Antienlightenment & “the Venerable Arsenal of Catholic Theology”: Themes and Weaknesses

McMahon, Darrin M. 2002. Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-enlightenment and the Making of Modernity. Oxford University Press.

Hylton, Forrest. 2019. Left Business Observer interview, December 5. http://shout.lbo-talk.org/lbo/RadioArchive/2019/19_12_05.mp3

Forrest Hylton describes 2019 upheavals in Latin America, including the unusual mystery of  the Brasilian middle class supporting conservative elites to stop middle class expansion and supports.

I suggest that Latin American politics are illuminated by (investigation into imperial power interventions and) Darrin McMahon’s analysis (2002) of the conservative Catholic French Ultra Royalists and the ideological legacy they have bequeathed the West.

Experientially, as an educated working-class American with some background at a Latin Americanist university and traveling in Latin America, I have generally found Latin American elites to be impossibly belligerent–savage–in interaction. They have so much passion, interest at stake. They rely on extraordinary patronage. Though Western commercial-state communications professionals work to convince working-class northerners that we share values and interests in common with Latin American elites, that comms strategy is only plausible so long as the Northern educated working class stays within the All-Inclusive and never actually meets a Latin American elite. It is a case where it is quite possible that Latin American elites and anyone with some democratic socialization do not share any common concept of what it is to be human. Here’s why.

As Corey Robin has observed (2011), conservatives are ideological opportunists surrounding a non-negotiable core commitment to inequality. Their interests (passions) are inflamed: Conservatives cannot imagine a world in which they thrive if others are allowed to develop like humans. Starting and staying with the assumption that hell is other people, conservatives are committed to the enslavement of humanity. Hence, distributed semi-sovereign human development is verboten, an abjected unthought in the conservative tradition.

(Side note on theoretical hybridity: Conservative-social democratic hybrid psychology centaur Svend Brinkmann reduces human development to a variety of managerialism, and then lays out a nice case for asserting boundaries on HR excesses in order to permit (not semi-sovereign human development but) distributed “moral integrity.”)

Correcting T.H. Marshall’s (1949) ideal-type argument naturalizing the advent of social citizenship rights, Albert O. Hirschman (1991) reminded us that conservatives push back, influencing knowledge and social developments in reaction to democratic institutional progress. For example, McMahon points out that although they lost to democracy in their time, French Ultra Royalists threw themselves upon the printing press, churning out blizzards of right-wing text (McMahon 192, 199), deeply influencing French (and beyond) common sense, politics, sociology, and philosophy.

Hirschman analyzed the three tactics conservatives use to defend their inequality pole: Arguments accusing democracy of perversity, futility, and jeopardy. But McMahon’s research leads him to insist that beyond the instrumentalist deployment of these Anti-enlightenment discursive tactics, religion is also an essential tool for conservatives in defending their core principle, inequality. The ancient, philosophically-elaborated, legally-codified, imperial-warlord support institution that is Roman Catholicism is necessary to sacralize inequality, and to demonize equality, universal human development. Roman Catholic tradition is necessary to laden the thought of shared sovereignty and distributed human development with irrational fear (Robin 2004). Christian religion also provides a competing alternative to the socio-materialist, commons, and democratic Enlightenment concept of human development within shared sovereignty.  Conservatives tell us, You’ll get change when you die, and you’ll like it. Or not.

I am interested in analyses of conservatism because I want to aid working-class, colonized, racialized, and feminized people’s understanding of how to incorporate knowledge for democratic development, and how to set boundaries on knowledge that denies working-class people’s development of their own human capacities. The problem with philosophy, social theory, and the social sciences is not that they derived from the Enlightenment effort to build human science knowledge–knowledge beyond authority and habit–but that they became infused with Antienlightenment thought, and so dissipated. Science was reduced to scientism, and conservative philosophy stepped in. This needs to be disentangled and clarified. For example, meritocratic ideology in the context of capitalism is a variant of antihuman aristocratic ideology. Meritocratic ideology’s capacity to permit human development is severely limited. There’s no need for antidemocratic social science, except as an instrumental, disposable conservative tactic.

According to McMahon’s analysis of French Catholic conservatism, these are the themes that the Ultra-Royalists‘ voluminous literature (McMahon 192, 199) bequeathed to Western thought, particularly Postmodernism (McMahon 201-202):

  • Animosity toward the Enlightenment.
  • The critique of Enlightenment as about little more than cold rationalism.
  • Philosophes were depicted as abstract speculators, and as intolerant and fanatical, a “Dry Terror” like their tyrannical “Wet Terror” offspring, the Jacobins.
  • Locating the cause of the Terror not in the clash between Enlightenment and Counterenlightenment, but as the sole responsibility of the Enlightenment (McMahon 201). Philosophes were depicted as mob fluffers.
  • A Pandora’s Box, Enlightenment caused an expansive package of related social ills: the decline of faith, Breakup of the family, Moral turpitude, Separation of church and state, Political upheaval, Tolerance, free speech, civil marriage and divorce, moral and economic laissez faire, democracy, and natural rights.
  • The Enlightenment as the sign and source of modernity’s ills: rationalism, intolerance, the Holocaust, antisemitism, totalitarianism, racism, environmental destruction, imperialism, misogyny (201-202).
  • Philosophes created both capitalist individualism and international pacifism.
  • Enlightenment is on the evil side of the world-epic drama between Christian Civilization and counter-civilization. Per Gustave Gautherot and up through Samuel Huntington et al., counter-civilization extends from previous opponents and rivals of major European imperial powers to Enlightenment to communism to Islam.
  • The Enlightenment was a “conspiracy against the social order in a clear line of descent from the philosophe bugbear of the eighteenth century through the Freemason, Jewish, liberal, and socialist pariahs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (McMahon 194, citing Johannes Rogalla von Bieberstein’s analysis of conservative conspiracism).
  • Enlightenment thought was antisocial, in that it advocated for the interests and extra-religious pleasure of nonelites. The social is a steep, immobile hierarchy; thus, the “interests” of nonelites would be nested under the interests of elites. But their natural subordination means that nonelites do not have their own interests, though as Homo Vir, Passionate Man, they can be recognized as related to proper, elite humans.
  • In addition to the hierarchical social, the primacy of history and human fallibility all mean that collective action for democratic social change is not natural or possible.
  • Happiness is bestowed exclusively by submission to religious authority, particularly for the servile classes.
  • Individual rights deplete organic (True, patriarchal) community, family.
  • Restore religion to politics. Religion is identical with both morals and culture.
  • A belief in the power of the individual Mind to make human history. Some men are essentially demigods; their existence transcends the material world. The conservative conceptualization of the human is bipolar. Corresponding to the apotheosis of some men, most people are subhuman, dirtbags. As every Latin American elite knows, the people are either to be tapped (1), or ushered to their “change” (death, 0). Like an HR lady clinging to her salary and self-concept as a People Person, the church manages nonelites, human resources, through their binary states.

