|from the new deal to donald trump
We are now engulfed in is the implosion of neo-liberal "society." The term "society" is bracketed because, in the conventional use of the term, an ontological stability is implied, whereas in reality this society is in the process of blowing its brains out, and that along four axes of ontological catastrophe:
•First, the disintegration of the cognitive performativities of modernity itself: the "human" side of "capital." (decognification, disindividuation; Trump's rhetorical performances seen from the standpoint of literacy and cognition as contingent not normative cultural-historical developments. Luria, Ong, et. al.
•Second, the explosion of fascist performativities within the orbit of the GOP (Robert O. Paxton, Anatomy of Fascism: "The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism."). Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment. This is the inner logic of GOP rhetorical performativity--its sado-sexual performtivity. The paranoid-schizoid position (Klein). Fascism and racism: how much overlap is there between these two fields of what it is?
•Third, the assault on rational-bureaucratic institutions--i.e., an assault on the very idea of science-based professionalism and public service. Max Weber's concept of patrimonialism.
•Fourth, the triumph of nihilism (Nietzsche). Neoliberal subjectivity; the incredible shrinking self. The depressive position (Klein). Repressive desublimation (Marcuse). The Democratic Party's transformation (DLC, Cliinton Foundation (Domhoff).
(see The New Deal and the Question of Capitalism)
***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, 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 and 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).
Language on the threshold of gesture and reflex. Regression to infantile narcissism (see Criminal Identities ) via processes of identification, to a politics of patrimonialism.
Trump is the apotheosis of the GOP's core performativities. In thhis sense there is nothing new. But what is new with the Trump campaign--and decisively so--is that a NON-charismatic demagogue has literally hijacked the base of the Republican Party. The genetic ontology of ressentiment produces a subject. But that subject--the Trump enthusiasts one sees at rallies and in interviews and focus groups--has been embedded in the cultural-historical field of white supremacy (see The Imus Brouhaha and that which is called "Racism"). The containment of white rage has depended on two things. First, an economy of white affirmative action guaranteeing great masses of "white" folk sole access to those sectors of employment embedded in local government (police, fire, govt administration, utilities, transportation, building services, construction, and even manufacturing). And second, a semioitic regime of ego-reinforcing symbols (positive and negative identifications). When you add the election of Barak Obama to the economic consequences of the regime of neoliberal globalization (which includes declining wages as well as job losses) you add insult to injury, and one gets a psycho-cultural crackup of world-historic proportions. This is what Trump exploits.
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 was the stock-in-trade of
Republican politicians, who tapped into and gave expression to " . . .
a whole tremulous realm of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible
and insatiable . . . " (Nietzsche, Geneology of Morals, III. 14)
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 redemptive 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 of a particular cultural-historical configuration (ressentiment). Hence the concept of semioitic regime.
*Oxford English Dictionary online, s.v. "Sadism"
is a touchy subject. Margarita Azmitia's review of Cole's
Cultural Psychology: The Once and Future Discipline, is indicative of
this. Her critical remark--there is no discussion of cultural
factors such as race, gender, or ethnicity, etc.--reflects this
"sensitivity", which itself is one of the more subtle effects of
racism. In fact, one of the striking things about modern American
discourses on "race" and intelligence is its failure to scrutinize the
extreme variations in "white" cognitive performativity.
Notwithstanding liberal snickering at the bizarre cognitive
performances of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign, its
character and significance remain untouched as subjects of
discussion. The great failure of liberal discussions of Palin et.
al. on the campaign trail is that liberals fail to ask the obvious
questions about the nature of her audiences. Yet when taken as an
organic whole--performer plus audience--the question of the
intelligence of the audience is necessarily raised.
And now, at what level of semiosis was the following expression of pro-war sentiment in response to the critique of the Iraq war based on the failure to find WMDs? "I support the troops" and "I support the President." At that time I was reading Donald's Mind, and so my puzzlement at the lack of cognitive content in these responses could be resolved by deploying Donald's theoretical framework. These phrases were gestures that were merely clothed in language--in the simplest form of languge possible in modern society.
The historical development of language and cognition in humans, if we take Donald et. al. seriously, produces a sitution in which archaic as well as modern cognitive modalities can coexist not only in the same person, but can also be unevenly distributed in the multitude of performative domains that constitute modern society.
Consider: the poltics of ressentiment seems to be rooted heavily in gestural semiosis with language of rage largely epithetical and used in a gestural context.
instead of a cognitively homogeneous citizenry, there is developmental
divergence (Nisbett, Calvin) producing fundamental differences in
cognitive functioning among different historically and sociologially
defined subgroups of the population. These subgroups can be
defined by the nature of their cognitive-linguistic practice, including
inventories of basic expressions and rhetorical maneuvers, such as are
seen in the Youtube videos of the Palin and McCain rallies, Tea Party
protests, and the mass of political ads produced for TV, as well as
videos of newscasts and talk show interviews.
