Rebuilding Jerusalem

Barbara Ess, photography.

“…what exactly does ‘consent’ mean? This question is worth asking, since by leaving the matter unresolved one risks seeing the facts of ‘consent’ (where they exist) destabilise the concepts of exploitation, alienation, and domination, concepts that Marxist critique in particular relies upon as the trusted foundations of its intellectual toolkit. Each of these concepts is perturbed by the new, ‘motivational’ managerial tendencies that promise ‘fulfilment at work’ and ‘self-realisation’, and that appear at times to be winning the support of employees.”
Frederic Lordon (Willing Slaves of Capital)

“…capitalism is not a natural and inevitable consequence of human nature, or of the age-old social tendency to ‘truck, barter, and exchange’. It is a late and localized product of very specific historical conditions.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View)

“Every epoch dreams its successor.”
Jules Michelet

The saying that people can more easily imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism has been attributed to several people. Frederic Jameson among them. I have no idea. But it is true. Frederic Lordon’s book The Willing Slaves of Capitalism begins his gloss on Marx (in a sense) with Spinoza.

“Spinoza calls ‘conatus’ the effort by which ‘each thing, as far as it can by its own power, strives to persevere in its being.”
Frederic Lordon (Ibid)

Spinoza is undergoing a kind of renaissance these last ten years. Or maybe twenty. And this is probably a good thing. *Conatus* is not an easy or simple concept. It is in essence the basic energy that comes with existential awareness. It is that which sets Being in motion. Lordon says it is that fundamental energy that sets bodies in motion. But I think it is meant as something even more an elemental — that which makes it possible to speak of bodies in motion, to be aware. The energy from which comes awareness, perhaps.

Chris Can

“ And, this time hewing closest to Spinoza, it is the energy of desire. To be is to be a being of desire. To exist is to desire, and therefore to be active in the pursuit of one’s objects of desire.”
Frederic Lordon (Ibid)

And desire is, without any ontological commentary here, a sort of presumption for human existence. This is Lordon’s entry into a discussion of freedom.
“It is rather the freedom to recruit other powers [puissances] in the pursuit of one’s personal desire that is not evident a priori. Very often, however, the combined effect of human ambition and the depth of the division of labour is that desires for material production have to be pursued collectively, thus, in a strictly etymological sense, collaboratively.”
Frederic Lordon (Ibid)

And this is the real question, I think. For Lordon writes a paragraph later: “The issue here is that of the political participation of individuals in the organisation of the collective productive processes and the appropriation of the products of their common activity; in other words, it is the issue of capture by the subject of the master-desire.” So far so good, I think. But the extended implications are addressed a few lines later…

“In the most general sense, bossing is a relation of capturing, instances of which are found in many areas outside that of the capitalist exploitation that gives it its primary signification today: the NGO directors appropriating the lion’s share of the results of the activities of their activists; the university mandarins, of their juniors; the artists, of their assistants – all this outside the capitalist enterprise, and in pursuit of things that have nothing to do with monetary gain.”
Frederic Lordon (Ibid)

Rafael Canogar

But I would argue it’s not outside the capitalist enterprise. Not at all. And this is the core issue. Capitalism is the capture of human desire, finally. When the question is asked of technology, for example, of how it might operate outside a profit based political system, the answer if complicated because technology itself is tied to the industrial revolution, and by extension to capitalism. And maybe we all mystify this question a little. Innovation taking radically different directions is not that hard to imagine (speaking of technology). Ok, not THAT hard, but I grant you its a little hard.

“The full dependence on the market division of labour is its condition of possibility. Marx and Polanyi among others have amply shown how the conditions for proletarianisation emerged, notably through the enclosure of the commons. In the wake of that act of the most complete, organised immiseration, people were left with only one option, the sale of their undifferentiated labour-power. It is tedious to have to repeat such trivial and obvious facts, yet necessary inasmuch as contemporary fictions, built on ‘work enrichment’, ‘participative management’, ‘employee em powerment’ and other programmes of ‘self-realisation’ are successfully erasing the memory of that original truth about the employment relation: that it is a relation of dependence, a relation between agents in which one holds the conditions for the material reproduction of the other, and that this is the permanent backdrop and the immoveable foundation for anything that unfolds on top of it.”
Frederic Lordon (Ibid)

And since the enclosure of the commons the human psyche has been undergoing a gradual but inexorable reshaping. The contemporary mind is one is now bereft of experiential understanding. Desire itself is commodified and somehow obscured. Today fertility statistics suggest a waning of erotic desire, and birth rates have plummeted. The irrationality of capitalism has resulted in the manufacturing of useless technologies while simultaneously destroying traditional farming, traditional education and the erasing of knowledge and of history itself. Technology has contributed to the loss of literacy and to a culture of acute depression and anxiety.

