The Age of Ghost-Modernism?
“It’s called the American Dream ‘cause you have to be asleep
to believe such a thing.”
Key words: anthropo-localism, (anti-globalist) counter-narrative, corporatism/fascism-with-a-neo-liberal-face, consociationalism, ghost-modernism/spectral modernity, hyper-reality
The hollow closure of post-modernity's neo-liberal formative context3 and codifying social practices4 is what I refer to as “ghost-” or “spectral modernity”5. According to Schumpeter's classification, this commodified, irreflexive and “eternal now” that we keep traversing at ever-increasing speed is the fourth (and final!) Kondratieff long-wave of capitalist cycles. After the trinity of the Industrial Revolution (1780s – 1842), the “Railroad-ization” (1842 – 1897) and the “Innovative Revolution” (1898 - end of the 1930s)6 we are now traversing another trinity: Modernity – Post-Modernity – Ghost-Modernity (spanning the two Great Depressions, and brought about by arguably the most revered trinity since the advent of the cult of Christianity: privatisation, de-regulation and global economic “liberalization”).
An introduction into the spectral modernity context
Since time is of the essence in this day and age of “fast capitalist”7 planned obsolescence, and while most people are prone to interpret messages selectively, according to their self-fulfilling prophecies and pre-established viewpoints, it seems fair to highlight right from the start, the project's normative confines. Hence it is useful to note that this counter-narrative is bounded by progressive, even outright paternalistic8 libertarian considerations, classical/neo-classical political economy tenets and the dialogical (Bakhtin)9 power struggle between the capitalist informational matrix and its main-stream counter-narratives.
1. Work in Progress: Do not cite or quote without the author's express permission! Prepared for delivery (2011) as a PhD (sociology) defence presentation at the National School for Political and Administrative Studies (http://www.snspa.ro/) state University.
2. 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 (http://doctorat.snspa.ro/doctoranzi/lepadatu-bogdan-valentin).
3. The formative context refers to “a set of assumptions, arrangements and shared ideas that exist to produce and preserve a particular version of social life so as to make routine behavior and existing structures seem permanent. Formative contexts are not static; they differ in their susceptibility to change as a result of social conflict.” Rostis, Adam. “Formative Context.” Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. 2009. SAGE Publications. Retrieved on the 18th of Apr. 2010
4. The process of transforming practical knowledge into information, Lièvre, Pascal, and Géraldine Rix, Codifying Social Practices, Encyclopedia of Case Study Research, 2009, SAGE Publications. Retrieved on the 18th of Apr. 2010.
6. Elliott, John E., Introduction to the Transaction Edition, Schumpeter, Joseph A., The Theory of Economic Development, translated from German by Opie, Redvers, (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick & London , 1996), xxix.
7. The syntagm traces back to Ben Agger’s books, Fast Capitalism: A Critical Theory of Significance, University of Illinois Press, 1989 and its sequel, Speeding Up Fast Capitalism: Internet Culture, Work, Families, Food, Bodies, (Paradigm Publishers Inc.), 2004.
8. Sunstein, Cass R. and Thaler, Richard H., “Libertarian Paternalism Is Not an Oxymoron”, The University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 70, no. 4, Fall 2003.
9. Bakhtin, M. M., The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays ed. Michael Holquist, translation Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1981; see also the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Dialogical Logic, March (2009), http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-dialogical/.
The integralist10, consociational11 framework for change envisaged by this Project aims to re-appropriate the democratic ideal, hijacked by the capitalist state's autonomised12 institutions and mass-media outlets, by replacing the failed corporatist globalization paradigm with an open community of self-governing civil societies, state and non-state actors, local, regional, even professional communities, loosely inter-connected by an overarching sense of social and environmental solidarity transcending the sum of its component individualities.
Anticipating a full-scale research project, we contend that “mental colonisation”13 psychological operations (“psy-ops”) are responsible for mixing and matching the motivational cult of “positive thinking” with gunboat diplomacy via a simultaneous, multi-pronged – political, economic, cultural, anthropological i.e. the human terrain/terror systems14 and legalistic – penetration. As a trans-disciplinary endeavour, this counter-narrative proposes “a return to reason” by reconfiguring globalization’s empty signifiers to replace this failed hegemonic master-narrative with a moral cosmopolitan type of democratic resonance, in order to bring about anthropo-localism i.e. a consociational pluralistic community of “deterritorialised”15 civil societies.
Since changing one bone of contention for another is the least of my intentions, I would also ask readers to note that the axiological classification of causality derives from heuristic choices, rather than as a natural process. Consequently, while the project cannot pretend to offer ready-to-implement public policies – as these remain grounded in the values espoused – it offers, nevertheless, several qualitative expertise elements enabling the evaluation of concrete situations and the likely outcomes of implementing its recommendations.
As it brings down the curtains on capitalism's non-compassionate “free marketing” model, unleashed by the new liberals' arrogant “will to power” over the post-Cold War subaltern classes and societies, the age of Ghost-Modernism is belatedly vindicating Marx's long-anticipated demise of capitalism. Having wrongly anticipated the “End-of-History” and the primacy of Friedmanite neo-conservative economic concerns over political ones, it has also succeeded in changing the venue for major ideological battles. Whilst using globalization as its Trojan Horse, in a move resembling Gramsci's “cultural hegemony” model, it has shrunk the world virtually (i.e. electronically) while squeezing it dry (literally) of its hard-fought progressive human rights' gains, achieved during the 60's and 70's.
