The Marketplace of Ideas 2

 

 

I suggest you read the blog and then watch the video..

 

 

The purpose of the ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ in the first instance is to explain what happened to Russell Brand in his recent battle with the media for public opinion. This is part of a broader discussion on the nature of political, cultural and philosophical debate in Anglo Saxon society and why discussion of alternatives has always failed to make a significant impression on this society in particular.

 

Whether you agree with Brands particular form of alternative politics or not, it was pretty obvious that he lost more than just an argument about politics. Clearly he was personally damaged by what has happened to him. There are important observations to be made here for anyone who seriously considers proposing or implementing alternatives for society.

 

Only a short while ago Brand published a widely discussed book on ‘Revolution’ and had more or less cornered media attention with his advocacy for abstention from voting in elections. Yet within a few months he was largely discredited and isolated. And now he seems to have withdrawn almost completely from alternative politics.

 

This change in fortune was not somehow the consequence a disconnected chain of events or the result of poor personal choices. It was clear that a media lynch mob was intent on waging a war of attrition on Brand and succeeded in their objective. What was remarkable was that this provoked no widespread outrage or even a mildly critical response from the majority of the alternative media.

 

It is hardly the first time that someone like Brand has been publicly mauled like this and I can confidently predict it will not be the last. With this in mind we should try to understand the intellectual framework within which this media vivisection occurred. What is the content of media and societal thought that makes an outcome like this possible?

 

The stock answer would be that mainstream media and society are in the right so of course they won, but I am sure you would agree that it is hardly likely to be as simple as that.

 

The next simplest explanation is one of economic and political power and sheer weight of numbers. The mainstream media can saturate the discussion till they win. But this does not address the question of why the press is a homogenous mass- of why they all think the same.

 

This leads to the argument that press and society is homogenous because the press owners are all capitalists and oligarchs. This observation is hardly new. But do the readers of the press not know this? Do they not discount it when they read the press? What is the mechanism that links the buttons the press pushes with the lights that go on the in the public mind? Why are press and public coherent?

 

The only viable explanation is that there is an overarching framework of ideas that controls debate. It is a framework that works; that maintains society in a stable form. I likened this framework to the roots of a tree. Like a root system it initially seems impossibly complex. But if we bring the network to light we can categorise classes and types of roots and their relationship one to another and to the tree as a whole.

 

In the first part of my analysis I dealt with the Power Of Naming and Subversive Naming which is the battle to control the terms of the argument. Characterise Brand as ‘this person’ and his ideas as ‘this type of idea’ and you have gone ninety percent of the way to victory.

 

If Brand battles from ‘principle’ he can’t beat mainstream media system because their purpose in arguing is not to ‘win’ an argument on principle or intellect but to produce an army of believers that will continuously attack Brand.

 

This army of reporters, commentators, and web contributors endlessly launch wave after wave of assaults. By this means the Power of Naming is used to reconstruct and ultimately neutralise the opposition. It is ideological sandblasting-a million tiny particles wearing the subject away. What is the organising principle that allows a stream like this to be focused and directed with force at the opposition?

 

Following on from the Power of Naming I identified the Marketplace of Ideas which I argue determines what is possible through argument and discourse and in particular defines the originality of thought.

 

If originality can be defined as not doing or thinking what you are told, then it inevitably leads to collapse of the existing order. In this time and place originality is those thoughts or actions which directly or indirectly leads to the collapse of capitalism, since this is the dominant order. It follows then that capitalism does not want originality, or rather capitalism cannot sustain more than a certain very limited amount of originality. And the amount of originality that can be tolerated must necessarily decrease over time.

 

How does the capitalist thought system control, limit and where necessary kill, originality? I argue that it is though the Ownership of Ideas and the creation of a new kind of modern totalitarian society.

 

I used ‘1984’ as a description of modern totalitarianism that cannot be overthrown in the classical sense because it is totalitarian control of thought. This difference between physical totalitarianism and intellectual totalitarianism is important because totalitarianism is now of the mind.

