From the New Deal to Donald Trump
transcendental empiricism in action
History without philosophy is only a screen on which to project the shibboleths of our time.
The site as a whole recognizes that the Internet is the techno-cognitive axis of a praxiological revolution in thought, where the extended mind is fused with philosophy as the critical accompaniment to empirical practice.
" . . . the primary ontological units are not 'things' but phenomena--dynamic topological / reconfigurings / entanglements / relationalities / (re)articulations of the world. And the primary semantic units are not 'words' but material-discursive practices through which (ontic and semantic) boundaries are constituted. This dynamic is agency."*
* Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Duke University Press, 2007)
"Philosophy always arrives too late . . . . The Owl
of Minerva takes flight only as the dusk begins to fall."
"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic
facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first
time as tragedy, the second time as farce."
Trump and Fascism
from Immanuel Kant, Logik. "To make concepts out of representations one must be able to compare, to reflect, and to abstract, for these three logical operations of the understanding are the essential and universal conditions for the generation of every concept whatsoever."
Hitler is to Trump as tragedy is to farce. In this formulation Trump and the GOP are not equated to Hitler and the Nazis; they are compared. This inability to comprehend that to compare is not to equate is so widespread in our public and especially classroom (note) discourses that it can be taken as a key indicator in the analysis of the minimally complex cognitive performativity of the various lifeworlds (see Imus) that are contained within the nation. To compare things is to think about them along various categorical axes, something that is more complex, that requires more actual thought, than merely asserting that you can't compare apples and oranges or Hitler and Trump. Thinking is what Figure 1 is about.
And Figure 1 is very bad news.
from Robert O. Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004):
¶ 1. Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by 1) obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and 2) by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which 3) a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, 4) working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, 5) abandons democratic liberties and 6) pursues with redemptive violence and 7) without ethical or legal restraints 8) goals of internal cleansing and 9) external expansion. p. 218
¶ 2. The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism. p. 84
¶ 3. Today  a "politics of ressentment" 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 allegiance [one minute and 45 seconds into this video]. 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
¶ 2, "The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy" perfectly encapsulates the the "populist" performativity of Trump's rallies.
¶ 1 can be broken down into nine elements, six of which (1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) characterize the Trump phenomenon. More interesting is to look at the three elements of Paxton's definition of fascism that seem least applicable: 2, 3 and 9.
¶ 3 was written before the rise of the Tea Party following the election of Barack Obama. That the Tea Party as a cultural-historical phenomenon is best understood through a familiarity with the literature on fascism obvious. From the standpoint of transcendental empiricism, however, the concept of fascism is a heuristic device. What this means is what this whole site is about.
What about Figure 1?
Figure 1. PISA Math Scores, 2003 to 2015: 20 Developed Nations
GOP as Party of Sado-Sexual Obsession: the "Stupid Party"
Compare Paxton's ¶ 3 with the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain (below right). Atwater has shown how the discursive and symbolic elements of the Southern Strategy were generated through the construction of a theatrical arena in which hatred is organized into a sado-sexual performativity that is the essence of the GOP's mass appeal.
The evocation of evil and the channelling of rage against a scapegoat (various forms of the other) is the stock-in-trade of Republican politicians. In this respect Trump is no different (see GOP as the Stupid Party). (see LASC)
The sado-sexual fixations that are the essense of right-wing signifying chains may dress themselves up as issues (such as abortion or Obamacare), as if they were subject to rational debate and beholden to empirical checks. But they are clearly not, and one of the indications of the intellectual bankruptcy of liberal and progressive discourse is that it is fundamentally incapable of grasping this elemental fact. "Facts" are merely props in the theater of ressentiment.
There is a simple brutishness to the rhetorical performances of the right, an inexhaustible reservoir of rage, cognitively primitive, sadistic in impulse and sexual in symbolic content (although this is often implicit--see Lacan: signifying chain). Several pages on this site contain images, videos, newspaper reports, and political ads that span the years 2009 to 2018. (Two of the videos (Father of Gun Victim and Kelly Ayotte Criticized), from June 20, 2013. are presented here. They are concrete moments in the unfolding of QHD-3, ressentiment and the mechanisms of defense.)