Extrapolating McMahon’s analysis of French Catholic conservatism, here is the weakness of conservatism in contests against rival paradigmatic communities:

  1. The conservative conception of the “mob” is too alienated to maintain a social network under the pressure of a rival. Conservatives conceive of the people as fatally dehumanized, crippled, stunted herd animals to be corralled by the fearsome, shock ‘n’ awe institution of religion. This conceptual reduction results in conservatives failing to build a strong base to their pyramid, to support them when a rival social order is organizing. It results in conservative overconfidence in religion as a social control institution. And it results in conservatives failing to recognize that rivals may rebuild the human collective action and solidarity capacities of the people, diverting those people from the conservative institutions of social control. Note: At this point in history, with the help of slavers’ racialized ideology and institutions, it looks like American conservatives have polished their “mob”-control game. Also, the Democratic Party has not been an alternative to the Republican Party–They both rest on variants of aristocratic ideology.
  2. Like other historical victors, Ultra-Royalist conservatives did not recognize the limits of their victories. In particular, Ultra-Royalists did not recognize that their pro-monarchy allies were pragmatic, not as idealist as themselves. After some democratic changes were institutionalized by the Republic, when monarchy was restored, even French pro-monarchy allies failed to care enough to work with conservatives to crush democratic institutions and culture, and install an inegalitarian utopia in their place (McMahon 192).
  3. Catholic conservatives have had their own international network, based in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Quebec, Poland, Hungary, Martinique, and Latin America (McMahon 195). This network is not identical with France’s allies. France’s international allies, even monarchs, were not necessarily Catholic conservative. Sweden was one of France’s most steadfast allies. Its monarch used Swedish troops and took down the Holy Roman Empire.
  4. It’s probably a good temporary strategy to maintain one core principle, and otherwise be super instrumentalist, as conservatives are. But under serious pressure from rivals (not, for example, the Democratic party, or ambient liberalism), all the hypocrisy can pile up and block the view. Sometimes all the (Leo) Straussian exoteric posturing can become so obfuscatory that it loses its audience. Under the fast-changing conditions of heightened class warfare, conservatives drown out their own voice, leaving everyone to notice that they’re wearing the emperor’s new clothes.
    1. One among many examples from the Ultra-Royalists is that when the king revoked their speech privilege, they embraced freedom of speech, which they had just previously been repudiating savagely. As mounted such expedient deviations from previous, furiously-held “principles,” conservatives lost discursive power. “They glorified power, hierarchy, and deference yet were quick to break ranks when their particular interests clashed” (McMahon 191). They began to appear “incoherent.” Conservatives did not see their crowd fading until too late, because they took their exceptionalist privilege too seriously, and failed to recognize other, lesser humans as necessary adherents to their social network. Cosseted by Catholicism and other conservative traditions, conservatives can care too little what others think.
    2. However, this conservative vulnerability at the margins tends to be optimistically overgeneralized by lazy liberals. Under normal conditions, conservatives are correct that few non-comms pros care how hypocritical they are. Hence, Trump and the modern Republican Party. Unfortunately for liberal party tacticians, conservatives disintegrate not when they are hypocritical (Exceptionalism is the privilege of the boss, so exercising hypocrisy only affirms conservatism.), but only when they become incoherent. Before that happens, they have a big, familiar arsenal to unload. And it’s comfortingly encoded in all sorts of institutions, from Catholic doctrine, to Evangelical Christian doctrine, to American law.
    3. Still, conservative incoherence can happen in class warfare, because conservatives cannot publicly name their central principle, inequality, and maintain sufficient social support. Meanwhile, they enjoy themselves, getting off on surfing the risk of exposure.
  5. The religious backing, the sacralization of conservatives’ interest, inequality, encourages conservative savagery in inequality’s defense. Savagery reduces their degrees of credibility and tactical freedom when conservatives excessively, instrumentally switch tactics. (“Why are these jackasses moral authorities again?”)
  6. As well, when you’re trying to sell predatory obfuscation as “enchantment” (See McMahon 197), the savagery undercuts the brand. This is why Romanticism, attuned to the suffering of the hi-lo coalition of the marginal, is friable.
  7. Since they cannot really consolidate publicly around their fundamental platform of elevating themselves by stepping on everyone else, conservatives can be divided along secondary “principles” and clashing advantage-securing strategies, undercutting their coalition. Crucially, dividing conservatives requires previous success circulating a captivating egaliberte justice telos, as was accomplished in the Enlightenment.
    1. The French Right’s internal disintegration was caused by revolutionaries manipulating an ongoing history of conflict among the king, the nobility, and a clergy vacillating between France and the Vatican.
    2. Likewise, in Sweden, when GIVA was ready to lead the nobility slyly into British-style capitalism, the elite was unmanageably divided–including along gendered networks.  For many reasons, the nobility no longer trusted the king. Moreover, and crucially, elements of the Swedish nobility, including female aristocrats, had subscribed to some Enlightenment ideas. Elites could not coalesce; Swedish democrats were able to organize for political power instead.
    3. Legion are the modern (20th-21st c. neoliberal era) examples of how conservatives cannot be substantively divided where there is no egaliberte justice telos to capture any elites.
  8. Discursive determinism is an idealistic right-wing projection (McMahon: 200). However, discursive essentialism can also keep your enemies on life support. When conservatives narrated the Enlightenment as sin committed by individual Minds, they cast memorial statues to Enlightenment contributors. Now any CBC radio program can run an evening feature on Diderot.
  9. In short, there are plenty of ways for organized democrats to skin a conservative.
    1. The reason why the liberal parties like the US Dems fail to dominate the conservative parties in the modern era is because the liberal parties are not equipped to oppose the conservatives. This is a result of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce tacticians’ (Mises & Hayek’s) great political insight: Just remind the capitalists that they are also aristocrats, with all the predatory privileges these power-elite classes may claim, and their liberal servants will be pulled into conservatism’s wake.

