American Exceptionalism
(a page in the present as history)

Data from the
DailyKos, "Birthers are mostly Republican

and Southern," by kos, Fri Jul 31, 2009

The Research 2000 findings were pulled together from a survey of 2,400 adults.

Poll question: Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?

Choices: Yes   No   Not sure

No + Not Sure = variable graphed

Invisible University -- 2011
Decoding the Semiosphere:

1.  The Psychometric Data

2.  Rhetoric and Policy of educational reform

3.  Culture: Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense

4.  Cognitive development/cognitive regime

5.  The Question of Agency

6.  The Evolutionary Context

1.  Decoding the Semiosphere: Psychometric

Figure 1 is based on PISA math scores from 2000 to 2009.  I have used NCES data to estimate the United States (New England) and United States (South) PISA scores.  Note that data for Shanghai was available only for 2009.  I entered the 2009 score in 2000 to 2006 for heuristic reasons (and to get my software to produce a usable result).

Any discussion of education must start with the data, on the one hand, and the various PISA reports, on the other.  The Program for International Student Assessment of the OECD is the gold standard of international educational evaluation.  

PISA 2009 Results

 Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing, OECD (2011)

Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators   By Sam Dillon, New York Times,  December 7, 2010

What the U.S. Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Education Reform Efforts, McGraw-Hill Research Foundation.  Policy Paper: Lessons from PISA 

The bottom red line is the deep South of the United States.  This is the Trump zone--the socio-cognitive domain that forms the basis for the discourses of demonization and anti-modernism that have come to dominate the public sphere.

New England is on a par with the OECD average, well below the high-performing nations of Japan, Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Korea.  These latter in turn are even further below Shanghai China.

The current convergence, in the United States, of economic decline, attacks on teachers and on the public sector as a whole, and the evangelical crusade against science, might be reasonably expected to deepen this inter- and intra-national developmental divergence. Cognitive decline--the decay of structure and discipline in cognitive performativity, the collapse of linguistic structures in public discourse (I refer here mainly to media performances)--may already be underway.  (more on this later.)

continued below
Figure 1.  American Exceptionalism: PISA Math Scores, 2000 - 2009:
19 Nations + U.S. New England + U.S. South + OECD average pisas
the trump zone

Until recently it was assumed that somehow cognitive development would keep pace with scientific, technological, and organizational change.  Increased demand from employers and institutions could somehow take for granted that the modern minds neccesary for modern work would be produced by modern society.       

Not so, Figure 1 suggests.  Far from being a natural and inevitable development, higher-order cognitive performativities are products of civilization and public policy, of cultural and social evolution, and of individual socialization.   Not only are such performativities not inevitable in their development, they are downright fragile.  This is because cognitive development is a subjective, conflict-laden process.  Outcomes are sensitive to a whole range of conditions of which socioeconomic variables, while important, miss much that is critical in the shaping, obstructing, and perverting of cognitive development among modern humans in postindustrial societies. (Ceci, OECD)

Figures 1 and 2 suggest that there are different developmental pathways for different subgroups of the world’s population.  These developmental pathways are systems-related restraints and inducements operating on the levels of psychology, culture, history and political economy.  It is within such systems processes that minds are formed.  It is this systems approach that renders intelligible the actual process of cognitive development and intellectual performance, as well as the enormous developmental consequences of different configurations of inputs related to different socio-cultural and political-economic settings. 

Thus, the divergence in test scores between Asia and northwestern Europe and the United States is more than just a “learning gap.”  The socio-cultural context of cognitive development in the advanced capitalist countries is sufficiently divergent to generate radically different levels and types of cognitive competence as well as outright decognification. 

Instead of a cognitively homogeneous citizenry, there is a developmental divergence and 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 talk show interviews. (see theater of ressentiment)

The inability of American society to generate the advanced minds critical to the development of advanced capitalism is masked by the enormous inflow of skilled and educated Third World middle classes into the U. S. labor force. 

Figure 2.  Divergent developmental trajectories

from Minnesota 12th Grade Results, Third International Mathematics and Science Study

This chart compares the fourth, eighth and twelfth grade mathematics test scores of a number of Asian and northwest European nations with those of the United States, grouped into three regions as indicated by the graph. This study was conducted by TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study) in the Spring of 1995. At that time was the largest and most thorough international study of mathematics and science education ever conducted. 

from E.D. Hirsch, Jr., “The Benefit to Equity,” republished in William Schmidt, Richard Houang, and Leland Cogan, “A Coherent Curriculum: The Case of Mathematics,” American Educator, Summer 2002.

“The learning gap. . .  in academic performance between American and Asian students . . . grows wider over time, putting American students much further behind their Asian peers by 11th grade than they were in the sixth grade.  The funnel shape of this widening international gap has an eerie similarity to the funnel shape of the widening gap inside American schools between advantaged and disadvantaged students as they progress through the grades."

from William H. Schmidt, "The Role of Curriculum," American Educator, Fall 2005, p. 11.

"Retesting in 1999 and 2003 found few gains. . . . By the middle grades, the top-acheiving countries do not intend that children should continue to study basic computation skills [as they do in the U. S.].  Rather, they begin the transition to the study of algebra, including linear equations and functions, geometry and, in some cases, basic trigonometry.  By the end of the eighth grade children in these countries have mostly completed mathematics equivalent to U. S. high school courses in algebra I and trigonometry.  By contrast, most U. S. students are destined for the most part to continue the study of arithmetic.  In fact, we estimate that, at the end of eighth grade, U. S. students are some two or more years behind their counterparts around the world."

Comment # 16 from Math Gains Reported for U.S. Students by SAM DILLON December 9, 2008 (NYT)
I was raised in France and lived in Singapore for few years with my 2 children (8 and 12). So I have a different perspective than most. An anti intelectual culture prevails in the US (Sarah Palin)when my kids were in Singapore, they were highly interested in science and Math and ranked high among their peers in the 2 topics, within 2 years after our return to the US both kids lost all interest in Science and Math.
— Nacer, Seattle

Figure 3. The deepening crisis in cognitive development
in the United States is indicated by this New York Times
graphic.  Note that as we move from the least abstract
area (reading)to the most abstract (math), the relative
position of the United States falls dramatically.

2.  Decoding the Semiosphere: rhetoric and policy
 the cognitive performativity of U.S. educational "reformers" compared to the 
cognitive performativity of the PISA reports.
The recycling of the shibboleths of provincial Protestantism in the guise of educational reform is the essence of the ideology of reform.  In practice, this means breaking teachers unions; undermining public education through charter schools, vouchers, and budget-cutting; and  taking over school districts by right-wing political entrepreneurs.  The political milieu of today's right wing reformers is the socio-polical locus of the forces that are leading the crusade against science (evolution, global warming, stem cell research). Educational reform is a tool in the crusade against the public sector and modernity itself, a crusade against education, a crusade against the very idea of the modern state and the pubic sector.