When we add Stephen Ceci's observation ". . . that there exists a more restless relationship between intelligence and context, in which thinking changes both its nature and its course as one moves from one situation to another . . . " we possess some of the prerequisites necessary to understand the relationship between Donald Trump's performances, the crowd reactions, the history of the Republican Party, and role of media in the performance of the psychological processes of projection nd identification that are the essence of mass politics. Intelligence as contextualized performance? Let us continue.
Stephen J. Ceci, On Intelligence: A Bioecological Treatise on Intellectual Development, expanded edition (Harvard University Press, 1996), xiv
now, the activity of provincial, archaic and traditional elites (Mayer,
Persistence of the Old Regime), together with newer firms in the west
and south and newly emergent crony capitalist formations (Enron, World
Com), and a whole new set of predatory financial institutions played a
critical role in the politicization of ressentiment. (NYT Ch. of
The activity of these old and new elites, in aiding and abetting the construction of the political structures of mass mobilization (Town Hall meetings), is decisive in determining the political effectiveness of anti-modern right wing movements, which otherwise might languish in a populist stew of ineffectual rage. (Dallas 1963, Red Scare; Moore, The War on Heresy) But they do not call into existence these ontologies of ressentiment, of the right, of anti-modernism. They merely utilize and shape them. (See Right-wing Elites in the Postwar era.)
However, this utilization and shaping was mediated by the locally-based GOP organizational apparatus, which itself was embedded in the provincial cultures of town and county. (Michael W. Miles, The Odyssey of the American Right, 1980; The Kansas Experiment, New York Times August 5, 2015).) This laid the groundwork for the radical shift to the right--e.g., the debt-ceiling crisis, in which a loathsome babbittry of ambitious opportunists seized hold of the Atwater-Lacan signifying chain and intensified its sado-sexual character in a successful process of self-advancement in which the noun primary became the verb to be primaried. This prepared the ground for the next stage of this process of the mobilization of ressentiment: the takeover of the so-called base (the herd animal of the right) by a political outsider who in fact was and is perfectly suited to the task he accomplished. Donald Trump seized the herd and led it in a rampage over the political landscape. In so doing he and his relationship to his herd (which once belonged to the GOP "establishment") embody a new reality now being investigated by scholars: the patrimonialism of highly developed post-modern societies (see links at the right.)
The herd, psuedo-speciation, The ontologically indeterminate nature of homo sapiens as cultural-historical primate, the historicity and enormously complex variability of really existing humans, all of which unfolds in the post-biological era (Dupre; Nietzsche); or, the Quantum Heterogeneity of Dasein.
"The fundamental historicity of Being" (Zizek, Less Than Nothing, p. 108): pseudo-speciation
|These sado-sexual fixations that
are the essense of right-wing signifying chains may dress themselves up
as issues (such as abortion or Obamacare), as if they were subject to
rational debate and beholden to empirical checks. But they are
clearly not, and one of the indications of the intellectual bankruptcy
of liberal and progressive discourse is that it is fundamentally
incapable of grasping this elemental fact.
Figure 1, PISA Math Scores, 2003 - 2012: 25 Nations, should be studied carefully, referred to frequently, borne in mind constantly. For more on Figure 1 see the PISA Results: Evolutionary, Historical, Developmental, and Psychological Perspectives. This figure is pregnant with all sorts of meanings, prospective as well as retrospective. The development of our cognizing powers, and the subversion of that development. In the context of Fig. 1, an interesting New York Times article: Reforms to Ease Students’ Stress Divide a New Jersey School District (12--25-15).
sexual insymbolic contet--sado-sexual. This may be obvious in the anti-abortion, anti-obama care videos (proctologist and gynecologitst, in the content of the demonic (public discourse of the liberal variety refers to demonization but does not explore the cotntent of the demonic ur-content). The term super-predator, use of which got bill clinton into trouble in early April, while refering only to violence, evokes the whole tangled mas of sexual content and pirmal fears at the core of audeince repsones to right wing demagogues.
Here is Nietzshce's eternal rutrn in all it slgory!
|The Kennedy Assassination and Dark Politics
In mid thirties in michigan an expose of the black legion in local politics
But what is new with the Trump campaign--and decisively so--is that a charismatic demagogue has literally hijacked the base of the Republican Party. The genetic ontology of ressentiment produces a subject. But that subject--the Trump enthusiasts one sees at rallies and in interviews and focus groups--has been embedded in the cultural-historical field of white supremacy (see The Imus Brouhaha and that which is called "Racism"). The containment of white rage has depended on two things. First, an economy of white affirmative action guaranteeing great masses of "white" folk sole access to those sectors of employment embedded in local government (police, fire, govt administration, utilities, transportation, building services, construction, and even manufacturing). And second, a semioitic regime of ego-reinforcing symbols (positive and negative identifications). When you add the election of Barak Obama to the economic consequences of the regime of neoliberal globalization (which includes declining wages as well as job losses) you add insult to injury, and one gets a psycho-cultural crackup of world-historic proportions. This is what Trump exploits.
Blumenthal on Nixon riots
search terms: "hard hat riot may 1970 new york" War Foes Here Attacked by Construction Workers (NYT 5-9-70)
demands a radical reconceptualization of that which is evoked and
simultaneously suppressed by the use of the term human nature, and a
reconnaissance of the territory simultaneously evoked and suppressed by
use of the term racism. The problematics raised by deployment of
these two terms--racism and human nature--are intertwined.
