Thursday, August 18, 2011

Martin Jay's "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe"

Dialectic of Counter Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat for the Lunatic Fringe

See also "Breivik and Lind, a Side-By-Side Comparison," which demonstrates the extensive plagiarism in his manifesto by Anders Breivik of the Free Congress Foundation pamphlet, "'Political Correctness': A Short History of an Ideology." edited by William S. Lind.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

OSLOndon

In a late note to editors on the topic of the flaneur, Walter Benjamin discussed the customer's empathy for the commodity and the commodity's empathy for the customer. Instead of "work adorning the citizen" ("Arbeit ist des Bürgers Zierde"), in industrial society the city dweller begins to feel ashamed of work and takes pride instead in possessions.

As I understand this empathy with the commodity (characteristic of the flaneur, the sandwichman, the whore, the propagandist/agitator or "journalist-in-uniform"), it is somewhat akin to what we typically think of as a LACK of empathy, the extreme instance being the psychopath. Except Benjamin's Einfühlung is not a mere void, an absence, but the presence of a surrogate: empathy for the commodity. Instead of no empathy, we have ersatz empathy.

If that loose connection with the psychopath sounds plausible, it can be brought closer following Robert Lindner's 1944 description of the psychopath as a "Rebel Without A Cause" and consequently Norman Mailer's definition of the "hipster" in "The White Negro." (1957). Mailer's hipster, though, is a philosophical psychopath -- meaning he is simultaneously a psychopath (albeit a latent or passive one) and the negation of the psychopath. (See my previous post on the Economist as Hipster).

I want now to make a leap from the motif of the flaneur, the sandwichman, the whore and the agitator, the psychopath and the hipster, to the Oslo terrorist, Anders Breivik, and the London rioters and looters. Benjamin calls the world exhibitions of the 19th century the "school" where the masses learned empathy for the commodity. The rule was "look, but don't touch." Looting is, of course, the converse: "grab, almost without looking."

The reason I want to make this leap is not to label terrorists and looters as psychopaths or hipsters but to establish a frame within which the rhetorical reactions from right and left to the two sets of incidents can be observed. I was first struck by the certain hypocrisies in the "conservative" responses to Oslo and London but on closer examination it is clear that there is a distinct parallelism -- or mirror image -- between characteristic right-wing and left-wing or liberal responses to both events.

What is meant by "characteristic" takes on a bit of a circular selectivity here and I apologize for that. To some extent the characteristic responses across the spectrum may simply be those identified by antagonists as such. Thus the "liberal view" may not represent what most liberals think or say as much as a conservative stereotype of what liberals think -- and vice versa. What I am suggesting is only a rough analytical frame, not the conclusion of an exhaustive research project.

So within that crude framework, the conservative editorial will deplore Breivik's actions but strive to differentiate between those actions and the perceived problems of excessive immigration, multiculturalism, political correctness, etc. Similarly, the characteristic liberal rhetoric on the London riots would deplore the mindlessness of the looting but point to proximate causes in hopelessness, inequality and poverty, police brutality and government indifference and corruption. Meanwhile, the characteristic liberal or left-wing rhetoric about Oslo will explore ties between an endemic right-wing rhetoric of antagonism toward immigrants and Islam (see this blog, for example) and the characteristic right-wing response to London will indict liberal permissiveness and coddling of criminals.

See, when people motivated by grievances we acknowledge do bad things, it is important to distinguish between those legitimate grievances and the bad actions but when the other guys do it, it is equally important to emphasize the links between spurious motives and bad actions. Voila! Consensus between right and left! So, is there a way out of this house of mirrors? I think there is for the left.

That way out, in my view, involves a critical and objective attention to the problem of "character" and how that is affected by environment -- not on explaining or rationalizing anti-social behavior as caused by environment but articulating programs to counter the pathological character formation. Ironically, such a focus on character development as fundamental to policy could be seen as philosophically conservative, although I want to be quick to rule out moralistic exhortation as a viable program.