Abel Segura Sanchez

Technology was driven by the desire (or need) for solutions in manufacturing. But before industry, what are we talking about? Early humans made tools. Tools made the cutting of stones easier and made the building of walls easier, the better to stay out of the wind. Early tech helped in cooking, too. Innovations were discovered for curing meats, for preserving all manner of food, really.

I believe somewhere P.G. Wodehouse observed…’never trust a man with a small black mustache’. He was actually speaing of Oswald Mosely and not Hitler. But I was reminded again today of the ruling class hatred of Putin. I think there is something I must have missed in all this. (consider this a long aside). In Germany there was a sort of slightly Terry Gilliam-ish coup (sic) prevented. One thought up by, primarily, one Prince Heinrich Reuss of Greiz. (fun fact, the House of Reuss is an ancient family line, and all males in that line are named Heinrich. The original line died in 1853 with Heinrich LXXII …he of the Order of the Black Eagle. That’s Heinrich the 72nd.) Anyway the current linage (and I dont understand these things) is a bloated Prince Heinrich XIII. I only mention this because like the aforementioned Oswald Mosely, the Reuss family are ardent fascists and admirers of Hitler. These people still own considerable property, castles and the like, and have enormous amounts of money. How is that possible? The group that Heinrich was part of can reasonably be compared to QAnon, with which it communicates, and the capital hill ‘pretend plot’. Here is what a German paper wrote ‘The prince was arrested in Frankfurt-am-Main where he has a home and a business. His life partner, a Russian citizen, identified only as Vitalia B., was arrested near their home, Jagdschloss Waidmannsheil in Bad Lobenstein. ‘ That Jagdschloss Waidmannsheil is a massive castle-like fortress of sorts should be noted. As Talia Lavin wrote of this affair and the Prince himself..”scion of a seven-hundred-year-old noble family that had once ruled a sliver of Thuringia in Eastern Germany. That is, until 1918, when a previous Prince Heinrich abdicated in the aftermath of the First World War. But the 21st century is no time for princes. Heinrich had to buy back Waidmannsheil, the great ancestral lodge in the village of Bad Lobenstein, from which he launched his plot to overthrow the German state. He believed his family ought still to be princes in practice rather than just title, and that the Jews and their allies had inflicted the great “stab in the back” that cost Germany the Great War in the first place.” (The Sword and the Sandwhich blog)

José María Yturralde

The point here is that while it is easy to make fun of this stuff, the wrecked remains of aristocracy in Europe, there remains a fervent attraction to Nazism in the world today. And to Fascism in general. And you see it in nearly every country in Europe. And it should be noted that the British Royal Family is hardly wrecked. They, like a few others, actually own a rather sizeable portfolio and exert perhaps surprising influence. But I need to circle back to the origins of capitalism and of technology. David Noble suggests “the technological enterprise being, at the same time, an essentially religious endeavor.” (The Religion of Technology) And I think there is truth in this, but I think everything shares a quality of the religious. Although in a sense I think everything actually comes out of theatre, of what I consider Ur-theatre. And that includes religion. And probably technology, or the dream of it.

Noble observes the rise of a right wing and ultra conservative Christian movement in the U.S. One that has found itself in positions of authority at Air Force Academy, in the military in general, and even at NASA.