However, the French conservatives were modern, used all the technology, published the discourse, helped create the Terror, and their thoughts weigh heavy on our thought today. They didn’t really lose the long game, any more than the American slavers lost.

The Enlightenment philosophers strove to build a global community seeking philosophically-informed, comparative, empirical knowledge with which to suggest, for democratic consideration, the varieties of ways that humans can live together. The Enlightenment didn’t create all the problems. Conservatives are very much with us today, doing what they need to do to us to make their utopia.

Next step: Find articles on Scholastic influence on American constitutional law developments after 1986 (Reagan’s appointment of Scalia to the Supreme Court).

Susan J. Stabile, “Catholic Legal Theory,” Journal of Catholic Legal Studies 44, no.
2 (2005): 421-432.

Stabile doesn’t lend insight into what I’m looking for– How Scholastic legal education imbues neoliberal constitutional thought in the US. She clearly mashes Catholic and Enlightenment concepts (development, metaphysical specification of the good society, positive freedom) in arguing for the importance of Catholic morality in legal formation for cultural change. Where science advances knowledge (not linearly) over time, idealism merely disguises its metaphysics with borrowed language.

In Stabile’s effort to sell the Catholic tradition as an important corrective to “secular” law and society, with a smattering of some general consensus points most people can agree with (The need for “curbing excessive individualism where that interferes with the common good” (426); the tacit importation of private privilege into Rule of Law, as it is bereft of metaphysical specification), you can still see a number of persistent issues with the Roman Catholic paradigm that make it an unsatisfactory corrective to capitalist law. After all, it’s the unsatisfactory, imperial feudal institution from whence unsatisfactory, imperial capitalist institutions developed.

According Stabile, Catholicism is all about, and introduces the following three novelty principles into American law:

1) the principle of the dignity of each individual. This dignity is guaranteed by the extent to which the individual signifies the Catholic God, is “in God’s image” in this idealist paradigm. Thus, Catholicism has traditionally supported not egaliberte, as Stabile disingenuously intimates in asserting that all humans are made in God’s image, but an allocation of dignity based on a Great Chain of Being. If humans are all in God’s image, some humans are more so, some are less so, with consequences for dignity distribution. This isn’t about recognizing difference; it’s about reproducing inequality.

Stabile specifies that human dignity in the Catholic tradition means that Catholic authority, and not life-giving women or selves in socio-material context, governs all individual decisions involving reproduction and  human life length. While life chances and life quality are governed by the allocation of rank and obligation, the supplemental Catholic algorithm determines that length of individual existences will be optimized within that governing framework. Since perinatal life is in our big-cranium mammalian species on Earth an extension of women’s lives, “dignity” requires Catholic institutional management of women.

Perhaps hinting at one of the reasons for its capitalist replacement, Catholic obligations are heavily, permanently enforced on some kinds of individuals. For Catholics, it is not a priority to enforce any collective responsibility to create conditions supporting human longevity, and the Catholic tradition is not going to expend as much effort fighting pollution, war, exploitation and expropriation as they are going to expend micromanaging the ladies. In the first place, targeting institutional and systemic threats to human longevity would require scientific knowledge, which, as we shall see, is not a kind of knowledge Catholicism recognizes. Rather, it is individuals’ (women’s) obligation to the community to make the Catholic life-length optimization algorithm work.

When did “universalist” Catholicism master the trick of smuggling sociological inequality within universalist abstractions? Long enough ago to be very swift and sure in hot-potatoing the critique upon its rivals?

Each individual has 2) obligations within a non-exclusive, mystified community. Because community must be mystified (Stabile: 427), the rank and obligations that any particular individual or group must fulfill are worrisomely underspecified in Stabile’s persuasion essay, see discussion under principle 1, human dignity, above. It must be that the allocation of rank and obligations are to be managed in part by the institution of the Roman Catholic church, both because of its monopoly on Truth and because mystified relations (community) require expert management.

Rank and obligations can also be, and have been established and allocated via economics and politics, including war. Catholicism traditionally performs a supplementary function in managing and enforcing individual obligations to the community. It seems evident that Catholicism’s rigid focus on women’s obligations to the community is overly determined by the atavistic manpower and tax revenue (marketable crop) requirements of feudal warlords, which interest and associated morality shifts somewhat under capitalist conditions.

Similarly, 3) freedom must be distributed according to Catholic “truth.” Again, Catholic authorities must be the institution required to distribute freedom across any community, which Stabile terms “Authentic Freedom,” because Catholic authorities have monopoly access to Truth.

Stabile seems to be simply suggesting legal principles which require reattaching the Roman Catholic Church, as an institution, to the state.

Throughout, Stabile’s bete noir is “secularism,” where the issues cited are clearly rooted in capitalism, eg. It is capitalism that fosters sociopathic individualism, Homo Economicus. Perhaps this conflation is motivated by the tradition of Catholic opposition to Enlightenment, as well as the venerable Catholic tradition of supplementing power elites, see the history of fascism. Without sufficient capacity to even correctly (or, acknowledging the Liberation Theology offshoot, reliably) identify a global, motivating, mobilizing, governance institution like capitalism, the fundamental institution allocating rank and obligation, Catholicism must be little help in dealing with the central social problem Stabile identifies: The widespread diminishment of human welfare, integrity, and development where the common good is dismissed, deprioritized, and distorted.

