from the New Deal to Donald Trump:

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from the origins of language to the end of literacy


the implosion of neo-liberal "society."

We are now engulfed in  the implosion of neo-liberal "society."  This is evident not only in the brutish and primitive mentalité of The Leader, but also in the decay of liberal cognitive performativities, as observable on MSNBC, for example.  The timeline at the top of this page provides a necessary context within which to situate our current experience.  It also highlights the importance of the historicity of print literacy, (see Nicholas Kristof,  Philip Roth, and Maryanne Wolfe
).  The election of Donald Trump is a lagging indicator of the disintegration of cognitive performativities.  preceding his election was the decline of mathemtical competence represented by Figures.

The term "society" is bracketed because, in the conventional use of the term, an ontological stability is implied, whereas in reality this society is in the process of blowing its brains out, and that along four axes of ontological catastrophe. The historical process that generated the election of Donald Trump and the subsequent destruction of the rational-bureaucratic state cannot be easily characterized, but the attempt will be made.

This page uses figurative elements, including  graphs, tables, charts, and maps, to advance an analysis of the historical trajectory: the New Deal to Donald Trump.  These elements (all in the right column) are related to the text-boxes in this column.

The rule governing this page is to think in terms of these graphemes, which form a set of synthetic a prioris.  In certain cases a text is made to function as a grapheme.  The Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain is one such a case.  Another is the Freud-Jamieson Black Hole of Liberalism.  They are also elementary particles.  That is, they are the building blocks of intelligibility within a hermeneutical modus operandi.  This may be what Deleuze means by transcendental empiricism, which is consistent with Hegel's notion of the concrete universal.  Also Alexander Luria's The Making of Mind:  Hermeneutical intelligibility vs. nomothetic explanation.

The first three graphemes

❖ The Keynesian Elite in the New Deal state
❖ The UAW: Bildungsproletarians and Plebeian Upstarts
❖ Sectors of Capital

provide a necessary framework and point of departure for dealing with the historical trajectory in question: from the New Deal to Donald Trump. 

The next two graphemes

❖ PISA math scores, 2003-2018
❖ The Lacan Atwater Signifying Chain

deal with cognitive and emotional processes.


Figure 1. The Keynesian Elite in the New Deal state
intersubjectivity and shared intentionality
(Bildung  + חֻצְפָ)
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Source: "Membership List, May 1927," in the Morris L. Cooke Papers, box 66,
FDR Library; and United States Government Manual 1937

for more info on Fig.2 click on Keynesian Elite: Career Matrix;
also: the
Papers of John M. Carmody

Joanna Bockman. Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism (Stanford University Press, 2011): three reviews

MEMO Corwin Edwards to Leon Henderson April 22, 1939
FF to FDR 11-21-34 re. Leffingwell (J.P. Morgan partner)


conceptual elements

Elementary particles and associated comments, lists, transcripts, remembrances of things past (civic republicanism 1933-1943: Bildung + חֻצְפָ); cognitive regimes, intersubjectivity and shared intentionality, proximal processes, biocultural niche (Schiller Hall, Fox News, MSNBC), cognitive performativity*, paranoid-schizoid position (the sado-sexual eigenvector of “Trump” performativities: ressentiment and the mechanisms of defense), the depressive position ("liberalism": nihilism, nietzsche, and you), the lynching for rape discourse, herding primates: semiotic regimes, patrimonialilism and the fundamental incompetence** of the Trump regime. fascism.

* see Measures of Cognitive Performativity  The gap between Obama and Trump is two orders of magnitude.  Cognitive performativity is context-dependent (as Ceci speculated twenty years ago).  Also see Proximal Processes.

