Ktismatics

5 December 2007

Juridical Concept of Empire

Filed under: Culture — ktismatics @ 9:18 am

In the discussion of Hardt & Negri’s Empire on the preceding post, Traxus accused me of being caught in a polarity. Are societal institutions the self-organizing emergent product of uncoordinated vectors of potential expressing themselves throughout the society? Or are they the top-down imposition of restrictions and directions on this emergent expression of diffuse human potential? Okay fine, I’ll read Hardt & Negri for awhile and see what they have to say for themselves — how they resolve the polarization through the juridical concept of Empire.

“The concept comes down to us through a long, primarily European tradition, which goes back at least to ancient Rome, whereby the juridico-political figure of Empire was closely linked to the Christian origins of European civilizations. There the concept of Empire united juridical categories and universal ethical values, making them work together as an organic whole. This union has continuously functioned within the concept, whatever the vicissitudes of the history of Empire. Every juridical system is in some way a crystallization of a specific set of values, because ethics is part of the materiality of every juridical foundation, but Empire… pushes the coincidence and universality of the ethical and the juridical to the extreme… From the beginning, then, Empire sets in motion an ethico-political dynamic that lies at the heart of the juridical concept. This juridical concept involves two fundamental tendencies: first, the notion of a right that is affirmed in the construction of a new order that envelops the entire space of what it considers civilization, a boundless, universal space; and second, a notion of right that encompasses all time within its ethical foundation… In other words, Empire presents its order as permanent, eternal, and necessary.”

H&N contend that this universal merger of law and ethics persisted through the Middle Ages, but that the Renaissance inaugurated the “triumph of secularism” which split law and ethics apart. So in the political came the concept of universal rights, whereas in the ethical arose “utopias of ‘perpetual peace.'” When I think about localized ethical utopias I picture the early American religious communities, trying to establish outposts of heaven in the wilderness. But these communities engaged one another in society and in commerce. There were fundamental agreements on universals that enabled them to establish federations across communities. In America at least the divide between the political and the ethical didn’t really hold. Each utopian community was a merger of both principles, and the federation across communities was built on (relatively) universal agreement on both principals among the diverse mini-utopias.

I don’t see H&N acknowledging that the medieval Western ethic also split between the old Catholicism, which was more a tribally syncretistic variant of Christianity, and the new Protestantism, which like the Renaissance was an attempt to return to a past classical age of Christianity. Protestantism extended the universal ethos of Christian fellowship, making possible the formation of societies and economies that unite total strangers from different cultures. At the same time Protestantism re-emphasized the juridical and ethical ideal of the Christian “constitution;” i.e., the Bible, and especially the New Testament, and even more especially the universalizing ideal of Paul. The New Testament ideal isn’t only enforced by the powers of Empire, as was the case with the Roman law or the Jewish law of the Old Testament; rather, it’s intended to guide the individual exercise of freedom in a way that permeates the society at every level. It’s a Foucaultian internalization of power, transforming from within the expression of potential energy. The form of secularization that came to dominate Western Empire arose specifically within those societies that adopted the Protestant variant of Christianity. This new “re-formation” of the Empire didn’t even need Italy, the original locus of the Renaissance and Negri’s home country.

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83 Comments »

  1. You drew me out of lurking with this one. The frontier society, “trying to establish outposts of heaven in the wilderness”, is a good metaphor for the stance of the multitude within Empire, if not in relation to their own production (which is *within*), certainly in relation to their mode of representation (which is *without*).

    That “Protestantism extended the universal ethos of Christian fellowship, making possible the formation of societies and economies that unite total strangers from different cultures” is only partly true, insofar as it can be seen as the horizon of protestant theology, if not the institutional form protestantism (is there such a thing?) has often taken.

    In this sense too, we see a similarity between the ideals of neo-liberalism (“Empire”), and the outworking. Multi-culturalism continues to be a foil for epistemic violence of a particularly nasty kind (benignly termed “globalization”).

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    Comment by "Ron" — 5 December 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  2. Hi Ron. So in transforming the multitude into a People, these utopian collective outposts can represent themselves not so much along nationalistic lines but in terms of shared ideals. Thinking aloud here: Unification of multiple ethnic groups or nations requires that the People be comprised of a coalition for which the unifying representational principle must be discovered outside of any of the component groups. If on the other hand the utopian collectives are already defined in part by a shared ethos, then even if each outpost is ethnically homogeneous, across all such outposts there can be discovered a common ethos that’s internal to each of them. This should make unification across disparate groups easier and should make it possible to base juridical decisions more on the basis of shared ideals rather than through compromise between essentially inimical power blocs. Is that somewhere along the lines you’re thinking?

    The horizon of Protestantism constitutes an ideal that forms the basis of the collective ethic, rather than something actual like national identity or membership in an organization. I wonder if fascistic projects like purifying the race reflect a realization that striving toward an ideal helps build the solidarity of a People? Of course this sort of project tends to demonize the outsiders and the impure halfbreeds, which is sort of the evil twin of idealism on which such programs seem to thrive. So too within an ideological People there is a demonization of the ethically corrupt.

    I don’t have a good handle on globalization, multiculturalism, internationalism, nationalism, etc. in the context of Empire. Can you elaborate on what you mean about the epistemic violence?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 5 December 2007 @ 5:46 pm

  3. In pop culture there is this sense of a “nation” of surfers, hip-hop “nation”, etc. that corresponds with what you describe.

    “Epistemic violence”, in the colonial context was the destruction of indigenous knowledge, but in the post-colonial aftermath, is an erasure of local difference through the translation process of globalism.

    An example of this could be the market for “world” music: Cultural tokenism within a fixed form of representation. Besides the destruction of cultures of the world during colonial wars, the re-emergence of a “sound” fetishism for exotic music in Empire is a figure for cultural diversity as a theme.

    A simpler example would be the advance of English as a mono-language that gobbles up difference, and obscures the function of the mythic and vernacular.

    The net could be seen as the machine of epistemic violence par excellance, translating global experience onto one platform, a seeming free for all where the invisible hand of the market yet holds sway.

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    Comment by "Ron" — 6 December 2007 @ 4:48 am

  4. Regarding musical “nations,” H&N do talk about “posse” in a way that conjures this trivialized notion of what it means to be a people. Epistemic violence is the risk of establishing unity on the basis of any sort of positive ideology, be it ethical, national, linguistic, or musical — there’s an outside that effaced or repressed. The texture and complexity intrinsic to the multitude is lost in forming a People. The options are to be absorbed or to retain a localized counter-presence that occupies the margins. If a People establishes itself as a federation of smaller identity groups, what’s the unifying principle other than tolerance for difference, which is a negative liberty that amounts to a libertarian position? Is it monetary, the ability to buy and sell and seek work across group boundaries? Then if one group feels like it’s not gaining more than it’s losing from the arrangement, there’s no positive reason to remain part of the federation. They secede and affiliate with a different federation from which they have more to gain and less to lose. Eventually you end up with the current Empire of global capitalism, a monopolistic set of trade affiliations with no groups on the outside that offer any economic value — and hence no value whatsoever. On what other foundation can a stable unity be established that isn’t always moving toward both hegemony and disintegration at the same time?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 5:27 am

  5. So the EU might be a trade association, but it’s also implicitly a unicultural thing, an idealized Europe that in some mythic prior epoch was unified geographically, ideologically and probably racially as well. We understand these low-wage workers from Eastern Europe because they’re European, Christian, white. Those Turks, on the other hand, are Asian, Muslim, brown — they’re out. The imagined anti-Empire of a reconstituted unified Islam might provide a countervailing force to Western Empire, but it would assemble itself by the same sort of epistemic violence, probably to an even greater degree than the Western one. Although you know, when ideologies remain external, at the level of law and enforcement, they don’t permeate individual psyches in the form of values. Perhaps if republic sticks with positive juridical power and avoids ideology altogether there’s greater freedom within the multitude to think what they want, as individuals and as groups. Legislation has to embody an ideology, but that ideology wouldn’t have to penetrate subjectivities in the way that Protestantism is the paradigmatic example.

