Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rich Puchalsky 10.14.16 at 4:55 pm

Ronan(rf): “This has added some much needed complexity to the VOX narrative [link to article about _Twilight of the Elites_]”

_Listen, Liberal_ is like Chapter 2, or some kind of companion volume, to _Twilight of the Elites_. Reading both, you really start to get a sense of how invisible it is to what I’ve called the global managerial class that they are actually a class, and how professionals (a lower but affiliated rung) can keep demanding things in their class interest while justifying them as in everyone’s interest.

As for the people who write that CT threads around the election have become a complete waste of time (LFC being one): it’s a highly contested election. That is what happens to public discussion around a highly contested election. If you don’t think it’s valuable, please just don’t participate in it: don’t keep commenting that it’s a waste of time to people who are actually interested in it.

bruce wilder 10.14.16 at 4:59 pm

Luttwak’s prescience was answered, I see at the link (LRB, Letters May 26 1994) by John McMurtry:

There is, however, an alternative conclusion more consistent with the geo-economic pattern of facts Luttwak exposes. Economic security is no longer a benefit that international corporations are willing to concede to workers because the new transnational mobility of technologies and investment has eliminated the need to negotiate job protection or to depend on site-specific workforces. International capital now aspires to the conditions of an ideal global market for the purchase of labour – unlimited access to the world’s population as a vast pool of temporary employees to hire and dismiss at will.

If we keep in mind that Fascism must rely on the co-operation or support of big business to achieve state power, we have to ask why the rootless, globe-roaming international capital of today would ever support any party which promised ‘full secure employment’ to workers. Any such programme would undo capital’s new global leverage over workers’ livelihoods, wage-levels and employment conditions – all of which are already being rapidly and successfully brought by relentless international competition for jobs to an ever lower common denominator. International capital can already discipline a country’s workforce overnight by moving around the world at the speed of an electronic signal to another society where its cutback wages and insecure jobs will be welcomed. And it can do it cost-free, selling the products it makes back to the very communities it has disemployed under the protection of international trade regimes which rule out any control over its actions by elected governments. Why would corporate capital ever permit the ‘full secure employment’ policies of the old Fascism in exchange for gaining popular support? This would undermine its greater new power, which is to be free of the needs or demands of any working class anywhere.

Neoliberalism has mobilized a fun-house mirror version of fascism: what Sheldon Wolin called inverted totalitarianism. Soru @ 126 provided a link to Adam Curtis explaining how the propaganda of this neoliberal inverse of totalitarianism works, not to mobilize the masses, but to demobilize us all thru confusion, demoralization and atomization.

The date of the Luttwak piece and McMurty’s letter — 1994 — is significant I think. We’ve been at this since at least 1980 and had every opportunity to be fully cognizant for more than 20 years. And, yet, we have Vox decontextualizing all, to create the new normal.

engels 10.14.16 at 5:09 pm

Isn’t this…what one would expect?

It is

Rich Puchalsky 10.14.16 at 5:15 pm

BW: “Soru @ 126 provided a link to Adam Curtis explaining how the propaganda of this neoliberal inverse of totalitarianism works, not to mobilize the masses, but to demobilize us all thru confusion, demoralization and atomization.”

And, when need be, to blame us for recognizing this condition. Look at all of the verbiage on the last thread about defeatism, nihilism, lack of a plan to fix everything and so on. One proud defender of UK Labour called it a therapy session or some such. I am confused about how “We should stop killing people: I think that is very important” turned into “nihilism”, but then I guess that acknowledging this confusion is for sissies.

bruce wilder 10.14.16 at 6:06 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 155

But, isn’t “boring” an argument too? A third way to dissolve all the noisier contention, make it meaningless and then complain of its meaninglessness?

I haven’t quite recovered from merian challenging your argument from pattern and precedent as decontextualized and ahistorical or then announcing that she was not a supporter of Clinton after having previously justified her own unqualified (though time-limited) support for Clinton.

I see the rhetorical power of Luttwak’s “perfect non-sequitur”, which Adam Curtis explains as a basis for the propaganda of the inverted totalitarian state in some detail. I’ve long argued that the dominating power of neoliberalism — not just as the ideology of the managerial classes, but as the one ideology to rule them all at the end of history — has to do with the way (left) neoliberals argue almost exclusively with conservative libertarians (right neoliberals). It is in that narrow, bounded dynamic of one completely synthetic and artificial thesis with another closely related and also completely synthetic and artificial antithesis that we got stuck in the Groundhog Day, where history tails off after a few weeks and evidence consists of counterfactuals projected a few weeks into the future.