Most strikingly, in the world of education "reform" modern social scientific thinking is not only notable for its absence.  It is
demonized by the political entrepreneurs who pass themselves off as educational reformers.

The contrast between the limited cognitive processes of American educational reformers and the state-of-the-art scientific thinking of the PISA analysts is striking: this is another moment in the unfolding of American Exceptionalism: while the OECD's cognitive performativity in their discourse on education is on the formal operational level and above, the level of cognitive performativity of America's "reform" leadership is at best concrete operational (ages 7 to 11).  (LINK) Comparison of the cogitive performativity evident in the PISA reports with the rhetoric of educational reform in the United States suggests that the educational reformers themelves suffer from strategically disabling cognitive limitations.  

First two example:  although the discussion of the effect of poverty on educational outcomes is virtually taboo in the United States, it is a fundamental concern of the OECD.  Indeed,  not only does the OECD take cognizance of the effect of socio-economic differences on cognitive development; they evaluates the effectiveness of OECD member nations in narrowing these differences:

1.  OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background – Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (Volume II)

the weak relationship shown in Figure II.1.3 [not shown here] suggests that countries with similar levels of income inequality distribute learning opportunities very differently. this finding is important as it shows that equity in educational opportunities can be achieved even where income is distributed highly inequitably. For example, in Iceland and Hungary, two OECD countries with a gini coefficient of around 0.29, close to the OECD average of 0.31, the proportion of the variation in student reading performance explained by the variation in students’ socio-economic background is 6% and 26%, respectively. A wide range of countries sits between these two extremes. Finland and Norway appear with Iceland in the top-right corner with below-average impact of socio-economic background on performance and below-average underlying inequality. Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg join Hungary in the bottom-right quadrant with above-average impact of socio-economic background and below-average underlying inequalities. Estonia, Greece, Israel, Italy and Japan appear in the top-left quadrant, with above-average underlying inequalities and a below-average impact of socio-economic background; while Chile, new Zealand, Portugal, the United States and turkey appear in the bottom-left quadrant, where income inequalities are large and the impact of socio-economic background on learning outcomes is also large. p. 32 

Richard E. Nisbett, Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (W. W. Norton & Company, 2009)

"And we know that there is a lot of room for improvement in the plight of the poor and working class in the United States.  Their economic situation is substantially  worse than that in most developed countries."  79

"We know that the United States accepts lower levels of intellectual accomplishment for its lower-SES children than do other advanced countries.  We need to consider the SES gap in achievement in light of the unsually large economic gap between classes in the United States.  Income inequality in the United States is much higher than in most European Union countries or Japan.  Although the income per capita in the Uniteddet States is 25 to 35 percent higher than in most other advanced countries, workers in the bottom third of the income distribution are poorer than workers in the bottom third in the European Union or Japan.  And workers in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution of the average European Union country earn about 44 percent more than Americans in the bottom 10 percent.  And even this statistic underestimates the disparity between the poorest Europeans and the poorest Americans.  Europeans have national health insurance and other economic cushions that most Americans at low-income levels either pay for out of their own pockets or do without." 83-4

"Reflecting the differences in income inequality, there is more skill disparity between the social classes in the United States than there is in most advanced European countries, as measured by literacy, mathematics, and science scores gathered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Americans in the top fourth of SES scored almost a standard deviation higher than those in the bottom fourth.  The comparable differences for the Scandinavian countries was less than two-thirds of a standard deviation.  Most of the difference is due to the better performance of Scandinavians in the bottom fourth of the socioeconomic distribution. The difference in reading and math skills between lower- and higher-SES groups in the United States is greater than than that for twenty-two industrialized countries that have been studied.  The difference between the United States and South Korea is even more marked: only a third to a half of a standard deviation seperates the average academic achivement of the bottom quarter on the soicoeconomic index from that of the top quarter.  84-85

"In fact, the achievement gap between the lowest 25 percent and the highest twenty five percent of Americans is more similar to that in developing countries than developed countries."  85

2.  OECD (2011), Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing.

Moderating the impact of socio-economic background on learning outcomes

Students who did not surpass the most basic performance level on PISA were not a random group and the results show that socio-economic disadvantage has a particularly strong impact on student performance in the United States: 17% of the variation in student performance in the United States is explained by students’ socio-economic background.  This contrasts with just 9% in Canada or Japan, two of the benchmark countries described later in this volume.  in other words, in the United States, two students from a different socio-economic background vary much more in their learning outcomes than is normally the case in OECD countries.  Among OECD countries, only Hungary, Belgium, Turkey, Luxembourg, Chile and Germany show a larger impact of socio-economic background on reading performance than the United States.  It is important to emphasise that these countries, including the United States, do not necessarily have a more disadvantaged socio-economic student intake than other countries; but socio-economic differences among students translate into a particularly strong impact on student learning outcomes (figure 2.4).

Similarly, among the 25 countries participating in PISA that show a more unequal distribution of income in their populations than the United States (among oecd countries, these include only chile, israel, mexico, Portugal and turkey) only Panama, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and Turkey show a larger impact of socio-economic background on learning outcomes at school (figure 2.4). the comparatively close relationship between the learning outcomes of students in the united States and socio-economic background is therefore not simply explained by a more socio- economically heterogeneous student population or society but, as noted before, mainly because socio-economic disadvantage translates more directly into poor educational performance in the united States than is the case in many other countries. ( Students who did not surpass the most basic performance level on PISA were not a random group and the results show that socio-economic disadvantage has a particularly strong impact. (p 34)

political entrepreneurs  (see In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education, NYT 4-17-11

Not only is such an approach absent from the American discourse on educational "reform;" when it appears it is demonized.

Next example, on Teacher quality and teachers’ unions:

3.  OECD (2011), Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing.

Teacher quality and teachers’ unions:

As PISA shows, in most OECD countries, once teachers are hired, it is very hard to remove them from professional service, irrespective of the quality of their work.  The high quality of teachers in those countries appears to be a function of the policies that determine the pool from which teachers are initially drawn, their compensation, the status of teachers, the high standards of entering university-level teacher-preparation programmes, the quality of their initial preparation, and the attention given to the quality of their preparation following their initial induction.  Critics of American education are sometimes disapproving of the teachers’ unions and of how they perceive these unions as interfering with promising school reform programmes by giving higher priority to the unions’ “bread and butter” issues than to what the evidence suggests students need to succeed.  But the fact is that many of the countries with the strongest student performance also have the strongest teachers’ unions, beginning with Japan and Finland.  There seems to be no relationship between the presence of unions, including and especially teachers’ unions, and student performance.  But there may be a relationship between the degree to which the work of teaching has been professionalised and student performance.  Indeed, the higher a country is on the world’s education league tables, the more likely that country is working constructively with its unions and treating its teachers as trusted professional partners. Witness the reports of Ontario in Canada or Finland.  (p. 238)

See Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation  a rebuttal of economism(8 min in).  The shibboleth of incentives and the presuppositions at the foundation of unreflective thought) Look at this video: it situates our educational reformers in the context of modern organizatonal theory.