10. Integralism has, in Douglas Holmes’ vision, four registers i.e. “a framework of meaning, […] a practice of everyday life, […] an idiom of solidarity, and, above all, […] a consciousness of belonging linked to a specific cultural milieu”, Holmes, Douglas R., Integral Europe, Fast Capitalism, Multiculturalism, Neofascism, Princeton University Press, 2000, http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s6967.html.
11. Lijphart, Arend, Democracy in Plural Societies: A Comparative Exploration, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977).
12. 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 financial considerations rather than communicative action. [Globalization: The Key Concepts, Mooney and Evans (eds.), Routledge, London/New York, 2007].
13. Koensler, Alexander, “Il Beduino e la Tenda: Un'Associazione Fatale. Dinamiche di Protesta e Potere Intorno ad un Nouvo Insediamente in Israele”, ACHAB, No. 8, July (2006), 32-36, http://www.achabrivista.it/rivista.asp?id=8.
14. Whitehead, Neil L., “Ethography, Torture and the Human Terrain / Terror Systems”, Fast Capitalism 5.2, (2009), http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/5_2/Whitehead5_2.html.
15. Using McLuhan's rather critical endorsement of the technologically-mediated changes in the scale and pace of capitalist social patterns as a starting point, Paul Taylor “deterritorializes (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's) subject” by addressing the social costs assimilated to this technologically-induced speed. See Taylor, Paul, Pattern Recognition in Fast Capitalism: Calling Literary Time on the Theorists of Flux, Fast Capitalism 2.1, 2006 http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/2_1/taylor.htm. Conversely, Francesco Ragazzi uses the term “deterritorialized annexation” [Bosnia-Herzegovina] to advance a normative prescription for “the progressive abandonment of the territorial referent as the basis for legitimate identity politics, both from state and non-state actors”, Ragazzi, Francesco, The Invention of the Croatian Diaspora: Unpacking the Politics of “Diaspora” During the War in Yugoslavia, Global Migration and Transnational Politics, Working Paper no.10, (2009), p.9 http://cgs.gmu.edu/publications/gmtpwp/gmtp_wp_10.pdf.
Whilst providing opportunities for greedy, selfish individuals to capitalize on their societies it is wilfully (mens rea) “Manufacturing Consent”16 amongst this silenced majority by using, overtly or implicitly, various “perception management” techniques. Such psy-ops of deception/distraction range from a barrage of logical fallacies, subliminal advertising, infotainment, addictive social networking – leading to compulsive, “variable interval reinforcement schedule”17 behaviour – up to and including a host of speculative economistic schemata and/or revisionist projections of history – according to whom a dated, Cold War propaganda-style Post-(communist “nostalgic”) Traumatic Stress Disorder strain is allegedly affecting non-believers in its anti-communist religion.
This model uses Weber’s instrumental rationality framework (“Zweckrationalität”) to address some of the most pressing ethical, existential and/or environmental concerns today. For that to happen, the Project considers an axiological frame to implement its findings.
It is known that axiology – deriving from the Greek word (άξιος), meaning value – is the academic endeavour studying the origins, nature, functions and/or the inter-relationship between aesthetic or religious values. Moreover, formal axiology explores the logical nature of significance – in particular, the intellectual tensions arising as a result and their apparent structure, considered as a set of predicates.18 It represents a particular type of mathematics and, given the fact that mathematics is a priori as much as it is objective it too acquires, by extension, an a priori, objective and scientific status.
Though Weber brings daylight between values and truths per se, it remains unclear whether he believed researchers could eliminate value-driven inferences from their data analysis.19 In fact, any attempt to analyse the relationship between objectivity and non-scientific values is fraught with uncertainty, same as with all attempts to limit objectivity (in dedicated research endeavours) to a straightforward analysis of the facts and truths assumed therefore. Despite the added difficulties inherent in attempting to determine precisely the source of an individual’s valuing perspective – i.e. whether it may be deemed to derive from their human nature, self-identity, assumed metaphysical perspective or whether the particular perspective they hold represents but a straightforward cultural construct – this project proposes an exploratory research protocol based on a constructivist i.e. a socially constructed description of the current economic and social realities, whose analysis requires the type of normative epistemology normally found in the qualitative analysis of total social phenomena.20
When Weber compares political, social or religious systems he admits to the fact that choices cannot be made according to axiological criteria without its affirmed values and scope being taken into consideration – both of whom appear to belong to the scientist’s perspective. Yet, despite implicitly admitting to the limitations of such an endeavour, he still considered that once the values, means, scope and/or perspective intended to be used by the researcher had been established, he should still be able to claim axiological neutrality for his experiments – such as when he is alleging “objective” comparisons between the capitalist and the socialist systems.
16. Herman, E. S. and Chomsky, Noam, Manufacturing Consent: A Propaganda Model, (Pantheon Books, 1988).
17. The schedules of reinforcement are “the precise rules that are used to present (or to remove) reinforcers (or punishers) following a specified operant behaviour. These rules are defined in terms of the time and/or the number of responses required in order to present (or to remove) a reinforcer (or a punisher). Different schedules of reinforcement produce distinctive effects on operant behaviour.” see Barker, Britann, Kreider, Joy, Peissig, Jessie, Sokoloff, Greta, Stansfiel, Maura, Glossary of Terms for the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour, http://www.psychology.uiowa.edu/Faculty/Wasserman/Glossary/homepage.html.