    The conservatives in America are continually trying to forge the American multitude into a People, with legislative efforts like pro-life and protection of heterosexual marriage framed in positive terms as representing core values of the People. Close the border with Mexico because we need to retain the unity of the American People. Each of these allegedly positive values simultaneously combats “negative” freedom for those who don’t fit the ideology. It’s the source of the divide within conservatism between family values and libertarianism.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 5:56 am

  6. America, Christianity, the English language, the Internet, global capitalism — only in retrospect does the confluence of these streams seem inevitable; only in the present configuration does the totalization of one stream represent and reinforce that of all the others. So the Internet comes out of a multinational research project, it ends up dominated by English-speaking Americans, its platforms and pathways end up getting owned by for-profit firms. Content turns into a slurry of product that’s less than free — it gets a fee attached to it for being transmitted through the system, turning both the whole interactive process of emergent creation by the multitude into a mechanism where everyone is regarded as a consumer of their own product and billed accordingly. These totalizing moves aren’t intrinsic to the technology or the English language or Americanism or Christianity. Are they intrinsic to capitalism? Or is it the confluence of all these streams in Empire that makes all these presumably liberating mechanisms seem like a conspiracy to restrict freedom? I don’t get it.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 7:53 am

  7. The horizon of Protestantism constitutes an ideal that forms the basis of the collective ethic, rather than something actual like national identity or membership in an organization.

    You mean like Anglicanism?

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    Comment by kenoma — 6 December 2007 @ 1:26 pm

  8. Hi Kenoma. In the post I was referring to the utopian settlements of early American colonialism, which were mostly Puritan separatist sects that stepped away from Anglicanism. These communities were pursuing a combined ethical-juridical ideal based not so much on pursuit of individual freedom but on a community united in love. Over time American Protestantism has come to resemble Anglicanism in certain ways: a secularized ethos that embodies and promotes cultural values that underlie the American dream. But in an ideal version of itself, Protestantism upholds the New Testament as the juridical norm and the Christian praxis as outlined in Scripture as the ethical norm. So it’s neither a top-down monarchial arrangement (like Catholicism and Orthodoxy) nor is it an unfettered and aimless expression of the faithful multitude; rather, it’s more of a “republican” arrangement. That the USA formed itself as a republic is arguably a secular manifestation of this idealized form of Protestantism.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 1:53 pm

  9. The medieval hierarchies of Europe were built on a more Catholic-Orthodox model of church polity, which in turn emulated the Roman secular model — hence the Holy Roman Empire with interlocking church-state-economic hierchies The New Testament political arrangement looks much more communal, with everyone owning everything in common and diffuse leadership. The utopian Protestant communities of the early American sects tried to emulate this NT model.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 2:05 pm

  10. Thanks, ktismatics. Well, that’s all vey touching, but isn’t there the little matter of the people who lived in America before these communties based on love came into existence? Didn’t they have their part in defining the ‘separatism’ of these communities? And Catholicism is certainly authoritarian and monarchical, but in practice there’s less racial segragation than in American Protestantism (though Catholicism is certainly racist). I’m just confused by this idea that Protestantism is somehow above nationalism; this contradicts everything I know about history, and, indeed, the general tenor of your comment (USA as secular manifestation of communities founded on live).

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    Comment by kenoma — 6 December 2007 @ 2:09 pm

  11. founded on lOve, i mean

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    Comment by kenoma — 6 December 2007 @ 2:10 pm

  12. But in an ideal version of itself, Protestantism upholds the New Testament as the juridical norm and the Christian praxis as outlined in Scripture as the ethical norm.

    In an ideal version of itself, neoconservatism is bringing peace, love and democracy to the benighted peoples of the Orient. So what?

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    Comment by kenoma — 6 December 2007 @ 2:18 pm

  13. You could say “so what” about any ideological justification for using government power to pursue positive freedoms. That’s why the neoliberals, for whom government should assure negative freedoms for individuals rather than pursuing collective idealistic projects at home or abroad, weren’t spontaneously drawn to supporting the Iraq intervention. Bush famously stood against “nation-building” adventures in his first presidential campaign, which led the neolibs to think he was on their side. The libertarian branch of the Republican party was willing to tolerate the “family values” Christian conservatives, but then Bush revealed his big-government interventionist tendencies that run counter to libertarian ideology. In a lot of ways the Iraq war is an anomaly and an anachronism rather than an exemplar of neolib Empire.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  14. Oops, I overlooked your preceding comment Kenoma. I’m not really trying to defend the American way in either its past or its present incarnations; mostly trying to sketch out some historical precedents for H&N’s juridical-ethical ideal version of Empire. Weber did this in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, but he focused in particular on the worker ethic and the idea of engaging in trade relations with strangers on the basis of an assumed shared ethic that transcended familial and tribal loyalties. This is the individualistic component of Protestantism: each person establishes a relationship with God without priestly mediation; each person sees his/her own diligence and sobriety as evidence of being one of the elect. But these people affiliated themselves in communities of the elect, because election also manifests itself collectively in this sort of commmunal love of which I’ve spoken. And in that regard there is a precedent within Protestantism for collective action on behalf of the common good that coexists with the more neoliberal individualistic ethos that gets more attention. If that communal ethos that probably still percolates around the collective unconscious could be reinvigorated, perhaps H&N’s retrofitting of the Empire with institutional pursuit of positive freedoms could at least be conceivable.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  15. This is the individualistic component of Protestantism: each person establishes a relationship with God without priestly mediation;

    Well, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. I’ve always read that as a forerunner of the consumer who is unaffected by advertising.

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    Comment by kenoma — 6 December 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  16. This idea of a community of the elect supports economic stratification: if the regenerated energies of the elect can be identified by their diligence and sobriety, then sluggards are probably not regenerated and so also not the elect. There’s no question of becoming elect by hard work: that’s a Catholic ethos. So the poor become assigned to a separate category of the damned. Only later via the Methodists does American Protestantism introduce a praxis of sanctification whereby the sluggardly poor might actively call on God’s help to pull themselves up and acquire the success that signals holiness.

    The community of the elect idea also lends a distinct color to American nationalism. There’s always been the sense of Manifest Destiny as a mission to the world. Killing the Indians was more generally Christian: the Spanish certainly weren’t much more benevolently disposed toward the locals, though they did interbreed with them more than the English and Dutch did. Traditional Republicans and neocons draw on this nationalistic religiosity in creating the sense of a unified American People; the neolibs don’t really care, in my opinion.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 4:26 pm

  17. “I’ve always read that as a forerunner of the consumer who is unaffected by advertising.”

    You’ve read what that way: Weber? You’re right, though — certainly advertising plays into the American self-image of deciding for oneself, having it your own way, being unique in your tastes. This is the basis for market segmentation and customized batch production that’s been part of the successful recent expansion of American-brand capitalism.

    Incidentally, I grew up Catholic in America, so this Protestant ethic stuff is more an awareness of the culture that surrounded me rather than the religious propaganda of the nuns in catechism.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  18. You’ve read what that way: Weber?
    No, just the generic idea that Protestantism is about an unmediated relationship to God.

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    Comment by kenoma — 6 December 2007 @ 4:39 pm

  19. United in love of sumpin. But what?

    William Bradford, in his “History of the Plymouth Plantation” written at the time [1650], describes Mason’s raid on the Pequot village:

    Those that scaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible it was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to god, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.

    As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”here

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    Comment by chabert — 6 December 2007 @ 7:29 pm

  20. glad to see good blab happening here, will rejoin soon…

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    Comment by traxus4420 — 6 December 2007 @ 9:15 pm

  21. “United in love of sumpin. But what?”