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries  
New York Times, April 30, 2011
American Exceptionalism
from: Lessons from Finland   
Final example on the role of the state in cognitive development (Bildung):

4.  OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background – Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (Volume II) , p. 3

"Naturally, GDP per capita influences educational success, but this only explains 6% of the differences in average student performance.  The other 94% reflect the potential for public policy to make a difference.  The stunning success of Shanghai-China, which tops every league table in this assessment by a clear margin, shows what can be achieved with moderate economic resources in a diverse social context.  In mathematics, more than a quarter of Shanghai-China’s 15-year-olds can conceptualise, generalise, and creatively use information based on their own investigations and modelling of complex problem situations. They can apply insight and understanding and develop new approaches and strategies when addressing novel situations. In the OECD area, just 3% of students reach this level of performance." (Only 1.9% of Americn students reached level 6.)

These paragraphs (1 through 4) exemplify the complex systems approach of the educational leadership of the EU.  As mentioned above, the contrast between the primitive cognitive processes of American educational reformers and the state-of-the-art scientific thinking of the PISA analysts is striking.  This can be seen immediately in the next section.

And now for something completely different:

consider this CNN discussion of education in America on State of the Union with Candy Crowley (5-1-11). with:

Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. He was the superintendent of Denver's public schools, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, he is the former education secretary and former president of the University of Tennessee, Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers and CNN education contributor Steve Perry is the founder and principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut.

video part 1/2video part 2/2,  and transcript (scroll down to education panel.)  

Note.  Randi Weingarten attempted to discuss the results of the U.S. Department of Education-sponsored International Summit on the Teaching Profession that took place in New York City on March 16-17, 2011, but to no avail.  This is what the discussion of the educational crisis in America avoided discussing: Reflections on the International Summit on the Teaching Profession.  One should view these videos and read the transcript closely.  Here is my summary of the cognitive performativity of the participants:

Alexander: Shibboleths of provincial Protestantism; concrete operational; apparently unable to function on the formal-operational level.

Perry: Attack on teachers; concrete operational.  Can only focus on concrete examples; apparently unable to function on the formal-operational level.  

Weingarten: opens with reference to the U.S. Department of Education-sponsored International Summit on the Teaching Profession that took place in New York City in March of 2011.  This is not discussed by anyone on the panel.  Then makes second reference to the evidence from PISA.  Again this is not discussed.

Bennett: flaccid responses, vague references simplistically expressed, but no shibboleths of provincial Protestantism, no reference to the International Summit.

Comparison of the cognitive performativity evident in the PISA reports with the rhetoric of educational reform in the United States suggests that the educational reformers themelves suffer from strategically disabling cognitive limitations.  The panel's failure to discuss the Summit is utterly astounding.

see USA Today article on Michelle Rhee and cheating:
When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?

In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education, NYT 4-17-11

from  the New York Times, March 17, 2011, "Citing Near Misses, Report Faults Both Nuclear Regulators and Operators," by TOM ZELLER JR.

Progress Energy, a utility operating five nuclear facilities in the Carolinas and Florida, was singled out as being particularly problematic, with four of its plants being among the 14 that required special inspections.

In one instance described by David Lochbaum, the author of the report and the director of the nuclear safety program for the organization, a high-voltage power cable at Progress Energy’s Robinson nuclear power plant near Florence, S.C., failed, causing a fire.

“Ensuing equipment failures and operator mistakes — quite a large number of mistakes,” Mr. Lochbaum said in a prepared statement, “transformed a relatively routine event into a very serious near-miss.”

“Illustrative of the unbelievably poor worker performance contributing to this near miss is this fact,” he added. “Hours after the fire had been put out, workers re-energized the cable that had started it all. It was still failed, and ignited a second fire.” (emphasis added)
from The Boston Consulting Group and the Manufacturing Institute,

 The Innovation Imperative in Manufacturing: How the United States Can Restore Its Edge  
U.S. executives ranked the difficulty of finding high-quality talent among their top “pain points,” citing a lack of skilled workers at both the engineering and the basic-skills level. One problem is that U.S. students are not being encouraged to pursue science and technology-related fields. An executive described the challenge: “We offer scholarship programs to the children All of these problems weaken the work force—and the ability of the United States to innovate.  The executives we spoke to believe that many of them stem from a decline in the country’s education system, and many had strong opinions in this area. One respondent observed, “We’ve been building workarounds because employees can’t do basic math. We’d rather have smart people thinking on their feet, but we’ve had to automate.” Another said, “I even need floor employees.  You would be shocked at how many I see who can’t read and write.” One executive summed up the problem: “The quality of our schools is slipping because they are not accountable to any real quality standards.”The education deficit creates a talent deficit in the United States.  (emphasis added)
AT&T CEO says hard to find skilled U.S. workers
    Reuters, 26, 2008 

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - The head of the top U.S. phone company AT&T Inc (T.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday it was having trouble finding enough skilled workers to fill all the 5,000 customer service jobs it promised to return to the United States from India.

"We're having trouble finding the numbers that we need with the skills that are required to do these jobs," AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a business group in San Antonio, where the company's headquarters is located.

So far, only around 1,400 jobs have been returned to the United States of 5,000, a target it set in 2006, the company said, adding that it maintains the target.

Stephenson said he is especially distressed that in some U.S. communities and among certain groups, the high school dropout rate is as high as 50 percent.

"If I had a business that half the product we turned out was defective or you couldn't put into the marketplace, I would shut that business down," he said.

Gone are the days when AT&T and other U.S. companies had to hire locally, he said.

"We're able to do new product engineering in Bangalore as easily as we're able to do it in Austin, Texas," he said, referring to the Indian city where many international companies have "outsourced" technical and customer support workers.

"I know you don't like hearing that, but that's the way it is," he said.

Stephenson said neither he nor most Americans liked the situation, and the solution was a stronger U.S. focus on education and keeping jobs. Business needed to help, such as AT&T's repatriation of service positions and education grants, he added.

(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Editing by Gary Hill)

3. Decoding the Semiosphere:
Culture: Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense
(the semioticization of rage=ressentiment)
ressentiment as the political culture of the right
(the dark energy of politics)

The  culture of ressentiment is a fundamental characteristic of modern society.  

What is exceptional in regard to Ressentiment is not its presence in the contemporary American scene.  Ressentiment is civilization's evil twin.  It accompanies the rise of the state, and persists with greater force and effect into the twenty first century than anyone--except Nietzsche--thought possible. Ressentiment is the deep structure of the real, a fundamental element in the making of the West.  

Ressentiment emerged as an adaptive response to the discipline imposed by power in the first civilizations.  According to Nietzsche, ressentiment is more than simply a form of adaptation of an otherwise intact organism to power.  Ressentiment is the chief characteristic of “natures that, denied the true reaction, that of deeds, compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge.”  (Bernstein 102)  It is a fundamental reconfiguring of the organism, an alteration of Being, a transformation of Becoming.  It is something new, contrary to the existence of hunter-gatherers.  It is a particular type of Being that is the characteristic element of the age of ressentiment: the age of civilization and the state.

