from the new deal to donald trump
(see The New Deal and the Question of Capitalism)
What 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, fleeting in their time of promise (the Gutenberg parentheisis), and now brought low, brought ever lower, by forces and process that must be unstetood by means of genetic ontology.

•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.").

•Third, the assault on rational-bureaucratic institutions--i.e., an assault on the very idea of science-based professionalism and public service.

•Fourth, the triumph of nihilism (
Nietzsche).  Some call this neoliberal subjectivity; I sometimes call it the incredible shrinking self.  The Democratic Party, once the party of bildung, is now the party of nihilism.

Some Elementary Particles

"Thoughts without intuitions are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind."

"Philosophy always arrives too late . . . .  The Owl of Minerva takes flight only as the dusk begins to fall."

"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

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

Hitler is to Trump as tragedy is to farce.

A.  Donald Trump as Performative Complex*

The election of 2016 occured in the context of the situation indexed by Figure 1, and is inconceivable outside this context.  Many have commented on the cognitive performativity of the candidate and then the President, but don't take seriously the historicity, fragility, and reversibility of cognitive development as a cultural-historical phenomenon; and thus, the significance of Donald Trump.  Figure 2 is an effect of cultural-historical developmental processes, of which schooling itself is only one of several key inputs affecting the cognitive and cultural development of situated organisms (not Cartesian selves).  Cognitive development is not a normative, inevitable process (Wolf).  It is an effect of history and politics, as well as evolution, and can suffer reversal or collapse.  This indeed is what is happening, and on a colossal scale.

Thus, cognitive development is also not a solely ontogenetic process: the contextual and embedded character of mind; the social character of mind and agency; and the institutional and historical contexts of cognitive performativity must be borne in mind. (Jan Derry, Vygotsky, Philosophy, and Education, Wiley, 2013, pp. 17, 24)

Figure 1 suggests that a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity preceded and made possible the fascist-patrimonial victory of November 2016. 

Focusing on the person of the Chief Executive and his various performative moments obliterates the cultural-historical dimensions of history.  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.  To understand this, thinking must first emancipate itself from the Cartesian presuppositional matrix--the ontological presupposition of the Cartesian self and its associated rhetorical elements of consciousness, belief, motive, ideology and interest.  Failure to do so has the effect, a priori, of blocking conceptualization of questions of ontology, agency, intentionality, habitus, networks and contexts.  And thinking must approach the question of "ontology" as a question of genetic ontology (see below): the performative dimensions of ontology.
*from Dan T. Carter, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994 (Louisiana State U. Press, 1996), pp. 8-9.

  The depth of Wallace’s racism—the degree to which it was part of his core beliefs—was always unclear.  He sometimes manifested an air of apologetic cynicism; when forced to break away from informal gatherings because of a speaking engagement, he would often turn to his friends and ask to be excused with a sheepish grin anda half-embarassed explanation: “I got to give ‘em a little nigger talk.”
   Seymour Wolfbein, a Labor Department expert in the Kennedy administration, was convinced it was all an act. . . .  Wolfbein found Wallace fascinating and amusing, but hardly sinister, a kind of roguish political con man eager to let him in on the joke.
   When confronted with the question of whether Wallace was “sincere” in his racial views, a Montgomery attorney who knew the governor well said it best.  “If George had parachuted into the Albanian countryside in the spring of 1962,” reflected John Kohn, one of Wallace’s advisers in the 1960s, “he would have been head of the collective farm by harvesttime, a member of the Communist Party by midwinter, on his way to the district party meeting as a delegate by the following year, and a member of the Comintern in two or three years.”  George, said Kohn, “could beieve whatever he needed to believe.”

                    Figure 1.  PISA Math Scores, 2003 to 2015:
         21 Developed Nations & East Asian Cities and City-States

Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy (1982)

Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader.  (Politico, August 13, 1915.)

For presidential hopefuls, simpler language resonates: Trump tops GOP field while talking to voters at fourth-grade level, (Boston Globe, August 20, 2015).

McMaster Mocked Trump’s Intelligence At a Private Dinner (Buzzfeed, November 20, 2017)

H.R. McMaster reportedly thinks Trump is an “idiot” with the brain of a “kindergartner” (Vox, Nov 20, 2017)

Trump’s latest big interview is both funny and terrifying  (Vox, Oct 23, 2017)

Clubbable, but in the Worst Way (NYT 1-18-18) Fascism

The President Who Doesn't Read, The Atlantic, January 5, 2018

Ironically, it was the publication of a book this week that crystallized the reality of just how little Donald Trump reads. While, like many of the tendencies described in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Trump’s indifference to the printed word has been apparent for some time, the depth and implications of Trump’s strong preference for oral communication over the written word demand closer examination.  “He didn’t process information in any conventional sense,” Wolff writes. “He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate.”

