Fight Over Freedoms (excerpt)

The post-WWII Anglosphere, to which so many migrated, was full of the notion that whatever redistribution was going on after all that sturm und drang, it must mean an increase in unfreedom, servitude.

We cherish that criticism. Some of those Austrian Empire diaspora thinkers’ ideas were the product of conservative resolve, cast in the cauldron of European class conflict. Others, including Frankfurt School exponents, were moving out of a Marxist background. As Polanyi pointed out in “On Freedom,” “Marx saw still something more, and this constitutes his historic greatness. He understood that capitalist society is not just unjust but also un-free.”
Counter to Marx’s perception of unfreedom in capitalism, the shared conservative conceptualization of freedom arrived again on Anglo-American shores and integrated into the 20th century heart of capitalism, reinforcing slavers’ institutions and culture. Conservatism has always argued that true freedom is absolute sovereignty, based on exceptional masters wrestling for dominance atop a society of bent and broken slaves. The democratic Enlightenment exponents, by stark contrast, pursued materialist philosophy’s ancient insistence that freedom is egaliberte, requiring strong education and other associational institutions socializing citizens –including newcomers, both youth and immigrants–into exchanging ideas, information, and grievances for democratic development.


Democratic Enlightenment exponents argued that it would be possible to build egaliberte, as an inclusive, developmental human freedom distinct from both conservative Herrenvolk freedom and the transitory revolutionary moment of universal absolute sovereignty. But the undertaking would always suffer heavy opposition. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762) rightly worried that in the context of the complex society, the democratic alternative to the imperial Hobbesian protection racket would not work if collective action capacity were distributed unevenly, as it is systematically in capitalism, nor if external organizations—such as contemporary trade agreements–could eviscerate the legally-institutionalized decisions arrived at through the democratic General Will.  Adam Smith (1776) recognized that capitalism and capitalists’ states would always excessively organize capitalists’ collective action capacity, and disorganize workers, requiring a welfare state ballast to maintain productive capitalism. Charles Fourier (1808) argued that societies need to replace private property law with law recognizing capitalists as conditional trustees of the social wealth, while Friedrich Hegel (1820) dared to argue briefly for the Right of the Starving Man as a state-protected corrective to private property right in an already-owned world. In the late 19th century, Marx and Engels launched from Hegel, philosophical materialism, and Smith to analyze how capitalism’s hysterical, incomplete recognition of working classes’ human capacities and contributions leads to characteristic economic-incentive breakdown, capitalist crises; they further analyzed how capitalist collective action capacity redirected and extended those crises.  Viriginia Woolf’s private, clandestine, “anonymous and secret Society of Outsiders” formulation (1938) of what egaliberte could look like proposed a cleft habitus of entitlement and feminized dehumanization. Social reproduction feminists, starting with Alexandra Kollontai (1915), pushed states to increasingly protect “social” citizenship rights to balance private property right and might, in an attempt to distribute sovereign agency and supervene the probationary status capitalism had tentatively allowed workers.

Today the post-WWII conservative hybrid reformulation of the egaliberte approach still resonates when we reify revolution, as if wildfire mass organization were pure and final and tending toward freedom, and when we deny all the ways–including their constraints and limitations–that people in different times and places have organized and fought to not just capture but broaden the distribution of recognition, wealth and power, though their victories could be swamped and redirected, more or less aborted.

Revolution is precious and necessary, no doubt. Not just as youthful consumers, we yearn for successful wildfire re-organization, for the overdue break with unfree delegated agency, and for the universal, decisionist assumption of sovereign agency that we assume can, in superhuman speed, break the bulwarks of inegalitarian surveillance, policing, comms, and institutionalized and network-secured compliance incentives. Such revolutions spread the contagion of hope, as Kant observed and Nietzsche condemned. In his 1798 Conflict of the Faculties, Kant argued that the virtue of revolution lies in inducing global recognition that we are all human, and that sovereign agency can be shared. Yet for all the blinding light they emit—universal decisionism!, revolutions do not solve our inherited anxiety over the distribution of sovereignty, nor elite entitlement to exclusive sovereignty and absolute power. Neither can mass killing.  As with Kurtz in the Congo, we carry those problems with us conceptually and emotionally.

Our inherited aestheticization and attachment to the divine moment of absolute decisionism—whether universal as in revolution, or, as in conservatism, sociologically rare and exclusive, has too often convinced us to discount and dismiss the conceptual and materialized footholds, not just the identified traps, aborted egaliberte organization has built. Our societies have started to construct, but we have not usually prioritized or sustained, the institutions and associations required for democratic development. We haven’t been able to. As conservative-liberal thinkers back to Hobbes and Burke have recognized, capitalism, with its vacillating, degenerating recognition of the contribution of labor, is a property structure of elite hyper-capacitation and vast delegated agency, a Shock and Awe organizational machine for dominating and replicating a Hobbesian world.  It proliferates the antithesis of human development.

So revolution and mass killing have not yet proven effective means of durably overcoming elite entitlement and reinforced collective action capacity. Revolution is but a countervailing shocking moment of universal decisionism & sovereign agency. As much as revolution–breaking out of mass delegated agency—has a moderating function and is overdue, the even tougher social change question will continue to be the democratic Enlightenment one: How do people organize away from our habituated conceptualization of freedom as exclusive sovereign agency and decisionism, toward a broadly-distributed sovereign agency and capacity to exchange ideas, information, grievances, and upon that basis rebuild toward universal human development in ecological context?

