|brain plasticity and biocultural niche:
the evolutionary context of Trump's response to COVID 19:
Donald Trump and the end of literacy
|the big picture: how far back must we go to understand "Trump"?
|Human beings were never born to read
|the cognitive implications of literacy
|prerequisite to understanding "trump": the 2nd copernican revolution
the implosion of neo-liberal "society"
|Our World in Data
A History of Reading and Writing in the Western World (Palgrave macmillan 2020)
_____ Chase, The Chartists
--you may ask, How could the entire apparatus of the rational-bureaucratic state be taken over by the hodge podge of mostly bit players (the provincial part of gop business and their political flunkies
This election result was decades in the making. On the one hand, a variety of fascist and ultra-nationalist currents worldwide found fertile soil in the displaced and discarded "white" populations that were the enormous if unintended by-product of post-industrial capitalism's truly explosive development. On the other hand, the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which in its heyday (1935-1947) understood and attempted to deal with this underlying dynamic of human capital liquidation and the need for a global trading regime that was subservient to the objective of national development--this party, over a period of decades, ceased to be.
The remnants of that party of FDR (Bernie, Sherood Brown) were eliminated by the Clinton revolution--the taking over of the Democratic Party by the forces arrayed around the Democratic Leadership Council. In place of the social democratic orientation of yesteryear,and more, general systems orientation
we got globalization uber alles. In place of an appeal to working class needs and recognition of the life experience of working people, we got, in this election, an appeal to college-educated women, a variety of life-style groups, and minorities. Democratic surrogates and media talking heads actually showed contempt for those stupid white people who lived, for example, in my state of Michigan.
Now those chickens have come home to roost. I saw this coming. Michael Moore saw this coming. Polls presuppose a certain underlying existential stability. The polls were wrong because the ground had shifted (and the cartesian trap exposed).
But also consider the role played by the Democratic Party in producing this electoral result: In place of an appeal to working class needs and recognition of the life experience of working people, we got, in this election, an appeal to college-educated women, a variety of life-style groups, and minorities. Democratic surrogates and media talking heads actually showed contempt for those stupid white people who lived, for example, in my state of Michigan.
Racism is real but also mutable, a psychological resource exploited by right-wing politicians but dependent on context: globalization, and the failure of the Democrats to address this existential threat to my rust belt neighbors.
The four axes of ontological catastrophe can be placed in historical contexts. Instead of the great dream of the Enlightenment that was the core sensibility of Progressivism (the New Deal), Socialism (Scandanavian Social Democracy), and Communism, we have:
a. the wreckage not only of socialism but more broadly of Progressivism, of the entire cultural-historical self-formative project (Bildung) that grew out of the Enlightenment and gave us the Russian revolution, Scandinavian Social Democracy, and the American New Deal. Bildunsproletarians and plebeian upstarts
b. the persistence of the political culture, psychological dispositions and praxiological modalities of ressentiment (the inner life of racism and fascism)
c. the triumph of nihilism as the socio-cultural engineering project of global corporate networks of unimaginable reach and power, generating an entropic process of disindividuation. Mass consumption as a mode of absorption and transformation of the organism. The fiction of freedom, the subversion of individuation, the inner logic of addiction, the commodification of distress, the infantilization of public discourse . . . in short, the dissipation of the species homo sapiens sapiens into a proliferation of effects. DSM-V as the operating manual of the post-human ontology. The incredible shrinking self. This is the new Democratic party whose rhetorical vector is liberal not progressive
with cognitive and emotional processes. Such processes are
central to human existence. The brutishness in language and
behavior that are the chief characteristics of Trump's mass-oriented
performances must be understood as manifestations of something of great
ontological significance. The sado-sexual eigenvector of “Trump”
performativities goes back to the Know-Nothing roots of the GOP
(Gniepp), later 19th century anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic political
rhetoric, the lynching for rape discourse, the southern strategy, and
the infamous Willie Horton episode in George H.W. Bush’s 1988
campaign. Trump's performance coming down the stairs ("They’re
bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.") and the
plaint of one of his supporters ("He’s not hurting the people he needs
to be hurting)" should be placed in this broader context.
The herd, psuedo-speciation, The ontologically indeterminate nature of homo sapiens as cultural-historical primate, the historicity and enormously complex variability of really existing humans, all of which unfolds in the post-biological era (Dupre; Nietzsche); or, the Quantum Heterogeneity of Dasein.
the performative complex of the Southern strategy
*from Dan T. Carter, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994 (Louisiana State U. Press, 1996), pp. 8-9.
The depth of Wallace’s racism—the degree to which it was part of his core beliefs—was always unclear. He sometimes manifested an air of apologetic cynicism; when forced to break away from informal gatherings because of a speaking engagement, he would often turn to his friends and ask to be excused with a sheepish grin and a half-embarassed explanation: “I got to give ‘em a little nigger talk.”
Seymour Wolfbein, a Labor Department expert in the Kennedy administration, was convinced it was all an act. . . . Wolfbein found Wallace fascinating and amusing, but hardly sinister, a kind of roguish political con man eager to let him in on the joke.