“If we look closely at some of the hallmark technological enterprises of our day, we see the devout not only in the ranks but at the helm. Religious preoccupations pervade the space program at every level, and constitute a major motivation behind extraterrestrial travel and exploration. Artificial Intelligence advocates wax eloquent about the possibilities of machine-based immortality and resurrection, and their disciples, the architects of virtual reality and cyberspace, exult in their expectation of God-like omnipresence and disembodied perfection. Genetic engineers imagine themselves divinely inspired participants in a new creation.”
David F. Noble (Ibid)

Antoni Abad

Ok, but this still begs a few questions. There is a sort of ingrained trust in the public, fostered by lazy Academics and pop culture writers, that Capitalism is a natural tendency in humans. What Ellen Meiksins Wood refers to as the *commericalization model*.

“The traditional account – which appears in classical political economy, Enlightenment conceptions of progress, and many more modern histories – is as follows. With or without a natural inclination to ‘truck, barter, and exchange’ (in Adam Smith’s famous formulation), rationally self-interested individuals have been engaging in acts of exchange since the dawn of history. These acts became increasingly specialized with an evolving division of labour, which was also accompanied by technical improvements in the instruments of production. ”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

This version suggests capitalism is the culmination of commercial practices that stretch back to the dawn of history. That it is, in a way, the perfection of this model. And that somewhere in this long process technological developments were taking place. The early traders were either interrupted by barbarian hordes, or Muslim invaders, or something, depending on exactly where were are talking about. But the result was…

“ A growing ‘economy of exchange’, led by a professional class of merchants, was replaced by an ‘economy of consumption’, the rentier economy of the feudal aristocracy.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

Eventually there was a liberation of merchants, and the growth of cities. And capitalism is, from its inception, all agree, a phenomenon associated with and dependent upon *cities*. And this is all the rather classical bourgeois economic teaching on this subject.

“Commerce becomes more widespread and encompasses ever more commodities. It also brings with it ever more wealth – and here, in classical political economy, we encounter the notion that commerce and the economic rationality that it engenders – the prudence and frugality of rational economic actors engaged in commercial transactions – encourages the accumulation of sufficient wealth to permit investment. This ‘previous’ or ‘primitive’ accumulation, when it reaches a critical mass, brings commercialization to fruition in a mature ‘commercial society’.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

This primitive accumulation is something Marx would write about in great depth. And this this model the bougeoisie come to be equated with progress. As agents of progress. Meiksins Wood notes pithily that *burgher*, *bourgeois*, and *capitalist* became synonymous.

“The convergence of ‘capitalist’ and ‘bourgeois’ was implanted in Western culture by means of conceptions of progress that joined British economic development with the French Revolution, in a composite picture of historical change. In the slippage from town-dweller to capitalist via the merchant that occurs in the later uses of ‘bourgeois’, we can follow the logic of the commercialization model: the ancient town-dweller gives way to the medieval burgher, who in turn develops seamlessly into the modern capitalist. As a famous historian has sardonically described this process, history is the perennial rise of the middle classes.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

Lucio Muñoz

This is pretty much what I was taught in high school. And I think this is basically what most Westerners take to be the truth, at least those who bother to think about this stuff anymore. And one can see the seeds of a lot of revisionist (and non Marxist) writing today in this. The idea being that capitalism is a kind of spirit or natural tendency, a part of human nature, and it can be found — or trace elements of it — in antiquity. Can be found anywhere, in fact, because it is natural. It is always there just waiting to be liberated from whatever sort of artificial impediments were put in its way. And in most histories of capitalism it is the feudal era that represents the biggest rupture in capitalist development (and by extension in urban growth, and vise versa, as it were). This is where you see the ‘selfish gene’ stuff, Ayn Rand, et al., the self interested or selfish person as the engine of progress, etc. And technological development came out of the need to cut costs and maximize profit, etc.

There have been a variety of histories expressing variations on the commercialization model, but none of them really challenge the natural and built-in desire in humanity toward capitalist progress. Meiksins Wood notes Karl Polyani as the biggest exception to these assumptions. Polyani took issue with Adam Smith, and with the idea that humans were driven by some proto-capitalist instinct.