This adaptive response is empirically and clinically developed in psychoanalysis's concept of the mechanisms of defense.  (And is one way of thinking of eternal reccurence.)

What makes the United States exceptional in regard to the question of ressentiment is twofold.  
First, America is the home of by far the most deep, widespread and conservative religious belief in the Western world (Levien, below)--an ontological-demongraphic uniqueness.

And second, the way in which ressentiment has been mobilized and integrated intopisas the Republican Party (Edsall) has led to an unintended systems effect: taken together, the war on reason and science and the war on the public sector is having a powerful effect not merely on the sphere of public discourse, but on the process of cognitive development itself.

The dramatic divergence in cognitive performativity, as seen in figure 1, between the United States and the modern nations included in the PISA reports (among which the U.S. can no longer be counted*), is the signal although unintended result of the enormous success of the Right in undermining the very conditions for the development of modern, educated citizens.  The subversion of cognitive development in the United States is the great achievement of the right-wing in America.

from Friderich Nietzsche, Geneology of Morals, II 16

“The man who, from lack of external enemies and resistances and forcibly confined to the oppressive narrowness and punctiliousness of custom, impatiently lacerated, persecuted, gnawed at, assaulted, and maltreated himself; this animal that rubbed itself raw against the bars of its cage as one tried to “tame” it; this deprived creature, racked with homesickness for the wild, who had to turn himself into an adventure, a torture chamber, an uncertain and dangerous wilderness—this fool, this yearning and desperate prisoner became the inventor of the “bad conscience.”  But thus began the gravest and uncanniest illness, from which humanity has not yet recovered, man’s suffering of man, of himself—the result of a  forcible sundering from his animal past, as it were a leap and plunge into new surroundings and conditions of existence, a declaration of war against the old instincts upon which his strength, joy, and terribleness had rested hitherto. . . .  Let us add at once that, on the other hand, the existence on earth of an animal soul turned against itself, taking sides against itself, was something so new, profound, unheard of, enigmatic, contradictory, and pregnant with a future that thee aspect of the earth was essentially altered”   

“All instincts which do not discharge themselves outwardly turn  inward—this is what I call the internalization of man: thus it was that man developed what was later called his ‘soul.’  The entire inner world, originally as thin as if it were stretched between two membranes, expanded and extended itself, acquired depth, breadth, and height, in the same measure as outward discharge was inhibited.” 

from Michael André Bernstein, Bitter Carnival : ressentiment and the abject hero (Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 28

Abjection and ressentiment can be distinguished most readily by their different relationships to temporality and to the urge for vengeance: abjection suffers constantly new, and usually externally imposed, slights and degradation, whereas ressentiment is trapped forever in the slights of the past.  . . . .  What “empowers” someone afflicted by ressentiment is the intensely focused, but impotent hatred with which he feeds his sense of having been treated unfairly, and his hope of someday forcing others to suffer in his place.

from Michel Foucault, Remarks on Marx : conversations with Duccio Trombadori, translated by R. James Goldstein and James Cascaito (Semiotext(e), 1991)

"It was a matter of calling the theme of the subject into question once again, that great, fundamental postulate which French philosophy,  from Descartes until our own time, had never abandoned.  Setting out with psychoanalysis, Lacan discovered, or brought out into the open, the fact that the theory of the unconscious is incompatible with a theory of the subject (in the Cartesian sense of the term as well as the phenomenological one). . .  Indeed, Lacan concluded that is was precisely the philosophy of the subject which had to be abandoned on account of this incompatibiity, and that the point of departure should be an analysis of the mechanisms of the unconscious." p. 56-7

Below are excerpts from Anatol Lieven, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2005)

“America is the home of by far the most deep, widespread and conservative religious belief in the Western world, including a section possessed by wild millenarian hopes, fears and hatreds—and these two phenomena are intimately related. . .  [A]t the start of the twenty first century the United States as a whole is much closer to the developing world in terms of religious belief than to the industrialized countries (although a majority of believers in the United States are not fundamentalist Protestants but Catholics and “mainline,” more liberal Protestants).  p. 8

“In the United States, this sense of defeat and embattlement resides in four distinct but overlapping elements of the American national tradition: the original, ‘core’ White Anglo-Saxon and Scots Irish populations of the British colonies in North America; the specific historical culture and experience of the White South; the cultural world of fundamentalist Protestantism; and the particular memories, fears and hatreds of some American ethnic groups and lobbies.” p. 91

“The Greater South extends beyond the borders of the former Confederacy and even the Mason-Dixon line . . . to cover large parts of the Midwest and the West. According to some cultural geographers, the northern border of the Greater South lies rightly along route 40, which runs from east to west across the middle of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.  In the West, the Greater South includes Oklahoma and other states largely settle from the Old South.” p. 107

“ . . . the fundamentalist wing of the evangelical tradition is a very powerful ideological force in large parts of the United States and retains elements of thought which have come down with relatively few changes from much earlier eras.  Its origins are pre-Enlightenment, and its mentality to a very great extent anti-Enlightenment.”  p. 124

American Exeptionalism:
Wealth and Religiosity

from  World Publics Welcome Global Trade -- But Not Immigration
Pew Global Attitudes Project 10.04.07

the Proto-Dorian Convention--the answer to Thomas Frank's question: What's the Matter with Kansas

from Bruce Clayton, "No Ordinary History: W. J. Cash's The Mind of the South", in  Charles W. Eagles, The Mind of the South: Fifty Years Later (University Press of Mississippi, 1992)

Cash offered a gripping argument that the elite had so drilled its superiority into the psyche of the common whites that they intricately and mysteriously connected themselves once and for all with their betters.  Here was Cash's "proto-Dorian convention."  Because of slavery, and the common white's psychological needs, color elevated the common white "to a position comparable to that, say, of the Doric kight of ancent Sparta," Cash wrote. The planters wre admired and obeyed not because they were inherently good or capable, but because the lowly white saw in their masters--cotton patch Doric knights, in other words--examples of what they might become.  This belief was a fantasy that coddled the ego of the common man and was thus integral to maintaining the proto-Dorian bond.  When Helper,* Cash wrote, "and others began at last on the eve of the Civil War to point out the wrongs of the common white and to seek to arouse him to recogizing them, they could get no response."  Why?  Becuse "the common white, as a matter of course, gave eager credence and took pride in the legend of the aristocracy which as so valuable to the defense of the land.  He went further, in fact, and, by an easy psychological process which is in evidence wherever men group themselves about captains, pretty completely assimilated their own ego to the latter's--felt his planter's new splendor as being in some fashion his own."  (pp. 11-12)

from W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South (Alfred A. Knopf, 1941)