 

This new kind of total mental control is sometimes referred to as ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’.

 

Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in 2003 to describe the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin believes that the United States is increasingly turning into an illiberal democracy, and uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to illustrate similarities and differences between the United States governmental system and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. In Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, inverted totalitarianism is described as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics. In inverted totalitarianism, every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to collapse, (including Ideas!-AP) as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism

 

 

It is Nazism turned upside-down, “inverted totalitarianism.” While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarianism

 

 

‘Inverted Totalitarianism’ and the Marketplace of Ideas can be compared to ‘1984’ to get a more complete composite sense of modern totalitarianism.

 

There are omissions in the future vision that Orwell describes.

 

The first is Ideas as commodities which is at the crux of ‘1984’ but never explored in the text.

 

Ownership of Ideas is based and relies on, the Provenance of Ideas intellectually abstracted and formalised into the History of Ideas.

 

The Provenance of ideas is a legal argument dressed up as intellectual description. This legal argument expressly challenges the idea of overarching truth. It creates a dichotomy between the past and the present, the traditional and the modern. This is usually centred on the Enlightenment which it is claimed spontaneously produced the modern mind.

 

Ownership of Ideas leads to Ideas as commodities, artefacts which are traded as an expression of their social value. Understanding Ideas as commodities leads to   the Marketplace of Ideas and the real purpose and meaning of discourse and debate.

 

Ideas are claimed to have proven ownership through the concept of provenance disguised by the intellectual discipline of ‘History’. Owned Ideas are revealed as commodities through use in consumption and trade. As commodities they have commodity value.

 

Commodity Value is a social construction in two ways: something is either valuable because everyone (or a large number) believe it to be valuable (and want it), or it is valuable because it gives an individual or group an advantage over everyone else. This is analogous to exchange value and use value.

 

For example, the social value of the ‘modern western medicine’ Idea can be understood as its ability to make a society healthy or to make an individual healthier than others. Vaccination and the controversies that surround it are an excellent illustration of this process and of the contradictions that are never far from it’s surface.

 

Vaccination is supposed to confer ‘herd immunity’ if enough members of a community are vaccinated. This is the group social value of vaccination; why we should all want it. But if an individual is successfully vaccinated that individual cannot catch the disease whether everybody else is vaccinated or not. This individual ‘use value’ of vaccination renders herd immunity irrelevant.

Herd immunity can only be of benefit to those people who have chosen not to be vaccinated as they are the only ones who can catch the disease. But they cannot be allowed to choose not to be vaccinated and take advantage of herd immunity because this damages herd immunity, which is what is protecting them! How can this bizarre logical catch 22 be resolved?

 

Vaccination only works as a Commodity Idea if it is generally accepted as a benefit with little or no risk. Individual benefit (use benefit) and group benefit (exchange benefit) work hand in hand with each other. But if you don’t accept the individual or the group benefit of vaccination the argument breaks down completely! In other words if you don’t accept the Commodity Value of the Vaccination Idea then the logic behind it breaks down.

 

Why does this matter?

 

Because it shows that there is no a priori logic behind vaccination but rather it is a Commodity Idea. It is valuable for as long as it is seen to be valuable by individuals and by society. When a significant section of the population question whether it is valuable either for themselves or for society as a whole it breaks down- not just as something people do but as a logical proposition! It’s not that people just stop doing it but it actually stops making sense. In other words it is only logical to the extent that people believe it is logical!

 

At this point there are two possible responses to ‘vaccination’ and what is claimed about it.

Either it is a lie or it is something other than a lie ( a useful fiction?).

Of course, in the modern world we don’t deal in ‘truth’ and ‘lies’ so the opposition to vaccination must be the product of ‘cranks’ ‘flat earthers’, in other words ‘The Primitive’ and so on…..

Here is how debate is exactly controlled and curtailed within the framework of Modernity and Tradition.

 

If it is claimed that an idea has no value in and of itself (in other words it is not either ‘true’ or ‘untrue’), then its value has to be established by other means. What other means can there be? It has to be proven by means of being trialled. It’s efficacy will be established through Trials.