** the fundamental incompetence of the Trump regime is evident in the coronavirus debacle.  MSNBC talking heads say "Trump" should behave in a rational-bureaucratic manner.  But this is fundamentally impossible.  A racist simile should help.  Imagine that homo sapiens (cranial capacitiy 1400 cc.) and homo erectus (cranial capacitiy 600-1250 cc.) coexisted in today's America; that homo sapiens was the ruling "race" and that homo erectus was the inferior "race,"  with homo sapiens doing math and science, and homo erectus delivering pizza and other low-cognitive activities.  Now imagine that, through the alchemy of  politics, homo erectus became not merely the “base” that was maanipulated through simplistic language and brutish appeals, but actually took over the state, filling important positions with homo erectus (who could not do math and could barely speak).  I stipulate that homo erectus could do alpha male chimpanzee social relations and speak a rudimentary language.  And now, imagine what would happen in those agencies—CDC, FDA, etc.—whose homo sapiens leadership was replaced with homo erectus personnel.  The latter would be able to do the elementary schmoozing of patrimonial  politics, but would be unable to function even in a concrete operational manner in any sustained way (Rex Tillerson/Donald Trump: A Very Stable Genius, pp. 131-139).

Prelude to Trump: the Civil War in the UAW
Figure 2.  The UAW (Unity Caucus): Bildungsproletarians and Plebeian Upstarts, 1933-1943: Detroit and the lower great lakes.

intersubjectivity and shared intentionality: the extended mind of the Unity Caucus
(Bildung  + חֻצְפָ)

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Figure 4a.  PISA Math Scores, 2003 to 2018:
21 Developed Nations & 4 East Asian City-States (SHMC)

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note 1.   . . . several limitations in the data used in non-response-bias analyses
submitted by Hong Kong (China) and the United States. 
see inexplicable anomalies




Semiotic Regimes: Psychological Correlates
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 LEFT*
RIGHT
Topology
            depressive
     paranoid-schizoid
Political style
 progressive
         proto-Dorian
Cognitive mode
     concrete & pre-op
    pre-op and gestural
Regime type
   rational-bureaucratic
patrimonial

*Progressivism and liberalism are opposites, not twins.  The genetic ontology of progressivism is bildung and the will to power; The genetic ontology of liberalism is nihilism.  Today's liberalism is referred to as the left, thus covering over the genetic-ontological transformation of the post-war years (see Hall et. al.)  The New Deal is not represented in the above figure and table, The Two-Party System: Semiotic Regimes.  Donald Trump is an effect of this genetic-ontological transformation of progressivism into nihilism.  More on this later.


Semiotic Regimes: Institutional Correlates
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four axes of disintegration

•First, the disintegration of the cognitive performativities of modernity itself: the "human" side of "capital." (decognification, disindividuation; Trump's rhetorical performances seen from the standpoint of literacy and cognition as contingent not normative, fleeting in their time of promise (the Gutenberg parentheisis).


•Second, the explosion of fascist performativities within the orbit of the GOP (Robert O. Paxton, Anatomy of Fascism: "The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism.").

•Third, the assault on rational-bureaucratic institutions--i.e., an assault on the very idea of science-based professionalism and public service.  Example of disintegration of the state: the coronavirus response by thde Trump administration.

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






Prelude to Trump: the end of literacy in the United States
(an inner decay, building for decades, suddenly manifests itself.  Deep contradicitions, nticipated by some enlightenment thinkers, are now manifest.

Nicholas Kristof, "McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us," New York Times, May 8, 2020


Think of it this way. Workers at McDonald’s outlets all over the world tend to be at the lower end of the labor force, say the 20th percentile. But Danish workers at the 20th percentile are high school graduates who are literate and numerate.

In contrast, after half a century of underinvestment in the United States, many 20th-percentile American workers haven’t graduated from high school, can’t read well, aren’t very numerate, struggle with drugs or alcohol, or have impairments that reduce productivity.

from Philip Roth unbound: interview transcript (Daily Beast, October 30, 2009)

Tina Brown: You said in an interview that you don’t think novels are going to be read 25 years from now. Were you being provocative or do you believe that to be true?