“Only in modern ‘market society’, according to Polanyi, is there a distinct ‘economic’ motive, distinct economic institutions and relations separated from non-economic relations. Because human beings and nature – in the form of labour and land – are treated, however fictitiously, as commodities in a self-regulating system of markets driven by the price mechanism, society itself becomes an ‘adjunct’ of the market. A market economy can exist only in ‘market society , that is, a society where, instead of an economy embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economy.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

Here the Industrial Revolution marked the dramatic shift in social relations, the result of which was to commodify humanity (and Nature). In the end, though, even Polyani never really expresses doubt about the march of progress. That progress was somehow the near religious drive of mankind. So it is one arrives at Marx, or at least the Marx of the Grundrisse and Capital. As with Freud, Marx wrote multiple narratives on various themes. His opinion changed. Now suffice it to say that I am sketching in a very partial sort of short hand version of the traditional historical theories, and I shall also have to do the same, to some degree with Marx.

Marmaduke Cradock (1700)

“The general principles spelled out in his critique of political economy – in particular, his insistence that wealth by itself is not ‘capital’, and that capital was a specific social relation – are here applied to the transition from feudalism to capitalism. It follows from these principles that the mere accumulation of wealth was not the decisive factor in the origin of capitalism. The ‘primitive accumulation’ of classical political economy is ‘so-called’ because capital, as Marx defines it, is a social relation and not just any kind of wealth or profit, and accumulation as such is not what brings about capitalism. While the accumulation of wealth was obviously a necessary condition of capitalism, it was far from being sufficient or decisive. What transformed wealth into capital was a transformation of social property relations.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

At this point, I should note, and Meiksins Wood does, the debate between Paul Sweezy and Maurice Dobbs (and eventually a dozen others) around the dissolution of feudalism. What drove the break up feudalism and the arrival of capitalism? This debate was long and detailed and there are entire books devoted to it. But for the purposes here, the real issue (for this post) is not whether feudalism dissolved through a class struggle between peasants and lords (in the English countryside) or (per Sweezy) that is came from external factors such as expanded trade and production in various parts of Europe. I suspect both sides are partially right, in fact. But what matters is that even here, on both sides, there was a belief that capitalism was *released* from the fetters of feudalism. That it was pregnant all the while, only waiting for an opportune midwife to help it come into existence.

“We are left with the overwhelming impression that, given the chance, the commodity-producing peasant (and artisan) will grow into a capitalist. ”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

adya novali, photography.

Meiksins Wood goes on to cover Perry Anderson and Robert Brenner. And both are valuable correctives to the old Commercialization Model. But for now, I want to move onto something closer to my real question. For all of these writers were still positing a pre-existing capitalism as a way to explain the emergence of capitalism. It should be noted that E.P. Thompson came the closest in my mind to explaining something profound in the dissolution of feudalism, and this was in the subjective factors emerging in English rural workers. He still echoed the old commericalization model, but he saw that material explanations would end up inadequate. At least incomplete.

“Here, then, is the basic difference between all pre-capitalist societies and capitalism. It has nothing to do with whether production is urban or rural and everything to do with the particular property relations between producers and appropriators, whether in industry or agriculture. Only in capitalism is the dominant mode of appropriation based on the complete dispossession of direct producers, who (unlike chattel slaves) are legally free and whose surplus labour is appropriated by purely ‘economic’ means. Because direct producers in a fully developed capitalism are propertyless, and because their only access to the means of production, to the requirements of their own reproduction, even to the means of their own labour, is the sale of their labour-power in exchange for a wage, capitalists can appropriate the workers’ surplus labour without direct coercion.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

And Wood is touching on exactly what Thompson saw, too. And that is that the centralized political power of the English crown was critical in producing a particular kind of resistance.

“English agriculture, then, was already in the sixteenth century marked by a unique combination of conditions, at least in certain regions, that would gradually set the economic direction of the whole economy. The result was a highly productive agrarian sector, in which landlords and tenants alike became preoccupied with what they called ‘improvement’, the enhancement of the land’s productivity for profit.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

Maruja Mallo

Worth noting that the word *improvement* meant to literally make more valuable, more profitable. More productive. And in the seventeenth century, in England, one sees a huge outpouring of literature and analysis of productivity, and its inherent moral value. And there it is. The moral quotient.

There is a huge amount to be said here on the idea of *enclosure*. But it exceeds the capacity of this post. But it is worth reading about because it reveals a good deal more on the psychology attending to the material conditions in play. And Locke’s theory of property is predicated upon the idea of *improvement*. Locke saw the landlord whose land is improved by the work of his laborer as more industrious than the laborer himself. Such was the mindset at the dawn of capitalism. And so it is today.