 

The trials used to establish the efficacy of an idea in modern Germanic societies are carefully controlled public debates which are in effect the same as scientific trials.

 

What you saw with Russell Brand was the trialling of a set of ideas. But not Russell Brands ideas, because Russell Brand has no original ideas.

 

What was being trialled were the ideas of the ruling elite. That is what ‘discussion’ and ‘debate’ is; a means for elites to scientifically evaluate how effective their ideas are in controlling the way people think.

 

That is why debate is allowed and promoted. Brand is run through the maze like a white rat until dehydrated and exhausted he collapses. It is the maze that is being tested, not the rat!

 

It is a public demonstration of the efficacy of any given aspect of the system. The system is tested over and over again in public to prove to everybody’s satisfaction that it works. Not that it is ‘true’. Not that it is honest. Not that it is decent. But that it works. This is how its existence is justified. Not even that the ends justifies the means; the means IS the end. The defeat of both Truth and Originality.

 

So what would happen if Brand or any other white rat were to find a weakness or anomaly in the maze? The error would be repaired or amended and the trial would begin again. The story is updated and improved whenever a weakness is discovered.

 

This is called ‘Progress’….

 

The rat can never ‘win’ the trials; no-one can ever ‘win’ the debate and retire from the trials, any more than a lab rat can be allowed to escape from the maze, find a mate and set up a colony of free rats in the corner of a commercial laboratory….the idea of ‘winning’ a debate is INSANE.

 

Now we have established scientific efficacy of Commodity Ideas through the Trial process, we have one final step to take. Efficacy alone is too abstracted as a form of appraisal. After all, an artefact can be efficacious on any number of levels and in respect of any number of applications. We need a form of effectiveness that is specific to the Germanic Cult of Capitalism. We need Profitability.

 

Establishing Profitability entails a concrete financial appraisal of effort in and result out as described in the definition of Inverse Totalitarianism:

 

‘it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”’

 

This leads to the observation that in this society the purpose of discourse is to exploit the value that ideas have for as long as it is profitable. When it is no longer profitable to use, trade and maintain, an Idea is discarded and replaced. This is the fully formed Marketplace of Ideas.

 

Resources are martialed and applied to the promulgation of Ideas. These ideas are trialled and their Profitability evaluated, e.g. how much effort goes into them and how many people believe them. They are modified, discarded and replaced according to a resulting evaluation.

 

You can’t ‘win’ a debate under these circumstances. As the ‘opposition’ you are the bull in the ring; the ‘rube’ in the fairground; the rat in the maze. You say things because you believe them. The elite says things because you believe them. Discussion or debate is meaningless in this context.

 

The Germanic elite believes it is ‘elite’ as a consequence and expression of this intelligence. And that the way it operates is an expression of ‘intelligence’. Here is the great F Scott Fizgerald, horrified, amused and admiring modern Germanic intelligence all at the same time :

 

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function

F Scott Fitzgerald

1984 as comedy

 

There is one further aspect of the Marketplace of Ideas that I need to mention That is ‘Intellectual Audacity’ which I will define as the ability and desire of the elite to relentlessly prosecute an idea until they don’t believe in it anymore. This of course, includes introducing new ideas.

Audacity is defined as:

‘Showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.Showing an impudent lack of respect.

 

Taking intellectual risks makes you an Intellectual Entrepreneur; a vital component of the Marketplace of Ideas.

 

Those outside the Idea Trading Elite are always flabbergasted and outraged by the way that mainstream media insiders can continue to cling to an obvious lie even when there is clear evidence that it is untrue. They are equally astounded when the mainstream propagates a ‘new’ Idea that has no basis is fact whatsoever. The mainstream revels in this fringe astonishment, bewilderment and outrage. To them it is absolute proof of their modernity and superiority, their sophistication and their justified elite status.

 

Harold Pinter’s superb Nobel Prize acceptance speech refers to a kind of intelligence and gleeful wit that motivates the elite in this process. It is well worth an hour of your time….

