another Text to accompany Fig 2 

Text to accompany Fig 2 

Figure 1 is about more than education.  Formal schooling is only one moment in the unfolding of cognitive development, and data such as appear in Figure 1 therefore reflect the various forces that promote or retard development.* 

The profound stupidity of the Stupid Party.

What is fa . . sc . . ism?  A semiotic field of ressentiment; a performative rhetorical practice, where sadistic impulses are given legitimate expression and permission to strike.

the core is an extreme unease in the face of the unresolved crisis of . . .

In Developmental Divergence: Cognitive Development in History, the concept of Zone(s) of Proximal Development, first developed by Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, and Uri Bronfenbrenner's Ecological systems theory, are applied to an understanding of the divergent modes of congitive performativity evident in the public discourse of the United States.


Thus, instead of a cognitively homogeneous citizenry, there is developmental divergence (Nisbett, Calvin) producing fundamental differences in cognitive functioning among different historically and sociologially defined subgroups of the population.  These subgroups can be defined by the nature of their cognitive-linguistic practice, including inventories of basic expressions and rhetorical maneuvers, such as are seen in the Youtube videos of the Palin and McCain rallies, Tea Party protests, and the mass of political ads produced for TV, as well as videos of newscasts and talk show interviews.

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, including those born here of immigrant parents.  (See, e.g., lists of Intel Science Talent Search Finalists for 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.  In developmental diveregence I show how the concept of Zone(s) of Proximal Development, rather than the concepts of race and ethnicity, helps not only to explain "Asian" dominance, but also deconstructs the "white" minority subset into ZPDs.  For an early albeit implicit demonstration of the effectiveness of the concept of ZPD, see Zena Smith Blau, Black children/white children : competence, socialization, and social structure (Free Press, 1981))

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 formal-operational thought (the impact of which is made clear by application of the ZPD concept), might reasonably be expected to deepen this inter- and intra-national developmental divergence. Cognitive decline--the decay of structure and discipline in cognitive performativity--is well underway, and has been for decades.

***Thus, Figure 1 can be taken as marking an inflection point in human history, demonstating a—or maybe the—fundamental contradiction of capitalism. of the internal contradictions of capitalism.  But now it is intelligence itself (and thus technology) that is undermined by the further development what we call capitalism.

Or is it?  For the question that remains is whether this is a fundamental process of post-modern capitalism that will sweep all before it (Steve Hall, Simon Winlow and Craig Ancrum), rather than a peculiarly American phenomenon.  The first set of pages on this site, subsumed under the rubric American Exceptionalism: decoding the semiosphere, addresses this question.

Few consider the historicity, fragility, and reversibility of cognitive development. Cognitive development is not a normative, inevitable process.  It is an effect of history and politics, as well as evolution, and can suffer reversal or collapse.  One might consider the 2011-12 Republican debates in this context.  This is one area where that which is called Marxism has most markedly failed.  While celebrating the technological dynamism of capitalism, Marxism (but not Marx) was silent on the human capital dimension of capitalist development.  In this what has been called "Marxism" shared the naiveté of the Enlightenment in which an inborn rationality is presupposed.

Critical to understanding developmental divergence is the concept of Zones of Proximal Development (Vygotsky et. al.), which is discussed in Developmental Divergence: Cognitive Development in History.  The developmental psychology on which I rely is the antithesis of the implicit racism of public discourse and much of social scientific discourse on "intelligence" which takes "race" as an ontological given.

Appetite and Entropy: Subverting Cognitive Development

Capitalism builds on two fundamentally opposed processes: organization and discipline, and appetite and desire.  The former, organization and discipline, is the more widely applied conceptual framework.  On the other hand, appetite and desire are simply taken for granted as the good, and the former is judged in terms of how well it serves the latter.

Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture: crime, exclusion and the new culture of narcissism shatters this complacent and simple-minded view that is at the heart of most thinking about modern politics.  In my judgement this is one of the most important books of our time. Without a grasp of its major assertions no serious understanding of our own time is possible.  Hence the lengthy excerpt to the right.