    The point of this post was to focus on the combination of the juridical and the ethical as institutionalized means of actively channeling worker energy, rather than serving as a counter-force to that energy. H&N say this property of Empire dates back to the earliest syncretism between Rome and Christianity. In invoking Protestantism I was trying to characterize a shift in the juridico-ethical flavor of Empire as it moved toward its modern form. That capitalism and Protestantism converged in the new dominance of Western Europe is historically the case. That the Christian ethos has served as justification to slaughter infidels has also historically been the case, for Catholics and Protestants alike. So we’d conclude that institutionalized ideals aren’t always successful in preventing the People from turning into a mob. Somebody like Popper would say that ideals are nearly always dangerous as the basis of state intervention — which is part of the neolib argument against using institutions for pursuing positive ends. The question is whether, per H&N, Empire might contain within itself the potential for becoming anti-Empire, in the sense of having ideological precedents for governmental pursuit of positive liberties on behalf of the collective. I’d say that it does. Killing off Indians is illustrative of nationalistic military action, a proactive action of the “us” against the “them” that doesn’t really illustrate the government intervening actively within the “us.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  22. What is the extent to which proactive government in America reflects commitment to universal ideology versus nationalistic us-versus-them fascism? I suppose it’s inextricably intermingled, if the evidence for being God’s elect is some combination of espoused beliefs and a tendency to accumulate money. In this combination the Indians and the poor are both the enemy within, and military interventions always tend to take on the overtones of Crusade. But it is the WORKER who is valorized in American mythology, not the idle rich or the contemplative religious mystic.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 December 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  23. ” But it is the WORKER who is valorized in American mythology, not the idle rich or the contemplative religious mystic.”

    No, the entrepreneur is the hero of the “American dream” fables, not the worker.

    Has there ever been, in say the last two thousand years or so, on earth, a state policy which served some “ideals” against and in contradiction to the interests of the makers of the policy? I don’t think so. So the issue of a state’s “ideals” is kind of marginal.

    ” So we’d conclude that institutionalized ideals aren’t always successful in preventing the People from turning into a mob.”

    No, institutionalized ideals routinely are used discursively to turn people to be slaughtered into “a mob”, that is, it is in the name of institutionalized ideals – free speech, democracy, peace and security, whatever – that mercenaries and soldiers are ordered to shoot at “mobs”. But really they do this because “mobs” threaten the interests of those giving the orders. Ideals don’t motivate state actions and ruling class actions. It was in the name of Christ, institutionalised ideals of Christianity, that the governments of Puritan colonies in the 17th century slaughtered mobs of Pequot. But really it was in their material interests to exterminate them and this was why they did so. No “mob” slaughtered the Pequot, but rather the armed adult male fighting forces of the English settlements, not really because they were infidels but because they were a threat to the property (and persons, but on account of the property) the property owners among the settlers claimed.

    “Killing off Indians is illustrative of nationalistic military action, a proactive action of the “us” against the “them” that doesn’t really illustrate the government intervening actively within the “us.””

    In the case of the Puritans, government officials personally undertook the killing. And of course the role of the US government after independence in the completion of the genocide of the native Americans is indisputable. And undertaken in the name of ideals, manifest destiny, civilising mission, etc.. but actually to further interests of the policy makers.

    “What is the extent to which proactive government in America reflects commitment to universal ideology versus nationalistic us-versus-them fascism”

    None. The proactive US government’s policies reflect the interests of those making the policies. This has always been the case. Sometimes policy – as in all formal democracies – is made under a lot of pressure from the public urging actions in its own interests, sometimes, as now, with a very free hand. Neither universalist ideology nor ideological nationalism has any weight or role in US policymaking (except the minor role of a vocabulary for the description of policies and a means of manufacturing consent for them among people whose real material interests are in conflict with the policies). You cannot accuse of ideological nationalism the present regime which has in fact entirely deliberately bankrupted the state treasury, devastated its territory’s infrastructure, dismantled it’s own regulatory institutions, destroyed and occupied a city on its own soil with mercenaries, and is on the way to destroying the currency; the same regime which has destroyed and destabilised foreign countries and international law can hardly be accused of operating according to universalist ideals. Every policy is explicable (and was predictable, and indeed predicted) however in terms of the immediate and medium term and percieved long term material interests of those making the policy. So that’s the best explanation for the policies.

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    Comment by chabert — 7 December 2007 @ 1:03 am

  24. “It was in the name of Christ, institutionalised ideals of Christianity, that the governments of Puritan colonies in the 17th century slaughtered mobs of Pequot.”

    Dejan, consider Arpege du Sherbert for Native-American Assholism of the Year. They’ll do more ‘racism’ on us, but if she’d been brought up correctly, she’d understand Christian ideals at least well enough not to invite anti-Semitism, which is one of the many odious and time-consuming aggravations this needles-up-the-ass bitch does. Now that we’re through with Dominic, we can go back to realizing that Arpege is dumber by a long shot, even though Dominic only says things that have a kind of fake suaveness to them. Arpege is simply trying to be UNPLEASANT at all times so that we will all be good Germans long enough for her to make another buck.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 7 December 2007 @ 8:35 am

  25. “No, the entrepreneur is the hero of the “American dream” fables, not the worker.”

    The entrepreneur is one kind of worker, and I agree that the small-business entrepreneur is the American mythic figure. Those who work in the utopian communities toward the common good, those who get a cut of the for-profit corporations working with VC money from England, those who became farmers/hunters/traders on the frontier — they were all present at the beginning as the early American dreamers and myth-shapers. Working for your own account is the thing, either to achieve some sort of plenitude or as an outworking of a plenitude that’s already befallen you. The myth is usually about starting with nothing and through hard work ending up with something, maybe even with a pile of something. But the worker as employee or slave? No.

    “Has there ever been, in say the last two thousand years or so, on earth, a state policy which served some “ideals” against and in contradiction to the interests of the makers of the policy? I don’t think so.”

    I suppose this is the crux of the matter when it comes to H&N’s concept of Empire as the convergence of the juridical and the ethical. Do ethics ever actually shape institutional intervention, or are ethics only the window-dressing, the public rationale for self-serving exercise of power? In practice, do collective ethics serve to justify the most heinous acts because they seem to be based in a transcendent Good that in effect absolves people of their complicity? Contemporary neoliberals would generally agree; maybe the neoconservatives too. What distinguishes them is whether government should wield its power to achieve positive benefits for its client base (neocon) or to remove obstacles to the clients’ achieving their own interests (neolib).

    Would you contend that for individuals too ideals are merely rationales, ways of spinning one’s self-interested motives, to oneself as well as one’s audience, as something grander, something altruistic? Somebody like Daniel Dennett would say that that’s the case, on both philosophical and evolutionary grounds. Interestingly enough, the hard-core Puritan might agree. Jonathan Edwards, who holds a position near the very beginning of my high school “American Literary Record” textbook, wrote a book called “Freedom of the Will” — sort of an ironic title for a thoroughgoing Calvinist. Edwards contends that what seems like free choice is really the outworking of sentiments, predispositions and appetites that move our will in particular directions. The act of choosing is already predetermined by these unconscious operations, and whatever idealistic or godly rationales we adopt for justifying our choices are self-delusional attempts to persuade ourselves that we are the agents of our own fate. This, says Edwards, is the case for the elect and the non-elect alike.

    In a way Nietzsche builds on this Calvinistic argument, but then Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran minister so he grew up with this sort of thinking. Nietzsche imagined the possibility of the super-agent who transcends herd instinct, but even the superman is moved by pre-agency forces that he can’t really control. Luther wasn’t as resolute as Calvin about the illusion of individual agency, being rather a “both/and” sort of theologian: the elect choose AND they are chosen. It’s perhaps worth noting that Hegel studied Lutheran theology.