Our contribution to knowledge of what happened to class, institutions, and politics in the US, from the exceptional era of social liberalism to neoliberalization, the conservative-liberal restoration, will be undergirded by our analysis of the contentious politics of freedom across social fields. Which kind of unfreedom are Americans haunted by, the conservative or the democratic? Is their vision of this unfreedom based on conservative or democratic assumptions, including conservative or democratic distributions of misanthropy and anthrophilia? What role do the knowledge techniques of democratic scientific knowledge v. elitist scientism and decisionist logical abstraction have to play in supporting Americans’ impactful moral economy of freedom?



Elite British Spooks Had Sovereign Agency

“If in the years 1941-3, when the Russians were carrying almost the whole burden of the war against Germany, they were dying in substantial numbers because (Britain) denied (them) the war’s most important source of secret information (the “Ultra” intelligence), the actions of the (socialist) Cambridge (double-agents) at that time must appear in a better light. What justification could the British advance for withholding this information – the military radio traffic of the enemy – from their own ally? Only one: that Britain’s best interest was to stand aside and watch Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia slaughter each other to the last man. Nearly forty years later, we have drifted so far to the right that many young people of liberal mind can accept that as a good policy” (N. Ascherson’s 1980 LRB 2(2) review of A. Boyle).

“British Intelligence, in Boyle’s chronicle, remains as weird a community as ever, in spite of all the author’s new information and captures of confidence. Amateurism, class prejudice and what Boyle calls ‘the sad pleasures of sodomy’ composed its peculiar flavour. The circumstances of my own unhappy brush with the service only confirm it. My background was ‘right’, and I was duly recommended as a likely lad by a Cambridge don (Boyle rids us of the myth that Cambridge tutors recruited assiduously for Russia, but does not add that they recruit assiduously for the home side). There followed a lunch at the Reform Club, where this 23-year-old ass received the proposal that he should go to the new Communist state of Betelgeuse in order to write a biography of its ferocious leader. An argument about where Betelgeuse was had to be settled by a visit to the Times Atlas, dated 1910, in the Club library. My real assignment, they said, was to approach leading Betelgeusians and ‘get them round to our point of view’. Uneasy, I objected that I knew nothing of the place or its language. ‘Old D. will put you in the picture,’ they chortled, returning to their port. A few days later, I was summoned to meet D. in his home. After a silent but delicious dinner, D. asked me to sit next to him on the sofa. I supposed that I was at last to be put in the picture, but D. merely grasped me tightly and wordlessly by the penis. I extracted myself and ran away, and after some days of great confusion, wrote to say that perhaps I was not mature enough for this service.

An outfit like that – and these events took place years after the ‘flight of the diplomats’ – deserves everything it gets. I suppose there was a wild brilliance about the Betelgeuse project, which would almost certainly have cost me my head. But what most impresses me, in retrospect, is their sublime confidence that after that lunch and dinner I would still be their loyal man and true” (N. Ascherson 1980).

An analysis of the inegalitarian, totalitarian liberal conditions that create double agents out of elites: The British double agents “all leave one with the odd impression, even Philby in his early years, that they became Soviet agents faute de mieux. What they needed was something else: a British movement of total opposition to the régime which was both respectable and formidable. They needed a divided Establishment, an alternative régime-in-waiting which they could join. Continental republics know this dualism… In Britain, still an ancien régime in this respect, Labour did not offer such an alternative, while the price of CPGB activity would obviously be impotence and ostracism. The spies didn’t see why they should be impotent and ostracised.” (N Ascherson 1980).

The advantage of the US (v. 1930s UK) is that the spy agencies can rely on the dogmatic, even mysticist, sons and daughters of Chamber of Commerce ideologues, and don’t have to risk Cambridge free thinkers.

“The Thirties were a decade of rapid social change and improvement in popular living standards, as well as a time of poverty and misery for many. But Britain remained governed, financed, exploited and largely represented by the upper class…Labour was a party which, as far as the student leftist could see, would deferentially leave the old élite in place. The Cambridge spies wanted something else for Britain, something which now sounds absurd: a socialist revolution which would both smash the patrician hegemony to which the spies were such guilty heirs, and restore British greatness and independence…one could argue that the Cambridge spies betrayed their friends, in this instance, but not necessarily their country.”…/neal…/what-sort-of-traitors

As a political sociologist, I am intrigued about Ascherson’s analysis of what liberal totalitarianism and a grand tradition of inegalitarianism created within the elites at the heart of the beast. (Obviously, it wasn’t all that disruptive, though.) It strikes me as a little analogous to the more-consequential class betrayal of the pro-Enlightenment female Swedish nobility in the early 19th century. The ideas lying around…

The CIA, James Jesus & the Lovestone Empire

Jay Lovestone (nee Liebstein) built and ran the Lovestone Empire for the CIA, under the direction of James Jesus Angleton. The Lovestone Empire consisted of anticommunist unions. An anti-Stalinist, Lovestone was groomed by David Dubinsky to direct labour union organization and resources to anti-communist and pro-war causes. Lovestone had started out a socialist before his eventful hard-right move, like so many men of his social background in the 20th c. He insisted that the US could never become socialist; and he influenced the antistatist economic modernizer Bukharin.

James Jesus Angelton was a Latino-Anglo son of a Chamber of Commerce guy who invested in ATMs. Angelton was an anticommunist who worked with the Israelis and Jay Lovestone to kill off communist organization in unions. Angleton’s work ensured the electoral victory of Christian Democrats over communists in Western Europe. Angleton supervised the CIA’s comprehensive domestic covert surveillance project (called Operation CHAOS) to control US citizens. He targeted both Olaf Palme and Pierre Trudeau, amongst so many others. The LRB’s May issue 40(9) reviews a history of Angleton’s work. His is a story of how you get carte blanche, all possible credibility and credit in capitalism.

