DECODING THE SEMIOSPHERE: SEMIOTIC REGIMES
(THE TWO PARTY SYSTEM AS ORGANIZED DISCOURSE)
This is where I try to bring together the psychoanalytic (ressentiment and the mechanisms of defense) and the cognitive-developmental (developmental divergence) perspectives.
The graphic to the right (Topologies of the Two Party System) reflects the cumulative result of my empirical studies of popular discourse available over the internet.  It depends heavily on my reading of Simon Clarke, Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), especially on his discussion of Melanie Klein's paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions.  This text provided me with a conceptual framework that helps make sense of the mass of empirical materials now at our disposal.  (I continue with what might be called the underlying ethic of this endeavor: faced with the new technology and the enormously expanded semiotic universe that it opens up, failure to apply these texts and disciplines is by far the worst, the most irresponsible and intellectually untenable course of action that one might take.)

I know that the graphic to the right has the elegant and pristine look of a purely abstract, empirically problematical formulation so common among social theorists. Nevertheless, it is derived from the muck of "reality" accessible over the Internet (a tiny fraction of which is presented in the panel to the right).
 (The graphic image is of the Lorenz attractor, borrowed from Wikipedia's article on Chaos Theory.)

The quote below is from Herbert L. Calhoun's amazon.com review critical of Clarke's, Social Theory.   I hope this effort meets one of Calhoun's objections--the poverty of instructive examples that ought to be drawn from the whole of contemporary U.S. society.

The author confesses that the multilayered nature of racism is so complex that theory requires ample examples in order to consolidate any sense of final understanding. Yet he does not live up to this promise. The piece is bereft of instructive examples. The few examples the author offers never quite rise to the level of providing solid explanations of the content of his theories. Many pregnant possibilities seem to have been overlooked and left out even though they begged for exhibition and illustration: The whole of contemporary U.S. society, post-Apartheid South Africa, and Brazil's so-called racial democracy, were just a few examples that would have been wonderful illustrations of the utility of the author's often heavy-handed theoretical machinery.
Topologies of the Two Party System
ly
                                 LEFT                        RIGHT  

    TOPOLOGY            depressive*                     paranoid-schizoid*       
    POLITICAL STYLE      progressive                      proto-Dorian
    COG MODE               formal + concrete            pre-operational + gestural
                                                                              + psuedo-concrete                              

*Simon Clarke,
Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism (Palgrave Macmillan,2003)


Robert M. Young, Mental Space (online book).  I have only glanced at this--it is January 22, 2012, when I came across it referred to in the review to the right--the day after the South Carolina Republican primary.  I must hurry!
What is a "semiotic regime"?


On this page certain elements are brought together:

Developmental Divergence (Cognitive Development in History)

Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense




1.  A system consisting of elements: media institutions (bds of dirs); advertisers; political links (campaign contributions); popular cultural formations.  This is fairly straightforward (see Thomas B. Edsall, Building Red America: the New Conservatiove Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power (Basic Books, 2006)


What makes it more interesting is the implications of the figure to the right

2.  a structured/topological space (rhetorical elements + generative structure) on the semiotic manifold of the public sphere

3.  associated with each topological subspace is an input-output matrix for a subset of institutions (KE in Progressivism)
Imus case
Fox News

3.  four cases (demo, rabids, bailout, tea party vs. Stewart-Colbert)


4. a developmental and performative approach to decoding the semiosphere


----

This is a frequent form of expression--the racist carricature--but the overt racism should not obscure the underlying dynamic process of projection of the repressed and displacement of rage, on the one hand, and the creation of a suitable object as the target of sadistic aggression on the other.  (see beatings, etc.)

What makes a target suitable is that it must be annointed by higher authorities--portions of the Catholic clergy during the middle ages, organizations like Fox News-Freedom Works today--signals are given, and a carnival of rage follows.

This can be seen in the etiology and phenomenology of the anti-Muslim hysteria whipped up by Fox News (below)

re obamacare above
The panel to the right is a pristine moment in the unfolding the two-party discursive field.  On the one side are references to issues; on the other, the demonization of anti-war demonstrators. The rage directed against the other is a principle axis--an eigenvector--of the right.  A large percentage of right-wing expressions are of this character. 

Thus, pro- and anti-war demonstators' signs provide two distinct topologies* on the semiotic manifold of the public sphere.  

Rabids vs. Thoughtfuls (below) also provides two distinct topologies on the semiotic manifold.  