One last note on this. Imperialism was in fact a natural outgrowth of enclosure and moral imperative of productiveness. And here again, it was the English that led the way with their experiences in the American colonies and Ireland. And we segue to another aspect of capitalism, and that is one written about rather extensively; rationalism. This was the product of the Enlightenment. Rational planning, rational education and the standardization of rules and conduct. And with progress, the progress of freedom (sic) and organization. And it is important to understand that the Enlightenment was not a project meant to usher in capitalism. We have arrived at a state today where bourgeois, capitalism, and modernity are inextricably linked in people’s minds. And now, postmodernism. Which, according to many, represents a new phase of capitalism. It’s always capitalism (attention economy, information age, etc). Culture then is now sort of a sub-heading of capitalism. And probably more, culture is that which capitalism alone produces.

A final quote from Meiksins-Wood:

“The important point is that we are being invited to jettison all that is best in the Enlightenment project – especially its commitment to a universal human emancipation – and to blame these values for destructive effects we should be ascribing to capitalism.”
Ellen Meiksins Wood (Ibid)

Gail Albert Halaban, photography (Venice, Italy)

This is true, though Adorno and Horkheimer would argue the good always carried the seed of that which is was purportedly correcting. But it is certainly true the lens of Capitalism is that through which all things are now viewed, including history and religion. And that subjective factor E.P. Thompson observed is one that links to something of a now forgotten idea of redemption. Or at least the reclaiming of a lost divinity (per David Noble).

Today, technology, meaning primarily digital technology, is playing a prominent role in what I have called (and Johan Eddebo has called) the shrinking of experience. But certainly there are others. Universities report nobody is signing up for post graduate degrees in English literature or philosophy, but there is a waiting list for business departments.

“This is also true of Ricardo’s and Smith’s concept of economy. Even then, the period of the emerging bourgeoisie, the homo economicus was considered self-sufficient and separate. At the same time, his capitalist economic form was considered to have finally been discovered and pronounced eternally natural. Ever since the overt interest of capitalism was promoted to a discipline, it has forfeited even its own categories in certain places: the word profit has disappeared from its literature in the course of the past century. Once again it conceals surplus value with its theory.”
Ernst Bloch (Ideas as Transformed Material in Human Minds, or Problems of an Ideological Superstructure; Art and Society)

The eternally natural that is capitalism. And never before has state run media (or corporate run, which is much the same thing now) been so uniform in their message. Even as the actual writing quality deteriorates in mainstream press and media, their content consolidates and becomes more similar. Mock controversy is everywhere. Distraction by controversy. Much of it is now simply absurd. But the people running state policy are ever more without real life experience. They graduate from political science departments, and according to their privileged parentage, usually, they find employment. And they make decisions and invent policy that is mostly fantasy. It is hugely destructive fantasy, but still just fantasy. It is worth reading this blog post at The Saker in the Vineyard on Andrei Martyanov’s contention that the US political class is run by imbeciles and ideologues.
So capitalism is now in a state in which the bourgeoisie, once a synonym for capitalism, is being left behind. Capitalism is driven by algorithms produced by think tanks, and billionaires. Politicians are in control of ever less of the world. Wealth now exercises authority through various rationalized forms, through NGOs and Foundations. And running alongside this is a growing worship of technology. And technology has at least, as discussed above, partially, its roots anchored in a belief in profit and productiveness. Even if the definition of ‘productive’ remains opaque. But technology also carries with it an ersatz religious quality. And is morally affirmative.

Andjela Banićević , photography.

The west is running on a kind of solipsistic ideology of profit. But the key word is solipsistic.