    Anyhow, there are two political issues that I’m struggling with in understanding H&N. First, is it desirable for societal institutions to act in accord with ideological principles which the People endorse in theory if not always in practice? Second, is it even possible for ideological principles to guide institutional policy? Would you say, Chabert, that you subscribe to the second position, that ideology has no legitimate institutional role?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 December 2007 @ 9:29 am

  26. “Has there ever been, in say the last two thousand years or so, on earth, a state policy which served some “ideals” against and in contradiction to the interests of the makers of the policy? I don’t think so.”

    I suppose this is the crux of the matter when it comes to H&N’s concept of Empire as the convergence of the juridical and the ethical.

    Yeah, I meant to ask a question. There have been many state policies enacted over the past two thousand years by states of various kinds. I am asking you for one example of a policy undertaken for “ideals” which was in contradiction to the perceived material self interest of the makers of the policy. If its really plausible you should be able to think of a hundred or so off the top of your head just from your own country.

    “Second, is it even possible for ideological principles to guide institutional policy?”

    I don’t really understand the question, but let me ask you the same question, but just for two institutions – the Kirov Opera and Citibank.

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    Comment by chabert — 7 December 2007 @ 11:39 am

  27. “Would you contend that for individuals too ideals are merely rationales”

    I think there’s more than one individual. I can’t prove it, but I really believe it. This is probably our real insuperable disagreement.

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    Comment by chabert — 7 December 2007 @ 11:42 am

  28. You’ve said that you can’t come up with any examples. Presumably then, based on your evaluation of the empirical evidence, you’d consider it extremely unlikely that a state agency would ever act on the basis of principles that don’t coincide with the interests of the state’s prime consituency. The constituency isn’t a single People but rather an aggregate of interests, so doubtless some of the state’s clientele will disagree with what gets enacted. So presumably states at least implicitly invoke some means of resolving disagreements within the constituency — maybe it’s sheer numbers, or aggregate power or money, or geographical or racial distribution. Whatever the tie-breaker, there will be some disgruntled clients. All sides are likely to frame their arguments in ideological terms, acknowledging that these may or may not be authentic motivations.

    So, the Emancipation Proclamation: it’s written in very bureaucratic language, with nothing about the rights of all human beings to be free etc. It could have been used as a tool to encourage the slaves to desert the South, thereby disrupting the working infrastructure of the Confederacy’s war apparatus and its landed-gentry clientele. And the Proclamation didn’t even directly eliminate slavery in the North, so there was nothing to lose. The defeat of the South would open up new economic opportunities for Northern carpetbaggers, so the financial incentive is aligned. And so the freedom bit is just window dressing, PR to justify a self-serving act of aggression of the Northern bourgeois directed against their Southern counterparts. Is that the idea?

    “I don’t really understand the question, but let me ask you the same question”

    Okay, I’ll try to answer as I understand the question. I don’t know anything about the Kirov Opera, but I’ll imagine a version of this institution that was created to satisfy the tsar’s desire to see a good show when he felt like it, as well as to establish Russian preeminence in high culture for all the world to see. There is also a commitment to excellence in the Opera, and attaining a high level of excellence is necessary if the Opera is to please the tsar. Does the tsar value operatic excellence even if he doesn’t attend the shows? Does the Opera maintain its institutional commitment to excellence even if certain hypothetical politically-motivate European critics dismiss the Kirov as second-rate, and even if popular tastes change such that audiences shrink? If so, then I’d say that ideological commitment is at least part of the organization’s collective motivation.

    I suppose you could say the same thing about Citibank: does it refuse to grant overly-risky home mortgages even though everybody else is doing it, and even if the bank could bundle these high-risk mortgages into a secondary offering that would bring them a handsome profit and offload the risk to some other poor fools? Or conversely, does the bank uphold the George Bailey principle of extending credit to the nice folks just because the town needs somebody to keep Mr. Potter from owning everything and everybody in Bedford Falls? These would be lending policies based at least on principle, be it underwriting excellence or social do-goodism. These things can at least be imagined.

    “I think there’s more than one individual. I can’t prove it, but I really believe it. This is probably our real insuperable disagreement.”

    I don’t understand your point here. Can you elaborate?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 December 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  29. “I think there’s more than one individual. I can’t prove it, but I really believe it. This is probably our real insuperable disagreement.”

    Jesus might this be a glimmer of idealism emerging from the Cobra’s materialist mud – she actually BELIEVES in something?

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 7 December 2007 @ 1:36 pm

  30. “That capitalism and Protestantism converged in the new dominance of Western Europe is historically the case.”

    you could probably look at this from something like an evolutionary perspective, where Protestantism and capitalism converge as a result of selection pressure at different levels, rather than as a planned arrangement. H&N do seem to argue that the juridical and the ethical emerged to suit specific needs, worked to hold together an organic society, and were dominated by an elite. but they talk about the form as if it had the determining power here:

    “Empire is formed not on the basis of force itself but on the basis of the capacity to present force as being in the service of right and peace…The first task of Empire, then, is to enlarge the realm of the consensuses that support its own power” (15).

    They cite Machiavelli for giving them this idea. Then you get the state of exception on 17. I have no way of evaluating their reading (the footnote is to a book Negri wrote), but there’s no mention of competing groups vying for power over this legal fiction of Empire, using it in different contradictory ways, etc. In fact they tend to grant agency to this formalism, as if it operated directly as a coherent entity on everyone equally. As I remember this is kind of their M.O. interspersed with occasional deviations or reminders that they are materialists. It’s not always easy to tell how the weight of causation is distributed.

    Like

    Comment by traxus4420 — 7 December 2007 @ 5:48 pm

  31. but on the basis of the capacity to present force as being in the service of right and peace…

    and HOW does the Empire accomplish this? Well, by using Marxist abstractions!

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 7 December 2007 @ 5:58 pm

  32. “there’s no mention of competing groups vying for power over this legal fiction of Empire, using it in different contradictory ways, etc.”

    You’d think they’d need to account for this possibility, this certainty, given that the Multitude’s potential energy vectors aren’t necessarily aimed in the same direction. Otherwise the People becomes almost a transcendent whole that arises from the empirical scatterplot — I don’t know how that can work. I’ll have to go back and look again at these early pages you cite.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 December 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  33. they do a better job of defining the multitude in ‘Multitude’:

    “Political action aimed at transformation and liberation today can only be conducted on the basis of the multitude. To understand the concept of the multitude in its most general and abstract form, let us contrast it first with that of the people. The people is one. The population, of course, is composed of numerous different individuals and classes, but the people synthesizes or reduces these social differences into one identity. The multitiude, by contrast, is not unified but remains plural and multiple. This is why, according to the dominant tradition of political philosophy, the people can rule as a sovereign power and the multitude cannot. The multitude is composed as a set of singularities — and by singularity here we mean a social subject whose difference cannot be reduced to sameness, a difference that remains different. The component parts of the people are indifferent in their unity; they become and identity by negating or setting aside their differences. The plural singularities of the multitude thus stand in contrast to the undifferentiated unity of the people.” (99).

    Like

    Comment by traxus4420 — 7 December 2007 @ 7:49 pm

  34. “The multitude, however, although it remains multiple, is not fragmented, anarchical, or incoherent. The concept of the multitude should thus also be contrasted to a series of other concepts that designate plural collectives, such as the crowd, the masses, and the mob. Since the different individuals or groups that make up the crowd are incoherent and recognize no common shared elements, their collection of differences remains inert and can easily appear as one indifferent aggregate. The components of the masses, the mob, and the crowd are not singularities — and this is obvious from the fact that their differences so easily collapse into the indifference of the whole. Moreover, these social subjects are fundamentally passive in the sense that they cannot act by themselves but rather must be led. The crowd or the mob or the rabble can have social effects — often horribly destructive effects — but cannot act of their own accord. That is why they are so susceptible to external manipulation. The multitude designates an active social subject, which acts on the basis of what the singularities share in common. The multitude is an internally different, multiple social subject whose constitution and action is based not on identity or unity (or, much less, indifference) but on what it has in common” (99-100).

