the present as history
From the New Deal to Donald Trump
(transcendental empiricism in action)

History without philosophy is only a screen on which to project the shibboleths of our time.

The site as a whole recognizes that the Internet is the techno-cognitive axis of a praxiological revolution in thought, where the extended mind is fused with philosophy as the critical accompaniment to empirical practice.

This site deploys bio-emotional and cognitive-developmental concepts in the decoding of the historical trajectory: New Deal to Donald Trump.

from Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (462)

In place of "sociology," a theory of the forms of domination.
In place of "society," the culture complex . . .

invisible university

 Map 1.  United States: Eleven Regional Cultures    
Map from Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival
Regional Cultures of North America (Penguin, 2011)
. . . a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity preceded and made possible the fascist victory of November 2018 . . .

The cultural-historical as well as political-economic significance of Figure 1 should already be evident not only in the election of Donald Trump, but also in the subsequent developments of this American form of a patrimonial regime characterized by fascist performativities. 

Figure 1 suggests that a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity preceded and made possible the fascist victory of November 2018.

The emergence of the intellectual cadre essential to our present civilization is neither normative nor inevitable.  Logical-scientific thinking (formal operational competence) on a mass scale is very recent (Flynn effect), and unevenly distributed (Engeström, Dupre).

The sharp decline in the scores of Korea, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States suggests that the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries are where two lines of development—sociotechnical advance and cognitive regression—clash.  Capitalism—at least advanced capitalism—requires advanced minds. Narcissistic regression—the culture of consumption (see Hall et. al., Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture)—undermines the very possibility of advanced cognitive development.

It is already clear that in the U.S. large numbers of unchurched as well as fundamentalist whites and blacks (and many working class Catholics) have been disgorged from the project of modernity, and now constitute, by twenty-first century standards, a barely literate mass, concentrated in central cities, inner suburbs, small towns, and rural areas, and removed in toto from the possibilities of cognitive development implied by the term "education."  This is what we see at Trump rallies.  As the old America dies a sociocultural death, it is being replaced by newer populations capable, for now, of cognitive development.  The "White" portion of old America is Trump territory.

  The election of Donald Trump reflects this degradation of cognitive performativity in American society.  The brutishness in language and behavior that are the chief characteristics of Trump's mass-oriented performances must be understood as manifestations of something of great ontological significance. 

  Figure 1.  PISA Math Scores, 2003 to 2015: 21 Developed
                         Nations & East Asian Cities and City-States
 . . . a barely literate mass, concentrated in central cities,
inner suburbs, small towns, and rural areas . . .

from Marryanne Wolf, Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (HarperCollins, 2018), pp. 151-2

Every national and international index of how well US children are doing in reading indicates that, despite all the nation’s wealth, they are failing in droves and performing considerably berhind children in both Western and Eastern countries.  We cannot ignore what this portends for our children or for our country.

Specifically, the recent national report card (National Assessment of Educational Progress) documents that a full two-thirds of US children in the fourth grade do not read at a “proficient” level, that is, fluently and with adequate comprehension.  Put in more sobering terms, only one-third of twenty-first century American children now read with sufficient understanding and speed at the exact age when their future learning depends on it.  The fourth grade represents a Maginot line between learning to read and learning to use reading to think and learn.

More disturbing  altogether, close to half of our children who are African-American or Latino do not read in grade four at even a “basic” reading level, much less a proficient one.  This means that they do not decode well enough to understand what they are reading, which will impact almost everything they are supposed to learn fro then on, includiing math and other subjects.  I refer to this period as the “vanishing hole in American education” because if children do not learn to read fluently before this time is over, for all educational purposes, they disappear.

 . . . the Council on Foreign Relations issued a report in which it stated with no ambiguity, “Large undereducationed swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomcacy, and grow its economy.”

Cognitive development as a cultural historical process: significance of Flynn
This sado-sexual performativity is the essence of
the GOP's mass appeal.
Lee Atwater has shown how the discursive and symbolic elements of the Southern Strategy were generated through the construction of a theatrical arena in which hatred is expressed and sadism performed.  This sado-sexual performativity is the essence of the GOP's mass appeal.  Well before Trump the evocation of evil and the channelling of rage against a scapegoat (various forms of the other) was the stock-in-trade of Republican politicians. 