The relation between the individual and the common good is a central concern of much secular philosophy. Reducing secularism to capitalist problems obfuscates (not only Catholicism’s Aristotelian supplement but also) non-imperial, secular, non-mystifying, sociomaterialist traditions–such as informed the Enlightenment philosophes–investigating and weighing how to best permit social humans’ development, integrity, and welfare. These sociomaterialist community traditions are well known to imperial Roman Catholicism, which has long attacked them as rivals and enemies. As secularism is reduced to capitalist culture, and the varieties of sociomaterialist philosophy and praxis are excluded, then Stabile’s case for catholicizing law relies on an additional, unspoken assumption: To optimize collective and individual human life, humans need to be governed by mystification. That is an interested assumption. It also belies Catholicism’s incompatibility with Rule of Law, which telos requires transparency improvements. Stabile’s is not a good-faith argument, as suggested by her argument’s deployment of opaque, institutional-brand “truth.”

Is the Roman Catholic tradition, with its specialization in mystification, actually adept at centering the human, as Stabile claims (430), or is its real forte obfuscatory shock-and-awe population management as a supplement to warlord rule? Why don’t we ask the surviving legions of systematically-molested altar boys? At the end of her article, Stabile tries to make a relativist argument for including Catholicism in law–arguing that Catholicism’s vision of the common good is adequately specified and defended (430), for example, where Catholic rhetoric implies that simply advising maturing youth to ignore their sexuality is identical to the common good of no youth sex. In so doing, Stabile demonstrates that Catholic Truth/faith is  hopelessly mired in parochial idealism: Assuming that everyone can “know” that ignorance and denial in the mind = nonsexual behaviour in the sociomaterial world, where this is an authority “knowledge” that has been scientifically demonstrated invalid and would only be evident and reasonable to a committed dogmatist.

As well, Stabile’s closing example demonstrates that Catholic Truth prohibits (or drastically deprioritizes) curiosity, empirical investigation into the context-embedded efficacy and validity of that institution, policy, or practice (sex education or instruction in abstinence) putatively optimizing human welfare. How compatible with legal discovery is that religious commitment to dogma? On its margins, nervous Roman Catholic monks may have once unleashed the Renaissance; but Roman Catholicism’s anti-Enlightenment prohibition against expanded and normalized empirical investigation and curiosity, its prohibition against methodical (designed to deploy human capacities and adjust for human limitations), collective self-correction–science, casts in deep doubt whether the Catholic tradition can adequately specify the institutional support for human dignity, community, and freedom-to.

The Catholic tradition cannot fill in capitalist law’s holes. It can only dig them deeper, witness the modern US Supreme Court. Why should this be surprising? Capitalists to a great extent emerged from the wealth of aristocracy. Capitalist exploitation rests upon an ocean of expropriation, the source of wealth familiar to all feudalists. What the Catholic institution is designed to do is supplement expropriation with human resources management. But is the feudalist institution Catholicism a better population manager than capitalist HR ladies? It is! It’s got sturm und drang, rituals, amazing buildings, lovely candles, songs. And it’s an HR department run by guys!…which has its pluses and minuses. But resourceful capitalism has more population-management departments than corporate HR and religious institutions.

Excessively rigid, authoritarian Catholic interpretations (“truth”) of superficially-consensus humane and pro-social principles sure are old, elaborate, and opaque to most; but mystification cannot provide appreciable corrective upon existing capitalist epistemological problems impinging a collective good that permits individual human development–epistemological problems such as are evident in scientistic communities like conservative economics, which also excessively serves power elites, limits collective learning, and prohibits Kuhnian paradigmatic adjustment (Varoufakis 2011). If a tradition cannot offer improvements–observable in outcomes–in coordinating individual development and the collective good, then it’s not what’s needed to address (not “secularism”‘s shortcomings but) capitalism’s failings.

For compelling insight into how conservative Evangelical Protestantism works, see Adam Kotsko’s “The Evangelical Mind.” The important distinction is that Evangelical Protestantism violently dispenses with Christian Good Works as a framework disciplining community members. For Evangelicals, Good Works, or acts of benevolence consign non-Evangelicals to Hell. Committing evil upon people and other life outside of the Evangelical community is sanctified as proof of the individual’s hermetically-sealed, mutually-chosen relationship with the Divine. In the Evangelical view, sabotaging an atheist or bombing a Muslim neighbourhood is what demonstrates God’s favor and gets individual Evangelicals into Heaven.

Whereas Weberians once imagined Evangelical Protestantism as a path to capitalist affluence, we can now recognize Evangelical Protestantism as a framework fit for a militarized society of soldiers and guards.

Understanding this solves a mystery. I had a roommate, raised Calvinist, with a half-sister recovering from terrible self-esteem, likely due a lot to her businessman step-father’s abuse. While we were roommates for a couple of years in grad school, the half sister would travel to visit us, along with her children. To get out of the house, as a teenager the half-sister had gotten repeatedly knocked up by a criminal, drug-addict ne’er-do-well. They had joined a suburban Evangelical church. While the Calvinist-background young woman raised four tiny children, kept home, and stayed fit, her ne’er-do-well partner stole, got caught, had affairs, beat her in front of the children, beat the children, and continually relapsed into very hard drugs. Through it, their church supported her partner, the young man. When, after many years, the young woman finally drew a line– her family had been too beseiged, she was separating from the thug, the church and its congregation shunned…the young woman and her children.

I couldn’t understand it at the time; but that’s because I didn’t understand Evangelical Protestantism. Likely, the young woman, raised Calvinist (a fairly f’d-up religion itself, see Weber), didn’t adequately understand contemporary Evangelical Protestantism either. In the Evangelical view, the young man was repeatedly proving his close relationship with God. By laboring diligently to create a non-traumatizing household life, including for the children, the young woman was, in the Evangelical faith, only demonstrating that she was hell-bound. The Evangelical Church sided with its hand-grenade “God,” such as it is.

 

References

 

Varoufakis, Yanis. 2011. “Chapter 9. A Most Peculiar Failure: The curious mechanism by which neoclassicism’s theoretical failures have been reinforcing its dominance since 1950,” pp. in Modern Political Economics.