 

The argument that Ideas are valuable not because of what they intrinsically are but because of what they do leads to Instrumentalism:

 

Instrumentalism is the methodological view in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, advanced by the American philosopher John Dewey, that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments, and their worth is measured not by whether the concepts and theories are true or false (Instrumentalism denies that theories are truth-evaluable), or whether they correctly depict reality, but by how effective they are in explaining and predicting phenomena. It maintains that the truth of an idea is determined by its success in the active solution of a problem, and that the value of an idea is determined by its function in human experience.

 

Moral Instrumentalism (or Instrumentalist Morality) defines moral rules only as tools for moral good. Thus, the moral code arising from a given population is simply a collection of rules that are useful to that population. This view resembles Utilitarianism and developed from the teachings of David Hume and John Stuart Mill.

 

Political Instrumentalism is the view, developed by John Dewey from his instrumentalist and Pragmatist views, and from the much earlier writings of Niccolò Machiavelli, which sees politics as simply means to an end.

 

http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_instrumentalism.html

 

There is much more that could and should be written about the Marketplace of Ideas. If you would like to contribute something, small or large, please do.

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The Marketplace of Ideas Part 1

 

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In ‘GOODBYE, GOOD LUCK Or The Wrong Trousers Or Naming Subversion’ I discussed the Power of Naming and the way that it can be used to reconstruct opposition. This Power To Name was certainly instrumental in twisting round Russell Brand to the point that he has had to withdraw due to mental injury.

 

But there is a more complex and powerful factor in the battle to control the way we think; The Marketplace Of Ideas.

 

The Marketplace of Ideas is profound because it determines what is, and what is not possible to achieve through politics and discourse in the modern world.

 

The Marketplace of ideas does not just outline the rules of the game, it delineates the principles on which those rules are founded. The ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ is the root system of thought from which Germanic Capitalism grows; it is the network of tubers that anchors Germanic Capitalism and allows it to draw nutrients up from the ground. Cut this root and the tree will begin to die; just expose this root and the air and the light will begin to kill it.

 

Ideas as commodities

 

Modern/Germanic ideology characterises Ideas/Conceptions, (which I will refer to as Ideas), as commodities; a particular kind of social construction. To begin with, Ideas are artefacts, (man made objects), Germanic ideology does not accept Ideas as having existence outside of this Provenance.

 

Provenance

 

Capitalism is founded and relies upon, the belief that Ideas like everything else that exists, have attributable ownership. Where there is no attributable ownership, there can be no Germanic law, because under Germanic law all authority comes from ownership.

 

The concept of Provenance (provable chain of ownership), itself means that no Idea can come from outside this system of ownership. There can be no ‘Inspiration’ in the classic sense of the word, which is: ‘To breathe on or breathe life into; To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.’ In other words every idea starts with somebody and is therefore owned by somebody. Ideas cannot ever belong to everyone and no-one. Ideas can never be a commons.

 

As Ideas are understood as owned man made artefacts, it follows that they can be commodities, that is things that are valued according to how people see them to be. They cannot have a value outside of this. It follows from this that people can be divided into two groups; those who own ideas and those who don’t. In other words a market. Hence the Marketplace of Ideas.

 

Idea Commodities, Value and Time

 

In tandem with the Idea as a commodity with social value comes the Idea that only has value (value in trade or consumption), for a certain amount of time- a kind of ‘sell by’ date, leading to the Germanic ‘History’ brand.

 

Modern History and Ownership: Modernity and Tradition

 

History is intimately bound up with ownership, the two are mutually dependent.   History expresses the belief that there is no truth that lasts forever or that can exist outside the boundaries of a specific time. There can be no ideas that are valid forever. There can be no ideas that are universally true in all time and all space.

 

If it were possible that Ideas could be true for all time, there would be no way of differentiating between the past and present because no change in perspective would be possible. People in the ‘here and now’ would have no basis on which to understand people in the ‘there and then’ as different. There would be no history. But the in fact, belief in history is crystallised in the image of modernity and tradition.