When confronted with the question of whether Wallace was “sincere” in his racial views, a Montgomery attorney who knew the governor well said it best. “If George had parachuted into the Albanian countryside in the spring of 1962,” reflected John Kohn, one of Wallace’s advisers in the 1960s, “he would have been head of the collective farm by harvesttime, a member of the Communist Party by midwinter, on his way to the district party meeting as a delegate by the following year, and a member of the Comintern in two or three years.” George, said Kohn, “could beieve whatever he needed to believe.”
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?
the political construction of identity
from Joseph E. Lowndes, From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (Yale Univesity Press, 2008)
Politics is not merely the realm where preexisting interests, grievances, and passions are given expression. Rather, it is in and through politics that interests, grievances, and passions are forged and new collective identities created. Backlash, the ideological cornerstone and justification for modern conservatism, masks what was a long-term process whereby various groups in different places and times attempted to link racism, anti-government populism, and economic conservatism into a discourse and institutional strategy through linguistic appeals, party-building, social movement organizing, and the exercise of state power. In the process, the very interests and self-understanding of these groups were continually under construction as they moved from coalition to collective political identity. As opposed to being entrenched and traditionalist (or reactionary, depending on one's politics), the Right that developed is better viewed as contingent, mobile, and highly adaptive, constantly responding to changing conditions on the ground. 4-5
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
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.
I do not know to what extent this miltidimensional enlightenment continued in the nations of western Europe. Certainly it seems to have weakened. But in the United States it has been virtually destroyed, as the current state of public media, politics, and education will testify. All the huffing and puffing about our educational crisis is itself not merely a symptom of that decline; it is also an active force driving that decline even further (Watch CNN and MSNBC to see what I mean). One can say with confidence that the socio-cultural-political forces key to the creation of modern minds, having developed over two and a half centuries, can hardly be recovered by some blue ribbon committee, the posturing of a Bill Gates, the demonization of teachers' unions, the implementing of a punitive regime of testing, and the predation of financial entrepreneurs in education. For the United states, the enormous success of reaction in breaking the backbone of the enlightement as a cultural force has just begun to be felt. Figure 1 is prelude, a lagging indicator, of cognitive decline. What has been set in motion by the forces of reaction has an unstoppable momentum. One can see that for decades down the road the United States will continue to decline. Charles Murray's sequel to The Bell Curve (Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010) applies his racist methdology to the white working class, ignoring all of modern social science, focusing instead on the moral failings of non-elites whites. While taking note of the growth of narcissism among poor whites, he views it not as a major cultural trajectory of modern capitalism (see Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture), but as the moral failings of a newly designated underclass. (see comment in WSJ article above by Jim Capatelli)
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.
point of all this--linking Mozart, Lenin, the CP of the New Deal era,
and the Taylor Society--is to demonstrate the enormous breadth of the
force field of the Enlightenment as cognitive-developmental process at
the center of the making of modernity. Conversely, one can
recognize that it was modernity itself that the right demonized [Steinman].
Indeed, the entire range of right-wing issues in the Twentieth and on
into the Twenty First Century involves the mobiliation of the forces of
ressentiment in a series of holy crusades against various demons
(anti-communism is properly called a witch-hunt), combined with a
defense of a mythic form of property, the latter being conceived of in
its most primitive and developmentally reactionary form. This is
little more than an expression of the shibbleths of provincial
protestantism dressed up as economic theory. One has truly failed
to grasp the deep pathology of our times if one takes this primitive
form of cognitive activity at face value. And liberalism as
feeble remants of the enlightenment dynamic enacts its bancruptcy
everytime it accepts as valid the demonic constructions of reactionary
political elites (e.g., Obama's birth certificate) and seeks to answer
rather than decode them.
This successful destruction of the left in the post-war years beginning with McCarthyism meant the undermining of the forces of cognitive development so vital to the strength of nations in the twenty first century.
The purpose of the above is to demonstrate not only the enduring but the central significance of cognitive development in the making of modern/modernization/moernist--bourgeois and capitalist--society, and to delineate some of the major components--the major developmental trajectories--of this process.
The discussion of the popular enlightenment and the elite enlightenment (TS) puts intopisa perpsective Figure 1. An esential element in the making of a cognitively advanced population is a powerful enlightenment ethos rooted in cuture, modern institutions, politics and the state. Educational instititons are embedded in society considred as a quasi-totality.
rhetorical performance of the right is not only cognitively
primitive. It should be obvious that on the right there are not
issues, but postures, gestures, various encodings of the same
sado-sexual reflex (the inner logic, the generative matrix, of
racism). Rage enacted in a political-media theater of violence
(psychologically, the "issue" of immigration is the script for a
generalized lynch-mob): This is the essence of what is called
"Conservative" today. And not only rage, but political
pornography. Sex and violence make up the entirety of the inner
logic, the generative matrix, of populist Republicanism. These
sado-sexual fixations may dress themselves up as issues, as if they
were subject to rational debate and beholden to empirical checks
(remember Willie Horton?). Language on the threshold of gesture
and reflex. Regression to infantile narcissism via processes of
identification, to a politics of patrimonialism.