13 Oct 2009

The Age of Ghost-Modernism? The Neoliberal Globalization Project vs. the Anti-Globalization Counter-Narrative


Executive Summary of an Exploratory Research Project by...
Bogdan V. Lepadatu1


“It’s called the American Dream ‘cause you have to be asleep to believe such a thing.”
George Carlin, American comedian


Key words: anti-globalization, autonomization, counter-narrative, corporatism/fascism with a neoliberal face, hyper-reality, ghost-modernism/spectral modernity2


Investigating the spectral modernity context

Gabriel Tarde argued [1901]3 that even the strategic projection of military power4 pales into insignificance when compared to the wilful (mens rea) manipulation of proselytising consensus beliefs5 – via the use of religious, ideological, cultural or educational master-narratives.

It is a normal prerequisite for all scientific endeavours to refute unilateralism, irrespective of its shape or form. This exploratory research Project is no different when endeavouring to question the rhetoric, actions and the motives of the new Cold War... on Terror protagonists: in the “blue corner”, there is the Pax Americana’s Washington Consensus – the neoliberal master-narrative responsible for the “free” market’s trade and fiscal policies that bankrupted the global economy, exacerbated global insecurity and produced irreversible climate changes – while in the “red corner” stands al-Qaeda’s menacing revolutionary counter-narrative.

Whereas the latter's jihadist counter-narrative aims to indoctrinate and radicalise impressionable minds (with a penchant for violent actions against what it perceives, rightly or wrongly, to be but a Western neo-colonial globalising crusade – making it impossible to be substituted for the type of counter-narrative envisaged by this Project's title!), the deliberation-stifling, fraud-enabling, consensual unilateralism of the former hardly fares any better.

Al-Qaeda's calls to violent, global Islamic resistance – while denouncing moderate Islam as a prostration to the US and its haphazardly assembled “international community” – mirrors the Washington Consensus... on the infallibility of unfettered financial markets, requiring political complicity in redrawing Europe's borders, the acquiescence of the war crimes committed in the illegally Occupied Territories of Palestine6 and other such violations of the international law – as when invoking Iraqi WMDs7, or prosecuting its seemingly paranoid War.

Goebbels insisted that endlessly repeating a sheer lie will eventually end up being believed. Same as the Third Reich's national-socialist corporatism – built to last a millennium – the Machiavellian Project for the New American Century cannot prevent – despite its more realistic sell-by-date – people from realising that its failed globalising project is still a fascistic dogma, only this time with a neoliberal face.

The alternative discourse proposed here – a trans-disciplinary platform designed to replace the failed neocon master-narrative with a moral cosmopolitanism8 and political democracy model – analyses the following themes:

1. the corporate capitalist institutions’ Hegelian specificity and socio-historical relativism – in particular, their marketing of the cult of capitalism as a (happy-) “End of History” triumph of rationality;

2. the “democratisation” of education – via the Bologna Process – replacing critical thought with a marketing newspeak, aided and abetted (for scientific credibility) by Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of neo-colonial economics;

3. the consociational9 framework for renationalising democracy as a societal re-democratisation process – aiming to replace the corporatist “international community” with a progressive libertarian network of nation-states, where a type of deliberative, “anthropo-local” discourse is re-asserted to deconstruct the neoconservative globalising ethos and its marketing newspeak, so as to allow a more meaningful negotiation towards settling their diverse and/or divergent interests.

From the consensus-enabling fraud10 leading to the impoverishment of tens of millions – via Milton Friedman’s “shock therapies”, responsible for the economic apartheid segregating the nouveau riche from other social classes in the post-socialist transitions – to the turn of the millennium dotcom crash or the recent sub-prime mortgage meltdown and the subsequent bailout of Wall Street’s financial elites, the two-stroke (boom-bust) economic engine, globalising the “Open Society” model, has proved itself to be polluting as well as redundant.

This Project answers the $1.4 trillion question i.e. the value of the Chinese-owned American assets, revealing that “without the billion dollars China pays (in interest) daily (to maintain their value), the US could not keep its economy stable nor prevent the dollar’s collapse“11. Moreover, the Federal Reserve has printed (in March) over 1 trillion dollars.12

Finally, this Project studies the opportunity to re-democratise the decision-making structure of the global financial institutions and the replacement of the US$ with a more solid and credible financial instrument, that can at least differentiate between a milliard and a billion, and stop calling billions as trillions.13


Formulating axiological values and establishing the (qualitative) models needed to decentralise political power and establish a consensual democracy (methodology part I: analysis)

Other facets of the spectral modernity’s hyper-real14 context – the mythopoios, noëmatopoios, eikonopoios triad, creating myths, meanings and images, respectively – highlight the axiological values underpinning this project. Many a social critiques of the American life (John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis or Scott Fitzgerald) cannot illustrate the American Dream’s neoliberal Ponzi con better than Hans-Christian Andersen’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Relying on the “Invisible Hand” to regulate the “electronic herd” of currency dealers encourages the “free” market’s profits’ privatisation (off-shoring) while “socialising” losses (into the taxpayer’s pension funds).