18. Hartman, R., “Formal Axiology and the Measurement of Values”, Journal of Value Inquiry, I, (1967): 39.
19. Hoenisch, Steve, Max Weber’s View of Objectivity in Social Sciences, 2006, http://www.criticism.com/md/weber1.html.
20. Otnes, Per, The Sale, Total Social Phenomenon?, unpublished paper, discussed at the ICRC Conference, Sorbonne, 25-28.07.2001 and the Norwegian Sociological Association’s Winter Seminar 04-06.01.2002,
According to the rule of thumb, if Weber’s assertions create a precedent for the “subjective presentation and justification of economic phenomena”, such as it appears to be the case when he affirms in his “The Nation-State and its Economic Policies”21 that even “economic truths are subjected to the influence of valuing perspectives” then, this apparently existential slip constitutes the licence needed to affirm, much like sociology's founding-father did, in an address titled “The Profession and the Vocation of Politics”22, the political and economic deficiencies of capitalism – yet not from Max Weber’s stated position of “success”, but from its exact opposite i.e. the perfect failure of this “selfish capitalist”23 system.
Thus, the project’s axiological grounding allows its objective testing since it relies on objective standards. Rather than it being but a collection of normative benchmarks, this trans-disciplinary counter-narrative, for all its assumed ethical and existential bias still offers a valid instrument that can be aptly used to analyse and interpret behavioural and other fundamental questions we ask of reality.
Conceptual overview and discussion
Antonio Gramsci, a crucially important 20th century thinker, may have unwittingly prefigured the globalization drive whilst arguing that culturally diverse societies can be ruled by a global corporatist ruling class (the Bilderberg Group?) exerting its cultural hegemony24 over silenced, subaltern classes/societies. To that end, Gabriel Tarde 25 had already pointed out that even the strategic projection of military power26 pales into insignificance by comparison to the wilful (mens rea) manipulation of proselytising consensus beliefs27 – using (essentially commercial) cultural, educational, ideological, military or religious28 master-narratives.
From the Human Terrain Systems of Terror, recruiting anthropologists into the military and the security services to advise on counter-insurgency/freedom-fighting strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the coup d'état in Honduras, such “mental colonization” psy-ops carried out by the corporate agents for global governance endorse Tarde's hypothesis whilst pursuing the cultural hegemony of an essentially totalitarian New World Order.
21. Lassman, Peter and Speirs, Ronald eds., Weber, Political Writings, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, Cambridge University Press, 1994, The Nation State and Economic Policy, 1-28.
22. Lassman, Peter and Speirs, Ronald, Weber, 309-369.
23. James, Oliver, The Selfish Capitalist, (Vermillion, 2008).
24. Hegemony, in Gramsci's view, means that “dominant groups in society, including fundamentally but not exclusively the ruling class, maintain their dominance by securing the 'spontaneous consent' of subordinate groups, including the working class, through the negotiated construction of a political and ideological consensus which incorporates both dominant and dominated groups.” Strinati, Dominic, An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, (Routledge, London, 1995), 165.
25. Tarde, Gabriel, L’opinion et la foule (1901), (Presses Universitaires de France, 1989), 1st edition, 11,
26. Such as the military power projection capability of a network of military bases comprising an estimated 700 to 800 such bases world-wide: http://www.motherjones.com/military-maps. “Power projection” is defined in the US Army Field Manual FM 100-7 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”, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/100-10-1/ch1.htm; also, US Military Bases and Empire, the editors of, the Monthly Review, vol.53, vol.10, http://www.monthlyreview.org/0302editr.htm#one.
27. Spreading cultist “positive” newspeak messages, whereby the American economy is “growing” again, joining countries like Japan, France or Italy, is designed to obscure the fact that this sudden yet short-lived (Germany) twitch into the black is not a measure of capitalist organic growth, but rather a reflex of the electronic herd's conditioned response to the fiscal steroids pumped up into an ailing system: Brian Bethune, IHS Global Insight,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8333167.stm. It now appears that capitalism's “evolutionary process”, emphasised for so long by Marx, has reached its apex and it is not History but Capitalism itself that has reached its End. The hollow emphasis of economic growth without conceptual development fails to take into account Schumpeter's Dostoyevskian pastiche (“from a hundred rabbits you can't make a horse” – Crime and Punishment, chapter II) that regardless how many mail coaches you add, you will never get a railway. Thus, capitalism's discontinuous circular flow model has reached the point where a qualitative change (i.e. a revolution!) is needed rather than this obsessive quantitative growth, achieved on the back of inducing pointless consumption from gullible consumers.
28. Löwy, Michael, Marxism and Religion: Opiate of the People?, New Socialist, issue no. 51, May/June (2005), http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/article.php3?id_article=807.
Using cultist, “proof by assertion” techniques29 when endlessly invoking a new variant of Post-(“Communist nostalgic”) Traumatic Stress Disorder to be affecting non-believers in its anti-communist religion, the Emperor's New Clothes (corporate media) tailors'30 logical fallacies ensure a “harmony of illusions”31 during the transition from Clinton's “soft power” (i.e. his “ideological campaigns for the hearts and minds” using Hollywood or Disneyland “ideals” – a type of moderately coercive diplomacy exerted in “enemy territory”) to Bush's zero-sum “hard power” (or, power politics i.e. pre-emptive strikes, covert operations, the “shock and awe” doctrine, asymmetric warfare etc.) to Obama's “smart power”– an ideologically modified psy-op, unduly rewarded with the greatest accolade (usually reserved for peace-makers32) for mixing gunboat diplomacy with the motivational cult of “positive thinking”33 and “political and economic influence with cultural penetration and legal manoeuvring.”34
Whilst capitalism's economic metastasis seemingly depends on a Chinese defibrillator, powered by Russian batteries, those fearing a state-controlled totalitarian future can no longer be so easily dismissed for voicing ill-informed conspiracy theory speculations. Yet, refuting unilateralism, irrespective of shape or form, is a normal pre-requisite for all scientific endeavours. Consequently, this exploratory research Project analyses (critically) the rhetoric, actions and the motives of the new Cold War... on Terror protagonists: in the star-spangled “blue corner”, the Pax Americana’s Washington Consensus – the neo-liberal master-narrative responsible for inventing the “free” market’s trade and fiscal policies that bankrupted the global economy, exacerbated global insecurity and produced irreversible climate changes – facing, in the revolutionary “red corner”, al-Qaeda’s fanatical counter-narrative challenge. Whereas the latter's suicidal-Jihadist interpretation of the Qur'an aims to indoctrinate and radicalise grieving, impoverished or impressionable minds (with a penchant for violent actions directed against what it perceives, rightly or wrongly, to be a Western neo-colonial crusade – something which makes it impossible to be confounded for the type of counter-narrative envisaged here!), the deliberation-stifling, fraud-enabling, consensual unilateralism of the former hardly fares any better.