 

The idea of a dichotomy between modernity and tradition is rooted in the way that the ‘Renaissance’ and the ‘Enlightenment’ are portrayed in German rhetoric. We are said to exist in the ‘Modern’ world because of the break with the past that Renaissance and Enlightenment represents and caused. As ‘modern’ people we are told that we think differently because of the Enlightenment, in fact we are told that we are fundamentally different people because of it.

 

The Progress Brand

 

The concept of ‘progress’ follows from this description of the Enlightenment. We are ‘modern’ in the sense that we are on this side of the historical fact of the Enlightenment and we have made ‘Progress’ in the sense that this is a good thing.

 

The ‘fact’ of the Enlightenment proves Progress is possible and once possible, Progress becomes inevitable. Because becoming aware of the possibility of Progress, is making Progress. You no longer see the world as stable and unchanging. Once you accept and believe in change, you are no longer ‘Primitive’.

 

Primitive people hold that what is true is always true and always will be true. And what is untrue is always untrue and always will be untrue. Truth and untruth are unchanging. So there can be no demarcation between modernity and the past. In contrast, ‘Modern’ people by definition can never accept that there is no difference between past, present and future. How can I be a ‘modern’ person if there is no difference between past and present?

 

So the ‘Progress’ brand naturally ‘evolves’ from the Enlightenment brand. It is a self proving, self referencing bubble. The fact that the Enlightenment happened is proof that thought can fundamentally change. The Enlightenment itself IS that fundamental change…

 

Does this mean that the arguments for Progress and Modernity are no more than a simple tautology? No. The key lies in the claim to universality for modern thought.

 

Why Modernity Is Forced To Make Itself Universal

 

Once ideas have a ‘sell by’ date, TIME becomes the central component of thought itself, allowing, and in the end forcing, Germanic thought to assume the mantle of MODERNITY and UNIVERSALITY. The categories of ‘truth’ and ‘untruth’, ‘validity’ and ‘invalidity’ become fused with and then subordinated to, Modernity and Tradition.

 

The ideology of Progress tells us that pre Enlightenment thought is fundamentally different from post Enlightenment thought. Pre Enlightenment thought is based on a belief in absolute truth expressed through concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. If Truth and Untruth is the universal dichotomy then Tradition and Modernity as expressed the Enlightenment must be secondary to this reality.

 

If it is possible that there is universal timeless Truth, and by implication Untruth, then the Enlightenment could be characterised as Untruth and challenged. The only way to neutralise this fatal weakness in the Enlightenment brand is to make it supplant THE CONCEPT OF TRUTH ITSELF. MODERNITY AND TRADITION IS NOW HOW REALITY IS TO BE NAVIGATED – NOT TRUTH AND UNTRUTH. Not Right and Wrong anymore but Now and Then.

 

The historical fact of the Enlightenment encapsulates this. In fact, the Enlightenment is both the vehicle and the content of this. The Enlightenment description of a progression from traditional to modern thought implies a relationship between two modes of thought that are antagonistic. This becomes the universal dichotomy.

 

The Truth is the expression of reality. The Enlightenment claims not to be The Truth, (an expression of reality), but to BE REALITY ITSELF. It places itself above Truth.

 

Truth and Untruth have been subsumed and supplanted and we are trapped in the bubble of the present; estranged from tradition because we are Modern, remorselessly moving into the future, progressing whether we like it or not.

 

This image of our condition might strike a chord with you. It is the essence of ‘1984’. We are trapped inside a Big Brother House – trapped inside a Big Bang universe. If we ask what was there before (outside), the Big Bang?- we are told such a question is unscientific; a meaningless question OUTSIDE of reality. If we now ask: What stands outside Modernity/Tradition? we are told the same thing.