In fact, any system dependent on consuming its entire GNP is fundamentally conditioned by its predisposition to ever-deeper crises. Whether it draws its questionable legitimacy from opaque constitutional arrangements, bureaucratic rules and regulations – implemented mechanically by autonomised15 institutions – or symbolic interactions/exchanges, its perpetuation is owed primarily to a life-support machine operated by powerful opinion-makers, paid to indoctrinate the masses of manoeuvre with a discourse aiming to prolong the self-devouring appetite’s moment of truth.

Yet, the “free” markets’ metastasis cannot be used as a valid excuse to ignore the asymptotic epistemic advances in science, or the general Theory of Knowledge.16 Whether or not the Cold War winners’ triumphalism re-started history, this process followed a similar dialectic to the way quantum mechanics led to the creation of solid mechanics and then, to the super-computers that revolutionised the industry, commerce and communications. Without favourable social conditions none of these breakthroughs would have occurred though they were an “epistemic possibility and were socially desirable too“17.

Capitalism's systemic crisis thus constitutes the ideal opportunity to change its failed paradigm. While civic apathy levels appear to suggest such endeavours may not have imminent consequences, we consider that the shorter the crisis cycles, the likelier the occurrence of a critical mass of decision-makers realising the need to revolutionise deregulated capitalism’s Neocon Corporate Manifesto.

However, despite the prescriptive nature of this final assertion, the eventual replacement and the ensuing power-vacuum should not benefit its rival ideology, same as it happened when Christianity and its meek socialist ideology prevailed over the Roman empire. At a time when scientific and philosophical endeavours bring humanity closer to the ever-elusive, objective view of its physiological finitude and epistemic perpetuation, it is high time to prove Goebbels, Ogilvy and other marketing gurus wrong and discard their proselytising dogmas once and forever as they serve no other purpose but disenfranchise people and their unique individuality.


Formulating qualitative expertise elements to evaluate concrete cases and the likely outcomes of implementing the recommendations made (methodology part II: implementation)

With regard to its temporal scope, the Project will analyse, independently and impartially, what must be, according to Schumpeter's classification, the fourth (and final) Kondratieff long-wave of capitalist cycles – from the end of the thirties and the Great Depression through to the current and Greatest Depression of all times. Thus, after the trinity of the Industrial Revolution (1780s to 1842), the Railroad-ization (1842 to 1897) and the Innovative Revolution (1898 to the end of the 1930s) we have yet another trinity: Modernity – Post-Modernity – Ghost-Modernity, the one signalling the final demise of capitalism.

Apart from the historical factors mentioned before, the Project's findings will consider an axiological frame for their implementation. Axiology – deriving from the Greek word (άξιος), meaning value – is the academic endeavour studying the origins, nature, functions and/or the inter-relationship between esthetical or religious values. Formal axiology explores the logical nature of significance – in particular, the apparent intellectual tensions and their structure, considered as a set of predicates.

This type of axiology represents a particular type of mathematics and, given that mathematics is a priori as well as objective, it too becomes an a priori, objective and scientific endeavour. The axiological grounding of the present project allows its objective testing, based on objective standards.

The normative framework of the proposed trans-disciplinary counter-narrative will be bounded by socio-political (of an “anthropo-local”, progressive-libertarianist fashion) and by classical/neo-classical political economy tenets, as well as by the linguistic power struggle between the capitalist informational matrix and the main-stream counter-narratives, available in publications such as the New Statesman18.

Yet, the axiological classification of different levels of causality is not a natural process, as long as it derives from certain heuristic choices. Consequently, the project cannot offer ready-to-implement public policies19 – as they are always grounded in the values they represent.

The project will nevertheless offer qualitative expertise elements to evaluate concrete situations and the likely outcomes of implementing the recommendations made here. Ethical or existential standpoints will use Weber’s instrumental rationality framework (Zweckrationalität) thus offering the epistemic community users an instrument to analyse and interpret behavioural and other fundamental questions we ask of reality.20


Notes:

1 Beneficiary of the project “Doctoral scholarships supporting research: Competitiveness, quality, and cooperation in the European Higher Education Area”, co-funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund, Sectorial Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013;
2 Other late-modernity types i.e. radicalized, reflexive (Giddens), liquid (Bauman), or tendential (Schifirneţ) are also acknowledged.
3 Tarde, Gabriel, L’opinion et la foule (1901), Presses Universitaires de France, 1989, 1st edition, p.11,
 http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/tarde_gabriel/opinion_et_la_foule/tarde_opinion_et_la_foule.doc.
4 Such as the military power projection capability of the only remaining super-power whose world-wide network of military bases comprises anything between 700 to 800 such bases – for their location see http://www.motherjones.com/military-maps. The US Army Field Manual FM 100-7 defines “power projection” as “the ability of the US to apply any combination of economic, diplomatic, informational, or military instruments of national power. Projection of military force is a critical component of our power projection capability”, see
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/100-10-1/ch1.htm;
see also, US Military Bases and Empire, the editors of, the Monthly Review, vol.53, vol.10,
http://www.monthlyreview.org/0302editr.htm#one
5 Spreading the “positive” newspeak message according to which the American economy is growing once again, joining countries like Japan, Germany or France, is designed to obscure the fact that this sudden twitch into the black is not a measure of capitalist organic growth, but rather the electronic herd's (i.e. the currency dealers) conditioned response to the fiscal steroids pumped up by their political masters into an ailing system, see Brian Bethune, IHS Global Insight, speaking for BBC news http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8333167.stm.
Moreover, capitalism's “evolutionary process”, emphasised long-ago by Marx, has reached its apex and it is not History but Capitalism itself that has reached its End. The sheer desperation is on show in this emphasis of economic growth without any conceptual development. Its advocates seem to have forgotten Schumpeter's perceptive comment that no matter how many mail coaches you add, you will never get a railway. Hence, the discontinuous nature of capitalism's circular flow model needs a qualitative change (i.e. a revolution!) rather than quantitative growth, based on inducing pointless consumption from gullible consumers.
6 The UN's Human Rights Council, 15th of September 2009, Human Rights in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/docs/UNFFMGC_Report.pdf.
7 Officials tell inquiry Iraq and al-Qaeda 'not allies', BBC News,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8377492.stm.
8 Cosmopolitan democracies allow for political participation regardless of the geographical location of those exercising it thus guaranteeing geopolitical participation in parallel with yet, independently from what their own governments are doing. The cosmopolitan ideal’s, whose origins extend from the Greek stoic philosophy, was put forward by Kant (jus cosmopoliticum) with the aim of creating Perpetual Peace [1795]. David Held reconsiders the matter in order to determine cosmopolitanism’s current relevance. Globalization: The Key Concepts, Mooney and Evans (eds.), Routledge, London/New York, 2007.
9 Lijphart, Arend, Democracy in Plural Societies: A Comparative Exploration, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977.

10 Despite these rather uncompromising assertions, representing a statement of intent with respect to departing from the austerity of academic speak rather than its methodology, out of a list the length of which would defeat the purpose of an introduction, I would choose only one example to defend the appropriateness of the qualification made here. The Win-Win “solution”, for instance, is one such already ingrained catch-phrase in the marketing newspeak, contradicting Say’s law and other classical/neoclassical political economists. From Marshall to Walras, Menger or Pareto, this school of economic thought considered that systemic equilibrium involves achieving the most satisfactory position for each participant in the economic system. While Marshall advocated the elimination of the abnormal profits made on the back of this catch-phrase, Pareto argued that no economic agent could be better off unless to the detriment of another. See Pareto, Vilfredo, Manual of Political Economy [1906], American edition, Schwier, Ann S. (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1971), pp. 68–71, quoted in Elliott, John E., Introduction to the Transaction Edition, The Theory of Economic Development, Schumpeter, Joseph A., Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick (US) and London (UK).
11 Fallows, James, The $1.4 trillion question, The Atlantic, January/February, 2008.
12 The Fed has already printed over $1 trillion buying up treasury bonds, US government debts and mortgage collaterals, including the “contaminated” “sub-prime mortgages”; Spicer, Nick, US Prints More Money to Fight Recession, Al Jazeera, 20.03.2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdZOQAcC61w.
13 An example of the sheer confusion generated by this at
http://www.xtremevbtalk.com/archive/index.php/t-13206.html.
14 Disneyland or shopping malls are examples of the capitalist informational matrix which is creating a world of total simulation where objects are reduced to their exchange value while the production of imagery and its control acquires an essential value. Same as it happened during the Romanian Revolutionary Coup d'Etat (1989) or the First Gulf War (1991) – where the events presented in real time coverage created a parallel reality – hyper-reality is a condition according to which representations and simulations determine real events. Thus, spectral modernity follows on from post-modernity in creating signification crises. [Baudrillard, Jean, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, trad. P. Patton, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1995].
15 Autonomization [Castoriadis, 1997] is the process offering public institutions the freedom to act the same as corporations. This transformation results in a change in their guiding principles towards power and money, rather than communicative action. [Globalization: The Key Concepts op. cit.].
16 Russell, Bertrand, Theory of Knowledge, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1926, A Miniature Library of Philosophy,
 http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/russell1.htm.  
17 Bunge, Mario Augusto, Treatise on Basic Philosophy, vol. 6, Epistemology & Methodology II: Understanding the World, p. 169, Springer, 1983
18 NewStatesman 1913-2009, http://www.newstatesman.com/.
19 Or, a set of normative benchmarks designed to evaluate capitalism's overall economic performance. Rather, it is a useful mental exercise designed to enable people to break free from the cultist pressures to conform to this cognitive hyper-real matrix.
20 Hartman, Robert “Formal Axiology and the Measurement of Values”, Journal of Value Inquiry, I (1967), 39.


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