I'll leave it to good-faith conservatives to devise their own way out but it seems to me that they are today much the same position as non-Stalinist socialists were in the 1930s. The conservative "movement" is dominated by unscrupulous, totalitarian and deeply-entrenched operatives. As far as I'm aware there really is no "outside" dissenters can defect to.

Juliet Schor's Plenitude Animated

New Dream Mini-Views: Visualizing a Plenitude Economy from Center for a New American Dream on Vimeo.

Excerpt: Martin Jay's "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe"

A couple of weeks ago, Sandwichman wrote to Salmagundi suggesting that they make available on the Internet Martin Jay's essay, "The Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe,"  or alternatively grant permission for me to publish the essay. I haven't heard back from them. Because of the timeliness and importance of Jay's article in exposing the right-wing echo chamber meme that inspired Anders Breivik's murderous manifesto, I am posting an excerpt from that essay below:

False Witness

The Sandwichman has submitted a comment to the Whittaker Chambers blog, maintained by his grandson, David Chambers.

David,

I have a question about Ralph de Toledano and his authorship of what would presumably be his last book, Cry Havoc!. Your tribute to him portrays him as an erudite intellectual with wide-ranging cultural tastes. You cite the recording of the Garcia-Lorca poem and connect it to your interest in Neruda, Brecht and Kurt Weill.

I have been investigating the proliferation of what can at best be described as a "conspiracy theory" focusing on the Institute for Social Research or Frankfurt School. It might be more accurate to describe it as a preposterous fabrication and calumny along the lines of the infamous forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The origin of this fabricated conspiracy theory would appear to be in Lyndon Larouche's paranoid cult in the early 1990s.

The confessed Oslo mass murderer, Anders Breivik plagiarized extensively from one version of the tale, published in 2004 by the Free Congress Foundation and edited by William S. Lind. Patrick J. Buchanan replicated the story in chapter four of his 2002 book The Death of the West, in which Buchanan acknowledges the editorial advice of his friend, Bill Lind. I have checked footnotes in Buchanan's book and found them to be bogus, indicating only a more sophisticated variety of intellectual dishonesty than Breivik's inept plagiarism.

I have been unable to locate a copy of Toledano's book at a nearby library but the promotional blurb from the publisher presents a lurid recapitulation of the Larouchite/Lind slander. So I am curious about what kind of documentation the book contains or if it is yet another raucous production of the vast, resonant right-wing echo chamber -- apparently even crediting the Frankfurt School with the rise of the Nazis. Here is an excerpt from the publishers' blurb:

Cry Havoc! is Ralph de Toledano's most ambitious work. Its modest length (254 pages) belies a volume jam-packed with information. One hardly knows where to begin. Anyone seriously absorbing it will end up with a heavily underlined book that connects the dots and timeline of the planned decline of Western Civilization.

Those dots lead ultimately to the Institute of Social Research planted in prestigious Frankfurt University in Germany in the Twenties. The "Frankfurt School," as it was called, was "dedicated to neo-Marxism — contributing to the corrupt miasma of Weimar Germany and the victory of Adolph Hitler's National Socialists."

Ultimately, the "school" moved to America where it was accepted by Columbia University in New York. This was accomplished by John Dewey, the educator credited (or blamed) by many with leading to the corruption of America's education system. Dewey, as Toledano notes, was in league with "a crypto-communist professorial cabal — and a conspiracy and a war so vast and so cunning that it went unnoticed."

A few — unfortunately very few others — have written about the Frankfurt school. Toledano takes one more step toward laying the conspiracy directly on the doorstep of the Comintern. As with Soviet funding of the Communist Party USA, it takes no great leap of imagination to surmise as much. Again, the question lies in "the smoking gun." Toledano makes the case that it is there in writings or words of V.I. Lenin and other original Bolsheviks.