Before I came across Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture, I had written the following, much more limited and less analytical than this book, but at least I was on the right track.  Here it is:

Capitalism builds on two fundamentally opposed processes: organization (as a form of discipline), and an entropic drive emergent out of the proliferating appetites and desires of a population driven by increasingly complex psychological needs, stimulated and expressed in the marketplace.  Vast sectors of the mass consumer market are built out of and through the perversion of primal needs (Butler), and these perversions are the content of the semiotic atmosphere that shapes and limits most minds. These appetites and desires of postmodern capitalism gnaw away at the potential for self-discipline that is central to cognitive development. 

The media penetration of the nooks and crannies of everyday life, its orchestration of desire, its deployment of demons and heroes, its influence on reconfiguring the reference points for self-discipline, has yet to be appreciated, for it is not only as a theater of desire that the media functions.  It also functions as a theater of ressentiment.  And most importantly, perhaps, it provides powerfully influential models of language use and cognitive processing for a large subset of the population.

One effect of exponentially increasing appetite and desire that is the central cultural/institutional/economic feature of late capitalism makes its appearance in United States: Obesity Rates, 1990 -- 2009.  This graph is about appetite and desire, about cravings irrepressible and irresistible, about deeply buried needs that can never be met. Figure 2 is the history of these moments.  How much of this is the ultimate outcome for an animal subjugated to the disciplinary order of capital but liberated to consume? Is it the price paid for the discipline endured, the secret out-creeping of what’s left of the animal man, the last place where one(‘s appetites) can roam free?

United States: Obesity Rates, 1990 -- 2009

                                         1990                            1995                           2000                            2005                     2009

In the United States especially, an extreme culture of individualism and pursuit of instant gratification radically undermines the cultural disciplines that are essential developmental resources. [On the Edge, Getting Paid] 

A weak public sector, a defeated and broken enlightenment, and a triumphant culture of ressentiment and demonization hegemonic at the level of the public transcript, are all negative factors undermining cognitive development. 

The demonization of science, the permanent war against evolutionary theory and bans against advanced forms of stem-cell research, must also be counted as a negative force. 

At the level of social and economic policy, a high child poverty rate and a sharply destabilized economy for the bottom half are major factors undermining development.

Under these circumstances decognification and cultural decay are not only inevitable, but already and irreversibly underway.

"Obesity fight must shift from personal blame-U.S. panel," (Reuters, May 8, 2012)

Read this article and marvel at the obtuseness and cognitive limitations of even the better mass media.  What do they miss,  in this "issue" of obesity?"  The fact that the essense of postmodern capitalism is precisely . . .  the massive cultivation of desire by all the institutions connected with mass marketing, from the corporations that produce and sell crap to the media that advertise crap to the politicians and academics who celebrate the accumulation of crap.  The most democratic part of the Amerian Dream is . . . fast food.  To fight obesity means a double treason: to fight the corporate domination of everyday life, and to limit consumption: to say no to the culture of narcissism and the culture of desire.  (But that's "communism.")
of vital importance when contrasted with the United States, is respect for science.  A major factor in the decline and fall of Amerian society (which is not the same as American capitalism) is the enormous developmental impact of our national values, one of which is anti-intellectualism.  In addition, the hyper-individualism of a deeply narcissistic culture is a major force subverting cognitive development.  Regressive narcissism (what Hall et. al. write about) negates the characterological sine qua non of cognitive development--self-discipline.  This, combined with the derogation of science, has a powerful effect on motivation, and therefore on cognitive development.

" . . . it would appear that no theory is capable of handling the diversity of findings reviewed earlier, unless it consists of the three prongs of biology, environment, and motivation."  Ceci

I don't think we in the United States have really begun to appreciate what is being done to our communities--and to our future as a modern nation--through the politicization and corporatization of education.  Figure 2 is only a reflection of what has been done in the past thirty or forty years.  The forces of cognitive degradation are just coming into their own.  Now, with the election of Donald Trump, nothing can stop Murdoch and Gates et. al. from sucking the life blood out of the public sector, of which education is by far the most important part.  The decognification of the United States is only now picking up steam.  The past is prelude.