It is not a highly contested election. It just looks like one and sounds like one, but the noise (and it is all noise in the end) is drowning out anyone’s ability to figure out what is going on. And, really, nothing is going on — or rather, nothing about which voters have a realistic choice to make. That’s the problem. (Left) neoliberalism was born* in the decision to abandon the actual representation of a common interest (and most especially a working class interest). Instead, it is all about combining an atomizing politics of personal identity with Ezra Klein’s wonkiness, where statistics are used to filter out more information than revealed and esoteric jargon obscures the rest. Paul Krugman, Reagan Administration veteran and Enron advisor, becomes the authoritative voice of the moderate centre-Left.

*That’s why the now ancient Charles Peters’ Neoliberal Manifesto matters — not because Peters was or is important, but because it was such a clear and timely statement of the managerial / professional class Left abandoning advocacy for the poor or labor interests against the interests of capital, corporations and the wealthy. The basic antagonism of interests in politics was to be abandoned and what was gained was financial support from capital and business corporations. The Liberal Class, the institutional foundations of which were eroding rapidly in the 1980s, with the decline of social affiliation, mainline Protestant religions, public universities, organized labor could no longer be relied upon to fund the chattering classes so the chattering classes represented by Peters found a new gig and rationalized it, and that is the (left) neoliberalism we know today as Vox speak.

The 10% gets free a completely artificial (because not rooted in class interests or any interests) ideology bought and paid for by the 1/10th of 1% and the executive class) ideology, but it gets it free and as long as the system continues to lumber along, employing them (which makes them the 10%) they remain complacent. They don’t understand their world, but their world seems to work anyway, so why worry? Any apparently alarming development can be normalized by confusion and made boring.

More than 20 years after Luttwak / McMurtry, I would think inability of the 10% to understand how the world works might be the most worrying thing of all. The 10% are the people who make the world work in a technical sense — that is the responsibility of the professionals and professional managers, after all.

That the economic system is being cannibalized to generate the outsized economic claims on income for capital and their minions among the executive classes is worrying, as is the stagnation and the slow reaction to climate change and other similar issues. The 10% don’t seem to be entirely ready to accept the parasitism in every detail. If you poison Flint’s water or Well Fargo charges for fake accounts, there’s some kind of reaction from at least some of the managerial / professional classes. We have Elizabeth Warren and she can be amazingly effective even if she seems like a lonely figure. But, mostly the parasitism of the financial sector affects the bottom 50%; the 10% get cash back on their credit cards. I read with fascination articles about the travails of that Virginia Tech guy who persisted in the Flint Water case; again, a lonely figure. I personally know a guy who is an expert on the liver and therefore on the hazards posed by Tylenol (acetaminophen or paracetamol); it is quite revealing to hear about how he’s attacked by interested corporations.

William Timberman 10.14.16 at 6:19 pm

And yet…. In the more or less cobwebbed corners of the Internet, like CT, we are in fact having this conversation, and others much like it — even when, as inevitably happens, it leaves us vulnerable to accusations of leftist onanism by self-appointed realists of the status quo. They may not be easy to ignore, but knowing that their opinions can’t possibly be as securely held as they claim, and are in fact more vulnerable to events than they’re capable of imagining, we shouldn’t feel obliged to pay their denunciations any more attention than they deserve.

The inverted totalitarianism that Bruce and Rich are referencing here is only apparently a successful marriage of the impulse to control complex processes and the technologies which promise the possibility of that control. If we really want to foster a future in which institutions are stable again, and can successfully design and implement effective protections for the general welfare, we’re going to have to get a lot more comfortable with chaos, unintended consequences, the residual perversity, in short, of large-scale human interactions. Never mind how powerful their tools, managers who want to avoid catastrophic delusions will have to learn a little humility. My advice to them: feed that to your big data and your AI, right along with your fiat money, your global capital flows, and your commodified and devalued labor force. and see where you wind up. Where you’re headed now is a dead end.

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