not true? What we call the ‘crisis of democracy’ isn’t something that happens when people stop believing in their own power but, on the contrary, when they stop trusting the elites, when they perceive that the throne is empty, that the decision is now theirs. ‘Free elections’ involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them. Alain Badiou has proposed a distinction between two types (or rather levels) of corruption in democracy: the first, empirical corruption, is what we usually understand by the term, but the second pertains to the form of democracy per se, and the way it reduces politics to the negotiation of private interests. This distinction becomes visible in the (rare) case of an honest ‘democratic’ politician who, while fighting empirical corruption, nonetheless sustains the formal space of the other sort. (There is, of course, also the opposite case of the empirically corrupted politician who acts on behalf of the dictatorship of Virtue.)

‘If democracy means representation,’ Badiou writes in De quoi Sarkozy est-il le nom?, ‘it is first of all the representation of the general system that bears its forms. In other words: electoral democracy is only representative in so far as it is first of all the consensual representation of capitalism, or of what today has been renamed the “market economy”. This is its underlying corruption.'[*] At the empirical level multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ – mirrors, registers, measures – the quantitative dispersal of people’s opinions, what they think about the parties’ proposed programmes and about their candidates etc. However, in a more radical, ‘transcendental’ sense, multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ – instantiates – a certain vision of society, politics and the role of the individuals in it. Multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ a precise vision of social life in which politics is organised so that parties compete in elections to exert control over the state legislative and executive apparatus. This transcendental frame is never neutral – it privileges certain values and practices – and this becomes palpable in moments of crisis or indifference, when we experience the inability of the democratic system to register what people want or think.
Slavoj Žižek – Berlusconi in Tehran, London Review of Books,July 23, 2009

Žižek’s article bores deeply into the contradictions triangulated between democratic participation, the manipulations of ideology and the hegemonic turn of the profit motivation. It is a measure of social consequences of acting out and through those contradictions, that somebody such as Sarah Palin can be promoted to any consideration at all.

But, given the case that Palin actually presents, and too the instance of her celebration, it is enough to suggest that there exists a shared sense among some–if not many–of her celebrants that freedom might better be secured via a theocratic design rather than a democratic one. This isn’t to say Plain is a theocrat, its to say that she captures something of the theocratic projection, and of the countervailing current that poses idealized order against the sparking chaos of modernity and markets.

*hat tip to George Scialabba, who presented this excerpt in his article, Only Words, The Nation, May 11, 2009

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Elephants, and, Almost the Ivan Illich Moment

Last night Entrepreneurs For Sustainability sponsored a daring program, in their monthly series. Titled Sustainability and Poverty, it was the first program over 12 years of the series, that primarily focused on the larger political-economic and social ‘human system.’

I’d count myself as a student of the network-centric development aesthetic that grounds E4S’s vision in a truly humane and feminine (in the archetypal sense,) view about connecting and supporting the empowerment of idealistic and committed entrepreneurial activists. Each in their way, is focused on decreasing the resource and waste footprint of northeast Ohio’s material and energy consumption. E4S does a phenomenal job, and its leader, one of my closest friends Holly, is a masterful maven.

At the same time, I cannot endorse the so-called Triple Bottom Line, (planet-people-profits.) Nor do I engage easily with activism overwhelmingly disposed toward instrumentalism, i.e. doing, when this is severed from any critical culture whatsoever. To me, the wedding of idealism and instrumentalism, can’t help but be often yoked to a refusal to understand the larger scale systems. This lack of a critical culture comes with the territory of doers and doing. This makes sense as a concomitant to so much action: why bother with perilous contradictions found in, and at the scale of, the larger system(s)?

The program, when announced, surprised me, because its implicit reach into the zones of economic devastation, potentially contextualize sustainability in complicated and contradictory ways.

This reach begs intense questions.

And, with one exception, those freighted questions did not get raised. One surfaced in the Q&A. This question, about how large institutions geared primarily toward profits could come to the ‘page’ of sustainability, was circumvented by an astonishingly disingenuous answer by a panelist.