 

 

Protecting capitalist sovereignty

“There is an ethical and logical consistency to interventionism: a moral common sense that, just as borders shouldn’t divide markets or capital, they shouldn’t protect repressors and illegitimate governments. The world should do something to stop barbarism. The rhetorical consistency of such common sense only amplifies the hypocrisy and double standards – not to mention the often disastrous consequences – of its application. Economic globalisation promised a prosperous, borderless world, even as its promoters signed a raft of treaties that freed capital but effectively criminalised (while forcing) labour mobility. Humanitarian interventionism justifies itself by a universal ideal morally superior to the concept of national sovereignty, but then picks its targets – Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and now Venezuela – according to criteria that have to do with something other than universalism.” —Greg Grandin, 2019, LRB February 8.

“Hull – who, according to his adviser Ernest Gruening, spoke a born and bred Tennessee gentry lisp, dropping g’s and wrestling with r’s – objected to the idea of Latin American sovereignty: ‘What am ah goin’ to do when chaos breaks out in one of those countries and armed bands go woamin’ awound, burnin’, pillagin’ and murdewin’ Amewicans?’ Gruening says Hull asked him. ‘How can I tell mah people that we cain’t intervene?’ ‘Mr Secretary,’ Gruening answered, ‘that usually happens after we have intervened…

(Hull announced to the Latin American leaders) that the United States would henceforth ‘shun and reject’ the ‘so-called right-of-conquest … The New Deal indeed would be an empty boast if it did not mean that.’”

“In its 1917 constitution, Mexico was the first country in the world to adopt the principle that absolute sovereignty over natural resources belongs to the state. Venezuelan policymakers had pushed for national control of its petroleum reserves since at least the 1930s. The United Nations accepted the legitimacy of resource sovereignty in 1962.”–Grandin

In the 1970s, some world leaders openly entertained the idea of repatriating what were called “excess profits,” to support the democratic distribution of sovereign agency. That got them assassinated by the US global police.

what’s happened to sovereignty:

“Luigi Einaudi, the US ambassador to the OAS, explicitly reclaimed for the United States the right to intervene in the affairs of another country because it considered the quality of its sovereignty unworthy of recognition. ‘Today, we are … living in historic times,’ he said, ‘a time when a great principle is spreading across the world like wildfire. That principle, as we all know, is the revolutionary idea that people, not governments, are sovereign.’”

But which people, Einaudi? Aye, there’s the silent rub at the black heart of all liberal abstraction. The capitalist state exclusively protects that sovereignty distributed globally by market power, with discretionary allowances for useful justice exceptions on the left tail of the distribution. The “New Constitutionalism” Stephen Gill and Isabella Bakker called it back in the 90s. The imperial JS Mill liberal state.

It’s time to talk about the maldistribution of sovereignty across people. That is the way that we will get back to recognizing what Latin Americans recognized: A democratic distribution of sovereign agency requires a state, embedded in a regional coalition, that can both protect citizenship and facilitate working-class (peasant/indigenous) internationalism.

The justice distinction has to be whether and to what extent border controls and citizenship rights turn immigrants into a disadvantaged underclass, or continue to provide them enabling, if graduating positive rights. We need to clarify, in the case of European countries, whether there is a distinction between the treatment of European migrants and semi-permanent immigrants. Like usual, there’s no appreciable analysis of this central distinction in Jacobin’s recent mystifying reporting on Denmark. Just an assumption that if we aren’t centering the justice of the exception (eg. capitalists, migrants, etc.), we are committing injustice. It takes a real conservative to believe that the justice of the average has to exclude the justice of the left-tail exception.

‘Hostile attitudes toward multiculturalism are presented as legitimate concerns (by the Danish Soc Dems): “you are not a bad person because you don’t want to see your country being fundamentally transformed.”’

Was this written for Jacobin by a Laclau-Mouffe Gramscian or by a moonlighting Davos PR staff member? No one could tell, and that’s a problem. Why reduce resistance to the absolutely-undeniable accretion of top-down transformation to nothing more than a “hostile attitude toward multiculturalism” unless you’re an already-co-opted part of a deep bullshit problem? There is something truly, deeply, madly wrong today with our 100% elite-position/interest understanding of internationalism strictly as cosmopolitanism.

Why is no one concerned about working class reproduction? Why are we directed to pour our charitable hearts like a blessing of syrup over capital reproduction via population disruption and mobilization? If the Danish government can figure out that Africa is biologically reproducing, then it can be pushed to figure out how to circulate wealth to solidaristically support working class reproduction in Africa.

Don’t tell me physical movement is the greatest freedom, Thomas Hobbes. I have never met an African immigrant would wouldn’t prefer to return to and live in Africa if non-elite social reproduction were not being essentially fucked with there by our governments, economists, militaries, and bosses. I meet way more African immigrants, and listen to them, than most other people. They don’t want our junky lives. They just want to be in the calmer eye of the storm. Founded on conservative European philosophy centering the justice of the exception, culturalist interpretations of state border politics magnify political symbolism, fail to contextualize politics, misidentify immigrants and migrant interests with capitalist interests, and misplace egaliberte solidarity.

Voting rights for non-residents is not a great achievement for democracy. A great achievement for democracy would be if residents had the right to vote, which they do not have in Canada. Democratic countries, like Sweden, protect voting rights for residents, not for expat capitalists.

Voting rights for non-residents is a great achievement for financial metropoles and Treasure Islands, global capitalism, or, technically speaking, Herrenvolk democracy, which is only democracy in the thin, dubious sense that property rights for slavers is “democracy,” and political patronage = “free speech.” This is what you would expect out of a liberal country, where the sine qua non is absolute private property right.

“The combination of exclusive union representation, mandatory agency fees, no-strike clauses and “management’s rights” (were) the foundation of (the peculiar and now dismissed) American labor laws…

“It reward(ed) the unions with a guaranteed right to exist and a reliable base of fee-paying membership. But it reward(ed) employers with the far more valuable guarantee of the right to direct the uninterrupted work of the enterprise while union leadership has to tamp down rank-and-file gripes and discord for the length of the contract.” –Shaun Richman. 2018. “If the Supreme Court rules against unions…” The Washington Post, March 1.