 

Now you know why Germanic politics is divided into ‘Conservatives’ and ‘Progressives’ as opposed to ‘Honest’ and ‘Liars’ or ‘Christians’ and ‘Satanists’ or ‘Greedy’ and ‘Selfless’ and so on…

 

After the introduction of Modernity the possibility of disputing the way things are is over. After all, how can you dispute reality? ‘True’ and ‘False’ have been made the servants of this reality. There is nowhere left that you can stand to get a point of leverage. This is where Orwell left Winston Smith; trapped at a table in the traitors cafe, playing out a pointless game and waiting for the bullet that will put him out of his misery.

 

But we don’t have to be trapped – there is a way out.

 

Orwell was trapped in the modern mind because he did not understand Germanic provenance or the ownership of ideas. Or more accurately, Orwell was not willing to countenance the ownership of ideas. Why? Because as Mark Twain puts it: ‘It is hard to get a man to understand something when his living depends on not understanding it’.

 

In this case you can think of the ownership of ideas as negative ideology, not ‘Thought crime’ but an idea you cannot afford to think. Orwell was a professional author; he made his living by ‘having’ ideas and selling them. ‘1984’ is proof of this. If there is no legitimate private ownership of ideas Orwell must be merely a rentier or toll keeper of common ideas. His ego and his income could not survive this realisation.

 

And neither could 1984 itself. This gives us an insight into the way that ‘1984’ is revered as a semi religious text in the Anglo Saxon world instead of just another commercial enterprise, which is all it actually is. If you start to think of ‘1984’ as just another novel like Jilly Coopers ‘Riders’ for example, the illusion starts to fall apart.

In ‘1984’ Orwell is trying to dissect modern authoritarianism while avoiding the exact root cause of authoritarianism. Is it any wonder then that what he ends up producing is an increasingly frenzied description of madness where the greatest danger to the heroes continued existence is his own mind?

 

The endless trying to justify and reconcile the dichotomy is revealed throughout the book:

 

The novel begins with Smith writing an illegal unauthorised diary, a symbol of his individualism, but one that Smith recognises from the beginning is ultimately meaningless. (in the end it turns out that all Smith’s thoughts were not even his own.. where did they come from?)

 

Smith has lunch with Syme who is compiling the Newspeak dictionary. They discuss the production of language. Syme is too intelligent, Smith realises he will end up dead. Syme is clearly a representation of a dangerous part of Orwells intellect as he recognises it.

 

Smith forms a relationship with Julia who is involved in the mass production of pornography written by machines. Ownership, originality etc.

 

Smith obtains ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ by the character ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’, from O’ Brien (notice Orwell was not up to producing more than a couple of pages of this fictional book within a book- who would be!)

 

And finally Smith reading the Times that he had previously had a hand in falsifying and now believing it… Author reduced to mere Reader, Producer reduced to mere Consumer. Little wonder he wanted to die.

 

The entire root structure of 1984 is based on Ownership of ideas and provenance of ideas. Like a rat endlessly going round and round in a maze Orwell tries to find some way round the central problem of totalitarian thought, private thought and owned thought. What is the central problem of Modern Totalitarian thought for Orwell?

That his own belief structure in the ownership of Ideas is the cause of it.

In desperation Winston Smith pleads with O Brien (part of Orwell’s mind) for an answer:

Why are you doing this to me?

Because I can comes the reply.

 

And stepping out side the novel itself, Big Brother himself comes exactly and specifically from the ownership and selling of ideas :

 

‘In the essay section of his novel 1985, Anthony Burgess states that Orwell got the idea for Big Brother from advertising billboards for educational correspondence courses from a company called Bennett’s, current during World War II. The original posters showed J. M. Bennett himself: a kindly-looking old man offering guidance and support to would-be students with the phrase “Let me be your father” attached. According to Burgess, after Bennett’s death, his son took over the company, and the posters were replaced with pictures of the son (who looked imposing and stern in contrast to his father’s kindly demeanour) with the text “Let me be your big brother.”

 

(From Wiki)

 

Selling ideas through a mail correspondence course. The inspiration for an evil totalitarian genius turns out to be as prosaic as the diminutive Wizard of Oz. And the entire edifice of Oceania is simply a smokescreen for Orwell to try to reconcile what for him is irreconcilable;

The ownership of Ideas leads in the end to the death of original thought.