Yeoman and cracker turned to the planter, waited eagerly upon his signal as to what to think and do . . . because he was their oviously indicated captain in the great common cause.  "The stupid and sequacious masses, the white victims of slavery . . . believe whatever the slaveholders tell them; and thus are cajoled into the notion that they are the freest, hapiest, and most intelligent people in the world," wrote the bitter Helper, gazing in baffled anger at the scene.  (69)

*Hinton Rowan Helper (December 27, 1829 – March 8, 1909) was a Southern US critic of slavery during the 1850s. In 1857, he published a book which he dedicated to the "nonslaveholding whites" of the South. The Impending Crisis of the South, written partly in North Carolina but published when the author was in the North, argued that slavery hurt the economic prospects of non-slaveholders, and was an impediment to the growth of the entire region of the South. Anger over his book due to the belief he was acting as an agent of the North attempting to split Southern Whites along class lines lead to Southern denunciations of 'Helperism'. (Wikipedia)

              Public Acceptance of Evolution, 2006

“ . . . the fundamentalist wing of the evangelical tradition is a very powerful ideological force in large parts of the United States (see below: 3 maps) and retains elements of thought which have come down with relatively few changes from much earlier eras.  Its origins are pre-Enlightenment, and its mentality to a very great extent anti-Enlightenment.”  p. 124

from Arno J. Mayer, The Persistence Of The Old Regime : Europe To The Great War (Pantheon Books, 1981)

Scholars of all ideological persuasiions have downgraded the importance of preindustrial economic interests, prebourgeois elites, predemocratic authority systerms, premodernist artistic idioms, and 'archaic' mentalities.  They have done so by treating them as expiring remnants, not to say relics, in rapdily modernizing civil and politial societies. They have vastly overdrawn the decline of land, noble and peasant; the contraction of traditional manufacturing and trade, provincial burghers, and artisanal workers; the derogation of kings, public service nobilities, and upper chambers; the weakening of organized religion; and the atrophy of classsical high culture.   p. 5

As for the class formations of this precorporate entrepreneurial capitalism, the owners of small workshops were the backbone of the indepenedent lower middle class.  In turn, proprietors of medium-sized as well as larger plants, especially in textiles and food processing, constituted a bourgeoisie that was predominantly provincial rather than national and cosmopolitan. This bourgeoisie including commercial and private bankers, acted less as a socal class with a comprehesive political and cultural project than as an interest and pressure group in pursuit of economic goals.  (20)
“The values of the weak prevail because the strong have taken  
                    them over as devices of leadership.” Nietzsche, Will to Power, § 863

Arno J. Mayer, Dynamics of Counterrevolution in Europe, 1870—1956 (Harper Torchbooks, 1971.  Emphasis added.)

"Clauswitz does not see war as a continuation of diplomacy--that is, of interstate relations--by other--that is, violent means.  Significantly, he invariably opts for the comprehensive concept of politics, which subsumes diplomacy, thus leaving open the possibility that recourse to war can be not only influenced but, in some instances, even determined by internal political considerations."  p. 136

"Here, then, is the paradox.  Whereas wars whose motivation and intent are primarily diplomatic and external retain their political purposes, as conceived by Clauswitz, those whose mainsprings are essentially political and internal fail to acquire a well-defined project." p. 138

"As for wars of primarily partisan and internal dynamic, they are decided by political actors and classes whose political tenure and social position tend to be insecure and whose latttiude for foreign policy decision tends to be circumscribed.  Precisely because their internal influence and control are tenuous, these actors and classes are inclined to have recourse to external war which, if successful, promises to shore up ther faltering positions. . . .  at the outset even the minimal external objectives  of wars that are sparked internally have a tendency to be singularly ill-defined."  p. 138

Internal Causes and Purposes of War in Europe, 1870-1956: A Research Assignment, Arno J. Mayer, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Sep., 1969), pp. 292-303
The proto-Dorian convention in action:
Hillary Clinton on the Campaign Trail

(this  is from my notes made during the course of the 2008 primary campagn)

May 7 to 11

"working, hard-working Americans, white Americans"

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," [Clinton] said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me." ("Clinton makes case for wide appeal," USA Today, May 8, 2008)

The Clinton campaign has now become the exemplar of r*c*sm. The statement above ought to be approached not as a question of whether Clinton is racist or whether her comment was racist.  When politicians speak, their utterances are purposeful.  To understand these utterances, we must view them as purposeful rhetorical maneuvers that are indecipherable if taken out of context.

During the South Carolina campaign, when it became apparent that the black vote was going ovewhelmingly to Obama, Bill Clinton deployed the rhetorical strategy of demonization (the Jesse Jackson reference).  High ranking members of the Clinton campaign (the surrogates) deployed a common rhetorical maneuver--innuendo with a loophole--referencing standard semiotic material from the glossary of demonics.  Since the Clintons are drawing from the same cultural-semiotic subset of demonic references usually associated with the Repubcan Party, for heuristic purposes I include them in the following list:  (see Plen-T-plaint)

  • Muslim smear
  • Jesse Jackson comment--S. Carolina
  • Drug smear
  • lapel pin disloyal
  • pledge of allegiance disloyal
  • "reject and denounce" genuflect
  • Jeremiah Wright guilt by association
  • Clinton on two patriotic candiates (not Obama)
When surrogates deploy such rhetorical strategies over a determinate period of time, one must conclude that these are moments in the unfolding of Being.  The campaign has deployed the kind of demonic rhetoric that is the central characteristic of the symbolic work of that which is called r*c*sm.

This is the immiedate background for the latest r*c*st turn of the Clinton camaign: Hilary's by now infamous reference to  " . . . working, hard-working Americans, white Americans . . .  " is a standard reference from the glossary of demonic appeals.  Polls show (I can't find the ref now) that a majority of non-college educated whites think that blacks' own lack of initiative is the main cause of their problems.  "Hardworking" as code for "white" is noted in Paul Luebke's Tar Heel Politics 2000 (U. of N. Carolina Press, 1998), p. 50.  Given the prevailing r*c*st image of lazy blacks among one of Clinton's major constituencies, use of the term "hardworking" is precicely that kind of innuendo with loophole that is the mother's milk of political campaigning.

May 13

Just saw Clinton at Rally (MSNBC 5:05): Custer's Last Stand appeal, crowd increasingly excited, charged up by the hyperracist coding--as far as a public ritual, the Clinton Dems now outdo the GOP in their frank and sometimes explicit, always carefully chosen words of demonic innuendo, drawing from the depths of the culture of resentiment.  The crowd's gutteralizations, its growing militance, wave after wave of vocalizations without words, was strangely out of proportion to Hilary's platitudes, and something I have not seen before in this campaign.

It was a moment of white assertiveness, of white pride.  For the crowd, it was exhilarating.  