Angleton was educated in the Ivies, in literature–poetry–and New Criticism. That institutional base was an anticommunist hotbed. But that’s not all. I can’t recommend the “doth protest too much” Thomas Power LRB article, but it does show how the adoption of a literary analysis technique like New Criticism could buoy a career, in spookery. Like today’s Neo-materialism, New Criticism eschewed sociological craft and context as a triangulator for interpretation. The effect was to, for the moment, permit the critic greater authority…until he’d spent institutional credibility. If the same technique were imported by a spook king to the interpretation of the world, it would bestow, for a time, the same mystical institutional authority. At an institutional and social cost.

This is the way with the importation of all anti-scientific textual analysis to analysis of the world. Good career move while you can produce the performance to get away with it, and apres moi, le deluge.

Angleton was preparing the US-Israeli secret police relation. Shin Bet chief Amos Manor described Angleton, one of the US and global capitalism’s leading spooks, as “fanatic about everything”, with a “tendency towards mystification.”

Fanatic mystification: What passes for credible, what is given all credit in this system.


Scandinavian history in the revolutionary era & Implications

From Barton, H. Arnold. 1986. Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era: 1760-1815. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Gustav IV Adolf’s (GIVA) monarchal crusade againt democratic Enlightenment in Europe,
Feat.: Sweden, France, Russia, England, Prussia, and some bit players.

At the turn of the 1800s in Sweden, Gustav IV Adolf (GIVA) succeeded his father Gustav III to the throne. GIVA was determined to restore Swedish prominence in Europe. Prepared to wheel and deal both for territory and his conservative-idealist aspiration to organize and lead royalist Europe against the democratizing French, in 1803 Gustav IV Adolf traveled to Germany with his Queen Frederika, a German princess. GIVA was a pretty good strategist, but he was striving from the geographic margins against the historical tide, and as with his father who had tried in vain to institute pro-aristocratic policies against welling democracy, his elite power strategy was generally underappreciated by his rivalristic, Enlightenment-bedazzled royal relatives.

Cosmopolitanism as Responsible Management;
Disorganizing Rivals via Management

The noble German administrators who managed European kingdoms were well-educated, efficient, and cosmopolitan. Their “cosmopolitanism,” understood as responsible management, did not stop them from keeping the Nordic countries divided (in accord with Russian and British policy), even making clandestine agreements with Great Britain to break emergent pan-Nordic coalition (eg. Bernstoff 1780, see Barton 1986: 118.). That is an interesting aspect of statescraft (and its market equivalent): Providing managers to your potential rivals, to keep them just disorganized enough.

What Denmark got out of this is not having to follow Sweden’s lead, or lose its Norwegian colony to Sweden. As a more egalitarian country, Sweden was more solidaristic, stronger, innovative and ambitious. Run by Germans, Denmark was the ag-economic market of Scandinavia, at the cost of a stunted domestic peasantry.

So long as the Nordic countries were divided, Bernstorff served as a reliable noble German administrator for Denmark, until he pulled a fast one and, in the face of an agreement amongst the Scandinavian countries and Russia to form a coalition to defeat belligerent imperial England’s control of sea trade, he made a secret deal with England to subvert the coalition.

His betrayal was discovered pretty soon and he was ousted.

How the Holy Roman Empire Ended: A Swedish King Subjugated Pomeranian Aristocrats in 1805

In 1804 Duke Enghien was captured by French Republican forces in Baden. This provided Gustav IV Adolf with the pretext to declare that he was ready to lead monarchist Europe against Republican France.

GIVA spearheaded a royalist Russian, British, and Austrian coalition against the French Republic. “Brutal oppression, French despotism” is how the royalist described democratic France. He took his time negotiating, as he was bargaining for a military subsidy in exchange for Sweden’s strategic bridgehead geoposition, as well as a royal French Bourbon restoration. Finally in 1805, at the Treaty of Backaskog, GIVA won himself command of the troops in Germany, 20K pounds sterling, security of Swedish rule over Pomerania, in an all-in/all-out deal. In the Treaty, there was no mention of a royal Bourbon restoration.

Along with actually commanding soldiers in war, Gustav IV Adolf was an absolutist ruler. The Treaty of Backaskog enjoyed no support from his court advisors, and given that Sweden had long depended on French support, was considered overly idealistic, in the anti-democratic direction. Gustaf af Wetterstedt grumbled that it was “Impossible to speak with the King about commercial interests.”

Prussia was lurking, playing the dozens. It joined the monarchical coalition, only to immediately conclude an agreement with France that promised non-intervention in exchange for Hanover. Prussia’s fancy footwork broke the coalition: England and Russia withdrew from Northern Germany. But Gustav IV Adolf occupied the Hanoverian territory of Lauenberg. He used a legalistic justification to try to restore British and Russian backing and to extort unpaid, promised military subsidies. England and Russia declared GIVA’s position untenable, urging him to abandon the fight. GIVA was relentless: “A Prussian attack on Lauenberg is an attack on Sweden!” he declared, but he quietly reduced his army in Lauenberg to a token 300 men. Then GIVA instituted a naval blockade. Their commerce disrupted, this move deeply irritated his erstwhile allies, England and Russia.

Fortunately for Gustav IV Adolf, France and Russian détente broke, and GIVA returned to occupy Lauenberg. GIVA’s victory in that moment has been dubbed a “Triumph of Obstinacy.” When Sweden’s aristocratic Pomeranian subjects resisted conscription, GIVA dissolved their constitution and their aristocratic privileges, which as a side-effect, dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. GIVA replaced Pomerania’s German legal institutions with Swedish legal institutions, outlawing serfdom. Pomeranian Junkers were pissed.