Cry Havoc! traces the Frankfurt school plot to 1922 and to the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow and to Karl Radek — a power in the Politburo — and to other key players in the then-new Bolshevik revolution. Among them was Muenzenberg, who openly boasted, "We will take over the intellectuals. We will make America stink."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Schema der Einfühlung

Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, I.3 p. 1178-79
Schema der Einfühlung. Es ist ein doppeltes. Es umfaßt das Erlebnis der Ware und das Erlebnis des Kunden. Das Erlebnis der Ware ist die Einfühlung in den Kunden. Die Einfühlung in den Kunden ist die Einfühlung in das Geld. Die Virtuosin diese Einfühlung ist die Dirne. Das Erlebnis des Kunden ist Einfühlung in die Ware. Einfühlung in die Ware ist Einfühlung in den Preis (den Tauschwert). Baudelaire war ein Virtuose dieser Einfühlung. Seine Liebe zur Dirne stellt ihre Vollendung dar.

Einfühlung in die Ware ist Einfühlung in den Preis (den Tauschwert). Baudelaire war ein Virtuose dieser Einfühlung. Seine Liebe zur Dirne stellt ihre Vollendung dar. Seine Liebe zur Dirne stellt ihre Vollendung dar. {Die Gottähnlichkeit des Müßiggängers zeigt an, daß das Wort »Arbeit ist des Bürgers Zierde« seine Geltung zu verlieren begonnen hat. Der Bürger beginnt sich der Arbeit zu schämen. Sein Stolz gilt mehr und mehr dem Besitz allein. Dieses Hochgefühl macht ihm der Tagedieb freilich streitig. Denn er ergibt sich dem Müßiggang ohne Rücksicht darauf, ob seine Mittel ihm das gestatten.

Klimax: flaneur - Sandwichman - uniformierter Journalist Der letztere macht für den Staat Reklame, nicht mehr für die Ware.

Die Weltausstellungen waren die Schule, in der die vom Konsum abgedrängten Massen die Einfühlung in den Tauschwert lernten. Alles ansehen, nichts anfassen. {Wenn alle Stricke reißen, wenn am verödeten Horizont kein Segel und kein Wellenkamm des Erlebens auftaucht, dann bleibt dem Vereinsamten, vom taedium vitae ergriffnen Subjekt noch ein letztes übrig. Das ist die Einfühlung.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cry Havoc!

Oh, Boy!

"Toledano uncovers continuities between the Frankfurt School's conspiracy and the rampant cultural terrorism in America." Meanwhile Sandwichman demonstrates more than "continuities" between this poisonous cocktail of plagiarized conspiracy theory and the confessed mass murderer Anders Breivik's professed motives.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Economist as Hipster

...and so if in the midst of civilization -- founded upon the Faustian urge to dominate nature by mastering time, mastering the links of social cause and effect -— in the middle of an economic civilization founded upon the confidence that time could indeed he subjected to our will, our psyche was subjected itself to the intolerable anxiety that death being causeless, life was causeless as well, and time deprived of cause and effect had come to a stop.
It is time to tell the truth. Those are the first words of an astonishing 31-page diatribe, The Fake Revolt, published in 1967 by one Gershon Legman.

Ostensibly, the pamphlet berates "the people behind" the hippies and beatniks of the 1960s counterculture. But Legman lingers just a tad too long and with too much relish on salacious anecdote and intemperate hyperbole to take his screed entirely at face value.

Almost in passing, Legman indicts a slew of no-so-innocent bystanders whose minds had long ago "been reduced to malleable pap" by the media, "all of which are totally hitched to saleable products, and are themselves for sale..." In short, the counterculture is no better (but no worse) than "the usual condescending flatulencies... the same old crap... the whole stinking old-peoples' mess" that passes for modern so-called culture.

So what does a rabidly homophobic and downright paranoid polemic against hippie merchants of perversion and hallucination have to do with macro-economic analysis? Only this: any attempt to "tell the truth" about the depravity of what passes for economics these days is bound to come across as a spittle-flecked rant rather than as a "reasoned critique."