May 7 to 11

on connecting with the (white) working class:

Talking heads discuss success of candidates in connecting--ie, stroking egos, appealing to deeply-held prejudices, shmoozing around in bars and bowling alleys.  The language implies the patron-client, lord-peasant relationship.  The successful candidate, inplicitly, is the one who best manipulates the materials of everyday ressentiments and petty concerns.  It is not that you have to show that you are one of the people.  On the contrary, the very status of the patron/lord is crucial to the effectiveness of the good ole boy maneuver.  Beneath today's populist rhetoric is a politics of psychological dependency.  Ironically, Obama's "aloofness" is in part a consequence of the Progressive appeal to reason.  We expect our politicians to shmooze and to stroke; we resent attempts at complex rationality, prefering instead simplistic appeals (the gas tax holiday).  Thinking, in this context, is anathema.
ddTea Party tax day protest 2010, St. Paul, Minnesota.  April 15, 2010
(from GOOGLE Image search on tea party tax protests)

We don't want socialism, you arrogant Kenyan . . .

1. socialism (fascism, communism . .  jihad, sharia . .  ) is deployed as demonic epithet.  Thus, when Wolf is asked by Ed what Wolf means by Jihad, Wolf can only say, he's not one of us; he is other.  Wolf cannnot articulate a concept of jihad, erroneous or not--conceptual thinking on that level is beyond him.

2.  you arrogant Kenyan--this is floating signifier isomorphic with form and function of n*gg*r (or with context of its use and its semantics)

 Puritanism as a Revolutionary IdeologyMichael Walzer, History and Theory, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1963), pp. 59-90

About the Puritan saints Walzer writes of " . . . their almost Manichean warfare against Satan and his worldly allies, their nervous lust for systematic repression and control." p. 63 

"They felt themselves to be living in an age of chaos and crime and sought to train conscience to be permanently on guard against sin.  The extent to which they would have carried the moral discipline can be seen in the following list of offenses which merited excommunication in one seventeenth-century congregation:

-for unfathfulness in his masters service
-for admitting cardplaying in his house . . .
-for sloth in business.
-for being overtaken in beer.
-for borrowing a pillion and not returning it.
-for jumping for wagers . . .
-for dancing and other vanities.

Had the saints been successful in establishing their Holy Commonwealth, the enforcement of this discipline would have consituted the Puritan terror." p. 64

"The persecution of witches, of course, was not a vital aspect of Puritan endeavor, but the active, fearful struggle against wickedness was.  And the saints imagined wickedness as a creative and omnipresent demonic force, that is, as a continual threat." p. 79

the Plen-T-Plaint, from Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas

"As culture war, backlash was born to lose.  Its goal is not to win cultural battles but to take offense, conspicuously, vocally, even flamboyantly.  Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of backlash culture; voicing the fury of the imposed-upon is to the backlash what the guitar solo is to heavy metal.  Indignation is the privilege emotion, the magic moment that brings a consciuosness of rightness and a determination to persist. . . .  Everything seems to piss conservatives off, and they react by documenting and cataloguing their disgust.  The result is what we call the plen-T-plaint, a curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world.  Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us; the plen-T-plaint is a horizontal rather than vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on."  121-3
from Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004):

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

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

"Today a "politics of resentment" 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 alegiance [one minute and 45 seconds into the video to the right].  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 (Emphasis added)

The Daily Show Ridicules Megyn Kelly's Claim That Fox News Figures Don't Make Nazi References  
"I want my country back!"  
("The languge and symbols of an authentic American fascism . . . ")
RINO [Republicans In Name Only] American Traitor Rep. Mike Castle
Tap-Dances Around Obama Birth Certificate (July 20, 2009)

from Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (Oxford Univeristy Press, 2008), p.p. 188-89. (Emphasis added.)

   Limbaugh's attempts at gender-based "humor" are of the locker room variety.  As the California gubernatorial recall was heating up, Limbaugh informed his folowers that Leutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante--"whose name loosely translates into Spanish for 'large breasts'--leads the Terminator by a few pionts" (August 18, 2003).  A photomontage on the Limbaugh website shows a photograph of Schwartzenegger's head and shoulders from his Pumping Iron days as a body builder.  A naked woman has been transposed onto his shoulders.  Over her breasts is a sign reading BUSTAMONTE.  When Madonna endorsed General Wesley Clark, Limbaugh reported that she had "opened herself" to him.  Why the vulgarity in this message does not alienate the churchgoing conservatives in his audiences a question for which we have no ready answer.

This question is easily answered . . .  

 Now let’s see how things are with people who are capable of revenge and, in general, of taking care of themselves.  When the desire for revenge takes possession of them, they are drained for a time of every other feeling but this desire for revenge. . . . .  Now let’s look at this mouse in action.  Let’s assume it has been humiliated (it is constantly being humiliated) and that it wishes to avenge itself.  It’s possible too that there’s even more spite accumulated in it than in l’homme de la nature et de la verite.  The nauseating, despicable, petty desire to repay the offender in kind may squeak more disgustingly in the mouse than in the natural man who, because of his innate stupidity, considers revenge as merely justice . . . .  In its repulsive, evil-smelling nest, the downtrodden, ridiculed mouse plunges immediately into a cold, poisonous, and—most important—never-ending hatred.  For forty years, it will remember the humiliation in all its ignominious details . . .  Dost, Notes,  96-7

One sould not confuse the ideology of "Church-going conservatives" with the their psychology (which is what Jameison does)


The Psychology of the 'Birther' Myth, New York Times, April 22, 2011

(David O. Sears: "Why do so many Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States, despite all factual evidence?  . . . the role of racial attitudes in Americans’ voting decisions in 2008.")

(presuppositions: attitudes, beliefs, opinions; the individual)
from Friederich Nietzsche,  Twilight of the Idols (Penguin, 1968)

"Moral judgments are therefore never to be taken literally: so understood, they are always merely absurd. Semiotically, however, they remain invaluable: they reveal, at least for those who can interpret them, the most valuable realities of cultures and psychologies that did not know how to "understand" themselves. Morality is only a language of signs, a group of symptoms: one must know how to interpret them correctly to be able to profit from them." p. 55

"The so-called 'motive': another error.  Merely a surface phenomenon of consciousness, an accompaniment to an act, which conceals rather than exposes the antecedentia of the act." {re Imus and that which is called racism} p. 49


Data from the DailyKos, "Birthers are mostly Republican
and Southern," by kos, Fri Jul 31, 2009

The Research 2000 findings were pulled together from a survey of 2,400 adults.

Poll question: Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?

Choices: Yes   No   Not sure

No + Not Sure = variable graphed
fkApologies to Felix Klein for this.

The diagram to the right brings together the rhetorical elements of the right and the mechanisms of the generation of those elements in specific  embedded (that is, contextualized) expressions.

Together these form a Group, and the question arises, over what interval is this group valid?  The interval spanned by the
First Crusade to the present, dominated by a politics of  ressentiment.