“The development of the new capitalist state that emerged in England was also directly influenced by its insertion into the early modern European state system. Stuart kings attempted to emulate the absolutist evolution of their continental rivals—especially France. This, however, threatened the class interests of the English aristocracy who were reliant on an economic mode of surplus appropriation by the seventeenth century. In the aftermath of the revolutionary period, the English ruling class extinguished absolutist aspirations and consolidated new property and state forms. The economic mode of exploitation concomitant to agrarian capitalism made it possible for England to move beyond the personal appropriation of state power as a strategy of ruling class reproduction that persisted on the Continent. This de-patrimonialization of the state paved the way to a process of rationalization that amounted to the development of the first modern public administration in Britain in the century that followed the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688.”
Xavier Lafrance and Charles Post (Case Studies in the Origins of Capitalism)

And the spectre of Nazism casts a shadow over daily life in the West. It has been absorbed, disguised, and dispersed globally following WW2. And the mythologies of National Socialism are not merely historical coincidence of happenstance.

“The other-worldly roots of the religion of technology were distinctly Christian. For Christianity alone blurred the distinction and bridged the divide between the human and the divine.”
David F. Noble (Ibid)

Technology then, as we normally think of the word, is distinctly Christian. But I think that the arrival of digital technology, of the internet, has ruptured ideas of productiveness, and of domination.

Alexandra Croitoru

“ Every employee wants something, and that something depends on the approval of superiors, who likewise strive to pursue their own will, to which they subordinate their subordinates, creating an ascending chain of dependence to which corresponds a descending chain of instrumentalisation.”
Frederic Lordon (Ibid)

The Enlightenment then is the model, the template, really, against which today’s solipsistic acolytes of techne are working.

“ In the Enlightenment’s interpretation, thinking is the creation of unified, scientific order and the derivation of factual knowledge from principles, whether the latter are elucidated as arbitrarily postulated axioms, innate ideas, or higher abstractions. Logical laws produce the most general relations within the arrangement, and define them.”
Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer (Dialectic of Enlightenment)

The question of technology separate from Capitalism is, then, the real question. In one sense the digital age has caused the dissolution of rationality (along with, of course, the goals of capital).

“According to Kant, the homogeneity of the general and the particular is guaranteed by the “schematism of pure understanding,” or the unconscious operation of the intellectual mechanism which structures perception in accordance with the understanding. The understanding impresses the intelligibility of the matter (which subjective judgment discovers there) on it as an objective quality, before it enters into the ego. Without such a schematism—in short, without intellectual perception—no impression would harmonize with a concept, and no category with an example; and the unity of thought (let alone of system) toward which everything is directed would not prevail. To produce this unity is the conscious task of science.”
Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer (Ibid)

There is a perverse meeting of a revanchist medievalism (Christian) and the withering away of Enlightenment rationality. Research was always, per Adorno, there to ensure that principles were linked with factual judgements. Today the culture of distraction has muted this idea, one that implies a clear morality, and can demand that, say, gender is biologically binary. It is infinite and subjective. But this is a distraction. Nobody really believes this and if they do they are mentally ill. But belief is not the point. It is an intellectual performance.

Elzo Durt

“The burgher, in the successive forms of slaveowner, free entrepreneur, and administrator, is the logical subject of the Enlightenment.”
Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer (Ibid)

There has been a profound change in the idea of belief. In the belief in believing, if you will. At the dawn of the 20th century, and probably twenty years before that, really, there were numerous optical discoveries, and scientific beliefs changed due to a previously unseen world. And this led to a new emphasis on ideas such as evidence and proof. Criminal justice was to take huge leaps in standarizing legal tenants and judges in considering innocence or guilt. This was a premise on which much of the 20th century moved forward. Always forward. And in this new evidence based culture came a kind of comfort. There was always proof to fall back on. And this always reminds me of The Jetsons, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series from the early 60s. There is, apparently a new version of it being produced, albeit with woke improvements. Never mind, this was the always all white world of 20th century sci fi. (see:

This was the Walt Disney future. As Maloney notes in the above linked article “For years, viewers and critics of color have half-joked that the countless all-white casts of science fiction entertainment could be the result of some unnamed bitter race war or genocide, an event so terrible that even mentioning it has become taboo in polite society.” This, though, was the world of mid century America. The Jetsons was, of course, just a Utopian version of the suburban US. But I digress, for evidence and proof, what was considered verifiable, was a hugely reductive principle. The birth of clues (unseen before) such as germs or later DNA, or the spurious pseudo sciences such as fingerprint or blood splatter analysis, meant that the cultures collective world view was narrowing (not to minimize the discoveries of microorganisms, bacteria etc). But evidence was comforting. Belief felt reasonably secure. Didn’t matter in what you believed, it was just that evidence and proof meant belief itself was fine, was permitted.