Philip Roth: I was being optimistic about 25 years really. No, I think it’s going to be cultic. I think always people will be reading them, but it’ll be a small group of people—maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range. . . .  To read a novel requires a certain kind of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading. . .  I think that that kind of concentration, and focus, and attentiveness, is hard to come by. It’s hard to find huge numbers of people, or large numbers of people or significant numbers of people who have those qualities.


from Maryanne Wolf, Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (HarperCollins, 2018), p. 179

The seriousness of the current reality means that at the present rate, the majority of eighth-grade children could be classified as functionally illiterate in a few years' time.




On the emotional side, 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.

For more along these lines, click here. (emotional: Patrimonialism and Fascism; Imus;  The "Two-Party System": Semiotic Regimes; on the Giffords shooting (theaterofressentiment.html);





On the cognitive side of the historical trajectory the New Deal to Donald Trump, it is necessary to assemble the literature indespensible for an understanding of what is happening.  Cognitive Modalities: a Summary of Sources, and Cognitive-linguistic Cardinality: the Quantum Heterogeneity of Dasein summarize the cognitive side of this set of texts.  The first of these--Cognitive Modalities--enables a serious analaysis of Donald Trump's cognitive performativity.   Throw-away comments such as Trump speaks like a fourth-grader don't cut the mustard.  Others refer to his oral style of thought and speech, but do not bring to bear the relevant work, most notably Walter J. Ong's Orality and Literacy.  In The President Who Doesen't Read I have assembled a few excerpts from key scholarly works and related media stories bearing on the question of orality and literacy.  Figure 0.1. From the Sapient Paradox to Donald Trump: the Guttenberg Parenthesis and the Flynn effect, provides one context for assessing the historical significance of the Trump phenomenon.

Many have commented on the cognitive performativity of the candidate and then the President, but don't take seriously the historicity, fragility, and reversibility of cognitive development as a cultural-historical phenomenon.  Figures 4a and 4b reveal the effect of cultural-historical developmental processes, of which schooling itself is only one of several key inputs affecting the cognitive and cultural development of situated organisms (not Cartesian selves).  Cognitive development is not a normative, inevitable process (Wolf, Dupre).  Nor is it a solely ontogenetic process: the contextual and embedded character of mind; the social character of mind and agency; and the institutional and historical contexts of cognitive performativity must be borne in mind. (Jan Derry, Vygotsky, Philosophy, and Education, Wiley, 2013, pp. 17, 24).  This site situates the cognitive performativity denoted by “Trump” in the context of recent work in archeology on the origins of language.  this is the governing principle that generated the page The President Who doesn't Read.


Cognitive development is an effect of history and politics, as well as evolution, and can suffer reversal or collapse.  This indeed is what is happening, and on a colossal scale.  Figures 4a and 4b suggest that a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity preceded and made possible the fascist-patrimonial victory of November 2016.  And now the “technical” issues related to the 2018 U.S. results suggest that, had the school selection process been up to standard, the 2015-2018 leg of the U.S. score might well have continued its downward plunge.  Thus, the apparent improvement may actually masks a more serious deterioration of cognitive performativity, and is accompanied by the patrimonial corruption of the institutions that conduct these tests.  What happened to the Department of State is happening everywhere.
  Mafia principles govern.





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click here for full text
so what kind of elite--if that term is applicable--is the trump gang?



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




Cognitive-linguistic Cardinality (orders of magnitude/index of cognitive complexity)
canThe Quantum Heterogeneity of Dasein in the context of Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare, Table 7.1,p. 260 (apologies to George Cantor)

אi
i =  4  internet and extended mind
i =  3  Foucault (Hegel, Nietzsche . .
i =  2  Formal operational
i =  1  Concrete operational
i =  0  Pre-operational/oral-mythic
i = -1  Mimetic/gestural
i = -2  primate


Michael Cole, Cynthia Lightfoot, and Sheila R. Cole, The Development of Children (Worth Publishers, 2009)


Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare: the Evolution of Human Consciousness (W.W. Norton, 2001)

from Sue Taylor Parker and Michael L. McKinney, The Origins of Intelligence: the Evolution of Cognitive Development in Monkeys, Apes, and Humans (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999)