The US Constitution no longer applies in the areas in which 2/3 of the US population resides. –ACLU, “The Constitution in the 100-mile Border Zone.”

 

Culturalist Analysis of the Social: Immigration Politics through a Cultural-determinist Lens

RE: The Jacobin article on Danish immigration politics by cultural scholars:

The justice distinction has to be whether and to what extent border controls and citizenship rights turn immigrants into a disadvantaged underclass, or continue to provide them enabling, if graduating positive rights. (As well: Does the analysis and policy distinguish between sovereign European transmigration and the (semi-)permanent immigrants displaced from their home? It should.)

Like usual, there’s no appreciable analysis of this central distinction in the Jacobin article. Just an assumption that if we aren’t centering the justice of the exception (eg. capitalists, migrants, etc.), we are committing injustice. It takes a real conservative to believe that the justice of the average (structurally) has to exclude the justice of the left-tail exception.

‘Hostile attitudes toward multiculturalism are presented as legitimate concerns: “you are not a bad person because you don’t want to see your country being fundamentally transformed.”’ –Agustín & Jørgensen 2019

Was this written for Jacobin by a Laclau-Mouffe Gramscian or by a moonlighting Davos PR staff member? No one could tell, and that is a problem. Why reduce resistance to the absolutely-undeniable accretion of top-down transformation to nothing more than a “hostile attitude toward multiculturalism”? There is something truly, deeply, madly wrong today with our 100% elite-position/interest reduction of internationalism to cosmopolitanism.

Why is no one on the left today concerned about working class reproduction besides feminists and ecologists? Adam Smith was already concerned about this central capitalist problem in 1776. Alexandra Kollontai laid the issue out masterfully in 1915. Why are we directed–by leftists–to pour our charitable hearts like a blessing of syrup over capitalist reproduction, this time via population disruption and mobilization? Are immigrants traumatized? Yes! So are the sobbing crime victims that cops parade into city councils when they’re lobbying for more Nightwatchman state budget. Yes, the treatment of immigrants is a crisis! No, that does not mean that we need to line up behind capitalist justice framing and policy.

If the Danish government can figure out that Africa is biologically reproducing, then it can be pushed to figure out how to circulate wealth to solidaristically support working class reproduction in Africa. How did continental Europe get rich in the 20th century? In large part, the second-order capitalist societies fought wars against the primary Anglo-American capitalist core until the US shared some of the wealth under the Marshall Plan. We know Anglo-America won’t do it without getting fire-bombed, but what if Europe circulated wealth without having to go war with Africa? And if Africa was brought into the core capitalist economy, that would significantly undermine biological reproduction incentives.

To stay relevant, Social Democrats should distinguish themselves from the Right by always including international grants and cross-borders working class organization and capacity-building with citizenship rights policies. (Though that would put them afoul of Anglo-American police states running down democracies to protect global capitalists.)

To stay relevant, Social Democrats should distinguish themselves from the Right by making an emphatic distinction between education for democratic development (educating for dispositions to exchange information, ideas, and grievances, remaking democracy anew, per Dewey 1916) and cheap, ugly symbolic theater victimizing immigrants (dumbshit handshake and head scarf politics and policies).

I have never met an African immigrant who wouldn’t prefer to return to and live in Africa if non-elite social reproduction were not being destroyed there by our governments, economists, militaries, and bosses. African migrants just want to be in the calmer eye of the storm. We are not doing anyone* working class any favors with the Open Border smallholder/worker physical-mobilization policy agenda, because it’s an easement attached to the agenda of a concentrated if rivalristic ownership of the whole world. Whether branded or de facto, Open Borders have accompanied the decimation of positive citizenship rights, and in capitalism, where Anglo-American states primarily protect the asset-backed citizenship of global capitalists, there are both structural and political reasons for that.

I can grant that, perhaps, there is some non-linear probability that (let’s face it) forcibly pushing smallholder and propertyless populations around, and killing off positive citizenship rights and the non-managerial labor aristocracy in core nationalist communities (All the better to expropriate/privatize their private and public assets, my dear!) could hypothetically accompany the restoration of working class internationalism–or rather, submission to cosmopolitanism, per cultural Pollyannaism–and even mystically produce a socially-rational revolution. But why is it that concrete internationalism is never the Open Borders advocates’ focus? Are they playing some kind of 16th-dimension chess? Or do they not know what game they are playing into? Or are they already-coopted tools? My money is on international Democrat Party policy coordination and consulting. The Dem Party strategy model is that while today, the nearly-rightsless but plucky funnel of immigrant population will toil in shit jobs, providing labor for a competitive small business economy and cheap consumer services to otherwise-redundant native workers, tomorrow the nearly-rightsless but plucky diverse population of smallholders and their hyper-exploited workers will prioritize immigrant identity and physical-mobility freedom, loyally voting for the immigration-positive liberal parties that chiefly manage the polity and imperial warfare for global monopoly finance, tech, and supporting capitalist interests.

Founded on conservative European philosophy centering the justice of the exception (tho wrapped in a Gramsci martyr flag), culturalist interpretations of state border politics magnify political symbolism, fail to contextualize politics, fail to distinguish conservative, liberal and egaliberte fundamentals, misidentify immigrants and migrant interests with capitalist interests, occlude internationalism behind cosmopolitanism, lean heavily on manipulative moralism, and misplace egaliberte solidarity.

* Note: Though it was disruptive of Mexican workers’ home communities, the American business class and its state were arguably doing Mexican migrants a solid to push and pull them into returning to California, which was part of their own society’s territory. On the other hand, it was not much of a favor to send them to work as slaves in Texan prisons.

 


Video from Davos, at The Guardian. And a theme song for Davos from Jarvis Cocker.