George Tooker (Stations of the Cross) 1984.

This may sound a bit like an exaggeration, but after the defeat of fascism (sic), after the second world war, lets say, the state and the wealthy Protestant east coast brahmins embraced anew the societal engineering that they first applauded with eugenics. And they uniformely wanted a world like The Jetsons. Walt Disney was flourishing, and his southern california theme park (amusement park, whatever) had become iconic. Disney of course loved Werner Von Braun and sought his advice in designing *Tomorrowland* at the park. That Von Braun was a full tilt Nazi was not a problem. In fact Walt was basically a fascistic homophobic little Nazi himself. The Disney future was aligned perfectly with a shrunken vision. It was actually a hollow nearly surreal exercise in the removal of detail.

“An autobiography that leaves out the little things and enumerates only the big ones is no proper picture of the man’s life at all; his life consists of his feelings and his interests, with here and there an incident apparently big or little to hang the feelings on.”
Mark Twain (Autobiography)

{ hat tip to Paul Haeder for that quote}. The point is that modernity was riding a forward moving wave, or so it thought, that in part was predicated on optical discoveries. Psychoanalysis arose at the same time and so did the detective novel. That the unseen (with human eyes) was now considered as proof more firmly than one’s own eyes, also meant technology was there to help and improve life. *Tomorrowland* felt like something that the Dulles Brothers or, well, a Nazi, would invent. It was oddly ambivalent, and often uncanny. I remember as a boy going to Disneyland with friends (grad night at my highschool was a trip to Disneyland. I went with a girl named Irene, …well, never mind….) and nobody ever visited *Tomorrowland* of their own accord. The Nazi future was just not fun. Well, nobody under forty ever visited it.

Tomorrowland, 1969.

So, yes, defense contractors were prominently displayed. That photo is from 1969, which is, in fact, the year I graduated high school. Adorno and Horkheimer, writing of Hollywood films, in the 1940s….

“No one is other than what he has come to be: a useful, successful, or frustrated member of vocational and national groups. He is one among many representatives of his geographical, psychological and sociological type. Logic is democratic; in this respect the great have no advantage over the insignificant. The great are classed as the important, and the insignificant as prospective objects for social relief. Science in general relates to nature and man only as the insurance company in particular relates to life and death. Whoever dies is unimportant: it is a question of ratio between accidents and the company’s liabilities. Not the individuality but the law of the majority recurs in the formula. The concurrence of the general and the particular is no longer hidden in the one intellect which perceives the particular only as one case of the general, and the general only as the aspect of the particular by which it can be grasped and manipulated.”
Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer (Ibid)

This post war conformity, reflected in films like The Apartment (Billy Wilder dr. 1960) or Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967) was an expression of this trust in standardizing. I have written before about Taylorism, which figured hugely in all this. And such was what the *sixties* was in part rejecting. Hippies were the anti company man. But that could not last. And the more insidious changes in belief took place post Vietnam.

“In society as it is, despite all the wretched moralistic attempts to propagate humanity as the most rational of means, survival remains free from utopia, which is denounced as myth. Among the rulers, cunning self-preservation takes the form of struggle for Fascist power; among individuals, it is expressed as adaptation to injustice at any price. Enlightened reason is as little capable of finding a standard by which to measure any drive in itself, and in comparison with all other drives, as of arranging the universe in spheres. It established natural hierarchy as a reflex of medieval society, and later enterprises are branded as lies in order to indicate a new, objective value ranking.”
Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer (Ibid)