Why? Because the economists are not serious. Legman fronts his discourse with epigrammatic quotes from Robert Lindner's 1944 Rebel Without a Cause (not to be confused with the movie of the same name) and Norman Mailer's "The White Negro" (1957). Both authors address the phenomenon of the psychopath but there is a subtle difference that becomes evident from consulting to the source texts themselves. Lindner was referring to the clinically diagnosed criminal psychopath, while Mailer was employing a metaphor of generalized psychopathology to define "the hipster" as a "philosophical psychopath" -- a psychopath "and yet not a psychopath but the negation of the psychopath for he possesses the narcissistic detachment of the philosopher."

The economist of today is a hipster... and yet not a hipster, but the negation of the hipster.

"A totalitarian society makes enormous demands on the courage of men, and a partially totalitarian society makes even greater demands for the general anxiety is greater."

If we grant a certain naïvety to the 1950s technocratic "confidence that time could indeed he subjected to our will," what could be said about the insidious restoration of that obsolete posture, long after C. Wright Mills, Robert McNamara and even the maestro himself, Alan Greenspan, have come and gone? Is it mere cynicism that compels a macro-economist to not only assume but to belligerently insist upon a hypothetical production process that encompasses no actual human relationship between the workers and the work that they perform? Is it some technocratic tic that induces a "progressive" economist to confuse the static, retrospective nature of statistics -- and models based on them -- with the dynamic process of production? These examples are not anomalies: they are canonical. To object is to reveal oneself as some kind of crank.

Or is there a more sinister explanation? Are we witnessing, once again, the "stench of fear," the "collective failure of nerve" that pervades an age when intellectuals know full well that dissent constitutes a note, "which could be called in any year of overt crisis." Not that the economist is going to be marched off to a concentration camp, insane asylum or shot. It is just that the economist's analysis -- and therefore the economist, too -- is a salable product and the market for "time-less," "labor-less" macro-economic analysis is so much more lucrative.

Afterthought: Mailer's essay was 9,000 words, Legman's pamphlet 32-pages. My blog post is 600 words. There is an economy of condensation and of transience at work in what can be said today. In other words, very little. "tl;dr."

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Productivity of Unemployment

Peter Frase:
If you believe, as I do, that it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of time people spend in paid employment, it would also be nice to increase the productivity of whatever they do in the time thus freed up.

Work Sharing is the Answer

Dean Baker:
The basic point is simple. If we encourage employers to deal with reduced demand by shortening work hours rather than laying people off, we can get back to full employment relatively quickly. Every month, firms lay off or fire roughly 2 million people. If this figure can be reduced by 10 percent through work sharing, it would be equivalent to creating 200,000 additional jobs a month.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Intellectual Progress?

Nick Rowe (2011): "because my policy increases output, because there's 1% more person-hours of *government* employment."

Lionel Robbins (1929): "The days are gone when it was necessary to combat the naïve assumption that the connection between hours and output is one of direct variation, that it is necessarily true that a lengthening of the working day increases output and a curtailment diminishes it."  

Nick Rowe (2011): "Sandwichman: This post is not about work-sharing. I am holding hours per worker constant. You are off-topic. Do not hijack this post. Stop now. Not everybody shares your interests."

Breivik and Lind, a Side-By-Side Comparison

The document below the jump compares the text of the manifesto of the Oslo mass murderer, Anders Breivik, in the first column with that of the Free Congress Foundation pamphlet, "'Political Correctness': A Short History of an Ideology" in the second column. Differences between the two texts are highlighted in red in the Breivik text and blue in the Lind text. A line by line comparison has only been completed for the first chapter. But chapter divisions have been completed for the whole document.