Al-Qaeda's calls to violent, global Islamic resistance – denouncing moderate Islamists as stooges to the US and its haphazardly assembled “international community” – mirrors the ideological warfare unleashed via the Washington Consensus on... the infallibility of unfettered markets, requiring this “community's” political complicity in redrawing Europe's borders, acquiescing to the International Law violations committed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or the war crimes committed in Gaza and the collective punishment of Palestinians living in the illegally Occupied Territories of Palestine35 – a Gulag for the 21st century – turning a blind eye to the ghostly Iraqi WMDs and assisting the prosecution of a seemingly paranoid War on Terror via extra-judicial assassinations or the “extraordinary rendition” of suspects, tortured physically and mentally in a global network of “black sites” where they are denied access to lawyers or POW status while waiting impassively for Iran's turn to have its regime changed. Killing innocent people for political gains, whether by drones or suicidal human bombs is different only in terms of the methods used for extermination.
29. Downes, Stephen, Stephen Downe's Guide to the Logical Fallacies, May 1995, quoted in Minnesotans for Sustainability, 2002, http://www.mnforsustain.org/student_logical_fallacies_with_references.htm.
30. The “usual suspects” putting a positive spin on the global corporatist “international community” major players' actions in the oil, banking, arms industry, insurance etc. ranging from the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg, Club of Rome, the American-Zionist lobbyists from AIPAC etc.
31. Young, Allan, The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, (Princeton University Press, 1995).
32. Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the 1976 Northern-Irish Nobel Peace Prize joint-winner (along with fellow Belfast peace campaigner, Betty Williams) is but one of the many critical voices of the Nobel Committee's disregard for Alfred Nobel's will, where it is clearly stipulated that the award “is to be given to people who end militarism and war, and are for disarmament”, see Obama Award Sad – NI Nobel Prize Winner http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/8299205.stm; also, see Pilger, John, The Lying Game: How We Are Prepared for Another War of Aggression, October 2009, Axis of Logic, http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_57096.shtml.
33. Ehrenreich, Barbara, Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, Granta, 2010, quoted by Hinsliff, Gaby, The Tyranny of the Positive People, January 2010, the New Statesman, http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/01/self-positive-anger-injustices.
34. Golinger, Eva, The Chávez Code, http://www.chavezcode.com/2009/11/honduras-victory-for-smart-power.html, A Definitive Report on the Crisis in Honduras: A Victory for “Smart Power”, Nov. 2009, Axis of Logic http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_57381.shtml.
35. 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.
Goebbels too had insisted that endlessly repeating a sheer lie will eventually be acquiesced by the masses. Much like Mussolini's fascist corporatism, or the Third Reich's national-socialist version – built to last an entire millennium – the Machiavellian Project for the New American Century36 cannot prevent – despite its more realistic sell-by-date – the eventual realisation that its failed globalisation project is still a fascistic dogma, only this time with a neo-liberal face. The Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, the Military Commissions Act and other such similar decrees are all designed to limit peoples' ability to resist the violation of their human rights.
This counter-narrative critique of the (neocon) Capitalist Manifesto, proposing a return to reason, is an “integralist”, trans-disciplinary platform interrogating capitalism's hyper-real37 fictitious marketing drivers while aiming to replace its failed neocon master-narrative with a moral cosmopolitanism political democracy model. It analyses:
1. the corporate capitalist agents' Hegelian specificity and socio-historical relativism – namely, their marketing of the cult of capitalism as a (happy-) “End of History” triumph of bounded rationality;
2. the commercialised, mass-education of the Bologna Process – primarily concerned with profitability, performance and efficiency, turning students into consumers rather than participants by replacing critical thought with a marketing newspeak, in the guise of age-discriminating, learning-on-the-job schemata, aided and abetted (for scientific credibility) by Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of neo-colonial economics.
With the benefit of hindsight, this project dismisses the ideological assessment of the Soviet Union's collapse being historically predetermined, rather than the result of a combination of Gorbachev's failed economic policies (his perestroika – which sent Russia and the rest of the Soviet republics into an economic tailspin), the dollar’s ‘exorbitant privilege’, as President Giscard d’Estaing once qualified the Western intelligence communities efforts to exhaust the USSR's economy via the “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative, compunded by a hi-tech soft- and hardware embargo, a fall in oil prices and the US's anti-Soviet operations in Poland and Afghanistan. The neo-colonial liberal evangelism of the '80s and '90s, which enabled the victory of the alleged lesser evil of the Cold War's competing social engineering endeavours, undermined the economic structure of Gorbachev's glasnost reforms by cutting its access to Western technology and overall interactions with the global economy.38
Alongside the fostering of co-operative, community minded attitudes and values to replace capitalism's spent social and symbolic capital, the project recommends: the “socialization of finance” – in the banking, currency and credit sectors, allowing public authorities to control currency flows, prices and credit; the social ownership of the health, energy, water, forestry, transportation networks or mining services – thus avoiding the wasteful competition arising from the private entrepreneurial over-development and over-capitalization; a taxation/public finances' system actively intervening to lessen the flagrant inequalities of income; and, a socialised “labour code” – providing for unemployment, freedom of association, accident insurance, age, race, religion, gender and/or other types of discrimination protection.