Prussia declared war on the French in fall of 1806, whereupon the French smashed the Prussian forces. Frederick William, King of Prussia retreated east for protection under the royal Russian wing. Now Swedish Pomerania was behind the front. Napoleon asked if GIVA would agree to peace. How do you think Old Obstinatey replied? That’s right. Absofuckinglutely not. No peace!

Varieties of Modernization;
How “German” Tyranny Propels Migration

The German nobility of the Danish Dutchies, in Swedish Pomerania, and in Prussia were furious about the abolition of serfdom at the turn of the 19th century. But what GIVA’s modernization allowed German nobles to do is steal peasant land and stop contributing to the public. They became fatter cats than ever.

In the Scandinavian territories, as in France (even today, places like Minnesota and Quebec have protections for family farms that jurisdictions under the most inegalitarian policy traditions lack), the nobles were prevented, by enforced law, from stealing peasant land.

But in German lands, together with ‘rational,’ ‘producivity’-enhancing enclosures, the abolition of serfdom just created a small pool of petit-bourgeois farmers (kulaks) and tens of thousands of landless people who were existentially and legally forced into compulsory labor for the liberated kulak class. The resolution to this land theft and hyper-exploitation “modernization” was mass migration.

Capitalism’s robust structure of command

At a minimum, whatever France’s government, Sweden has geopolitically required France’s support, and either Britain or Russia’s lack of opposition.

Between 1803-07, Gustav IV Adolf’s belligerent monarchism produced geopolitical policy failure, as he opposed revolutionary/Napoleonic-phase France.

GIVA’s ideologically-blinded geopolitical failure depleted confidence amongst not only his allies, the British, Russian, Prussian, Austrian and Portuguese anti-democratic coalition, but most fatefully, amongst the Swedish people.

Despite his commitment to monarchism and opposition to democratic enlightenment, GIVA was a nationalist who, like his Danish counterpart, sidelined the Scandinavian nobility, instead working with a rational bureaucracy and freeing peasants in German communities. The foundation of his absolutism was the Swedish free-peasant social model. Monarchy enjoyed political flexibility, but perhaps too much political flexibility.

Sociologically, capitalism’s comparative ruling advantage is an articulated chain of command AND return fealty (though the fealty may skip rungs). Significance: This is not the same as saying capitalism is only about exploitation and not appropriation. Rather, capitalism’s graduated networks of exploitation and rung-skipping upward fealty (It’s okay if you secretly hate your manager, as long as you admire Bill Gates and Michelle Obama.) more reliably secure valuable appropriation.

Conservative theorists and organizers including Burke and Hayek understood capitalism’s advantages for elite rule.


Salon life is more important to democracy than a Free Press

Is a breakdown in centralized, professional comms the right variable for explaining information quality and political outcomes, as is so often asserted by professional comms technicians today?

In 18th century Denmark the free press was the model for Europe, while Sweden’s press was under strict censorship. And yet what seems to matter much more to information flow and its capacity to support needed, otherwise-blocked reforms was the fecund culture of salons and clubs, wherein diverse, gender-inclusive, but often-homogeneous groups exchanged and debated ideas of the good life and the institutions needed to support that utopic horizon.

Our professional press would say that these salons and clubs were little more than “echo chambers;” but that dismissive characterization would run counter to the salons’ impressive impact–fomenting enlightenment pressure, eliciting elite efforts to preemptively own those enlightenment ideas by implementation, and ultimately producing the democratic social realization that rational reform did not require elites.

Cross-class Legal Consciousness v. the Antistatist Justice of the Exception

“…and this law should, if it is to protect a weaker class against a more powerful one, be given such strength and consistency that the latter shall not be able, through its strength and the other’s weakness, to disturb or hinder its effective enforcement.”

–Norwegian juridical counselor to the Danish government, Christian Colbjornsen, 1783. With the wall of Enlightenment ideas behind it, this viewpoint won the majority on the agrarian commission, leading to reforms and revolutionary advancement.

The aristocrats, as is always the case, complained that this politics of “animosity and grudge against proprietors” would result in transferring too much power to the “petty functionaries” of the state bureaucracy and so result in the society’s “ruin.”

Democracy: Expanding, not contracting, privilege

The difference between emancipation in the Scandinavian countries v. the liberal republics is that privilege was not first abolished in the Scandinavian countries. Rather, they levelled upward. “The privileges thus gained would ultimately clear the way for the peasant’s full integration into national life” (Barton 1985: 173). That’s how you do inclusion. You make everyone sacred, not everyone profane.

The Ideas and Decisionism of the Democratic Enlightenment

The laboring class, which alternately is utilized both by [princes and other classes]…stands ready, with the sword of destruction in one hand and the torch of enlightenment in the other” (Minerva, Sverige, 1798).

The French Revolution put the fear of god into Europe’s aristocratic and bourgeois classes. The Enlightenment was no man’s property. Together, elite fear and intellectual intimidation got shit done.

“Orders and decorations are hung on idiots,
Stars and ribbons go to noblemen alone…

(By contrast) We teach no despotic principles,
It is for equality among men that we strive;
Nor do we, like the Jutland proprietors
Wish for slaves and peasants for us to flay.”

–from a 1787 Danish poem (PA Heiberg). The urban Danes were really getting about the freedom of expression in the late 18th century, in the context of Enlightenment clubs. periodicals,and anonymous pamphleteering.

Jutland, in breadbasket Denmark, was the Scandinavian outpost of hard-core feudal despotism.

The Swedish Female Aristocracy: Sufficiently Traitorous to their Class

Denmark very much dicked around with German princes. In 1765 the amazing and ballsy Dr. Johann Friedrich Streunsee inserted himself in that inbred morass to introduce the first real progressive reforms in Denmark. They were almost immediately overturned by a reactionary aristocratic coup; but Streunsee’s reform model nonetheless served as a policy bank thereafter. Streunsee was executed by the Danish aristocracy, but it was probably totally worth it.