 

Once you accept that all ideas are man made and can only be man made, you open the way to the ownership of ideas. Once you accept the ownership of ideas you open the way to the dictatorship of owned ideas. Once you accept the dictatorship of owned Ideas you are transformed into a modern German person. Once you are a modern Germanic person, Germanic society owns you body, mind and soul.

 

How can you fight back from there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Opposition vs. the oppositions

Imagine a constitutional democracy with two political parties and a permanent electoral majority in favour of one of those two parties. Since only one of the parties could ever be elected to power can this country can still claim to be a democracy?

 

In this hypothetical situation the permanent opposition still has a role to play in questioning and challenging the assumptions, ideas and policies of the majority party. If they do this in a coherent way that represents the interests and opinions of the minority, systematic opposition can force the majority party to make ‘better’ decisions and the majority in society to be aware of the ideas and opinions of the minority.

 

By means of constant and aggressive opposition the majority can be exposed when it has failed in the conception and execution of policy. The population at large can be made to realise when the majority party is incompetent and/or corrupt and encouraged to respond accordingly.

 

Under this ‘adversarial’ model the claim can be made that democracy is possible even if electoral maths do not support a regular change of government. But this system only works to the extent that the opposition is capable of, and committed to, systematic opposition to the majority. In other words it is only possible if the opposition is sufficiently organisationally and even ideologically, separate and opposed to the majority*.

 

But that is clearly not what we have got now in developed capitalist societies. What we do have is often understood as a Controlled Opposition model -a term usually associated with Conspiracy Theory. Head down this road and before long you are in the company of the Illuminati and Worldwide Zionism etc.

 

But conjectures as to the causes of failure of opposition such as these are really simply the expression of not knowing what has changed and how it has changed over the past four decades.

 

A serious discussion of the possibility of controlled opposition leads to two closely related questions:

To what extent is opposition ‘controlled’? and

How is opposition ‘controlled’?

 

The key to answering these two questions lies in understanding the dovetailing of the subjective experience of opposition and the objective needs of the system.

 

The objective needs of the system and the subjective experience of opposition have clearly changed. The way that political parties relate to the public and the way this relationship services the overall polity are clearly not the same as they were in the last century. So the central questions are refined to: What is the nature of the difference between now and then and: What drives it?

 

The Objective Needs Of The System.

 

The 1970’s crisis led to the merging of state and capital in the form of Monetarism and the beginnings of Financialisation. The victory of Monetarist/Marxist theory made permanent political control of the economy through control of the money supply the central plank of economics. The Anglo-Saxon world put all its eggs in the state managed capitalism basket.

 

This approach had an obvious problem though. Since total power over the economy was now vested in the state, if a genuine democratic opposition*(see above) did manage to get control of government it would potentially control everything. It could do incalculable damage to the interests of the elite.

 

This point is well Illustrated by the saga of Quantitive Easing and the ‘printing of money’ to support post 2008 collapsing financial system. Once the politically motivated mass production of money (as advocated by Monetarism), is accepted as a valid economic strategy it is only a matter of time before some bright spark advocates a ‘Peoples QE’ to benefit ordinary people instead of the banks.

 

A people’s QE of course, would mean the effective end of the system… it follows that such a movement can never be allowed to come to power. So in as far as a highly centralised system such as state managed capitalism is vulnerable to democratic political takeover a solution has to be found.

 

The solution to this centralisation problem was the Democratisation of Money and the creation of the Permanent Credit Economy. The Democratisation of Money would take care of the international element of the new system and the Permanent Credit Economy would take care of the national element.

 

The Democratisation of Money is the creation of an international economic alternative monetary system to the nation state system. It is stateless money. No matter what happens to any, or indeed every, state issued currency, the use of Democratised Money in the form of derivatives and other financial instruments means there is a safe haven for international finance.