"Klein's synthesis of geometry as the study of the properties of a space that is invariant under a given group of transformations, known as the Erlangen Program (1872), profoundly influenced the evolution of mathematics. This program . . . proposed a unified approach to geometry that became (and remains) the accepted view. Klein showed how the essential properties of a given geometry could be represented by the group of transformations that preserve those properties [diagram to right]."  (Felix Klein, in Wikipedia)

                 the mechanisms of defense in the  
                                the other as constructed by the                                    construction of the other                                                                      mechanisms of defense   
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 respones. 

Later it was determined that it was all a tragic mistake, and the killer is being tried for murder.

These respones have been organized into two categories--rabid and thoughtful.


             Topologies of the Two-Party System


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!"

 anti-war demo signs:          "End the War Now!"
                                                  "U.S. Out of Iraq!"
                                                  "Support the Troops!  End the War!"
Cognitive Regimes/topography of the two-party system

Red Fields--bourgeois (1):  CNN/MSNBC                bourgeois (2): Universities/NPR   Modern           (Modern corporation*)                      (human capital, cultural capital)  

                      Concrete Operational                           Formal Operational

                            Blue Field--barbarian: Fox News (Rentier  
                                           sectors**; provincial capitals***;
                                                r*c*st political ecologies)
Cognitive Regimes/geology of the right
glpr glenprots
   Marx Was Wrong . . .

 . . . the ideals, methods and vision of the Enlightenment did not acquire a proletarian or popular embodiment.  The ‘people’, even in its working class moment, became the mass base for right wing, nationalist, racist, xenophobic cognitive modalities, political cultures, and socio-culturally contextualized character formations. (Anatomy of Fascism, Clarke; Sugrue)  These are ontologically prior to the political forces that utilize, absorb, and manipulate them (Red Scare).  That is why answers to such questions as What’s the Matter With Kansas?  cannot be given in political terms or through political analysis.

The activity of provincial, archaic and traditional elites (Peristnece), together with newer firms in the west and south and newly emergent crony capitalist formations (Enron, World Com, some Insurance cos, some Wall street firms, Dick Cheney's secret meeting with energy ceos) 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. (Red Scare)  But they do not call into existence these ontologies of ressentiment, of the right, of anti-modernism.  They merely utilize and shape them.

This is dark energy against which the Enlightenment is powerless.  It bubbles and explodes in town hall meetings.  Some see ressentiment as backlash--as epsisodic and event-driven (ie, school busing, student radicalism); they are wrong.  There is a deep structure of rage that is endemic to our more broadly conceived historical situation (Nietzsche)-- inchoate rage seeking expression in the theater of ressentiment that politics provides.  This is the heart of darkness at the center of civilization.

That which is called Marxism can be taken as the Enlightenment embattled, confined, demonized and defeated.  Marx himself can also be taken as the last Hegelian--almost a footnote to Hegel (Das Kapital); while it was Engels who developed "Marxism" as a positivist variant of the enlightenment which, following WWI, and in a less eschatological form,  developed into the modern forms of Liberalism known as Social Democracy and the Welfare State. 
and Lenin ws right

"For all his concern with revolution, Marx was himself the product of the same world which produced the great social novels, those elaborate, many-volumed studies of manners, status, and class relationships in which the fundamental stability of the society as a whole and of character (what would today be called 'identity') within the society was always assumed.  And Marx never questions the second of these assumptions: bourgeois and proletarian appear in his work as formed characters, free at least from psychological instability even while their struggle with one another tears apart the social order."

Michael Walzer, Puritanism as a Revolutionary IdeologyHistory and Theory, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1963), pp. 59-90

This assumption of an already formed and unproblematic character is a staple of modern liberalism*BOOK (of which Marxism, as I will argue later, is only a variant).  This page is based on the opposite assumption (and on the work of William Calvin, etc. REF): that an extraodinarily rapid phase of post-biological development (or evolution by mans  other than genetic--cultural) (cultural evolution) man is a bridge.html  -- the uncertaintly of its further development, the pssbliity of regression, the fundamental role of the state (euphemistically refered to as th public sector) in the development of huan capital; Bildung; what next?
4.  Decoding the semiosphere: cognitive development/cognitive regime

This figure represents the application of a psychoanalytic interpretive grid to the semiotic raw materials of the semiosphere, as suggested above.  The semiosphere is sampled in


But the same materials that provide the raw material for a psychoanltic-semiotic analysis, also provide the materil for a cognitive performative analysis.

There is a second set of texts that together comprise an approach to decoding the semiosphere.  But whereas the first set of texts focuses on the symbolic content of the semiosphere (Freud, Klein, Frank, Edsall, et. al.), this second set focuses on the cognitive performativity
evident in the videos and placards shown in theatersofressentiment.html.  Piaget-Ceci-Cole-Calvin . . .  provide interpretive and analytical frameworks.  

(Later I will introduce a third set of texts--Gould, deWaal, Donald, Calvin--that put the qustion of performativity in yet another context:

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, 478-492. [Purdy-Kresge Library     BF 311 .R352 1997 ]


    •    Nisbett, Ceci

EVOLUTIONARY (phylogenesis):
Donald, Mind: cognitive evolution Table 7.1 p. 260; LINK; Greenspan, the First Idea
    •    episodic (primate)
    •    mimetic (homo erectus, h. sapiens)
    •    mythic (h. sapiens --- BIG BANG ---
    •    theoretic (required by advanced capitalism)
    •    post-theoretic (Comons)

DEVELOPMENTAL (ontogenesis):

Piaget (LINK) (Cognitive develpment)
    •    pre-operational
    •    concrete operational
    •    formal operational
    •   post-formal thought (Commons)
Freud: Mechanisms of defense LINK
    •    projection
    •    displacement             
    •    reaction formation
    •    denial

Nietzsche: Cassirer--CP Flint post-war recruits--Barad
    •    ressentiment
    •    will to power
    •    perspectivism
The links to the right should be studied carefully, and referred to frequently thereafter.  One should not dismiss these folk as uninformed (as Rachael Maddow does); nor should one look with a superficial, condescending amusement at their failure to understand that Medicare is the government program par excellence. Instead, it is important to pay attention to the specific contextualized language use, rhetorical maneuvers, and cognitive modality expressed by these folk.

Failure to grasp that Medicare is a government program is evidence of a (performative-situational) inability "to understand the hierarchical structures of classes and the logical relation of inclusion that holds between a superordinate class and its subclasses (for example, the subclass of cats is included in the superordinate class of mammals." [Michael Cole, The Development of Children (W. H. Freeman and Co, 1996)]  This ability develops in early childhood (6-9 years old).  Its absence in the cognitive performance of the Right is one of the fundamental characteristics of this modern politics of ressentiment.

A related inability (on the performative-situational level) to deal with concepts is evdient in Wolf's response to Ed's question about the meaining of Jihad:

SCHULTZ:  . . . what does jihad mean to you, Mr. Wolf?

WOLF: I think to me it means it's an extreme element of a struggle to overcome somebody. It can be interpreted probably some different ways. but to me it's-it's certainly not one of us. It's something other than what an American is, that I've been taught.