Andy Warhol

Adjustment at any price. This feels like the prevailing ethos of contemporary western society. For all but the top extremely wealthy half a percent, anyway. One final question. The propaganda fanning war, creating new enemies, demonizing one leader or another as the new Hitler, is obvious enough. It is more strident and hysterical than I can ever remember, but not different in kind. But it feels as if there is a secondary layer of propaganda at work. It’s almost as if its the unconscious of propaganda. And partly this feels mediated by algorithms. But in what way remains obscure. But this secondary layer has created false victims in a sense. Not false but particular. As society overall is being assaulted with a new level of material deprivation it at the same time has singled out particular victims for special concern. This in itself is not new, its been called ‘selective empathy’ and it’s usually a product of that intractable racism and Orientalism of western white privilege. But now there is an active creation of victimage; the overweight, transpeople, or literally any sub-category of difference (dyslexia, anorexia, etc etc etc). But this is presented by choosing aggressive ugliness. There are remarkably beautiful transpeople. Mostly I am thinking of men to women usually. But there are rarely presented today (or so it seems to me). And this is largely but not entirely, just pure misogyny. Western white males must now become women the better to kill of the female symbolically. And they make no effort to actually look like women. They are men in dresses. Nearly all I see in mainstream media are absurd in appearance and wildly, strikingly ugly. This is the back door to the erasure of cultural taste. The idea of discrimination and taste is now anathema to ‘woke’ ideology. That this is occurring as use of antideprassants increases is not an accident or coincidence. The Nietzschean hatred of the weak is being recycled as virtue. Millions of people live on the street in the U.S. The state does exactly NOTHING to help them. Instead this unconscious of propaganda is there to both distract from the near Biblical levels of suffering literally on people’s doorsteps and substitute symbolic attacks on beauty and taste, and these attacks also penetrate ideas of erudition. Of learning. And they stigmatize propagation. Those biologically unable to have children (unless resorting to massive pharmacological intervention and dependency, and even then…) are raised as symbols of health and salubriousness. Laws of capital are arriving here, at this exact spot.

Belief is today something that cannot be believed in. It is counterintuitive and hence must be very temporary. Belief is transitory, now. It is als fungible to a degree. It is tiered. One can believe something but know its likely not true but that’s ok, you adjust to the untruth by expressing you know the actual truth, too. It’s a truthiness world.

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  1. George Mc says:

    Your comment on the ugliness of trans-women is something I noted. Indeed, it comes across as a provocatively confrontational matter. The whole feeling I have from this focus on “transgenderism” is of a peculiarly sexless matter. I think I noted previously on this website the matter of “Designated Survivor” – a ridiculous drama based on the notion that Kiefer Sutherland ends up as president. And he happens to have a trans-gender sister-in-law by the name of Sasha Booker. In the scenes featuring this person, the president acted as if treading on egg shells and I realised that, if I were to meet this “Sasha”, I would be scared to say anything at all. Is this a “he” or a “she” or an “it” or a “they”. And the thought of this person indulging in any sexual activity seemed unthinkable. Ironically the whole trans thing seems to have resulted in a new kind of fanatical puritanism.

    I find that Sasha was played by one Jamie Clayton described by Wiki as “an American actress and model”. It’s not until we get to the “Personal Life” section that we find out Clayton is a “trans woman”. Apparently “Clayton was the makeup artist and co-host on VH1’s first makeover show TRANSform Me”. On consulting that entry I find that

    “TRANSform Me is an American reality television series … The series shows a cisgender female contestant as she is given an internal and external makeover by a team of three trans women stylists.”

    I daresay my ignorance has spared me from the mind melting exposure to such relentless propaganda in the media. Though admittedly Clayton is one of the trans-identified who does actually make an attempt to look female.

    But I digress. For reasons I can no longer recall (and now regret) I thought I’d check out on Slavoj Zizek’s “take” on the transgender issue (probably just to see how this media presented “Leftist” stands on the subject). Instead of finding out, I stumbled on a response to Zizek from one Che Gossett, described as “a Black trans femme writer and para academic theory queen”.

    It would be tedious to sift through all the absurdities of this embarrassing sophomoric drivel so I’ll cut to the chase: “sexual difference” – the undeniable basis of all human reproduction – is taken to be some kind of fraud foisted on a “naturally trans population”. And this beleaguered “natural trans” contingent are apparently linked to (i.e. the same as) non-whites victimised by a colonial power. Yes really.

    Photos of Che show a person who has made no attempt to hide the fact that “they” are a man. And this is a common occurrence with these “trans women”. And this seems to me to be a deliberate taunt to the general public – as if the media is now saying, “See? We can hit you with this obvious rubbish and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

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