This is okay. E4S isn’t configured to bring critical consciousness to bear upon contradictions and challenges implicit in the larger system that its business development mission takes place within. Still, the excitement generated at the program likely had something to do with its moment of opening up to the larger system and its big questions.

If you’re wondering what those questions are, I’ll pose them as equivalent to elephants in the room.

1st elephant: People in poverty most often represent the failure of the political-economic system, and predatory–if you will–bottom lines.

2nd elephant: People in poverty in Cleveland live lifestyles unimaginable to the 1 billion people who live on $3/day or less. The point here is not the relative well-being of Cleveland’s economically disadvantaged, but that elephant #1, much more abject poverty elsewhere, is due to the most horrific consequences of profit motive, resource inequity and failures of sustainability.

3rd elephant: The stand alone “truth” of sustainability is different at the different and enlarged scales of socio-economics.

(If one is to regard and analyze the sociological/economic system that encompasses the elongated cycles of development and degradation, dynamicism of structural opportunities, disinvestment and mobility of capital, and the literal classes of longitudinal outcome at the level of household and neighborhood, city and region, one will be compelled to turn an unsparing critical eye toward the problem, or shadow of, profitable instrumentalities, these too merged with the voracious onslaught given by capitalism and consumerism.)

4th elephant: A world-wide consumer middle class, the implication of ending poverty granted by a commitment to a hyper-materialistic finance-capitalized economics, is not sustainable.

Which brings us to:

5th elephant: the resource inequities given by the furious consumerism of the 1st world and, nowadays, by the economic growth of asia and latin america. The economic devastation in NEO is not due to other causes. Follow the gold over long cycles of expansion and contraction!

This last elephant presents the problem of unsustainable growth in its starkest terms, even as the trend toward greater poverty, has been largely reversed. (Except on the continent of Africa.)

Implication of elephant #5: It’s hard to valorize the triple bottom line, AND, not run the damn numbers. But, to run the numbers is to realize how nonsensical the triple bottom line is in the first place, and at the scale of the system where the ill consequences smack in the face.

I don’t see how the problem of poverty can be dragged very far into the perspective given by the current sustainable business system, and its blinded triple bottom line. After all, that same business system is not structured to not drive people into poverty. So it is also: the triple bottom line is rendered uncritically as a development model with basically zero regard (in its instrumental scheme,) for its being also an implicate feature of predatory finance capitalism.

Ironically, there is a long tradition of thought leading, predating the sustainability movement, that zeroes in on these contradictions. Schumacher, Bookchin, nowadays Bill Mckibbon, others, and especially Ivan Illich, unpacked the weighty contradictions of capital, consumerism, resource equity, wastefulness, and the institutionalization, (and for Illich, professionalization,) of the materialistic trance.

Although E4S is hardly configured to deal with any of this, and the fascinating monthly meeting didn’t approach elephant or contradiction, nevertheless, this was the first time in 12+ years that this fine and important local collaborative experiment dared to step toward its own Ivan Illich moment.

I have no idea how sustainability advocates who aren’t aware of aging, albeit sophisticated social critiques, might either reckon with or begin to reconcile the contradictions found in the larger system. Hopefully, turning a blind eye toward the bigger system will become more and more untenable.

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via Naomi Klein
University of Chicago Faculty Letter on The Milton Friedman Institute

6 June 2008

President Robert Zimmer
Provost Thomas Rosenbaum
University of Chicago
5801 South Ellis Avenue Suite 502
Chicago IL 60637

Dear President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum:

We were interested to read President Zimmer’s recent message announcing the Milton Friedman Institute, with its 200 million dollar plus endowment and prime real estate location on campus. We understand that the University of Chicago’s association with Friedman has been important to its international reputation during the last four decades, and can imagine that the University reasonably sees benefit in cultivating a continued involvement with his school of economic thought.

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