37. The Project for the New American Century is a neo-conservative think-tank actively promoting US interventionist policies, http://www.newamericancentury.org/. Baudrillard, Jean, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, trans Patton, P., (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1995).
38. Mulholland, Marcus, The Soviet model and the Economic Cold War, 21st Century Socialism, 2006, http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/the_soviet_model_and_the_economic_cold_war_01331.html.
36. Capitalism's financial meltdown shows that its development engine has stalled. “Free” trade, financial liberalization and the rest of its make-believe marketing drivers have been revealed for what they are: mere tools of exploitation which must be discontinued sooner rather than later to stop globalization's neo-colonial steamroller in its tracks before dismantling it at the often mentioned “scrap yard of history”. Its driving elites must be identified i.e. subjected to public scrutiny and made accountable, as every other tax-paying citizen is.
While social mobility is mostly an indicator of pervasive social inequalities, the most critical societal element to achieving this type of mobility in a democratic manner is education. Yet, the readers' digest, mass-education Bologna process fails to supply the progressive platform needed to address the linguistic transformation of the failed hegemonic neo-liberal narrative. Reconsidering this entire process ought to be done in the context of:
1. the re-affirmation of Einar Haugen's “ecology of language”, according to which the interactions between national languages and their environment no longer follow the hegemonic vs. subaltern patterns of the new lingua franca's minority dialects, “bad English”, but takes into consideration not only “the social context in which language is embedded, but also the social context in which societies are embedded”.39
2. the re-appraisal of the anthropo-local story – designed to cleanse scientific pursuits of proselytising infotainment, marketing, management and other standardised, “positive thinking” schemata, “to include aesthetic and cultural work” in denying the primacy of economics over “intellectual knowledge, art, music, poetry, image-making [...]”.40
Haugen's metaphor of an ecosystem – describing the linguistic and social interactions of languages and peoples – can potentially foster a polyphony of deliberative, anthropo-local, autonomous open narratives, which may help to preserve humanity's cultural heterogeneity. A cacophony of “introspective” stories may help to de-construct fast capitalism's globalising ethos, which is shaping, packaging and selling standardized, alienated and ontologically insecure individualities, thus enabling people to achieve their alienated potentialities.41
Meanwhile an instrumental, highly alienated though supposedly objectifying newspeak has been embellished with mathematics – sometimes even chaos theory and fractals – to cloak the grave ethical deficit inherent in the allegedly “scientific” pursuit of economics42 i.e. what Thomas Carlyle referred to, in the 19th century, as the “dismal science”. It's 20th century, Chicago School version, is the vehicle by which this unnatural societal order was achieved.
From the consensus-enabling fraud43 leading to the impoverishment of tens of millions worldwide – via Milton Friedman’s “shock therapies”, responsible for the social dumping44 economic apartheid consequently generated – segregating, in post-socialist transitions, the nouveau (super-) riche technocrats (former apparatchiks of the ruling party, who enriched themselves by selling or simply taking over state-owned assets under a farcical privatisation process) from subaltern social classes – to the dotcom crash or the “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, much like the infamous Trabant's two-stroke engine, to be both polluting as well as redundant.
Thus, the qualitative/revolutionary change of the neo-liberal hegemonic paradigm involves the deterritorialisation of its globalised components into smaller (regional, even professional) entities, engaging in meaningful negotiations to settle their diverse/divergent interests. Same as the cells of any living organism finding themselves permanently engaged in energy flows (resembling, at a macro level, the quantum physics' principles) yet preserving their individual integrity (rather than finding themselves subjected to incorporations/take-overs) while functioning coherently as integral parts of larger entities, such deterritorialised components would naturally be attracted into a heterogeneous flow of cultural, economic or political cooperation, rather than be coerced by the globalization's marketing drivers to toe the line.
39. Noro, Hiroko. "Ecological Perspectives." Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. 2009. SAGE Publications. 17 Apr. 2010. http://www.sage-ereference.com/casestudy/Article_n124.html.
40. “In the wake of an economy without ethics and in an age of secular individualism there is a need for allegory that will restore ethical meaning and cultivate representations of our commonality”, Rutherford, John, An Economy without Ethics, Social Europe Journal vol.4, no.3, (2009), 13-17.
41. Whereas Adorno highlights capitalism's tendency to make the general and the particular interchangeable, the commonest example of industrial standardization can be seen in the multi-lingual labelling of products.
42. Marcuzzo, Maria C., “Is history of economic thought a “serious” subject”, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, vol. 1, issue 1, (2008), 107-123, http://ejpe.org/pdf/1-1-art-5.pdf.
43. These uncompromising assertions represent 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 a Working Paper, I will choose one example to defend the appropriateness of the qualification made here. The Win-Win “solution” is one already ingrained example in marketing newspeak, contradicting Say’s law and other such classical/neoclassical political economy tenets. From Marshall to Walras, Menger or Pareto, systemic equilibrium was considered to be the means to achieve 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 , American edition, Schwier, Ann S. (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1971), 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).