Figure 3 provides the theoretical fields that turn the merely empirical into a plane of immanence. What is required is a deeper understanding of the relationship between Donald Trump's performances, the crowd reactions, the history of the Republican Party, and the role of media in the performance of the psychological processes of projection and identification that are the essence of mass politics. Figure 3 is an attempt at one kind of ontology: an ontology of the subject. But this subject is not the "individual." The latter is an ideological fiction (Cartesian and bourgeois-Christian). The subject is an effect of a multiplicity of forces converging on an organism; an effect of history, culture, and language. (see Foucault/Trombadori; Roth)
The genetic ontology that is the core of the "Trump" phenomenon is ressentiment and the mechanisms of defense.
|Kurz's last words, at the end of
Heart of Darkness, are "the horror, the horror." That horror is
with us today in spades. for the Trump performances tap into and give
expression to the heart of darkness that is itself both a product of
civilization and something, perhaps more deeply rooted, that is
amplified by civilization (Melanie Klein*), worked up sometimes into a
frenzy of rage and other-direct hate. 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 deeply intelligible when viewed through the prism
of certain key concepts: Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment;
psychoanalysis's concept of the mechanisms of defense (and Nietzsche's
concept of eternal recurrence*); Wilbur Cash's concept of the
proto-Dorian convention; the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain; and Robert
Paxton's concept of transcendental violence. And the whole
mess can be brought under the sign of Joseph Conrad's Heart of
On the far right there are not issues, but postures, gestures, various encodings of the same sado-sexual reflex. Rage and pornography (Ted Cruz's bathroom attack ad against Trump). Sex and violence in various covert as well as overt forms make up the entirety of the rhetorical field of populist Republicanism. Lee Atwater has provided us with the pragmatics for the production of this Republican rhetoric; Jacques Lacan its concept. Christopher Browning (Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland) and Jan T. Gross (Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland) have provided us with descriptions of what can be achieved when this deep and unquenchable rage is turned into action by political leaders.
This heart of darkness is Nietzsche's description of the politics of ressentiment:
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 Geneology of Morals, II, 14)
election result was decades in the making. On the one hand, a variety
of fascist and ultra-nationalist currents worldwide found fertile soil
in the displaced and discarded "white" populations that were the
enormous if unintended by-product of post-industrial capitalism's truly
explosive development. On the other hand, the party of Franklin D.
Roosevelt, which in its heyday (1935-1947) understood and attempted to
deal with this underlying dynamic of human capital liquidation and the
need for a global trading regime that was subservient to the objective
of national development--this party, over a period of decades, ceased
The remnants of that party of FDR (Bernie, Sherood Brown) were eliminated by the Clinton revolution--the taking over of the Democratic Party by the forces arrayed around the Democratic Leadership Council. In place of the social democratic orientation of yesteryear,and more, general systems orientation
we got globalization uber alles. In place of an appeal to working class needs and recognition of the life experience of working people, we got, in this election, an appeal to college-educated women, a variety of life-style groups, and minorities. Democratic surrogates and media talking heads actually showed contempt for those stupid white people who lived, for example, in my state of Michigan.
Now those chickens have come home to roost. I saw this coming. Michael Moore saw this coming. Polls presuppose a certain underlying existential stability. The polls were wrong because the ground had shifted (and the cartesian trap exposed).
But also consider the role played by the Democratic Party in producing this electoral result: In place of an appeal to working class needs and recognition of the life experience of working people, we got, in this election, an appeal to college-educated women, a variety of life-style groups, and minorities. Democratic surrogates and media talking heads actually showed contempt for those stupid white people who lived, for example, in my state of Michigan.
Racism is real but also mutable, a psychological resource exploited by right-wing politicians but dependent on context: globalization, and the failure of the Democrats to address this existential threat to my rust belt neighbors.
The four axes of ontological catastrophe can be placed in historical contexts. Instead of the great dream of the Enlightenment that was the core sensibility of Progressivism (the New Deal), Socialism (Scandanavian Social Democracy), and Communism, we have:
a. the wreckage not only of socialism but more broadly of Progressivism, of the entire cultural-historical self-formative project (Bildung) that grew out of the Enlightenment and gave us the Russian revolution, Scandinavian Social Democracy, and the American New Deal. Bildunsproletarians and plebeian upstarts
b. the persistence of the political culture, psychological dispositions and praxiological modalities of ressentiment (the inner life of racism and fascism)
c. the triumph of nihilism as the socio-cultural engineering project of global corporate networks of unimaginable reach and power, generating an entropic process of disindividuation. Mass consumption as a mode of absorption and transformation of the organism. The fiction of freedom, the subversion of individuation, the inner logic of addiction, the commodification of distress, the infantilization of public discourse . . . in short, the dissipation of the species homo sapiens sapiens into a proliferation of effects. DSM-V as the operating manual of the post-human ontology. The incredible shrinking self. This is the new Democratic party whose rhetorical vector is liberal not progressive