    Like

    Comment by traxus4420 — 7 December 2007 @ 7:55 pm

  35. i kind of like the ‘multitude’ actually, even if i have problems with the contexts they put it in.

    Like

    Comment by traxus4420 — 7 December 2007 @ 7:56 pm

  36. “I think there’s more than one individual. I can’t prove it, but I really believe it. This is probably our real insuperable disagreement.”

    Jesus might this be a glimmer of idealism emerging from the Cobra’s materialist mud – she actually BELIEVES in something?

    When it was vaguely possible that there had been only one individual, was that Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, George Bush, or Donald Rumsfeld?

    I mean surely, all things being equal, especially Communist individuals with or without vodka–surely at least these 4 people were all at the High Elite Highly Competent Party at which plans for 9/11 truthout.org and rigorousintuition, I daresay verily even Qlipoth Toilets were hatched (by hens, one supposes…)

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 7 December 2007 @ 8:31 pm

  37. So Ktis are your example of an ideologically motivated policy which was against the interests of those who made and pursued the policy is: the Emancipation Proclamation. This was ideologically motivated and antagonistic to the interests of those who issued it? What was the ideological principle? What was the harm to those issuing the proclamation? Your view is you must know incredibly eccentric; it would be difficult to find an historian who agreed. Some will of course contend that Lincoln and his block were abolitionists ideologically, but all who do agree the war was at the very least an opportunity to legally emancipate some slaves in a way that greatly benefitted the dominant ruling block of the union and its patrons, militarily and economically.

    But how about an example from this year, about which we have more information and tools to verify. What state policy this year was made in contradiction to the perceived self interest of those making the policy, for ideological principle?

    “These things can at least be imagined.”

    Yes. The imagination is a wonderous thing.

    “I don’t understand your point here. Can you elaborate?”

    My point is there is something wrong with your questions. And your answers, which don’t answer, but instead ask more questions – well if Citibank were run by a giant rabbit from a parallel universe then… – exhibit this.

    Like

    Comment by chabert — 7 December 2007 @ 9:30 pm

  38. The idea of the People has to be an abstraction, a way of representing a unified aggregation according to some set of descriptors, ideals, goals, etc. It’s something like the Big Other, but individual members of the multitude are expected to regard it as the Big Us, the common identity shared across differences. Can I imagine regarding myself as part of a category in this way? Sure, I suppose I’m a member of a lot of categories, but there’s always a remainder that’s unaccounted for by the abstraction. The aggregation of these remainders = something like the difference between the Multitude and the People. Presumably this aggregated remainder could be a source of alternative representations of the People that in the present manifestation of Empire is marginalized or repressed. This remainder is the virtual source of transformation of the abstraction called the People, and thus of the Empire. Something like that maybe.

    Libertarians would opt for retaining the Multitude and dispensing with the People altogether. Or perhaps the Multitude = the People. I’m not sure why the People has to be captured in this sort of collapse of variation, but I guess it’s necessary if the state is going to take any particular action on a broad scale.

    If I work for a corporation I have a sense of singularity in pursuit of the larger corporate agenda, that I am one of the Multitude working autonomously or in collaboration in ways that can’t be captured in the abstraction called the People. Similarly if I’m working in some area of science my project is idiosyncratic but I’m still functioning as part of the scientific Multitude, sharing similar techniques, standards of excellence, objectives, etc. As a member of the state do I have this sense of being a singular agent of the Multitude participating in an abstract collective endeavor? I don’t. My involvement in the state is peripheral, more like a spectator than a participant. I could imagine a different kind of state, and a different way in which individuals participate in the state, that would seem more intrinsic, more integral. I’m not sure what it would take for that to happen — some sense of civic responsibility or mission or collective project. A set of ideals? Maybe they’re not as important.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 December 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  39. I think most collaborative endeavors entail the setting aside of self-interest, at least to a degree. One can do this for the sake of power, to gain at least some of what one wants through joint action. One can do it for the sake of an ideal, to do something that’s true or beautiful or just. One can be forced into it by the power of the others. One can do it out of love, or hope, or masochism. It’s possible that all this is self-deception, that all these motives are just nice labels for what amounts to different forms of self-interest. To step outside of self-interest: does it require some sort of transcendence? I don’t think so. We have the ability to take the other’s persective; we can also form abstractions for which the present circumstances constitute only one example of many possibilities; we can imagine things being other than the way they happen to be. All these capabilities, innate to humanity, make it possible to step outside of self-interest. That doesn’t necessarily translate into altruism, but it does open up possibilities. Hegemony is characterized by the inability to imagine the possibility of something other than what is. I don’t think it’s gone that far yet.

    I can imagine an individual slave owner freeing his slaves out of justice, even if it cost him money. I can imagine a nation doing the same. I can imagine an individual going to war to prevent genocide of a foreign population, even at the risk of forfeiting her own life. I can imagine a nation doing the same. These imaginings don’t seem impossible, or even improbable. While motives may be mixed, the ideal can prevail as the cause for taking action at the individual or institutional level.

    I’ll tentatively assume, Chabert, that you don’t think it’s possible for institutional policies to be motivated by ideals rather than self-interest. I presume that’s at least part of your objection to H&N’s project. So let’s leave it at that for now. I’ll look at the paper you linked to next — maybe we won’t reach an impasse in discussing that one.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 December 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  40. “I’ll tentatively assume, Chabert, that you don’t think it’s possible for institutional policies to be motivated by ideals rather than self-interest.”

    I think it’s obvious that state funded opera companies are greatly influenced by aesthetic ideology, and that theatre companies have even self destructed – failed to reproduce themselves as institutions -because the managers are motivated by concerns other than the reproduction of the institutions. These managers however typically concieve a kind of aesthetic fulfillment as in their self interest.

    My point is to frame your questions about “institutions” and “individuals” is a way to talk about nothing but seem to be talking about something. That is why instead of answering about the actual Kirov and the actual Citibank you simply replaced them with imaginary versions, which might be anything at all. Stand ins for “institutions” in general about which you seem to believe anything you can imagine is equally true.

    “I can imagine an individual slave owner freeing his slaves out of justice, even if it cost him money.”

    There are heaps and heaps of instances.

    ” I can imagine a nation doing the same.”

    “Nations” never owned slaves. Monarchs did of course. Slaveholders as a class, in control of a state or as a block, never abolished slavery or voluntarily freed masses of slaves. It never occured. If you think the Emancipation Proclaimation was written and promulgated by slaveholders, it’s just another thing you imagine.

    So you can imagine things that happened, and things that never did. Things that are physically possible, or physically impossible. Things that are physically possible but politically impossible. Like any three year old. But the imaginative capacities of kindergartners is not a measure of the accuracy of an analysis of the praxis of states such asEmpire.

    Like

    Comment by chabert — 8 December 2007 @ 12:39 am

  41. “While motives may be mixed, the ideal can prevail as the cause for taking action at … institutional level.”

    But in two thousand years of human history you cannot think of even one instance of this occuring where the institution concerned was the state. So at the very least one can say it is so incredibly rare as to be of negligible political interest.

    Like

    Comment by chabert — 8 December 2007 @ 12:50 am

  42. well if Citibank were run by a giant rabbit from a parallel universe then… – exhibit this.

    NO! No More Rabbits!! It’s been rabbits all week!!!

    Like

    Comment by kenoma — 8 December 2007 @ 2:52 am

  43. you’re right. retracted, withdrawn, deeply regretted. Anyway we all know it’s turtles all the way down.