44. Social dumping is a “practice involving the export of a good from a country with weak or poorly enforced labour standards, where the exporter’s costs are artificially lower than its competitors in countries with higher standards, hence representing an unfair advantage in international trade. It results from differences in direct and indirect labour costs, which constitute a significant competitive advantage for enterprises in one country, with possible negative consequences for social and labour standards in other countries.” see The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/industrialrelations/dictionary/definitions/SOCIALDUMPING.htm
Formulating axiological values and establishing the (qualitative) models needed to decentralise political power and establish a consensual model of democracy (methodology part I: analysis)
Spectral modernity’s hyper-real, bounded rationality context – the mythopoios, noëmatopoios, eikonopoios triad creating myths, meanings and images, respectively – highlights the axiological underpinning of this project. Many a social critiques of the American life (apparent in the works of John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis or Scott Fitzgerald) cannot illustrate the American Dream’s new-con any more emphatically than Hans-Christian Andersen does, in his story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, evoked earlier.
Formidable cultist pressures, wilfully exerted by public planners spearheading formidable yet stealthy commercial interests, conspire to manipulate people's behavioural traits thus forcing them to acquiesce to an uncritical End of History, in the mould of the Washington Consensus on... the social engineering “Project for the New American Century” or else have to face the consequences of being left behind, amongst the Cold War's “nostalgic” collateral losses.
Pulling the “positive psychology” wool (in the shape of a rather thick layer of “scientific” gloss) over people's eyes is designed to adduce credibility. The mass-media corporatist mouth-pieces' chorus plays a crucial role in proselytising the “new generations” towards cultivating false needs, while placing an uncritical focus on wanton “aspirational values”. This is aimed at inducing self-interested (potentially unethical) decision-making trends for the purpose of fragmenting/atomising civil societies' bargaining power, thus making them easier targets for incorporation into a standardised, “free” market model.
Several epistemic sources are used for tracking people's anticipated choices while herding them towards these planners' preferred options. The cornerstone underpinning this master-narrative's theoretical basis uses Schumpeter's decrees, whereby economic inequality should not be seen as a fundamental flaw of capitalism. “Wealth-creating” bankers must be trusted and allowed self-regulation for the greater good of a society modelled as a pyramid (Maslow) and guided by wanton “values”.
As in the American political system's “left-right” divide – a simplistic translation of the commercial duopoly into politics (Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, McDonald's vs. Burger King etc.) – the global propaganda machine perverts the concepts of “free will” and “self-knowledge”45 by creating an illusion of competition and choice through its pillion, national outlets. From the readers' digest mass education of the Bologna process and the innocuous virtual social networks, commercial muzak or fashion trends, to the more sophisticated, yet no less single-minded, justifications of greed, in the form of “can-do”, pseudo-scientific marketing or management schemata, a thoroughly alienating “new language of self-deception (Rorty, 1985)”46 is thus created.
45. Drawing from Dworkin, Harris, Johnson and Ouroussoff, Young sees this as “the capacity to reflect upon and to attempt to put into action one's desires, preferences and intentions”, Young, Allan, 4.
46. see Rorty Amélie O., Self-Deception, Akrasia and Irrationality, in The Multiple Self, ed. John Elster, 115-131, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1985).
Yet, any system which is dependent on consuming its entire GNP remains 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 autonomised institutions or symbolic interactions/exchanges, the system's perpetuation is owed, primarily, to a life-support machine operated by tremendously powerful opinion-makers, indoctrinating the masses of manoeuvre with a discourse aiming to delay the self-devouring appetite’s moment of truth.
Moreover, the systemic amalgamation produced by the Global-Village-Single-Market-One-Way-Street principle wilfully complicates matters by using a technical language to cloak corporate greed. It induces a cultist reliance on the “Invisible Hand” – deemed to be the only “regulator” fit to oversee the speculative whims of the “electronic herd”47 of currency punters, new-moneyed oligarch entrepreneurs “trustworthy” bankers and other agents of an amoral deontology. No wonder the money-making schemes of this “free” market model built on the protestant ethic orthodoxy allows, even encourages48 white-collared speculators to privatise its profits (off-shoring) while “socialising” the inherent losses (into the taxpayer’s pension funds).
Still, one should note that the “free” market's metastasis cannot and should not be used as an excuse to ignore the asymptotic epistemic advances registered in science, or the general Theory of Knowledge.49 Whether the Cold War winners’ hubris provoked the 9/11 Big Bang, resulting in history being re-started, this entire process followed a similar (Hegelian) dialectic to the way in which quantum mechanics led to the creation of solid mechanics and, in turn, to the super-computers that have revolutionised the industry, commerce, transport or communications. Without favourable social conditions none of these breakthroughs would have occurred though they were an “epistemic possibility and were socially desirable too“.50
Yet, most if not all of these scientific advances have come at an irreversible environmental cost: unsustainable economic growth. As the growth fetishism is corporatist globalisation's raison d'être – disguised as “progress” via this genetically modified, “common sense” idea of living better than our parents did – climate change and its “negative ecological debt”51 which is mortgaging our common future has to be the most urgent reason for changing capitalism's failed paradigm.
While current civic apathy levels suggest an imminent rush to the barricades remains highly unlikely, Gramsci's “passive revolution”52 ideas remain the only realistic chance for change. Whereas Ghandi's satyagraha i.e. passive resistance may not be suited everywhere, Gramsci's ideas may still be employed today for the purpose of reconfiguring the Capitalist Manifesto in an updated version, according to which the shorter these crises cycles, the likelier the occurrence of a critical mass of decision-makers eventually realising the need to revolutionise this utterly bankrupt model.