Where Does Trump Get His Odd Ideas? (Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg Opinion, May 28, 2019)

The reporting is pretty clear: Trump doesn't read briefings, on politics or anything else. He doesn't appear to have absorbed the basics of public policy, whether on health care or national security or even issues, like trade, that he cares about. Instead, he seems to pick up fragments of information in conversation or, more often, from cable television. Often, it's partisan talking points, which isn't surprising since much of what airs on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC consists of partisan talking points.

from David R. Olsen, "History of Writing, History of Rationality," in Eurasia at the Dawn of History (Cambridge, 2016)

Quotes Ong: "Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does. . . .  More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness." (48)

David R. Olsen, The Mind on Paper: Reading, Consciousness, and Rationality (Cambridge, 2016)

to understand the cognitive implications of literacy it is also necessary to see writing not only as a tool for solving problems but rather as a generalized means or medium for repesentation and communication that give rise to those unique forms of human competence we in modern society define as intelligence and rationality.

the sliding scale:
the Sapient Paradox, the Gutenberg Parenthesis, the Flynn effect,
and the Wolf premonitions

from Juan Carlos Gomez, Apes, Monkees, Children and the Growth of Mind (Harvard University Press, 2004) (the Gomez hypothesis)

The possibility that, at a reduced scale, the mind of an ape can be upgraded by giving him, on the one hand, a regime of socally controlled attention and interactive experiences with humans, and on the other, a new, more explicit form of representing the world, would confer dramatic support to the Vygotskian notion that higher cognition can be created through cultural processes of develoment that change the nature of cognitive ontogeny. (pp. 262-3)

from Merlin Donald, "The mind considered from a historical perspective: human cognitive phylogenesis and the possibility of continuing cognitive evolution." In D. Johnson & C. Ermeling (Eds.) The Future of the Cognitive Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1997) pp.

"mimetic representations are evident in human children before they acquire language competence. . . .  They continue to be important in adults, taking the form of highly variable social customs, athletic skills, and group expressive patterns (such as mass demonstrations of aggression or rejection).(360-61)

from Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare:

 . . . modern culture contains within it a trace of each of our previous stages of cognitive evolution.  It still rests on the same old primate brain capacity for episodic or event knowledge.  But it has three additional, uniquely human layers: a mimetic layer, an oral-linguistic layer, and an external-symbolic layer.  The minds of individuals reflect these three ways of representing reality.  (p. 262)

from John Dupré, "Causality and Human Nature in the Social Sciences," in Processes of Life: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology (Oxford, 2012)

It is . . . clear that recognition of the variety of factors involved in development makes possible a diversity of individual outcomes within even quite narrowly defined populations. (285)

 . . . the human mind . . . involves a new level of capacity to transform the world beyond the organism. (291)

If I simply act in pursuit of whatever passing whim is uppermost at the moment I exhibit no more causal power than any other animal.  If I choose to build a bridge, write a book, or cook dinner, and subordinate my choice of actions to this decision, I exercise to a greater or lesser degree a distinctively human ability to shape the world.  In the social realm, the ability to confrom to principle, above all moral principle, is the kind of regimentation of behaviour that constitutes a uniquely human achievement. (291)

 . . . it is the fitting of action into some kind of systematic pattern that distinguishes the truly free agent from one who merely has the ability to respond to the whim of the moment; and . . .  [what emerges is] the ontological picture of the human agent as an entity enabled to pursue complex goals or engage in patterns of action over time by the acquisition of a uniquely rich range of capabilities. (293)

I wish to emphasize particularly the ability of cultural evolution to transform the developmental niche.  And here, at least in contemporary developed countries, it seems clear that humans have learned in quite recent times to construct a remarkably novel environment for the development of their young. . . .  [T]hese prodigious changes to the human environment, concretizations of our rapidly evolving culture, profoundly affect the developmental resources available to growing humans.  For that reason their introduction should be seen as representing major evolutionary change. (284)

from Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and Antonio R. Damasio, “We Feel, Therefore We Learn: The Relevance of Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education,” in Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)

 . . . learning is dynamic, social, and context dependent because emotions are, and emotions form a critical piece of how, what, when, and why people think, remember, and learn.    Intro, p. 17

In general, cognition and emotion are regarded as two interrelated aspects of human functioning.   p. 36 

two commentaries on Victor Nell, "Cruelty’s rewards: The gratifications of perpetrators and spectators," Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2006) 29, 211–257

from Mika Haritos-Fatouros, “Cruelty: A dispositional or a situational behavior in man?” Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2006) 29, p.230

The basic question remains, however: How far are aggression, violence, and cruelty in humans today the result of predisposition factors, or biological or archetypal processes, and how far are they the result of cognitive/emotional processes evoked by situational factors?

from Albert Bandura, “A murky portrait of human cruelty,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2006) 29, p. 225

At the macrosocial level, Nell greatly exaggerates the prevalence of human cruelty.  There exist wide intercultural differences representing both warring and pacific socities with large intracultural variations and even rapid transformation of warring societies into peaceful ones.  