    Like

    Comment by chabert — 8 December 2007 @ 4:29 am

  44. “So you can imagine things that happened, and things that never did.”

    I have no a priori commitment to government idealism. No, that’s not quite true: I have no apriori commitment to the idealism of any government that now exists or that ever did exist. I do have a commitment to justice as a principle of good government. It seems to me that the issue isn’t whether evidence can be put forward that government ever acts on principle; it’s how that evidence is interpreted. I’m not sure it’s possible to put forward any evidence that would demonstrate conclusively the motivations behind actions. It’s an interesting empirical problem.

    Recently the CIA made headlines for destroying tapes showing implementation of “extreme” interrogation techniques, suggesting that a purposeful cover-up is underway. The Justice Department has come under at least some criticism even inside America for justifying these interrogation techniques: suspected terrorists aren’t enemy combatants and hence aren’t subject to the Geneva Convention, “extreme” techniques aren’t really “torture,” etc. There is concern expressed inside the US about the administration’s willingness, in pursuit of its own interests, to abandon the nation’s historical commitment to international agreements assuring humane treatment of POWs. In condemnation of the alleged CIA cover-up Ted Kennedy said on the Senate floor that “the Bush administration has run roughshod over our ideals and the rule of law.” I could imagine that he believes what he said, rather than that he’s merely promoting his own political party. I believe what he said. It’s possible that torture really is effective as an interrogation technique, that prisoners really would tell the truth to stop the pain. It’s also possible that governments agree to things like the Geneva Convention to prevent retaliation against their own citizens by other nations if they should happen to go to war against one another. But I can also imagine that the American government signed on to the Geneva Convention as an expression of America’s collective commitment to justice and humane treatment of individuals. On what basis could I be certain that the American government’s motivation for agreeing not to torture POWs was based at least in part on ideals?

    I’m not sure it’s possible to demonstrate on the basis of empirical evidence that a government has based decisions on principle rather than self-interest of the constituency. Any motive can be interpreted as a form of self-interest. As you say, even an individual’s commitment to aesthetic excellence can be regarded as a means of aesthetic fulfillment, a rarified form of subjective pleasure. On what basis could we be certain that ideals, expressed either by individuals or by institutions, aren’t actually expressions of underlying self-interest?

    You’ve probably had conversations with people who believed that invading Iraq was the right thing to do even if Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaida. Because Saddam was a ruthless dictator who perpetrated genocide and other crimes against humanity, he should be removed by force for the good of the Iraqi people and the world at large, even if it costs us lives and money to get the job done. But why Iraq in particular, you might have asked these supporters of the war. Because Saddam pissed us off in the first Gulf War and continues to thumb his nose at us? Because Iraq has a lot of oil that we can exploit? And what about all those other ruthless dictators out there, some of whom we ignore while others we actively support? To which a pragmatic war supporter might have replied: hey, we can’t do everything at once. We have our own interests in Iraq, something to gain by achieving success, so it gives us more motivation to do justice there. There are Americans, maybe a majority of Americans, who really believed that. I suspect that some indeterminate percentage of the American policymakers believed it too. You could argue that these people aren’t telling the truth, but if it’s what they say they believe maybe they really do believe it. You could say that they’re fooling themselves, that their beliefs are spurious rationales serving only to disguise self-interest. But how could you know that that’s the case? If it’s only one individual who believes it you might be more secure in attributing the belief to delusional thinking, but what happens if lots of people, maybe even the majority of people, believe it? Is it mass delusion? On what basis could you make that assertion? Expertise? Objectivity? Empirical evidence?

    Hardt & Negri believe that governments can and have acted on the basis of ideals, motivated by excellence in governance that’s not reducible either to demagoguery or to the interests of its most powerful constituents. A lot of people, maybe most people, believe it. You’ve asked me to demonstrate that it’s true, but on what basis could it be demonstrated that it’s false? If people say they that they’ve acted on the basis of a particular belief, it might be possible to demonstrate that the belief was unjustified by evidence. But can one ever demonstrate by evidence that the person didn’t really hold the belief, or that the person’s action wasn’t really motivated by the belief?

    It could be argued that, since disinterested idealistic motivations can never be proven conclusively, these motivations should be abandoned as a justification for state intervention, and that all policy decisions should be based on calculated self-interest of the government’s constituency. Is that your position, Chabert? The project then is to evaluate ideologies in terms of who benefits from them, and to demonstrate the results of these analyses to the Multitude. If it can be shown that only a privileged minority really benefits, then maybe the majority would realize that they’re being duped by ideologues who are really PR propagandists. I think that would be an excellent project to pursue: to identify publicly who stands to gain from various ideological positions put forward to justify government policies. People can still decide to support positions based on ideology and belief, but at least some of the smokescreen will have been cleared out of the way.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 6:02 am

  45. “It’s possible that torture really is effective as an interrogation technique, that prisoners really would tell the truth to stop the pain”

    No this is not possible. This proposition is fully and thoroughly disproven. The expert torturers themselves deny it. No one uses torture to extract information. It’s used for something else.

    Just because you could imagine a world much like our own with a species much like ours in which torture was a reliable interrogation technique does not make that imaginary world a description of ours. Your imagination is not a guideline. You can’t possibly believe your capacious imagination is evidence of anything that could persuade a rational person.

    “But I can also imagine that the American government signed on to the Geneva Convention as an expression of America’s collective commitment to justice and humane treatment of individuals.”

    Okay, so what status are you claiming for your imagination? Do you believe your imagination is evidence that the American government signed on to the Geneva Convention as an expression of “America’s” collective commitment to justice and human treatment of individuals? Have you anything other than your imagination to present as evidence for this argument?

    I can imagine that you are writing utterly dishonestly, with a seven fingered hand. This is not an argument.

    “On what basis could I be certain that the American government’s motivation for agreeing not to torture POWs was based at least in part on ideals?” Well if there were evidence that the American government routinely tortured POWS that would be something to consider, which with a rational adult would enjoy greater status as evidence than your imagination. There is such evidence of course. Recall you are speaking of the government that dropped nuclear weapons on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Acts which evidence the greatest contempt for “human treatment of individuals” in the history of man. And that’s just for starters. But perhaps you can imagine it feels good to die of radiation poisoning. And therefore suppose that it must actually feel good. Or at least might. You can imagine that dropping nukes on populous cities is a humane thing to do, as well as just. The question is: do you think your imagination is something other people will accept not only as a measure of what is possible but as proof of what is true?

    “You could say that they’re fooling themselves, that their beliefs are spurious rationales serving only to disguise self-interest. But how could you know that that’s the case?”

    Your original question was about state policy. Not how sincere people are when they repeat what they hear on television. I believe you can imagine that the bombing of Nagasaki was just and humane. Many people will probably very sincerely tell you that they believe Iraq should be nuked now and everyone killed. But not one of these people has actually done so. Now why is this? Might it be that these people do not have nuclear weapons? You can imagine everyone in the US with a long range missle armed with nuclear warhead in their homes. So surely, perhaps there are. Why have you not used yours against Iraq? I could imagine it is inconsistent with your ideals. Or I could instead accept that you actually don’t have a nuclear missile at home.

    “Is that your position, Chabert? ”

    Why do you ask? If you can iamgine it is, which obviously you can, it might be surely, however ludicrous it would sound to a rational person, and although all the evidence – apart from your imagination – is to the contrary, and none – apart from your imagination – is anywhere to be found.

    ” I think that would be an excellent project to pursue: to identify publicly who stands to gain from various ideological positions put forward to justify government policies. ”

    I see you can imagine lame sarcasm with an air of weariness is a kind of wit.