Sweden was systematically super dynamic. I can never recommend enough Barton’s (1986) Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era for anyone interested in the Enlightenment and how that works out class-wise.

Sweden took on the Enlightenment as a political project. The Swedes wrestled straight up with class conflict in the 1770s parliament (The Swedish Riksdag long included affluent farmers, in addition to the royals); and while their king tried to organize their aristocracy as an elite bloc, the country was too influenced by Enlightenment thought, and the aristocratic ladies especially refused to follow the king’s effort at elite political mobilization. This gendered elite refusal to cooperate was one of the major factors that provided room for labor and social democratic organization in Sweden.

Rousseau was a favored theorist amongst the Swedish royal ladies.

Voltaire called Sweden “the freest kingdom on earth” (1756). Mably considered Sweden’s pioneering 1720 constitution the “masterpiece of modern legislation” in its provisions for “the rights of humanity and equality.”

Ideas for Organization

One of the most important things to be done is to– like your life, people’s lives around the world and after you, and the Earth– depend upon it, produce egaliberte Enlightenment ideas and culture, including proliferating in-person “clubs” and salons, which my reading of Swedish history tells me, turn political (as tyrants know and quixotically arrange for their legal and policing apparatus to suppress). The ideas, it’s the fecundity of ideas you produce and share with vigor and confidence that can capture the minds of political-economic elites enough for others to gain strategic organizational footholds.

Sure, no one wants little you to tell them how to think. But if you work with ideas from the master class position, like a servant, you make us all slaves.

Conservative-liberal Enlightenment: Egaliberte as the Enemy of Liberty

Upon Gustav III’s 1772 coup d’etat, overthrowing the formidable, pugnacious, and increasingly egalitarian Riksdag, the king was keen to both improve Sweden’s war-ruined currency on the financial markets and to implement liberal-physiocrat modernizing reforms, including in the first four years, enclosures, reducing guild control over labor conditions, removal of mercantilist trade constraints, outlawing judicial torture, reducing Sweden’s model freedom of the press to mere critique of middle class state employees, and the introduction of a secret police on the French model.

Within a Swedish social environment inducing him to competition on the grounds of rationality, amongst the European monarchs Gustav was the greatest admirer of strains of Enlightenment philosophy. But he sternly distinguished between “true (elite) freedom” and harmful hoi poloi “license,” “benevolent philosophy” and “dangerous philosophy” which “to dominate alone, overturns all that is respectable.” As a liberal and elitist, Gustav redefined despotism as failing to preserve the executive role as distinct from the legislative, and cited philosophy that supported his incomplete autocratic rule as the kind of philosophy that “clears away all harmful prejudices, all those petty considerations.”

The reduction of critique to a focus on middle class state employees is the signature of the reactionary, elitist, conservative-liberal coup d’etat.

Liberalism: Violence occurs strictly when elites are disrupted. versus:
Socialism: See the continuous slavery and mass killing.

We won’t call those displaced multitudes any form of “slave,” because that would be “un-nuanced” and “uncivilized.” The liberal world is discontinuous. Where socialists see the continuity of slavery, liberals see absolute, progressive breaks in the relations of production, both what they proudly claim as “nuanced” differentiation, and just as the nobility had initially feared.

The liberal world is not only discontinuous, it is flat. Liberals don’t recognize institutionalized and automated violence. For them, as for conservatives (eg. Burke) before them, there’s just an apparent order of civility–a flat world, in which culture is Truth, and networks, institutions, and material relations are not subject to civilized observation. Violence is strictly perceived in breaking that civility, as all the opponents of the French Revolution, and fans of enlightened absolutism (incurious about how it got enlightened) have agreed.

It does no good just to point this out. You have to use it strategically.
If we allow ourselves to think in terms of forms of slavery, then we can think together about how to stop producing the continuous, inhumane rolling modification of slaveries.

To Suppress Democratic Ideas, Appoint Conservatives to Govern Universities

In Scandinavia, the tactic of stifling hegemonic challenge by appointing belligerent conservative aristocrats to head the universities goes back to the turn of the 19th c.

Count Axel Fersen was appointed to Uppsala to throw out the enlightenment democrats. In the Duchies (theoretically incorporated in Denmark, but German, built on serfdom, opposed to both enlightenment democracy and enlightenment absolutism, and an original cesspool of the mysticist German romanticism that would be regurgitated in the Nazi period), Fritz Reventlow was appointed to attack enlightenment thought from the helm of the Univesity of Kiel.

Plus ca change…


“(Swedish Hats’) economic policy was rigidly mercantilistic, considering necessary both a small, favored entrepreneurial elite, concentrated mainly in the capital, and a large and growing population, strictly regulated in its economic pursuits and held close to the poverty line to provide cheap labor. Their system of subsidies, protective tariffs, and monetary inflation favored the larger exporters and manufacturers. As war and expansion held out tempting opportunities for officers, bureaucrats, and entrepreneurs alike, the Hats favored alliance with France…To stifle criticism, they held strongly to secrecy in Riksdag transactions and to press censorship…

The faction turned out of power in 1738, which came to be called the Caps, was in disarray, and certain of its leaders were discredited through unseemly intrigues with the Russians to overthrow their rivals.”