[Merlin] Donald . . .  proposes successive levels of mental adaptation (all of which persist in humans): (1) the episodic culture of monkeys and apes, (2) the mimetic culture of Homo erectus, (3) the mythic culture of modern Homo sapiens, and (4) the theoretic cultures of literate humans. (pp. 275-6; emphasis added)

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Photo.  Saul Wellman, Robert Thomson, and David Doran at Fuentes de Ebro during the Spanish Civil War



re. the cognitive performativity of the trump biocultural niche

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

     But is there any evidence that nonhuman primates may experience something akin to a cultural shaping of their minds in the way Vygotsky implied for human children?   . . . .  More recently, Tomasello (1999) has emphasized the "socialization of attention" and cognition in general as the explanation for higher achievements (by human standards) of human-reared apes.  Although the two approaches emphasize very different factors, in fact from a Vygotskian perspective they are complimentary.  Vygotsky's view was that adult mediation was optimally achieved through the use of signs and symbols, especially speech and language.  In his view, higher cognitive processes--the processes that differentiate humans from other apes--could only be created through this sociocultural mediation.  The possibility that, at a reduced scale, the mind of an ape can be upgraded by giving him, on the one hand, a regime of socally controlled attention and interactive experiences with humans, and on the other, a new, more explicit form of representing the world, would confer dramatic support to the Vygotskian notion that higher cognition can be created through cultural processes of develoment that change the nature of cognitive ontogeny. (pp. 262-3)

Elementary particles and associated comments, lists, transcripts, remembrances of things past (civic republicanism 1933-1943: Bildung  + חֻצְפָ), cognitive regimes, intersubjectivity and shared intentionality, proximal processes, biocultural niche (Schiller Hall, Fox News, MSNBC), cognitive performativity*, paranoid-schizoid position (the sado-sexual eigenvector of “Trump” performativities: ressentiment and the mechanisms of defense), the depressive position ("liberalism": nihilism, nietzsche, and you), the lynching for rape discourse, herding primates: semiotic regimes, patrimonialilism and the fundamental incompetence** of the Trump regime. fascism.

Deep structure of ressentiment and the precarious cultural-historical achievements of “civilization”: defining barbarism (while being mindful of James C. Scott’s discussion of the “barbarians” in Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (Yale, 2017)).  The collapse of a civilization in the context of advanced capitalism; regression to primate; collapse of cognitive performativity across the board by one order of magnitude* in post-Fordist USA; the journalism of disintegration (Who Killed the Knapp Family? NYT 1-9-20);  hapless liberalism . . .  and more. 
patrimonial bacchanale: wholesale destruction of the rational-bureaucratic organizations of government.  Trump's covid 19 response explained.


 * see Measures of Cognitive Performativity  The gap between Obama and Trump is two orders of magnitude.  Cognitive performativity is context-dependent (as Ceci speculated twenty years ago).  Emotional overload short-circuits complex thought.  More.
Also see Proximal Processes
.
**
the fundamental incompetence of the Trump regime . . . more later
Nicholas Kristof, "McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us," New York Times, May 8, 2020

Think of it this way. Workers at McDonald’s outlets all over the world tend to be at the lower end of the labor force, say the 20th percentile. But Danish workers at the 20th percentile are high school graduates who are literate and numerate.

In contrast, after half a century of underinvestment in the United States, many 20th-percentile American workers haven’t graduated from high school, can’t read well, aren’t very numerate, struggle with drugs or alcohol, or have impairments that reduce productivity.



from Philip Roth unbound: interview transcript (Daily Beast, October 30, 2009)

Tina Brown: You said in an interview that you don’t think novels are going to be read 25 years from now. Were you being provocative or do you believe that to be true?

Philip Roth: I was being optimistic about 25 years really. No, I think it’s going to be cultic. I think always people will be reading them, but it’ll be a small group of people—maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range. . . .  To read a novel requires a certain kind of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading. . .  I think that that kind of concentration, and focus, and attentiveness, is hard to come by. It’s hard to find huge numbers of people, or large numbers of people or significant numbers of people who have those qualities.

In praise of the printed book: the value of concentration in the digital age