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    Comment by chabert — 8 December 2007 @ 7:48 am

  46. Clysmatics I want you to immediately cease to embarrass yourself in front of these Nazi Pollyanna Communists, whose Marxism hides a commitment to the Empire so deep it has turned their talking assholes into mouthpieces for the Vulgar-Marxist cultural product. Take my warning seriously, for the next thing you know you will be snatched away by Lenininian terrorists and locked up in the harem, together with Childie!!!

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 8:17 am

  47. LOL! I think Childie is the only one clever enough to go in there and not get bitten…Thank God Dominic finally came over, he may yet save himself from the horror of this sloganeering which screams
    ‘JOIN BAD ALTERMONDIALISTE CULTURAL PRODUCT. PROUDLY NON-COMPLIMENTARY FOR OVER 22 YEARS!’

    Like

    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2007 @ 8:25 am

  48. the point of political critique ktismatics is to identify strong causes. yes every event is overdetermined. but as a psychologist and especially as a human adult being, you should know that people don’t always act on their stated beliefs, or believe their stated beliefs. personal testimony is notoriously unreliable in numerous contexts. given the stakes and competing interests, politics should be more typical of this, not less.

    if you are analyzing the political scene with evidence then it does not require this suspension of your view of human nature to judge arguments and realistically evaluate causality. things become much less undecidable. with evidence tihs question: ideals or interests? becomes sort of an annoying distraction, because it has no content, it’s just raw opinionating. accounts of history that focus on the ‘norms’ and/or ‘value systems’ and/or ‘beliefs’ of an undifferentiated, unnumbered ‘people’ as their historical subjects and protagonists are themselves part of a local trend, and are compatible with a particular order. attributing motivation to ‘belief’ alone or primarily always begs numerous questions.

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    Comment by traxus4420 — 8 December 2007 @ 8:27 am

  49. ‘attributing motivation to ‘belief’ alone or primarily always begs numerous questions.’

    Especially when it’s a biological motivation due to several hormonal imbalances.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2007 @ 8:33 am

  50. Traxus, you suave pervert, the Nazi Communists are not appealing to any overdetermination, they are appealing to FACTS and FIGURES (which only they possess). The next step will be Chomsky-thumping, and then in the end all ivil will be attributed to a single omnipotent force: the Central Intelligence Agency.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 8:41 am

  51. Why has this conversation become so unpleasant? I’m not being sarcastic (presuming your last remark, Chabert, was an inference about me) — or at least I don’t believe I’m being sarcastic. I really don’t know what your position is. I’m using my imagination to infer your position based on the evidence that’s available to me. I believe you when you tell me that I’ve failed thus far, though I didn’t see my latest guess as either ludicrous or irrational. If you told me what you believed I would probably believe you.

    I do think it’s useful to expose hidden agendas wrapped in ideology. I do think that the existence of imagination is evidence that people can and do think about things that don’t currently exist, which (I speculate) is prerequisite to framing an ideology. I do believe that the abolition of slavery is a good policy even if I have nothing personally to gain or lose thereby, and I believe that regardless of the benefits to be gained by torturing POWs the practice should be outlawed. I believe that the American military action in Iraq was and is unjust regardless of the gains or losses I personally may have gained from it and regardless of how it turns out. I would support governmental decisions that agree with my beliefs on these things regardless of whether everyone’s motives were pure in the making of those decisions.

    In writing these I’m trying to understand H&N and the critiques of their position from the left. Based in part on these written critiques and discussions here, I’m skeptical about H&N’s theoretical transformation of the Multitude into a People, which in the name of a coherent collective identity and ideology could, and arguably has, suppressed variation and dissent. Libertarians too are skeptical of this collectivizing of diversity, and also of any government interventions based on ideology or the perceived common good. So in this regard I don’t think H&N represent the more individualistic branch of liberalism — they might even be closer to the neoconservative position, if I were to accept the neocons’ ideological statements weren’t secret-code Straussian obfuscations (which they almost surely are, at least in part).

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 9:26 am

  52. dad this will make you feel better – Jonquille’s answer to Kretinoma’s latest vituperation:

    The only reason you’re not posting this soliloquy on your own blog is because jonquille is clearly running that show and this stuff undoubtedly bores him to death.

    Typique. I have no interest in defending anything we do here to this stupid unwashed bitch. I bet she didn’t take a shower last night in order to prevent global warming.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 9:29 am

  53. “Clysmatics I want you to immediately cease to embarrass yourself”

    I acknowledge not knowing much about H&N or about Marxism for that matter, so I’m prepared to learn. I agree that this isn’t the most hospitable learning environment, at least for me, and I certainly don’t get much sense that my interlocutors are learning much from me, though maybe they’re learning things about me in what I consciously and unconsciously reveal in my posts and comments. Maybe it’s embarrassing, I don’t know.

    “ideals or interests? becomes sort of an annoying distraction, because it has no content, it’s just raw opinionating.”

    But isn’t this part of what H&N are talking about? The question I’m posing is how one might distinguish ideals versus interests in a way that goes beyond raw opinionating. I was inferring from Chabert that if this distinction cannot be made then interests ought to dominate the discussion because they are more subject to empirical utilitarian evaluation, and that ideology ought to be dismissed altogether. What’s your alternative if we don’t try to make the distinction between ideals and interests: to evaluate as best we can the main cause behind any particular governmental decision? But if you don’t want to distinguish between ideology and interests, how is this case-specific evaluation to be performed?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 9:46 am

  54. I was inferring from Chabert that if this distinction cannot be made then interests ought to dominate the discussion because they are more subject to empirical utilitarian evaluation, and that ideology ought to be dismissed altogether.

    Oh please it’s like that dead-end debate in psychology, are we to take only empirically observable facts into account, or is there such a thing as the Unconscious? (or an ”intrinsic motivation”, which would make it possible for Americans to sign up to the Geneva convention because they really want a more peaceful world) Both variables are in the play, of course, but the snake’s vulgar materialist mud only accepts one, and that is the fact she and the Qlipoth Toilets have patented, measured and prepared for us in the form of axioms. If we don’t accept them, they begin to shout.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 10:21 am

  55. Things that are physically possible but politically impossible. Like any three year old. But the imaginative capacities of kindergartners is not a measure of the accuracy of an analysis of the praxis of states such asEmpire.

    And look at the reptile strategy at play here: she first infantilizes you on the basis of what is essentially a misanthropic argument posing as ”serious” (vulgar) materialism – you’re a 3 year old child because you dare to imagine that ideas can have practical consequences – and then she fetishizes the PRAXIS (as in commodity cultural product fetishism) at the cost of any idealism; after this she is going to go into catatonic stupor because of returning to the same old tired point about the Spectacle Society leading us to a self-looping Hell, and end up with pessimism that isn’t all that different from her favorite Slovenlian bitch’s ”dekline of simbolik efikasy” (much as she blames her nemesis Jodianne Fossey for it, she is the avidest supporter of the theory). Clysmatics I partly moved out of Serbia because of these types of people, and they’re always in some Polyanna proselytising moralising profession, giving you proscriptions and guidelines. This is the cloaca of Marxism. You may not agree with everything K-punk says, but his teaching at least offers a form of RESISTANCE!