Despite this last statement's normative character, corporatism's eventual replacement still ought to be managed53 according to the ontological laws of integrity, morality and ethics54, thus preventing religious or egalitarian dictatorships from profiting in the ensuing paradigmatic power-vacuum, as happened when Christianity's meek socialist ideology toppled the Roman Empire.
At a time when scientific and philosophical endeavours bring humanity ever-closer to the elusive, objective view of its physiological finitude and epistemic perpetuation, it is time to discard Goebbels, Ogilvy, Friedman and other marketing gurus' proselytising dogmas, as they serve no purpose other than disenfranchise people and their unique individuality.
47. Friedman, Thomas, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Harper Collins, London, 1999. Also, Bergsman, Joel, Macro Policy Space, the Public Welfare and the Electronic Herd, 2007, written for The Evolution of the Nation-State in the Twenty-First Century, Douglas, William A., 2007, http://bergsman.org/joel/MALS/Macro%20policy%20and%20the%20herd%20v.3.doc.
48. Lanteri, Alessandro, “(Why) do selfish people self-select in economics?”, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, vol. 1, issue 1, autumn (2008), 1-23, http://ejpe.org/pdf/1-1-art-1.pdf.
49. Russell, Bertrand, Theory of Knowledge, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1926, A Miniature Library of Philosophy, http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/russell1.htm.
50. Bunge, Mario Augusto, Treatise on Basic Philosophy, vol. 6, Epistemology & Methodology II: Understanding the World, 169, Springer, 1983.
51. As the Global Footprint Network has it: “Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.3 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. It means it now takes the Earth one year and four months to regenerate what we use in a year. Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if the current population and consumption trends continue, by the mid 2030s, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. Yet, we only have one.” Quoted in Burton, Mark, Sustainability: utopian and scientific, 21st Century Socialism, August 2009, http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/sustainability_utopian_and_scientific_01880.html.
52. Thomas, Peter, “Modernity as “passive revolution”: Gramsci and the Fundamental Concepts of Historical Materialism”, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association / Revue de la Société historique du Canada, vol. 17, n° 2, (2006), 61-78, http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/016590ar.
53. The Good Society Debate, Social Europe Journal, http://www.social-europe.eu/category/good-society-debate/.
54. Jensen, Michael C., Integrity: Without It Nothing Works, Harvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations and Markets Research Paper no. 10-042, Interview: by Karen Christensen, from Rotman: The Magazine of the Rotman School of Management, Fall 2009, pp. 16-20.
Formulating the qualitative expertise elements needed to evaluate concrete cases and the likely outcomes of implementing the recommendations made (methodology part II: implementation)
Capitalism's current economic metastasis confirms Marx's predictions regarding the decline in profitability. While neo-liberal economists insist that increased labour productivity and its associated investment costs' reduction can symmetrically compensate for the rise in real wages and physical capital, allowing capitalism's indeterminate evolution, “the effect of increased productivity in reducing the cost of future investment does not help individual capitalists profit from existing investment.”55
Increasing pressures on productivity derive from the rapid devaluation of the investment made for higher profits. The downward trend in accumulation at a time of increasing rates of profit, alienates the capitalist system's production capacities from the market's ability to absorb them. The resulting “over-production”-come-“under-consumption” is but the consequence of a long-term slow-down in the productive accumulation rate, even after the rapid accumulation taking place in China is considered.
Against a background where hundreds of millions of Chinese people toiled on near-subsistence wages to fund the West's unsustainable and environmentally damaging prosperity, the financial gold-rush for easy profits further diverted productive investments towards lax-crediting without boosting accumulation sufficiently to absorb everything produced by the system. The globalization process has thus concentrated capital to the point where too many “too big to fail” MNCs have saturated a system in which its components are too intertwined to allow Schumpeter’s “gale of creative destruction” to wither away unprofitable ventures for fear of damaging rather than helping existing ones.
Moreover, the globalised economic downturn's primary cause is the result of massive over-consumption that was always going to burst an unsustainable debt bubble. The imbalance between China, India or Japan's savings and the US or the UK's indebtedness, and between the former's trade surpluses and the latter's deficits was never likely to be sustained indefinitely. Thus, the ratio of borrowings in the US or the UK (i.e. its consumer, corporate and public-sector debt taken together) compared to its annual economic output stands at just over 300%.56
The $1.4 trillion question i.e. the value of the Chinese-owned American assets, reveals that “without the billion dollars China pays (in interest) daily (to maintain their value), the US could not keep its economy stable nor prevent the dollar’s collapse“57. Since the Federal Reserve has printed (in March 2009) well over one trillion dollars58, foreign holdings of US treasury bonds and notes have continued to decline, while the US government must still find the means to fund a record budget deficit.59
Its inflationary desperation – that mortgages the future of many generations to come on the false wisdom of a bankrupt paradigm, whose inequitable development policies have lead to rising unemployment and environmental degradation – is the perfect opportunity to start re-democratising the global financial institutions' decision-making structures60 whilst replacing the US$ with a credible financial instrument, that can at least differentiate between a milliard and a billion, one that stops calling billions as trillions.61
55. Harman, Chris, Not all Marxism is Dogmatism: A Reply to Michael Husson, International Socialism http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=600. In his latest book, Zombie Capitalism, Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx, he argues: “investment take(s) place at one point in time. The cheapening of further investment as a result of improved production techniques occurs at a later point in time. [...] When capitalists measure their rates of profit they are comparing the surplus value they get from running plant and machinery with what they spent on acquiring it at some point in the past – not what it would cost to replace it today... [The rate of profit] necessarily implies a comparison of current surplus value with the prior capitalist investment from which it flows. The very notion of “self-expanding values” is incoherent without it.” [pp.74-75]
56. Peston, Robert, The New Capitalism, BBC News, December 2008, http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/16_12_09_new_capitalism1.pdf
57. Fallows, James, The $1.4 trillion question, The Atlantic, January/February, 2008.
58. The Fed has already printed over $1 trillion, buying up treasury bonds, US government debts and mortgage collaterals, including the “contaminated” “sub-prime mortgages”; Spicer, Nick, US Prints More Money to Fight Recession, Al Jazeera, 20.03.2009, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/03/200932012245857556.html.