U.S. Political Economy by Sector, 1910 to 1939
input-output matrices: capital formations and the two-party system

"The Origins of the "Welfare State": The Keynesian Elite and the Second New Deal, 1910-1936" (manuscript, 1987)

Liberal Businessmen, 1936-1939 (Nat. Arch., Dept of Agriculture, RG 16, Ezekiel File)

The Keynesian Elite in the New Deal state
Source: "Membership List, May 1927," in the Morris L. Cooke Papers, box 66,
FDR Library; and United States Government Manual 1937
for more info on Fig.2 click on Keynesian Elite: Career Matrix
also: the Papers of John M. Carmody
Joanna Bockman. Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism (Stanford University Press, 2011): three reviews

Carmody (add NLRB Detroit office, others found in docs)

 . . .   semiotic regimes
Bildungsproletarians and Plebeian Upstarts, 1933-1943
Detroit and the lower great lakes
the UAW and the Cleveland connection
The Cleveland Trust Corporation: Org Chart and Political Connections

C.  Bildungsproletarians and Plebeian Upstarts, 1933-1943
Detroit and the lower great lakes

UAW Locations in the Upper Midwest as a whole
UAW Locations the eastside: some elements of an extended mind
UAW Locations in

some elements of an extended mind

It all began in late 1936--the breaking of Progressivism as a nationalizing force.  The beginning of the modern reactionary drive that culminated in Trump is found here, and the best place to see its deveopment close-up is from the shopfloors and neighborhoods of the lower great lakes

Geisteswissenschaft: see Frederick C. Beiser, The German Historicist Tradition (Oxford, 2011), pp. 325-331

Simon Jarvis, Wordsworth's Philosophical Song (Cambridge, 2007): Beyond the transcript

Robert K. Logan, The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind, and Culture (U. of Toronto Press, 2007)

Alan Brinkley, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War
(Knopf, 1995)|

James T. Patterson, Congressional Conservatism and the New Deal (U. of Kentucky Pr, 1967)

UAW-extended mind-LIST

Bildungsproletarians and Plebeian Upstarts, 1933-1943
Detroit and the lower great lakes

2000 U.S. population density in persons per sq. mile (contiguous U.S. only). Averaged on a per-county basis.

Legend, light to dark (white to dark blue):

0-1 (mint green)
1-4 (pink)
5-9 (blue-green)
10-24 (orange)
25-49 (teal)
50-99 (lime green)
100-249 (violet)
250-66,995 (dark blue)

Delphi and Midwest Auto Parts
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
, October 20, 2005
D.  the "Two-Party System:"
Semiotic Regimes
and Genetic Ontologies


Political style
Cognitive mode
     concrete & pre-op
    pre-op and gestural
Regime type

Here are the sources for this conceptualization of the Two-Party System: Semiotic Regimes:

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

Alain Ehrenberg, The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2009)

Eli Zarestsky, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (Vintage, 2005)

Darrin M. McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightement: the French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001)

*Note on use of the term "Left."

Progressivism and Liberalism are opposites, not twins.  The genetic ontology of Progressivism is Bildung and the Will to Power;
The genetic ontology
of Liberalism is Nihilism.  Today liberalism is referred as the left, covering over the genetic-ontological transformation of the post-war years (see Hall et. al.)  The New Deal is not represented in the above figure and table, The Two-Party System: Semiotic Regimes.

Second largest participating religious group



the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain
the Southern strategy, circa 1968
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."

semiotic regimes
Three paragraphs from Robert O. Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004):

¶ 1.  Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by 1) obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and 2) by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which 3) a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, 4) working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, 5) abandons democratic liberties and 6) pursues with redemptive violence and 7) without ethical or legal restraints 8) goals of internal cleansing and 9) external expansion.  p. 218

¶ 2.   The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism.  p. 84

¶ 3.  Today [2004] a "politics of ressentment" rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same "internal enemies" once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights. . . .  The languge and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models.  They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans, as Orwell suggested. . . . No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses.  No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance [one minute and 45 seconds into this video].  These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.  p.  202