the "Two-Party System": Semiotic Regimes
The original impetus for this kind of analysis emerged from a reading of the comments published in the Connecticut Post of August 31, 2006 re. the Jonathon Edington murder case.  (See below) I noticed the deep similarities between these sets of comments and the pro- and anti-war demonstrators' signs in a CNN newscast, 4:00 to 6:00 PM, 9-15-07.

Figures 1 and 2 are what resulted from this line of thought.

Note the distinction between the topology (where there is a structure on a set of elements) and the topography (which is simply descriptive) of the two-party system.

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. 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 psychoanalytic framework is the basis for

The GOP as the Stupid Party: an Inadequate Conceptualization

Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense: the Current American Scene

Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense: from the First Crusade to the Limbaugh Tirade

Without this framework it is impossible to understand the rhetorical performances of right-wing political actors--and the responses of their right-wing audiences.

The cognitive-semiotic structures are provided by standard developmental theory (page, bibliography).  Pre-operational and gestural cognitive modalities dominate the right rhetorical set.  More abstract (formal operational) and factual (concrete operational) dominate on the left.




from Levi R. Bryant, Difference and Givenness: Deleuze's Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence (Northwestern University Press, 2008) 

A style or essence is what we might refer to as an identity of difference, or an identity produced through difference.  It is not a type or a kind, but rather a rule of production, a genetic factor.  It is an identity that maintains itself through topological variations.  It is for this reason that we speak of morphological essences or diagrams of becoming.  68

Although Deleuze himelf never makes reference to the notion of topological essences, the theme can be seen to run throughout his work. . . . Insofar as a topological identity is produced between the variations a structure can undergo, Deleuze is also able to maintain the being of concrete universals which are no longer opposed to particulars. 70-71



from Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, p. 55

But as semiotics it remains of incalculable value: it reveals, to the informed man at least, the most precious realities of cultures and inner worlds which did no know enough to ‘understand’ themselves.  Morality is merely sign-language, merely symptomatology."
Figure 1. Topography of the Two-party system

           Bourgeois (1):  CNN/MSNBC            Bourgeois (2): Universities/NPR                             (modern corporation)                    (human capital, cultural capital)   
       Concrete Operational (and preop.)      Formal Operational (and concrete op)
field
        Preoperational (and gestural)                     
                                                       Ressentiment: Fox News (rentier sectors;  
                                                     provincial capitals;
racist political ecologies)
Figure 2. Topologies of the Two-party System
ly
                                             LEFT                                        RIGHT  

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

*Simon Clarke, Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
The pro- and anti-war demonstrators' signs and the table rabids vs. thoughtfuls are moments in the unfolding the two-party discursive field.  In the competing demonstrations the pro-war signs involved demonization, rage, and expulsion/purification; the ati-war signs involved issue statements.. 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 also provides two distinct topologies on the semiotic manifold. 

From these two cases (the demonstation signs and the comments sent to the Conn. Post) it was evident that there was . . .

 . . . . a rule of production, a genetic factor . . . an identity that maintains itself through topological variations. (Deleuze-Bryant)

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.  (See chapter 8, "Melanie Klein, Racism and Psychoanalysis," and chapter 9, "Projection, Projective Identification and Racism.")

The cognitive-semiotic structures are provided by standard developmental theory.  Pre-operational and gestural cognitive modalities dominate the right rhetorical set.  More abstract (formal operational) and factual (concrete operational) dominate on the left.

The cognitive structures on the discursive manifold are provided in Developmental Divergence: Cognitive Development in History.

Note that the psychological dimension of the Right is discussed in CITED ABOVE
  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): rage seeking a target; exclusion; centration.

The psychological structure on the set of all left-wing semiotic productions is given by the depressive position (Melanie Klein again): concern for others; inclusion; capacity for abstraction.