59. In February 2010, President Barack Obama released the US's budget plan according to which the federal deficit for 2010 is expected to be a record US$ 1.56 trillion surpassing last year's record US$ 1.4 trillion.
60. Ebrahim, Alnoor and Herz, Steve, Accountability in Complex Organizations: World Bank Responses to Civil Society, Working Paper 08-027, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 2009, http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/08-027.pdf.
61. One of the best examples of cultural hegemony comes from the widespread acceptance of the American “inflationary numerology”, Americans in the dark over milliard, English: TranslatorsCafé, http://www.translatorscafe.com/cafe/MegaBBS/thread-view.asp?threadid=6977&posts=18.
Though it may well be too late to entertain foolish ideas of changing the world with a book, this dialogic counter-narrative invites people to consider using the mental stepping stone provided in alternative media, such as Al Jazeera62, 21st Century Socialism63 or Fast Capitalism64, to name but some of the possibilities to escape the pressures to conform to neo-liberalism's hegemonic, cognitive hyper-reality matrix.
It wishes to contribute to “Building the Good Society” Project of the Democratic Left65, by adding its constructive criticism of global capitalism's democratic and social justice deficit. Repudiating the “free marketing” paradigm's inexhaustible array of whimsical “needs” – callously aroused to suit everyone's supposedly unique yet fundamentally mimetic personality, craving for anything ranging from designer animal clothing to iPhones or X-Boxes, this project aims to give back a voice to those that have been stealthily silenced while helping to strike a fairer balance between individual achievement and social solidarity.
The privatising of people's civic citizenship and civility by entrepreneurs eager to profit from their lack of foresight and manoeuvrability turns them into alienated consumers thus annihilating all traditional forms of collectiveness. Concurrently, the end of the manufacturing industries coupled with the social dumping practices of outsourcing production to low wage economies has further undermined the working classes' self-esteem and incomes.66 Further to the objectives stated in this paper, it is fully committed to “clothing the Emperor” as a defender of individual civil liberties by reasserting the primacy of our common welfare, education and health over the greedy, self-interested market agents, by redistributing/re-appropriating people's cultural identities, self-esteem and civil citizenship, regardless of age, social status, race, gender etc., by making the state more transparent and more accountable, by ensuring an ecologically sustainable future and a more equitable economic development.
Amongst the agents of change that would achieve such an outcome, the European Union is already working towards regulating hedge funds, private equity groups while banning other purely speculative gambling activities, such as the “naked selling” practices, involving Credit Default Swaps (CDS) of sovereign debt, despite strong US opposition to the move.67 Also, since we already have a minimum wage as well as a living wage standard, they should also start considering a maximum wage, such as Sweden had in the 1960s, alongside an upper rate of tax of 90%. Neal Lawson supports this idea by giving examples as far apart as UEFA's proposal to cap footballers' wages or JP Morgan's advice, given over a century ago, that “no company should have a differential between the highest paid and [the] lowest paid greater than 10. He thought that enough to create motivation.”68
While subsequently proposing a “voluntary system based on full transparency of company pay structures” where “bonuses could be linked to social and environmental performance”, Lawson goes on to say: “The Royal Navy, for example, has had a de facto differential of 8. Even if the ratio was 50 times an average salary of £20,000, that’s still £1 million. Who needs more and what does more do to our society and planet?”69
Isn't it time more people were asking these very same questions?
62. Al Jazeera, http://english.aljazeera.net/default.html.
63. 21st Century Socialism, http://21stcenturysocialism.com/
64. Fast Capitalism, http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/edintro.html.
65. Cruddas, John and Nahles, Andrea, Building The Good Society: The Project of the Democratic Left, Compass, Direction for the Democratic Left, www.compassonline.org.uk.
66. “In 1976, the bottom 50 per cent of the population owned 12 per cent of the nation's non-housing wealth. By 2003, it had fallen to 1 per cent.” Rutherford, ibid.
67. “Naked selling” practices means insuring bonds or other types of debt without actually owning them – a purely speculative gamble accounting for the majority of Credit Default Swaps (CDS) trading. CDS are derivative products, aimed at covering the risk of a debtor defaulting. The derivatives' market has been thrown into the spotlight by reports of coordinated market attack by multi-billion-dollar hedge funds to bring down the value of the euro, in the wake of the Greek crisis. 80% of a US$600 trillion market in derivatives occurs in behind-the-counter exchanges. See, Lepadatu, Bogdan, Coordinated EU and US Action on Derivatives Markets, http://dialogicaluigiordanobruno.blogspot.com/2010/03/coordinated-eu-and-us-action-on.html.
68. Lawson, Neal, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, Social Europe Journal, Columns: economic policy, 03.02.2010, http://www.social-europe.eu/2010/02/an-idea-whose-time-has-come/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+social-europe%2FwmyH+%28Social+Europe+Journal%29&utm_content=Yahoo%21+Mail.
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