The rhetorical violence of Trump rallies, not ideology and policies, is what is fundamental. The Trump performances--the audience, the cultural-historical context, and Trump himself as a therapeutic object with which the audience member can identify--become intelligible when viewed through the prism of certain key concepts: Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment; psychoanalysis's concept of the mechanisms of defense; Wilbur Cash's concept of the proto-Dorian convention; the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain; and Robert Paxton's concept of  transcendental violence.

On the right there are not issues, but postures, gestures, various encodings of the same sado-sexual reflex (the inner logic of racism).  Rage enacted in a political-media theater of violence, sadism, and revenge.     The cruelty of it all is the most important thing.  The vicarious thrill, the “enthusiasm for inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation”(OED): this is what is seen at Trump rallies.  The GOP's performative cadre are specialists in herding hominids.

from Friedrich Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, II, 14

Here the works of vengefulness and rancor swarm; here the air stinks of secrets and concealment;  . . . and what mendaciousness is employed to disguise that this hatred is hatred!  What a display of grand words and postures, what an art of "honest" calumny! 
The Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain (the Southern Strategy)
from Wikipedia: (Lee Atwater's Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy)

As a member of the Reagan administration in 1981, Atwater gave an anonymous interview to political scientist Alexander P. Lamis. Part of the interview was printed in Lamis's book The Two-Party South, then reprinted in Southern Politics in the 1990s with Atwater's name revealed. . . . Atwater talked about the Republican Southern Strategy and Ronald Reagan's version of it:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now you don't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a by-product of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

Watch Trump rallies closely.  The audience is usually unfocused, almost bored in  the haze of broken English spoken by Trump.  Bored, restless, talking among themselves, cognitively not there, but waiting for the punch line, the expletive, the primitive, hate-filled denunciation: license has been given (Kallis).  Then they wake up, some more slowly than others, as they catch on, and howl their delight ("lock her up!"), only to subside into a state of not being.  This the pundits refer to as "energy."  This is, ontologically speaking, some really primitive stuff.  This is why media discourse on the real-world economic grievances of white men simultaneously get it and miss it completely.  They are finally being forced to address what has been a trend obvious for decades, but not discussed in the media until the breakdown of elite control of public discourse in the primary campaigns of 2016.  What they miss is the deep structure of this rage; the cognitive primitiveness of its expression; the centuries-long history of ressentiment as the inner logic of ultra-nationalism, fascism, and racism.


Beyond sadism (the beating heart of the GOP), and related to it, are the cognitive consequences of a politics of bestiality.  It is not merely that Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader  (Politico, August 13, 1915).  He is the embodiment of a fundamental shift of the center of gravity of our national discourse, a shift in the direction of

what are fascist performativities?

Language on the threshold of gesture and reflex.  Regression to infantile narcissism via processes of identification, to a politics of patrimonialism.
What Is Trump's Reading Level? He Speaks Worse Than Any President You've Had
Jan 11 2018

How to Talk Like Trump.  A short guide to speaking the president’s dialect


Maryanne Wolf

U.S. Political Economy by Sector, 1910-1938/47
Keynesian Elite in New Deal State, 1910-1939

the unity caucus as ontological presence and horizon of cognition:

Detroit Industrial Areas, 1941: Key Plants and Players in  the Rise of the UAW

Detroit East Side: Midland Steel, UAW Local 410: interviews
Bob Brenner Tool and Die
Barney Kluk Tool and Die
Ed Tyll Tool and Die
Jim Peters
Chrysler line
Oscar Oden
Chrysler line
Ben WainwrightChrysler line
John PerryChrysler line
William HintzChrysler line
Joe BlockChrysler line
TiedermannChrysler line
George Bidinger
Large presses
George Borovich Large presses
Chester Podgorski Large presses
Louis VolettiLarge presses
Lawrence VolettiLarge presses
Herman BurtPaint Machine
Levi NelsonShipping & Recieving
Agnes Baransky
Small presses
Lotte Klas
Small presses
John Anderson
Organizer, Local 155

Detroit East Side: UAW Locals: interviews
Leon Pody*
Murray Body
UAW Local 2
Frank Fagan
Murray Body UAW Local 2
Frank Fagan*
Murray BodyUAW Local 2
Lloyd Jones*
Murray Body UAW Local 2