Universalized Private Property & Mobility: Symbolic Domination Duo

Marketing the “universalized private property” non-solution to the problems of inegalitarian unfreedom has been the worldwide political organization “stock in trade of mercantilists, capitalists, and the jurists and politicians beholden to them ever since the Roman republic” (David Abraham. 1996. “Liberty without Equality” Law & Social Inquiry 21(1): 7, citing Moore 1966 and Mayer 1971). Rousseau once argued that through obeying the General Will, we would all have property, in the state, iff no one had associational capacity (such as private property allocates). Capitalists argue that we have property in our alienable labour. Jefferson tried to define citizenship as a patrimony of 50 acre land ownership. Bourgeois revolutionaries from France to the US South have argued for the universalization of private property. It’s an idea that’s stunting and killing us. By Bush II, the “Ownership Society” was reduced to a requirement to obtain credit, or debt in order to access the conditions of life…universalizing the company mining town model, smallholder slavery to the capitalist class, prioritizing the social reproduction of the lending class, in its internal billionaire rivalry to own and direct the world.

The opposite of exclusive private property is inclusive public property, vilified by conservatives as the True trajectory of injustice, which they define via idealist philosophy, and its impoverished conceptualization of change, as decentering exception. Abraham traces the domination of the marketed non-solution in a history of US ideas and law. With this co-optative discursive strategy, “America’s greatest libertarians could be slaveholders, just as Europe’s were political-economy free marketeers,” Abrahams observes (11) in accordance with Losurdo 2011 (2006). Occasionally, usually after wars, equal protection/fundamental rights jurisprudence “chips away” at the negative-liberty polestar. “The logic and politics that each time ended the progress: a politics and logic” of universalized private property (9).


How can libertarianism remain twinned with slaver interest in the US? Abraham identifies geographic mobility as the necessary, co-optative factor greasing the relentless, little-challenged marketing of absolutist private property right as universal interest within the settler US (13). Yet in capitalism, private property is exclusive, accumulative, unequally allocating sovereign agency and collective action capacity, enhancing economic, social, and political inequality and unfreedom. Cosmopolitan mobility for the few, the ideal, rests upon the imposed, disruptive, depleting mobilization of the many—often war discharging people from citizenship and sovereign socio-material networks–home, Bourdieu said, where you are culturally literate, and by that able to navigate to your own interest, or through which you are symbolically dominated.

But a settler society, wherein freedom is allocated by market power and yet marketed as universal private property and glorified expulsion from home, is a society of vast and pervasive symbolic domination. We are required to black-box capitalism to presume, as political-economic elites have marketed since Cato the Elder in the 2nd c. BC, that citizenship rights, positive freedom, are irrelevant to non-elite liberty. Black-boxing capitalism, we can sink into the familiar, if degraded lullaby of Ownership Society marketing, aided by a sleeping pill: freedom’s idealistic reduction to physical mobility, as proposed by that original conservativizer of liberalism, Thomas Hobbes (1651). Enjoy the institutionalized Enclosure sweeps, and give my regards to your banker, your Master.


Liberal Fart of Freedom: Mobilizing populations

bank pwnd

Liberal Fart of Freedom: Debt as Universal Private Property Ownership

Mobility freedom is subordinated to the Mill state’s global private property right protection obligation:

“But, then, in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed on March 23, President Donald Trump not only reinstated the full amount but also added an additional $60 million, for a total of $510 million for the prison project.”

Mass incarceration:
“With 2.2 million people behind bars today and 11 million cycling through jails every year, the United States incarcerates more people, and at a drastically higher rate, than any other country in the world.

Building 1,200 more prison beds reflects our dependency on this system of racialized social control, revealing not only deeply held assumptions about crime and punishment, but also what we believe is possible for, and deserved in, rural America.” –Sylvia Ryerson & Judah Schept, 2018, “Building Prisons in Appalachia,” Boston Review.

Notes on Redoing Abraham:

  1. Writing in 1996, Abraham did not yet realize how hard a Catholicized Supreme Court would be restoring absolute private property right in upcoming years. That can be updated.
  2. His analysis of the poverty of negative liberty’s version of “autonomy,” choice, can be improved by contrasting choice, as delegated agency, to sovereign agency.
    1. We fear dependency (37) in absolute private property right regimes not because it is “entwined with collective action,” but because dependency is the denied condition within which all (except self-aggradizing property owners) make unfree choice. Within a law by, of, and for capitalists, most of our choices are non-sovereign, and we fear being called out. Anti-dependency discourse is a terrifying game of hot potato; the stakes are credit and cooperation.
    2. While the Pro-choice movement (footnote 120, p. 37) has conspicuously played by the pragmatist’s losing game, and, update, has lost massively by it within capitalism’s automated class warfare context, a subtle, thorough, and non-sexist analysis would also observe that social democracies and communist societies have, far more securely than liberal and of course conservative societies, recognized women’s right to reproductive sovereignty (see Baker & Ghodsee), because they recognize, behind the reproductive right, the societal value in the development of the woman, threatened by the high consequences of reproductive work for women’s lives in particular, particularly in commodified economies.
  3. Analysis from his comparator case, West Germany, can be improved. Instead, to grasp socialist-influenced, positive-rights constitutional law, use Sweden.
    1. While the West German constitution excerpt (38) is a fine example, point out how the positive rights constitution is sociological, where the Anglo-American liberal negative rights constitution is anti-sociological.
    2. Attack the (rather-Jewish) reduction of social democracy to merely the reproduction of “homogeneity” (per Abraham, Friedman, etc.). See my critique of Jantelagen decontextualization and fetishization. Ethnic “homogeneity” (reduction of the salience of ethnicity) is socially (not discursively) constructed by an inclusionary sociological definition of society (per Dewey 1916), as where ethnicity is converted into political subcommunity, eg. in Vansterpartiet, or political-economic variation is incorporated, as with the Sami in the Swedish Constitution (Basic Laws). There’s a reason (genetic diversity, including incorporating some isolated, genetically-distinct communities–analogous to Ashkenazi Jews) why long-traveling Swedes “look weird,” as the idealistic Germans like to say. Swedes’ national ethnicity is an historical project of inclusion. Like non-ethnic difference and inequality, ethnicity is also a construction, one that extends outside a multicultural society; it isn’t just subcommunity. It is an alternative society, sometimes (particularly when in relation with capital) functional, and otherwise often ascribed, isolating, somewhat functional (capitalism outlaws working class organization) but not very. Universal celebrations of ethnicity in liberal, negative-liberty regimes are about abstracting functional ethnicity as the universal, non-White condition, and denying the functional servitude assigned to ascribed ethnicization within capitalism.
  4. Ipsum lorem.