Rehman: "The Witch-Hunt for Liberal Traitors"

From Jalees Rehman: From Frankfurt to Utøya, Guernica, a magazine of art and politics:
One of the central themes in the texts of contemporary far right American and European writers that are compiled in Anders Breivik’s compendium “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” is the idea that cultural Marxists and multiculturalists are conspiring to destroy Western culture by promoting the immigration of Muslims. The persistent use of the expression “cultural Marxism” is a very effective tool employed by far right authors, because it evokes the deep-rooted historical fear of Marxism that still exists in the United States and in many parts of Europe. Following the collapse of communist states in Europe, far right thinkers may have found “cultural Marxism” to be a handy substitute adversary to mobilize popular support. The vagueness of the term “cultural Marxism” and by linking it to multiculturalism or feminism allows far right leaders to cast a wide net, potentially implying that all fellow citizens who support progressive-liberal values are somehow linked to a “Marxist” conspiracy. By further connecting such “cultural Marxists” to the idea of a Muslim enemy, far right thinkers tap into the historical European fear of Muslim or Ottoman invasions, and also accuse liberals of betraying their countries by colluding with the enemy.

These contemporary approaches of far right leaders in Europe and the United States remind us of two myths used by the Nazis to justify some of their horrific crimes. The Dolchstoßlegende (dagger thrust or stab-in-the-back myth) was propagated by German right wing extremists, nationalists, and the military during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich to blame the World War I defeat on left-of-center political parties in Germany, such as the social democrats or communists, who had metaphorically stabbed their country in the back. The myth of a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy was also used by the Nazis to tap into the deep-rooted European anti-semitism and accused Jews of working with Russian Bolsheviks.

Below is a collection of blog posts, including Ecological Headstand, that have discussed the Breivik/Lind/Buchanan/LaRouche political-correctness conspiracy doctrine.


Ecological Headstand:
Chip Berlet at Talk to Action:

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Cultural Conservatives": Prophets of Deceit

In the late 1940s, the American Jewish Committee sponsored a series of reports titled Studies in Prejudice, under the direction of Max Horkheimer. In one of the volumes, Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator, Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman analyzed a large collection of texts written by pro-fascist, anti-Semitic "personalities", such as Gerald L.K. Smith and Father Charles Coughlin. Horkheimer described the book's theme in his foreword to the five volume series:
The agitator's technique of persuasion, the mechanism of mediation that translates inchoate feeling into specific belief and action make up the theme of that volume. As mediator between the world and the individual psyche, the agitator molds already existing prejudices and tendencies into overt doctrines and ultimately into overt action.
Lowenthal's and Guterman's analysis is book-ended by a composite, generic speech typifying what the agitator says and, at the end, what he means. This generic speech reads like an X-ray of today's right-wing rant against "Political Correctness, cultural Marxism, multiculturalism and the Frankfurt School" (henceforth PCCMMFS) recited by William S. Lind, Patrick J. Buchanan (see chapter four of his 2002 The Death of the West), Raymond V. Raehn (a contributor the the Lind pamphlet plagiarized by Breivik and bridge to the original Larouchite conspiracy theory article -- the primary source for Buchanan's "Four Who Made a Revolution" fantasy in his chapter four), the herd of independent-minded Islamophobe radio, television and blog demogogues and the confessed Oslo mass murderer, Anders Breivik.

A case in point (and this exercise can be repeated ad nauseum)is William Lind's "Who Stole Our Culture," which appeared in The Culture-wise Family: Upholding Christian Values in a Mass Media World," By Dr. Ted Baehr and Pat Boone. In this short piece, Lind recites the catechism of the fractured cultural conservative history of the PCCMMFS conspiracy to destroy Western civilization by making America a sleazy, decadent place to live in. Note that one of the sub-headings in Lind's essay is "Studies in Prejudice." The embedded document ("Read more...") places the two texts, "The Agitator Speaks" and "Who Stole Our Culture," side-by-side. Separated in publication by 60 years, they are nevertheless mutually referential. I leave it to the reader to judge which text is more accurate and insightful in its depiction of the other.