Dick Frankensteen Dodge Main
UAW Local 3
Dick Frankensteen*Dodge Main
UAW Local 3
Charles Watson Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Harry Ross*
Dodge MainUAW Local 3
Richard Harris*
Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Joe Adams Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Joe Ptazynski
Dodge Main UAW Local 3
Earl Reynolds Dodge Main UAW Local 3
John Zaremba*
Dodge Main UAW Local 3

Sam Sweet
UAW Local 51

John McDaniel Packard
UAW Local 190
John McDaniel*Packard
UAW Local 190
Harry Kujawski Packard UAW Local 190
Eddie Dvornik Packard UAW Local 190
Adam Poplewski*
Packard UAW Local 190
James Lindahl**
UAW Local 190

Leonard Klue MICHIGAN STEEL TUBE UAW Local 238

Paul Silver/Ross/Adams
Detroit Steel Products
UAW Local 351

N = 35 interviewees
UAW Local 410
John Anderson
CP, Midland Steel

Bill Jenkins Chrysler Highland Park
UAW Local 490

Tony Podorsek
body-in-white supervisor Dodge, Cadillac

Detroit Connor Ave: UAW Locals: interviews
Jack Zeller
UAW Local 7
Ed Carey*
Chrysler-Jefferson UAW Local 7
Francis Moore
UAW Local 154
Minnie Anderson
UAW Local 154
Leon Pody* Briggs UAW Local 212
Bill Mazey
UAW Local 212
Ernie Mazey
UAW Local 212
Ken Morris*
Briggs UAW Local 212
Art Vega*
Briggs UAW Local 212
Irwin Bauer
Budd Wheel
UAW Local 306

CES, Highlights PISA 2003,  p. 14       NCES, Highlights PISA 2009,  p. 18
NCES, Highlights PISA 2006,  p. 12       NCES, PISA 2012, Math        v
NCES, PISA 2015, Math

Korea and Japan are in light blue; Asia: Asian cities and city-states (C & C-S) are in light orange (see below for a breakout of the components of this category); Scandinavian nations + Switzerland are in dark blue; Anglo-Saxon nations in orange; France, Germany, Belgium and Poland in green; Italy, Portugal and Spain in red; the United States in yellow.

Of the European nations omitted from this graph, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus scored below the United States in math.  Ahead of the United States but not shown are Estonia, Slovenia, Ireland, Austria, Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic.

The United States does better on reading and science, but math is taken by many as the more important indicator.
Flint and Pontiac: UAW Locals: interviews
Norman Bully
Buick (Flint) UAW Local 599
Arthur Case*
Buick (Flint) UAW Local 599
Larry Jones
Chevrolet (Flint) UAW Local 659
Bill Genski
Fisher Body #1 (Flint)
UAW Local 581
Bill Genski*
Fisher Body #1 (Flint)
UAW Local 581
Bud Simons*
Fisher Body #1 (Flint)
UAW Local 581

Cliff Williams +Yaeger
Yellow Cab (Pontiac)
UAW Local 594
Charlie Yaeger*

Bob Travis**
UAW Local 581
Henry Kraus**

  disciplinary modalities: language (symbolic order), markets/reading (economic order), classes (work as disciplinary order: Gutman, Montgomery) Detroit West Side & Dearborn: UAW Locals: interviews
Ed Lock
UAW Local 600
Percy Llewelyn
UAW Local 600
Shelton Tappes Ford
UAW Local 600
Shelton Tappes*Ford
UAW Local 600
John Anderson
UAW Local 15
Irene Marinovich (I)
UAW Local 174
Mary Davis

Stanley Novak

Blain Marrin
Tool & Die
UAW Local 157

Michael W. Miles, The Odyssey of the American Right (Oxford, 1980)
Anatol Lieven, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (Oxford, 2012)
Joseph E. Lowndes, From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (Yale, 2008)
Toledo, Milwaukee, South Bend, and Cleveland
Al Rightly
UAW Local 5
George Addes*
Willys Overland (Toledo)

Joseph Ditzel*
Chevrolet (Toledo)

James Roland*
Chevrolet (Toledo)
Roy H. Speth*
Seaman Body (Milwaukee)

Stalin Over Wisconsin
UAW Local 248