Postscript: this only begins to scratch the surface of political semiotics.  The whole problem of nihilism hangs over the performances of the liberal media.  The emphasis on "rights" coupled with the trope of victimhood requires much further thought.
1.  pro- and anti-war demonstrators' signs

from CNN newscast, 4:00 to 6:00 PM, 9-15-07: pro- and anti-war demonstrators' signs (applying the concept of cognitive regime):

                                                                                                                                       
           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!"                         
                                                                                                                                     

2.  rabids vs. thoughtfuls

Analysis of comments sent to Connecticut Post, August 31, 2006 re. Jonathon Edington murder case (article no longer accessible)

rabs
Why Klein?  In relation to the two-party discursive field, Klein's concepts work: they provide a map of the territory (Clarke).  Second answer: sadism and greed most explicitly dealt with by Kleinians (Ninivaggi).  But Kleinians outside mainstream?  Must recap history of psychoanalysis (See Mitchell  and Black, Freud and Beyond: A History of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought): Freud (drive theory); Hartmann (ego theory); Klein et. al. (object relations theory); Kohut et. al. (self theory). 

The upshot?  Freud's drive theory and Klein's dark vision help us understand fascism in all its forms (including the Tea Party) as well as the kind of stupendous greed exemplified by Wall Street, but are of little use in understanding the antithesis of fascism/ressentiment: Progressivism--bolshevism and the New Deal, the UAW--as a psychological and cultural phenomenon.  Alcorn, Narcissism and the Literary Libido: Rhetoric, Text, and Subjectivity is essential reading.  Also my UAW interviews and documents in Reuther Archives.

Back to Semiotic Regimes: Two sets of simple, even simple-minded, rhetorical maneuvers or elements.  On the Right what one sees is a few floating signifiers that provide the theatrical framework for, and legitimation of, the expression of rage against the other.  This is developed in  detail in {the Stupid Party and Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense.}  The basic defense mechanisms of projection and displacement are the real content of the right wing political performativity of exclusion (racism, etc.).  These defense mechanisms cloth themselves in "traditional values." ("the 'sacred institutions' of the family, relgion and property."  See also Carter, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich.)  One need only watch the news to see this all play out.  Watching the News: Eternal Recurrence as Dasein-revolutionary practice.

On the Left the psychological elements are fundamentally different.  In Kleinian terms, reparations as the psychological mechanism of inclusion, the other presented not as demon but as victim, and enlightenment values present albeit in diluted, even enfeebled form, but still evident.  The difference between the liberal-left semiotic field and the revolutionary-left is Bildung and the Will to Power.  I.e., liberal vs. revolutionary individualismindividuation.   The latter involves dialetic of individuation-collective project.

From the standpoint of cognitive performativity, the Right is far more primitive than the Left.  Nevertheless, it must be noted 1. that the Left/Liberal rhetorical-cognitive performances rarely rise to the formal operational level; and 2. the Nihilism of the left semiotic field (see Hall)

But keep in mind the hegemonic role of elites*** in controlling the production of discourse, even if the raw materials that they manipulate are ontologically prior. These raw materials are the deep structures of history--the quantum heterogeneity of Dasein. Two of these ontologies are seen in action at the right.  Note that the thoughtfuls' comments are more sophisticated than those found in the left semiotic field: these comments are more abstract, more formal operational, than those routinely seen in the left semiotic field.  Formal operational thought in politics is found in the elite discursive fields of Progressivism: Brandeis, the Taylor Society, the CP-Socialist vanguard of the UAW.

What is not directly seen is the media manipulation that shaped this praxis (and the financial and other institutions that use their media).  At the street level all one sees is the theatrical expression of ressentiment and the as yet unnamed ontology.  (See the four fundamental ontologies.)

Figure 2, Topologies of the Two-Party System,  is the result of applying key texts of psychoanalysis (as summarized by Clarke, Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism), developmental psychology (Piaget, Vygotsky, Bronfenbrenner, Ceci et. al.), history (Cash's concept of the proto-Dorian convention, Carter + Lowndes) to the mass of images, statements and performances available over the internet.  Figure 2 refers only to the "masses," a term that I will now define as the set of all humans who are the objects of elite manipulation.  This use of the term "masses" may offend some.  One could also refer to the same set of humans as P: the "people." as the union {} of all audiences that are the objects of elite manipulation:  P ={Ai} This obviously does not include all humans, even in media-saturated America.  One may go further and distinguish the {Ai} in terms of the degree of media penetration into their habitus as well as the semiotic nature of that habitus.

from Werner Stark,  Sociology of Religion: A Study of Christendom (Fordham University Press, 1966-72) vol. 1, p. 188

As democratic convictions became settled . . . 'the people' emerged increasingly as the true sovereign, and the conception gained ground that 'the people' is sane and sound, and its voice, at least to some extent, is sacred.