Dem Party Strategy as Management Subclass Interest

Since the Humphrey-Mondale-Freeman Modernization period (1940s-1968), the Dem Party strategy has been to dump out White slavers, drive them out of the Democrat Party.

To be clear:

The Dem Party strategy is to work with Republicans, the slaver party, to maintain the US as a society specializing in managerial surveillance and regulation, and militarized-policing labor, as well as to maintain “Open” Borders for discount support work (social reproduction, infrastructure maintenance, productive labor). Funneling past wealth and future wealth to global metropolitan capitalists, Dems and Republicans together deplete citizenship rights and expand slavers’ institutions across the Union, while coercively pushing (with imperial interventions) and pulling migrant labor into the US to lower the cost of labor. This is the liberal definition of altruism.

Liberal altruism achieves credibility through organizing pro-migrant and pro-immigration activists into the Open Borders coalition; and by the credible threat of White-brand terror campaigns, it promotes a sense of urgency, inevitability, and moral righteousness. Any working class-centric alternatives to the Open Borders working class-disorganizing, slavery system are denounced as enabling Republican state terror, posed as the only other organizable option.

The model showcase for this Dem Party strategy is California, where Open Borders policy attracted (pent-up) mass migration–especially Hispanic mass migration– that maintained group integrity, and outweighed and out-muscled policies to make migrant workers vulnerable. This migration largely settled California’s familiar geography and historically-contiguous territory.

Fairly efficiently, those settlers have provided votes largely to the Democrat Party, in recognition of that party’s maintenance of Open Borders policy and its comparatively moderate position on domestic state terror. Incentivized by capital’s demand for labor-factor mobility (labor arbitrage), the Dem Party believes that the electoral success they had with the bipartisan Open Borders strategy in California is universally replicable.

Further thoughts on Open-Borders Cosmopolitanism

Goodhart, David. 2013. “Why the left is wrong about immigration.” The Guardian.

Goodhart’s argument points toward the fact that individualistic capitalist liberalism (or anarcho-capitalism) discredits collective rights of the working class, such as citizenship rights. That is why a coalition of economists, financiers, left-liberals, liberals, and anarchists see migration, including disruptive, dislodging imperial warfare inducing migration, as the solution to inequity. In their view, labor arbitrage (enabled by immiseration and imperial warfare) will make financial capitalism, extraction, climate crisis, managerialism, surveillance, and blanket militarized policing and warfare whole and virtuous.

Because they only have to circulate populations to make metropole virtue in their view, liberals don’t care what happens to migrants once they’ve been circulated to the core. So that immigration consists of citizenship Lite or parole/semi-criminalized status, prison slave workhouse sentences, and egregious immigration qualification-job skills mismatch.

Note that David Graeber pointed out that in capitalist societies, the only forms of collective action that are unambiguously legal for the working class to engage in is through religious and ethnic networks, or of course vertically, in collaboration with the capitalist class. As TH Marshall noted, citizenship rights were up to late 1960s expanded in response to working class pressure to allow for democratic development by permitting solidarity, collective action beyond the market and religious-ethnic groups. Neoliberalism halts and reverses rights expansion as geographically “exclusionary,” a set of misallocated collective action privileges merely corresponding to the lived boundaries of working class life. Neoliberals instead fight for dislodging and inducing the global flow of capital and other factors of production as proper liberation.

Just as capitalists systematically discount social reproduction work in order to accumulate wealth, liberals in capitalist societies systematically de-institutionalize and criminalize working class collective action capacity. Thereupon, imperial wars can be waged and laboring migrants can be circulated without considering the costs and who is bearing them.

Angela Nagle wrote a piece, “The Left Case against Open Borders” arguing against the reigning anarcho-capitalist Open Borders coalition. It’s mostly a pretty good argument, although she is naive about a border-policing technology, E-Verify. I can kind of understand because it started as a way of regulating employers. As surveillance software deployed by the US police state, however, it’s been converted into surveilling employees, which makes workers vulnerable, vulnerable to super-exploitation. The Left alternative would be to unionize all migrant labor and have unions regulate employers. Unions certainly regulated Marxists; they could regulate employers’ hiring practices.

Certainly, the Left should be mobilizing to reduce management, surveillance technologies, ICE, and the entire militarized police state. Until the left finds a way of building better jobs for the working class than what we’ve got–what effectively amounts to a vast foreign- AND domestic-pointed military, “Open Borders” is just co-optive, fake-altrueese for the Chamber of Commerce’s agenda: no-citizenship, no-rights, discount labor circulation, subsidizing concentrated wealth accumulation while deferring the economic check of paying for social reproduction work, and freed up by military interventions. Open Borders is a policy that was automated decades ago, by politically-mobilized capital. The Dems and the Republicans just alternate who gets to put the capitalist screws, teargas, and handcuffs on workers, including the rightsless, vulnerable migrant workers.