Concepts and Cognition
from Eckart Förster, The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy: a Systematic Reconstruction (Harvard, 2012)
. . . concepts have their basis in functions, by which Kant understands “the unity of the act of bringing various representations under one common representaton.” (A68). A concept is a rule for combining certain representations (and thus also a principle for excluding certain others). Thus the represesntations’white’, ‘grainy’, ‘saline’ are combined and ordered in the concept ‘salt, while the rrepresentations ‘colorless’, ‘liquid’, ‘tasteless’ (say) are not. In this way a concept is a rule allowing me to unite certain representations and to bring them under a higher representation, i.e. the concept. (pp. 22-3)
Cognition does not consist merely in the collecting of phenomena; rather we strive to forge conceptual links between them and to grasp the laws of nature that are valid for specific classes of objects as cases of yet more general laws, whereby we are guided by the ideal of a unified explanation of nature. (p. 38)
“To make concepts out of representations one must be able to compare, to reflect, and to abstract, for these three logical operations of the understanding are the essential and universal conditions for the generation of every concept whatsoever. I see, e.g., a spruce, a willow, and a linden. By first comparing these objects with one another I note that they are different from one another in regard to the trunk, the btanches, the leaves, etc.; but next I reflect on that which they have in common among themselves, trunk, branches, and leaves themselves, and I abstract from the quantity, the figure, etc., of these; thus I acquire a concept of a tree.” (pp. 250-51)
because the public sphere is a concept-free zone, standard shibboleths appear where concepts ought to be. The cultural-historical as well as political-economic significance of Figure 1 should already be evident not only in the election of Donald Trump, but also in the subsequent developments of this American form of a patrimonial regime characterized by fascist performativities. Figure 1 suggests that a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity preceded and made possible the fascist victory of November 2018. Moreover, this decline is not only to be found among students, the poor, and the marginalized. MSNBC (I use this as my example because it's the channel I watch) is a treasure trove of simple-minded shibboleths, grammatical degradation (subject-verb agreement, random use of prepositions, collapse of whole semantic forms (very unique, over hype, etc.), and the poor choice of words indicating a general semantic decline (use of the wrong word--I will get samples), almost as if words are becoming mere shadows of their former selves. These linguistic performances are indicative of the dissolution of higher-order cognitive functions. This can be witnessed daily, hourly, miute-by-minute
What about Figure 1?
The Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain: the genetic ontology of the GOP
|from Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
and Antonio R. Damasio, “We Feel, Therefore We Learn: The Relevance of
Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education,” in Emotions, Learning,
and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective
Neuroscience (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)
. . . learning is dynamic, social, and context dependent because emotions are, and emotions form a critical piece of how, what, when, and why people think, remember, and learn. Intro, p. 17
In general, cognition and emotion are regarded as two interrelated aspects of human functioning. p. 36
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): mThis is the essence of what is called
"Conservative" today. And not only rage, but political
pornography. Consider the Lacan-Atwater Signnifying Chain, and
bring Clarke in at this time.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
But what is new with the Trump campaign--and decisively so--is that a "demagogue" has literally hijacked the base of the Republican Party. The genetic ontology of ressentiment produces a subject. But that subject--the Trump enthusiasts one sees at rallies and in interviews and focus groups--has been embedded in the cultural-historical field of white supremacy (see The Imus Brouhaha and that which is called "Racism"). The containment of surplus agression, rage and hatred--which GOP politics has hitherto been able to shunt aside after having ridden this rage to victory--has depended on two things.
First, an economy of white affirmative action guaranteeing great masses of "white" folk sole access to those sectors of employment embedded in local government (police, fire, govt administration, utilities, transportation, building services, construction, and even manufacturing). And second, a semioitic regime of ego-reinforcing symbols (positive and negative identifications). When you add the election of Barak Obama to the economic consequences of the regime of neoliberal globalization (which includes declining wages as well as job losses) you add insult to injury, and one gets a psycho-cultural crackup of world-historic proportions. This is what Trump exploits.
NCES, Highlights PISA 2003, p. 14 NCES, Highlights PISA 2009, p. 18
NCES, Highlights PISA 2006, p. 12 NCES, PISA 2012, Math v
NCES, PISA 2015, Math
Korea and Japan are in light blue; Asia: Asian cities and city-states (C & C-S) are in light orange (see below for a breakout of the components of this category); Scandinavian nations + Switzerland are in dark blue; Anglo-Saxon nations in orange; France, Germany, Belgium and Poland in green; Italy, Portugal and Spain in red; the United States in yellow.
Of the European nations omitted from this graph, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus scored below the United States in math. Ahead of the United States but not shown are Estonia, Slovenia, Ireland, Austria, Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic.
The United States does better on reading and science, but math it taken by many as the more important indicator.
|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 development that change the nature of cognitive ontogeny.||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 development that change the nature of cognitive ontogeny. (pp. 262-3)
| its vulgarity, lies, sadism,
greed, and incomptence. combined with it fascit performativit
Figure 1 helps to explain the electoral success of Donald Trump, inasmuch as questions of cognitive performativity have arisen regarding the Presdent’s mental competnece or even level of development. But in the American public sphere—here I include all media, including the fascist/white supremacist media—the a priori condition for the discussion of everything is the Cartesian self, the underlyng myth of all political discourse that utterly vitiates any posisblity of understanding. Motive, interest.
|Is it a coincidence that Trump uses the language of white supremacy? (WAPO 4-20-18)
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.
|from Frank Ninivaggi, Envy Theory: Perspectives on the Psychology of Envy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010)