Observers and interests frrom JJ Rousseau to Adam Smith (1776) to Thomas Dewey (1915) to the socialist feminists to policymakers to commercial advertisers have noticed that newcomers, whether youth or immigrants, remake a society. As Dewey pointed out, how we incorporate newcomers determines whether we can even create or sustain substantial democracy.
Recognizing that democracy requires newcomer socialization into dispositions for democratic development, for example, the US and other liberal Anglo countries have long stipulated political conditions on migration, including prohibiting anticapitalist immigration. The US heavily subsidized casino-capitalist Cubans, including mafia, influentially remaking American politics, helping steer the US in the 20th century back to a more properly Anglo JS Mill version of liberalism allowing the US state to prioritize protection of the private property and negative rights of a global cosmopolitan citizenry.
“Nearly a billion dollars (of taxpayper money) was made available under the (US’s) Cuban Refugee Program to the first generation of Cuban immigrants. This was done in order to demonstrate the superiority of the capitalist system amidst the tremendous ideological offensive mounted by Moscow under the Khrushchev Administration.”
While Undesirable Cuban immigrants were incarcerated in Gitmo, “Cubans arriving in the United States have enjoyed unique and virtually unlimited rights to immediate or rapid residency, Green Card work permits, and a broad package of benefits, regardless of their legal status.” The Border has always been Open. Open Borders is not the issue for radical democrats.
(From Richard Dello Buono’s review of Eckstein’s Dem Party-sponsored “The Immigrant Divide: How Cuban-Americans Changed the US and Their Homeland,” where Eckstein forwards the Dem Party argument for recolonizing Cuba to a “moderate” Cuban-American audience).

The degrading dialectic of liberal toleration and conservative barbarity

“(Competitive) Games hold a special valence for Scalia; they are the space where inequality rules…(After modernism) the watermarks of privilege and privation are no longer visible to the naked eye; they must be identified, again and again, through struggle and contest. Hence the appeal of the game (which) offers the perfect marriage of the feudal and the fallible, the unequal and the unsettled” (Robin 2011: 140-141).

“‘To say that something is ‘essential,’ he writes, ‘is ordinarily to say that it is necessary to the achievement of a certain object.’ But games ‘have no object except amusement.’ Lacking an object, they have no essence. It’s thus impossible to say whether a rule is essential ‘All are arbitrary,’ he writes of the rules, ‘none is essential.’ What makes a rule a rule is either tradition or ‘in more modern times,’ the edict of an authoritative body like the PGA …”the twin poles of Scalia’s faith: a belief in rules as arbitrary impositions of power–reflecting nothing (not even the will or standing of their makers) but the flat surface of their locutionary meaning–to which we must nevertheless submit; and a belief in rules, zealously enforced, as the divining rod of our ineradicable inequality. Those who make it past these blank and barren gods are winners; everyone else is a loser” (Robin 2011: 142-143).

This is not just Scalia’s theory of rules, but the general conservative idealist theory of truth.

The sources of Scalia’s outsized influence:

1) Scalia’s self-confidence when professionally tolerated by liberal peers.

2) “he tells the power elite exactly what they want to hear: that they are superior and that they have a seat at the table because they are superior.”

3) Scalia reflects the spirit of the age.

4) “Scalia’s outsized presence in our Constitutional firmament” is enabled by “the patience and forbearance, the general decency and good manners, his liberal colleagues show him. While he rants and raves, smashing guitars and dive-bombing his enemies, they tend to respond with an indulgent shrug, a ‘that’s just Nino,’ as O’Connor was wont to say…Scalia preys on and profits from the very culture of liberalism he claims to abhor: the toleration of opposing views, the generous allowances for other people’s failings, the ‘benevolent compassion’ he derides in his golf course dissent…The conservatism of duresse oblige  depends upon the liberalism of noblesse oblige” (Robin 2011: 146-147).

From “Affirmative Action Baby,” in Robin, Corey. The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.

Another very recent example of conservative manipulation of liberal toleration for conservatism:

The British right cops to the conservative marketing ploy: “I’ve argued at the top levels of government, ‘Scrap the minimum wage.’ But then there’s a sharp intake of breath. Anything that looks like a return to the Dickensian workhouse raises hackles.

But I don’t want people working in sweatshops at 5p an hour. You should sell abolishing the minimum wage in positive terms, as providing young people with a first step on the jobs ladder, as a ‘jobs for all’ scheme.”

The uneven, degrading dialectic of liberal nicety and conservative barbarity both supports and over time erodes liberalism, which cannot say no to conservatism and its authoritarianism.

For contrast, see egaliberte, which distinguishes/discriminates and refuses, as illustrated in Janteloven (and its application in the Anders Breivik/Fjotolf Hansen case) and Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener.

It is also not to be overlooked that the liberal consensus has rarely bestowed socialism with the same indulgent tolerance it graces on conservatism. 2 cases in point: 1) In the Nordic social democracies, liberalism and socialism were in coalition, from the end of the 19th century to the early 1970s. Even there, the social democrats persecuted communists. 2) As well, the post-1956 Latin American socialist Left struggled to build a liberal-socialist alliance (see Greg Grandin’s history of Guatemala and Latin America).

Both cases are rare examples of lib-left coalition, largely shepherded by a conciliatory and pragmatic Left, and both coalitions were assailed by liberals (internationally, or in the case of Sweden, eventually domestically) who preferred to retreat into conservative barbarity–eg. the US consensus, which was wholly vicious against the 20th-21st century Latin American Enlightenment, pressing the coach drivers’ whip into conservative hands. Where Sweden, in the early 1970s, reached the endpoint of the liberal-socialist partnership–what to do with the excess profits: let capitalists keep them or socialize them?–again liberals forsook socialism and, in embracing capitalist rule, beat back a less-than-measured retreat into the arms of conservatism, recently resulting in the contradictory reification–via vilification/victimology– of immigrants, and the consequent state-sponsored gagging and shackling of labour.