By "topologies" I mean the following: take the set of all statements made in a well-defined bounded discursive space (the two-party space).  

First, the rhetorical elements form two disjoint sets.**

Second, there is a structure on each data set: a left structure and a right structure.  (These structures are over-determined.)  {each data set has both a psychoanalytic and a cognitive dimension}

These psychological-semiotic structures are provided by
Simon Clarke, Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).  The Clarke text is deployed as interpretive grid.  

The cognitive structures on the discursive manifold are provided in the next section (Cognitive Development: the Evolutionary Context).

Note that the psychological dimension of the Right has already been discussed as the culture of Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense.  (I have not yet dealt with the Left as discursive set on a semiotic manifold.)  Now I go one theoretical step further: the Mechanisms of Defense provide the structure on the set of all right-wing semiotic productions.  In Clarke's text, this is the paranoid-schizoid position (after Melanie Klein).

The psychological structure on the set of all left-wing semiotic productions is given by the depressive position (Melanie Klein again).

Note that the discursive manifold of the public sphere does not include elite discursive activity, such as the internal correspondence of the Keynesian elite.  (see Person to Cooke)

polarities: Enlightenment vs. Ressentiment; ancien regime vs. modernity and science
from CNN, 4:00 to 6:00 PM, 9-15-07: pro- and anti-war demonstrators' signs




 pro-war demo signs:          "Traitors Go to Hell!"
                                                  "Deport Anti-war Protesters!"
                                                  "Treason!"

 anti-war demo signs:          "End the War Now!"
                                                  "U.S. Out of Iraq!"
                                                  "Support the Troops!  End the War!"
The comments summarized in the table to the right were sent to the Connecticut Post at the end of August, 2006 in response to an awful story of mistaken revenge.  (Click on Rabids vs. Thoughfuls to see the comments.)

A man, active in right to life and similar efforts, living in a small home in a modest lower middle class section of Bridgeport, Connecticut, hears over the phone from his wife that their two year old daughter has just told her that she was molested by the next-door neighbor, whereupon the father grabbed a knife, exited through his kitchen window and across the narrow alley into the home of the guy next door and stabbed  him to death. 

At the time of the killing the story got extensive media coverage, and stimulated a wave of responses. 

Later it was determined that it was all a tragic mistake, and the killer was convicted of murder.

These responses have been organized into two categories--rabids and thoughtfuls.

These two sets of responses also provide two distinct topologies* on the semiotic manifold of the public sphere.
rabs

A third example of a well-defined bounded discursive space, this one from memory:

The Congressional debate on the auto industry bailout produced a similar disjoint bifurcation of a well-defined discursive space (Cong. Record trascript).  On the Left were references to the input-output matrix of auto production in the United States, and concerns about the systems impact of an autoxx industry collapse.  While poorly expressed (and never using the Chicago Fed's map of US parts plants: Delphi and Midwest Auto Parts), the Left's cognitive operations were focused on facts and concepts appropriate to a discussion of economic policy.

On the other hand, the Right confined iself to primarily moralistic arguments and accusations about rewarding the bad behavior of auto executives.  Of course the attacks on Detroit, as the iconic symbol of blacks and unions, were just one more performance of a r*c*st semiotic.  Absent from the set of of Right rhetorical elements were economic data and economic concepts--a striking omission in a debate on economic policy.  Instead it is the shibboleths of a provincial Protestantism that were repeatedly deployed.  

Indeed, GOP economic policy statements are nothing more than the shibboleths of a provincial Protestantism, and ought not be taken as real conceptualizations of things economic.  These statements are easily debunked by real economists (Zombie Economics, see Paul Krugman, Brad  de Long on the Ryan kill Medicare "plan" krugman).  However, by taking them seriously (that is what Krugman does when he addressed these statements as economic) the critics inadvertently lend credibiity to the pre-scientific cognitive performativity of the right.  The specific performative domain of today's rightwing politics is primarily preoperational and gestural.

There are psuedo-factual statements on the right: Jon Kyl says abortion services are “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does”  is an example.  But this is actually a demonic accusation cloaked in a factical expressive modality, what I call a psuedo-concrete-operational expressive modality.  Of course, one might say John Kyl simply lied . . .  but that would 1) be too simplistic,  and 2) miss the whole point of this kind of analysis, which focuses on the audience and the audience reaction to statements made by political actors.