Olaf Palme, 1964, on theory’s role in political and social change

“Politics, comrades, it is to want something. Social Democratic politics, it is to want to change because change provides promises of improvement, nourishes the imagination and energy, stimulates dreams and vision.

But naturally will must have a focus and a change must have a goal. We socialists are presumptuous enough to want something because the idea is the driving force of will, and we are bold enough to want change because change may make utopias into reality.

This is fundamental. Often we encounter the claim that ideologies are dead, that their capacity to pierce reality has decayed in withered phrases that could possibly be used to distort the perception of people, but that have lost their ability to innovate, initiate and stimulate. People rail against ideological superstition with a frenzy that would have blown Don Quixote’s mind and made his windmills leak.

To a certain extent, one can go along with this. The grandiose imaginations of the 1800s, their efforts to find a unified formula for explanation and a solution for all social problems have been corrected by an inexorable reality. Yet we are all strongly influenced by those ideologies, and we have much to learn from them. We cannot escape the allure of logic and symmetry, the thought’s stature and the imagination’s power of illumination that we encounter in their bold blueprints. We find an analysis of the social and economic conditions that remains viable to this day.

But we no longer believe in any unified theory. We cannot beat the scriptures and find absolute answers, and we experience ourselves not as participants in a destiny-bound process. There is no longer any absolute truth, but at least  two or three alternative truths, depending on the values assumed and how we interpret a complex reality. School children in communist states may rattle off quotations from Marx and Lenin with the same studious frenzy that our children recite hymn verses, and American industry associations may divulge writings that with basically the same narrow vision expound private capitalism’s gospel. For us, free debate has funneled into the place of nailed theses. Our fate is constantly asking questions and surely to try again, to doubt authority and distrust authority. Our responsibility is to deepen our knowledge, refuel independently and anchor our ideas in a personal conviction. It is perhaps less grandiose. But that is our freedom and our honor.

But the attack on ideologies is driven even further. Sometimes ideology is dismissed with a sigh of relief and deliverance. Finally, they say, we can free ourselves from “the dead hand of the past” and from “the suffocating hand of the future”. Finally, we can proceed to evaluate each issue on its own merits, for the special circumstances existing in each case.

We can be practical, realistic, and grounded. “All theory, dear friend, is grey. But the golden tree of actual life springs ever green,” we recite from Goethe’s Faust. Let us toss theory in the waste basket, let us value life.

Perhaps that can be hard hitting. I may dare to wreak havoc in response: when you remove the long direction of will provided by a foundation of theory and value engagement, you remove the emotional conviction, leaving cold, raw power and politics, as democracy fades to gray. Without theory, possibly one can make things a little better, but one can never change society. Possibly one can do something else, but one can never make something different. If you go ahead with the nose to the ground, without perspective, and without looking at a future that lasts beyond the next quarter, you can never do harm in society, and you are equally unprepared for the problems that the future offers. The historical experience clearly tells us that the ascendance of the practical man drives ideas out of the political arena, promulgating a vigorous decay of democratic policy.”

(To be continued, from P. 6 of “Politik ar att vilja” 1964.)

The Power and the Mediocrity of the Sign

In “What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland’s School Success,” Anu Partanen reveals capitalist Anglo-America’s elephant-in-the-room-sized blind spot, why its focus on competition and “excellence” results in diminishing performance in order to promote concentrated power and idealism.

The Finns (Per Sahlberg) on education reform that demands accountability from teachers: “There is no word for accountability in Finnish. Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.” In Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility.

The Finns (Samuli Paronen) on competition: “Real winners do not compete.” There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The driver of education policy in Finland is not competition amongst teachers and schools, policy forcing the ideal conservative conditions of bellum omnia contra omnes, but rather cooperation. School choice is not an issue, nor is putting education in the hands of the private sector and profit motive. This is in distinct contrast to America, Sahlberg observes, where “schools are a shop.”

The Finnish education reform goal was always equality and equity, never “excellence” or whatever conservative daydreams that word stands in for. “Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.” What the world dominated by conservative Anglo-american capitalist dogma still cannot face is that it is equality that most efficiently produces star performances and substantive excellence.

Tiger Moms’ genius boys in Shanghai and Singpore can put in 20-hour days of rote memorization and exhaustive cramming, and only manage to approximate in performance the Finnish children who are simply well cared for and supported by valued, independent, unionized teachers and their egalitarian society. Surely, the East Asian genius boys are better poster boys for conservative capitalist discipline; but just as surely they are inefficient…and 99% of these memorizers and crammers will never be able to write a non-plagiarized essay, that is, communicate independently, like humans can.

Why does egalitarianism more efficiently make excellence? The answer is right in front of our nose, right in front of our blind spot. It’s because in the inequality tradition, poor people are overwhelmingly, structurally prevented from attaining their human potentials, and, a factor that perversely torments conservative theorists much more, the rich enjoy the comfort of knowing that surrounded by throngs of shackled “competitors,” they can enjoy many a good old slack.

In such a conservative culture, it is the appearance and ideal of excellence that matters, because the sign unmoored is directed by and justifies power. To be chosen is a sign, necessarily imposed upon the material world. The grim “play” of signs, only ordered by the mystified, atopic distribution of power in a reified collective imagination (a world not made but given, or made by all because you cannot choose unfreely), is Anglos’ obsession, and the more people you can induce to submit to this obsession, the more human life chances are allocated by market power and the more absolutely necessary capitalism (or its feudal and slavery complements)  is for any life chance at all.

At or adhered to central nodes of global capitalist accumulation, Anglo-Americans are altogether too kind, too attentive to, too solicitous of the promotional, the unmoored sign, constantly mistaking it for the legitimate, autarkic limits of knowable (meta)reality. Our literature, for one example, is far too ready to believe that the con man is the true knower.