I should think that liberals are not so much the avatars of toleration, as they prefer to self-proclaim, as people who are capable of recognizing a shared genealogy with the Right, as in, for example, the convergence of liberal absolute private property right with the conservative Might-Makes-Right principle. Considering that, perhaps Leftists ought to contain our celebrations of abstract toleration, and more closely attend to the contours and trajectories, the specification of tolerations. Both liberals and parts of the Left have been so proud to claim that fresh tolerations can change the course of human interests and history, if not transcend discrimination outright. Yet even “fresh” forms of toleration must always be partial politics and subject to instrumental manipulation. A cosmopolitan, multicultural embrace of immigration tends to translate directly, efficiently into the policy implementation and cultural affirmation of immigrant labour vulnerability, for example. To develop egaliberte out of a world of tyranny, we need to develop Jantelagen–boundaries on the Genius Boy–as well as the capitalist critique of Jantelagen. In capitalism, we just Let Boys Be Boys.

The (Leftist) point would then be to choose and to fight for a specified range of toleration that facilitates widespread freedoms, rather than, in social context, confers freedom upon a ‘chosen’ elite. We would foremost recognize the necessity of Left collectives within which we may sense and think together to choose key battles and strategies.  We could learn a lot from multivocal, rigorous historical research, rather than fanciful,  more-or-less authoritative narratives.

No War on Venezuela

I don’t want the fucking US to go to war on Venezuela, just because it’s a social democracy with oil. Fuck.

Or Iran, for no reason other than it’d reduce the threat of competition for Israel. (And OK, maybe we could take their oil. And box in China. But at a crazy, escalating price.)

Here’s what Americans think of going to war against Iran on behalf of Israel.

Just…fuck.

Whatever. Just go to fucking war on everyfuckinghaplessbody. Then implode because it’s just not fucking fiscally sane. Or sane in any conceivable sense of the word. “Constrained rationality” (AKA irrationality), maybe; sane? Fuck no. Fucking unrestrained fucking headless war machine. I hate Anglo-American elites so fucking much. I just wish they would all choke on their cocktail olives and die off en masse.

 I’ve been reading Sweezy & Magdoff (Sweezy, Paul M. and Harry Magdoff. 2009 (1972). “Economic history as it happened, V. I: The dynamics of US capitalism: Corporate structure, inflation, credit, gold, and the dollar.” New York: Monthly Review Press).

  • The US starts out toward militarization because military expenditures smooth out capital goods business cycle downturns.
  • The US becomes utterly militaristic because semi-stagnant capitalism, such as in the modern US, increases population, productivity, and unemployment, while decreasing productive investment. Militarization serves as the crutch to advanced capitalism’s endemic economic stagnancy.
  • So to maintain capitalism (accumulated power), the US has to wage war. Obviously, anticapitalists made a rational enemy in the past. But without them, the delicate questions are On Whom? and On How Many States and Stateless Peoples Simultaneously?

Old Cold Warriors Don’t Die, They Just Become Pro-Tyranny Communications Professionals

And you thought, hoped, dreamed the Cold War was over. Well, not on the New York Times’ watch, baby.

The New Pravda (New York Times) published on November 24 a creepy Simon Romero “article” positively crowing over Chavez’s recent electoral losses to Venezuelan elites. Can the NYTimes not once tone down the overbearing propaganda on the subject of Chavez? Holy fucking shit. Pretend you’re not the Wall Street Journal. I know this junk is fed to you by your sanctimonious, over-entitled, Harvard-classmate Venezuelan elite buddies, but the professional communications on this matter is just really, really ugly. It is completely untrustworthy from any perspective other than that of a Shell shareholder or a 5,000 acre ranch-owning Venezuelan media tycoon. Think of your poor, educated middle class American audience, won’t you? Just a little, tiny bit of respect. Publishing such heavy-handed right-wing dogma makes your liberal postures on other issues look alarmingly superficial. Scratch under the surface of a liberal, and all of a sudden it’s Pinochet, Franco, and the Contras…and we’re waterboarding away!

Providing a bit of relief, constitutional lawyer-turned-journalist Glenn Greenwald dresses the NYTimes down a bit for some of this propaganda overkill in “Mumbai, the NYT’s revisionism, and lessons not learned” (Salon.com, November 28), as well as the NYT’s anti-law/pro-torture slant, in “How the media talks about torture and the rule of law.”

Economists Robert Chernomas and Ian Hudson (who co-authored “Social Murder,” a very readable analysis and critique of conservative economics, published out of Winnipeg by Arbeiter Ring Press) are soon publishing a contemporary-historical examination of the New York Times’ politics, featuring a look at the history of the NYT’s hoary verbal savaging of social democratic countries.

Raping Bolivia

You can read, from an imperialist perspective, a little bit about how the US has not given up on pillaging Latin America. The US has been sponsoring elite Bolivians in the eastern natural gas-producing regions to fight to prevent Bolivia from using its natural gas to develop economically and socially. They claim that they want to hoard the wealth for themselves. But, in this way, the US can maintain control over the natural gas and dribble some payola down to its corrupt Bolivian proxies, while Bolivia itself rots. Same old, same depressing old.

Even the best possible outcome here entails the US getting more fascist refugees, to add to our happy multicultural family of antisocial right-wing nut bars. More awesomeness.

So currently diplomatic relations between Morales’ Bolivia (and in solidarity Venezuela) and the old, over-reaching US of A are not so good. 

Colombia 2008

From Public Citizen:

“(April 23), the lies of the Bush administration and the Colombian government were laid bare as Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s cousin and closest political advisor, Mario Uribe, was arrested for his connections with murderous right-wing paramilitaries responsible for assassinations of union activists and forced displacements of Afro-Colombians and other citizens from their lands.

…Colombia has the world’s highest rate of assassinations of union leaders and activists and it is now increasing relative to last year. More than 400 unionists have been killed by right-wing paramilitaries – and in some cases in collusion with the Colombian army – since President Alvaro Uribe took office. The Uribe government has signaled this horrific conduct is acceptable by prosecuting less than 3 percent of these cases.

The right-wing paramilitaries – often with the Colombian army’s cooperation – have also waged a systematic campaign to violently displace Afro-Colombians from their lands so that national and international companies can exploit these rich territories. Gruesome massacres, killings of community leaders, threats and intimidation have resulted in approximately 79 percent of the Afro-Colombian population who lived on collective lands being forcibly displaced.

It’s time we stop President Bush’s agreement with a government leading a morally repellent campaign of murder and violence against thousands of Colombians seeking to exercise their most basic human rights.”