This now requires a look at "elites" in their dialectical relationships to various subsets of P.



Selectted Comments to Conn Post re. alleged child molestation
(Click on Rabids vs. Thoughfuls to see all comments.)


Rabid (n=3/10)


1.  Put me down for 100.00$ for this guys defence. He was kind. In Texas they would have never found the body. I tored of all the nambepambe judges letting these monster room free.  .  .  .

2.  This father is hero. Hopefully, those of us who feel the same will continue to lobby the law makers to pass laws making any indecent contact with a child AND dealing in any way with kiddie-porn, a felony, carrying HEAVY jail sentences. The fact that this dad is an attorney and knows the watered-down, perp-favored laws, says volumes. He meted out justice, swiftly and fairly. God bless you, Mr. Edington!

3.  About time someone takes the law in their own hands

Thoughtful (n=3/8)

1.  I heard the child was 2. Most 2 yearolds barely talk and most not capable of making up a story. How did the child tell the mother about this incident?

2.  So many are making comments without knowing the facts. What really did happen?? Think about both families and how they are both feeling. In the USA we are supposed be to innocent until proven guilty. And does being convicted of driving under the influence make this an automatic assumption of guilt. Learn the facts before you judge............

3.  I find it extremely disturbing that a man can be tried, convicted and executed without one shred of evidence, in the court of public madness and extremism.  Has our paranoia become so intesified that we are reasy to commit cold blooded murder merely on speculation and rumor?  The article stated: MacNamara said James did not have a criminal record and was not under "any investigation alleging inappropriate activity regarding children."  On May 1, 2001, James pleaded guilty in Superior Court to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and was sentenced to six months, suspended after two days, followed by 18 months probation. He was also fined $500. If people think the above charges warrant the death penalty by stabbing, then the real danger to society are the majority of the posters here.


The comments summarized in the table were sent to the Connecticut Post at the end of August, 2006 in response to an awful story of mistaken revenge.    These comments are no longer available online.)

from Jonathon Edington, wikipedia

Jonathon Edington (born October 29, 1976[1]) is a Fairfield, Connecticut, United States, patent lawyer who achieved national notoriety when, on August 28, 2006, he murdered his neighbor, Barry James, after being told that James had molested Edington's two-year-old daughter. There has been no evidence found that Barry James molested Edington's daughter or anyone else.[2] On August 30 Edington was released on $1 million bond. It was widely expected that Edington would attempt to mount a psychiatric defense at his murder trial,[3] however Edington instead pled guilty to the crime and was sentenced to 12 years in prison on August 31, 2007.[4]

The story  generated a large amount of press coverage in the United States and overseas.

The responses to the Connecticut Post story 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.


Elites (functional, role)

Political discourse occurs at five levels.  First, at the level of strategic elites--commodities in int'l trade, securities bloc, Keynesian elite (see Person to Cooke; think tanks).  see KE in New Deal State

Second, higher order national interest groups (e.g., Titan Tire et. al.).  These might be thought of as implicitly strategic: Titan Tire is bound to the strategy of national infrastructure development

Third: U.S. Chamber of Commerce: this is truly an interest group: it is the average mid-sized manufacturer writ large, rather than a synthesis at a higher level of a  strategic perspective (i.e., cotton industry 1933 (thus, Times article on corp contributer to tea party regrets

Fourth, at the level of economically defined lower-order (non-elite) interest groups (local Chambers of Commerce, wealthy taxpayers, union members). [Mayberry Machiavellis], Miles; Iowa camapain contributions

Fifth, at the theatrical level of mass politics the theater of ressentiment that politics provides, wherein the manipulation of the inner logic of the paranoid schizoid and depressive positions governs the rhetorical productions of political actors.  This page and Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense are concerned only with the theatrical (mass) dimension of political discourse. 

ADD: primordial elites
 
US Capitalism

I.   the revolutionary period (to the Civil War and the end of Reconstruction

II.  the classical period (modern business formations: see KE in New Deal State

III. postmodern/neopatrimonial (regression to the primate under hegemony of capital) period Hedge funds, roving billionaires

Elites in the Mobilizationof Ressentiment 




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