SCHULTZ: Jihad is religious war, is it not? The definition is religious war. You must have put that word up there for something. Do you think Barack Obama wants a religious war?

WOLF: I think it's definitely anti-Christian. Yes, I do.

Decoding the semiosphere depends upon the deployment of developmental psychology, as well as the Freud-Klein matrix.

cognitive dimensions of performativity

(innability to categorize)

from Michael Cole, The Development of Children (W. H. Freeman and Co, 1996)

"Piaget was particularly interested in children's ability to understand the hierarchical structures of classes and the logical relation of inclusion that holds between a superordinate class and its subclasses (for example, the subclass of cats is included in the superordinate class of mammals." 493 

The links below provide examples of specific cognitive performances decodable through deployment of texts referred to in this section            

Keep Your Goddamn Government Hands Off My Medicare! Huffington Post, June 27, 2010

Anti-Obama Billboard: President? or Jihad?
November 23, 2009 MSNBC The ED Show (Video and transcript)

Ground Zero Mosque Rallies Sept. 11 CNN (transcript at 1 minute in)

Rachel Maddow Interviews Uninformed Protesters, Claims This Is The World Fox News Has Created’

One can look at the President or Jihad, the Ground Zero, and the Rachael Maddow interviews in terms of the the indefinability, the vagueness, of the discourse; the inability to generate any but stock responses (Wilfrid Sellar's parrot); the state of being non-plussed; the cynical evasiveness ("it's up to him to prove he's not ______ ")

There are different levels of cognitive functioning coexisting not only in the same society but in any single individual:

"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)." 

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. 360-61


cognitive-linguistic cardinality: a framework for evaluating the semiosphere in the context of: "evolution of human cognition and culture" (Apologies to Georg Cantor)


i = -2      primate semiosis
i = -1     Gestural (homo erectus)
i =  0      Oral Mythic/pre-operational--Aleph        
                  Null, the smallest infinite
    cardinal ≡ the initialpoint F="Mind's
    Big Bang"

i =  1      Concrete operational
i =  2      Formal operational
i =  3      Foucault (Kant ➛  Hegel:  
                  Nietsche/Heidegger +
i =  4      Dragonfly-Internet-Extended
               Mind-Entanglements (Barad, Logan) --->

"The term intelligence is often used synonymously with "IQ", "g", or "general intelligence", especially in some of the psychometric literature. . .  however, the ability to engage in cognitively complex behaviors will be shown to be independent of IQ, g, or general intelligence . . . cognitive complexity will be seen to be the more general of the two notions and the one most theoretically important to keep in mind when referring to intelligent behavior." Ceci, p. 22
                      1st           Refor-  Enlight-      New              ---PISA ---
                   Crusade         mation    enment       Deal

10,000 BP          1,000 BP              100 BP                10BP                    


          anatomically mod
                                                        homo erectus —— —— —— ——
                                 homo habilis
xx100,000,000 BP   10,000,000 BP       1,000,000 BP            100,000 BP       10,000 BP

Decoding the SemiosphereDesire and Cog Dev 5.  Decoding the Semiosphere: The Question of Agency
agency and the problem of emergence/singularity
Obesity in the United States, 1990-2009

Kandinsky, On White II, 1923


Data from the DailyKos, "Birthers are mostly Republican
and Southern," by kos, Fri Jul 31, 2009

The Research 2000 findings were pulled together from a survey of 2,400 adults.

Poll question: Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?

Choices: Yes   No   Not sure

No + Not Sure = variable graphed


Evolutionary Context

6.  Decoding the Semiosphere: the evolutionary context
from Stephen J. Gould, The Panda's Thumb, quoted in On deep history and the brain by Daniel Lord Smail (University of California Press, 2008). p. 86

Cultural evolution has progressed at rates that Darwinian processes cannot begin to approach. Darwinian evolution continues in Homo Sapiens, but at rates so slow that it has no longer much impact on our history. This crux in the Earth's history has been reached because Lamarckian processes have finally been unleashed upon it. Human cultural evolution, in strong opposition to our biological history, is Lamarckian in character. What we learn in one generation, we transmit directly by teaching and writing. Acquired characters are inherited in technology and culture. Lamarckian evolution is rapid and accumulative. It explains the cardinal difference between our past, purely biological mode of change, and our current, maddening acceleration towards something new and liberating - or towards the abyss.

finally, it is when the data above are placed in a larger evoutionry-historical context tht the possiblity emerges of a wholly differnt kind of soial differntiation

brain plasticity

 from Wiki (emphasis added)

During the 20th century, the consensus was that lower brain and neocortical areas were immutable in structure after childhood, meaning learning only happens by changing of connection strength, whereas areas related to memory formation, such as the hippocampus and dentate gyrus, where new neurons continue to be produced into adulthood, were highly plastic. This belief is being challenged by new findings, suggesting all areas of the brain are plastic even after childhood. . . .

Decades of research have now shown that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, and that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to experience. According to the theory of neuroplasticity, thinking, learning, and acting actually change both the brain's physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology) from top to bottom. Neuroscientists are presently engaged in a reconciliation of critical period studies demonstrating the immutability of the brain after development with the new findings on neuroplasticity, which reveal the mutability of both structural and functional aspects. A substantial paradigm shift is now under way: Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge has in fact stated that neuroplasticity is "one of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century."
from Friederich Nietzsche, Geneology of Morals, II, 12
The democratic idiosyncracy which opposes [the will to power] has permeated the realm of the spirit and disguised itself in the most spiritual forms to such a degree that today it has forced its way, has acquired the right to force its way into the strictest, apparently most objective sciences;  indeed, it  . . . has robbed life of a fundamental concept, that of activity.  Under the influence of the above metioned idosyncracy, one places instead "adaptation" in the foreground, that is to say,  an activity of the second rank, a mere reactivity; indeed, life itself has been defined as a more and more effgh 'adaptation' follows only after this; the dominant role of the highest functionaries within the organism itself in which the will to life appears active and form-giving is denied.


On the edge : a history of poor black children and their American dreams / Carl Husemoller Nightingale.  New York : Basic Books, 1993).

Criminal Identies and Consumer Culture: Crime, exclusion and the new culture of narcissism.  Steve Hal, Simon Winlow and Craig Ancrum (Willan Publishing, 2008)

Ohio County Losing Its Young to Painkillers’ Grip, NYT , SABRINA TAVERNISE, 4-19-11

Getting Paid

White Children/Black Children

The German genius : Europe's third renaissance, the second scientific revolution, and the twentieth century Author Watson, Peter, 1943- Publisher:Harper,Pub date:c2010.

note.  the way in which archaic once modern ideas (the free market) can become/incorporated--floating signifier--as theatrical moment of resentiment=r*c*sm.  Thus, Zombie Economics, wealth and power subvert science, producing a new orthodoxy (school reform)--the national inferiority is shown at the elite level: us school reformers understanding of what is to be done is just old shibbleths in new rhetorical garb.

7.  possible futures