 

At the same time The Permanent Credit economy creates a decentralised planning system; this is planning through bank credits to control national economies. (This model of decentralised planning through banks is subscribed to by economist Michael Hudson)

 

Now a new decentralised system is nearly in place and successfully stabilised, which means all the eggs are no longer in just one basket. Now there is some room for flexibility. This means that objectively for the first time in four decades some form of opposition is possible.

 

This describes the objective reality of opposition: The amount of opposition in any society at any given time is the amount of opposition that can be afforded by that society. The presence of internal opposition is an expression of power and stability. When a society is fundamentally threatened, as at time of war, it will allow no internal opposition.

 

But the restructured system we have now necessarily means that the nature of re-emerging opposition is fundamentally changed. How is opposition changed?

 

In the transition period after traditional opposition was discarded in the 1970’s and before Democratised Money and the Permanent Credit Economy were bedded down, it was not objectively possible to have any kind of opposition. It was just too dangerous. The economy and society were effectively on a war footing.

 

Beginning with Reagan and Thatcher, through Clinton and Blair and so on, traditional adversarial opposition has been effectively ended. But it is vitally important that you understand that not just ‘left wing’ opposition was done away with –  ALL opposition was done away with.

 

Under Blair and Clinton, ‘right wing’ opposition was decimated and traumatised just as violently as the ‘left wing’ had been under Thatcher and Reagan. Look back to the rise of Newt Gingrich and the emergence of the Tea Party in the USA, look back to the Conservatives in Britain under Hague and Howard, and you will realise that ‘right wing’ parties on both sides of the Atlantic basically had an extended nervous breakdown.

 

Traditional adversarial opposition of the kind I describe at the beginning of this piece requires a legal framework, an open media and society. But after the 1970’s the media became overtly partisan and concepts of legality were revised (e.g. Glass-Steagall repeal and liberal military intervention) so as to be unrecognisable. This affected ‘left’ and ‘right’ in opposition equally.

 

The Subjective Experience Of Opposition

 

Which brings us to the Subjective Experience Of Opposition and the rise of cultural constituencies. There is no societal support mechanism for one unified, critical opposition of the kind I described   any more. This means that existence as adversarial opposition is no longer a viable strategy for mainstream political parties in the Anglo-Saxon world. It means that a party has to get elected at any cost.

 

With media and broader society no longer willing to support traditional opposition the cost of failure is too high. From this perspective you can understand the subjective experience and motivation of Clinton and Blair…The great move towards the ‘centre ground’ started when politicians like Clinton and Blair became conscious of the new reality; institutionalised adversarial opposition was over. You could no longer justify your party’s continuing existence on that basis. Opposition was now to be redefined as meaning solely understudy to government; to be a government in waiting.

 

So how does Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders and Alexis Tsipiras and of course Donald Trump, fit into this description of the world ?

 

First of all they all clearly operate in stark contrast to the ‘understudy to government’ team. Compare Corbyn to his rivals in the Labour Party leadership race; compare Bernie Sanders to Hilary Clinton or   Trump to his republican rivals.

 

Trump, Sanders and Corbyn all represent Cultural Constituencies as opposed to mainstream understudy politicians. Mainstream politicians are seen as shifting, empty and vacuous, in thrall to corporations, whereas cultural constituency representatives are seen as the opposite of this; vital and authentic. This is because Cultural constituency representatives espouse real, absolute moral positions as opposed to the governmental compromises of understudy politicians.

 

This works because it is not as if the compromises required for national government are even seen as being that practical by the mass of people anymore. Most people understand that international finance and trade have comprehensively restricted the ability of national politician to act freely in pursuit of their goals, whatever the nature of those goals might be.

 

From this point of view, the approach of Jeremy Corbyn is not only morally superior, but has at least as good a chance of actually achieving something as the compromises of a Tony Blair.

 

There is much more to say about all this but for now the main message to take away is that since the elite have successfully created a decentralised financial/political system we will have many decentralised oppositions.

 

And the nature of these oppositions is that they will subjectively be cultural constituencies.

 

Because that is what the new world order can objectively support.