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    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 10:29 am

  56. No this is not possible. This proposition is fully and thoroughly disproven. The expert torturers themselves deny it. No one uses torture to extract information. It’s used for something else. (no evidence quoted, but even if she did, I’m sure we could provide counter-avidence; perhaps amusing to try and play the game, since this is psychological territory, where the Marxian menace feels insecure)

    And that’s just for starters. But perhaps you can imagine it feels good to die of radiation poisoning. And therefore suppose that it must actually feel good. Or at least might. (Here she completely illegitimately draws a conclusion from your premise which wasn’t even hinted at – there’s no way you could deduce that your suggestion was torture is enjoyable; sheer evil rhetorics, and then sooner than later she will accuse you of twisting her words, as she did on the Kretinoma Kosovo thread today)

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    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 10:37 am

  57. “are we to take only empirically observable facts into account”

    Yes this is the question, but even the empirically observable facts require interpretation. Material self-interests may be quantifiable, but so are the prevalences of stated beliefs. I can imagine studies of public support that would take both these variables into account and arrive at multivariate quantitative models of ideals versus interests. Perhaps such studies are performed all the time by political scientists.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 10:57 am

  58. The torture topic is a side issue, but while I’ve seen plenty of pieces saying that the widespread belief in the effectiveness of torture for obtaining information is a myth, I haven’t seen much actual evidence beyond anecdotes. I suspect that, given the right experimental conditions, psychologists could devise and empirically verify some pretty effective ways of extracting information from reluctant informants.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 11:08 am

  59. the multivariable method was already used when I was studying back in the 1990s, I’m sure by now they’ve gone on to non-linear multivariable models and God knows, but anycase, I am right now skipping Chabert’s comments in order to actually read something interesting on the thread

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 11:14 am

  60. Hey… wait a minute… is it possible that I’ve been the unwitting dupe of a parody here?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  61. Ktis, let me know if this helps: You have raised an interesting point re. H&N multitude/people theoretical transformation. It may be a recasting of the old Marxian chestnut, class-in-itself and class-for-itself. However, consciousness does seem to be redefined, which is where you would have further insight.

    Does it make sense to say the multitude cannot be *seen* from within, but only from without? (like the wood for the trees…); and that, it is necessary to have a self-reflexive multitude that bridges the question of its own representation before speaking of its political efficacy.

    Part of this analytical focus would be a critique of one’s own position vis-a-vis “the multitude”.

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    Comment by "Ron" — 8 December 2007 @ 2:56 pm

  62. “I do think that the existence of imagination is evidence that people can and do think about things that don’t currently exist, which (I speculate) is prerequisite to framing an ideology.”

    i think imagination is thinking what doesn’t exist about what does exist.

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    Comment by traxus4420 — 8 December 2007 @ 3:19 pm

  63. i think imagination is thinking what doesn’t exist about what does exist.

    Good definition of Marxism. But now that you’ve found that your gifts are not exactly political, you may wish to entertain the idea that imagination and fantasy and reality are all events, they cannot be said to not exist. God both exists and not-exists. Since people are trying to dull up life with Marxism, I have been in the unenviable position of having to prove that endless fantasies are equivalent to reality. All you do is set the pleasurable ones up next to the painful ones and pick and choose which ones, then you have that nice phrase Virilio used as title for one of his books–A Landscape of Events. If you put the desirable and undesirable ones on the same plane, you’ll harvest mostly the desirable ones. There are worse jobs, I admit, than having to live out other people’s fantasies–but it is true that they WON’T do them, and that DOES require that I and some others go ahead and do them. Under these bleak circumstances, I somehow think I can live with this particular fate.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2007 @ 3:38 pm

  64. Jonquille, the Vietnamese lumpia took us off his blawgroll, and the Parody Center responded in kind, but this time without extra nasi/bami. As it turns out, his meta-meta-meta-review was actually aligning with the Crappert’s article – yet another misantrophic lament on the perils of the Spectacle Society. To make matters worse, he’s got Kretinoma on his blawgroll. I suppose you already know what this means in terms of planning our annual parody strategies.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 3:41 pm

  65. “i think imagination is thinking what doesn’t exist about what does exist.”

    Hmm… Are you saying that imagination operates only in realms that we’ve already experienced? So if I experience what I regard as an unfair social transaction, it becomes possible for me to imagine various alternatives of fairness and unfairness, justice and injustice? If that’s what you’re saying, then I agree. First the real is experienced, then it’s captured in reality, then it’s abstracted into imagined alternate realities. If that isn’t what you’re saying, I agree anyway.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  66. “Are you saying that imagination operates only in realms that we’ve already experienced?”

    as jonquille says, imagination produces new realities. the question is if they’re WORTH anything or not. the other part of this is that imagination doesn’t operate in a vacuum, everything you imagine ‘about’ has some sort of existence, and is subject to the same pressures as other existing things, i.e. survival and reproduction. so you can’t pose the question ‘ideology or material interests’ because both are operating simultaneously and ‘have commerce’ with each other. you just have to get as much information as you can, and work out some provisional conclusions.

    “As it turns out, his meta-meta-meta-review was actually aligning with the Crappert’s article”

    parody, i am sorry you are unable to think two contradictory ideas simultaneously. this may be (one of the many) things that gets you into so many long, fruitless arguments.

    jonquille, i don’t think anyone should have to martyr themselves to a miserable existence. i hope you don’t base too many of your decisions on what options seem underused. then i would have to think again about the nice things you said about me on my blog, as i have always thought of you as having excellent taste.

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    Comment by traxus4420 — 8 December 2007 @ 7:08 pm

  67. parody, i am sorry you are unable to think two contradictory ideas simultaneously. this may be (one of the many) things that gets you into so many long, fruitless arguments.

    Oh puurleaaaze spare me the Taoist lessons, I can already read it from your clapping hands. The article is full of existentialist pessimism mixed with lament on the Spectacle Society. The point is that you turned your back on a brilliant blawg in order to embrace the Queen of Lies, while insinuating, you bitch, that I hold deranged political views just because Marxist-Leninist Nazis said so. Get yourself acquainted with Yugoslav history first, you’re talking out of your ass. I wouldn’t make judgments on Vietnam without first doing a thorough research.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 8:05 pm

  68. parodycenter, i read the things you sent me, and i read the things you wrote, and really the ONLY THING i disagreed with was your weird fixation on islam. in fact it’s been really tough for me to figure out exactly why you’ve been pushing this issue so hard, until i remember the blue balls aspect of it.

    you have been de-linked because i saw no reason to link to a couple people who were constantly slandering me and those i respect, especially when you are already clearly so famous. apparently that’s a controversial opinion on the theory blogosphere. give jonquille my regards if he’s too mad for his internet name to appear next to mine now.

    Like

    Comment by traxus4420 — 8 December 2007 @ 9:17 pm

  69. also i know next to nothing about vietnam, i don’t know why you keep bringing it up.

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    Comment by traxus4420 — 8 December 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  70. In the immortal words of Dominic Fox, “what a sorry parade of solecisms.” This whole blogging business seems so sad. The potential that’s available not just to us but to the world is squandered on useless feuds and bad feelings, paranoia and posturing, but mostly the inability to hear what each other has to say. I have found it valuable reading these papers about Empire and thinking about them, so thanks for the links Traxus.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 9:42 pm

  71. no problem. the communication difficulties are everywhere all the time, they’re just so much more noticeable here, retaliation and posturing is so easy and pseudo-public.

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    Comment by traxus4420 — 8 December 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  72. parodycenter, i read the things you sent me, and i read the things you wrote, and really the ONLY THING i disagreed with was your weird fixation on islam. in fact it’s been really tough for me to figure out exactly why you’ve been pushing this issue so hard, until i remember the blue balls aspect of it.

    there’s no blue balls aspect to it, the idiotic vulgar marxist club idealizes islam, and that causes most problems with their treatment of yugoslavia and or understanding of zizek. if you didn’t understand that, then you DIDN’T read what i sent, or you wanted to read it according to the vulgar-Marxist agenda (Chabert).

    anyway because of your association with chabert i just CAN’T consider you seriously, so all this is indeed just playing in the mud.

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2007 @ 10:05 pm

  73. “the communication difficulties are everywhere all the time, they’re just so much more noticeable here, retaliation and posturing is so easy and pseudo-public.”

    I remember on your blog awhile back, when someone there thought I was playing some sort of game with them, that you made a similar remark when I expressed frustration about misread intentions. Then you attributed it more to the ordinary hazards of the blog medium, but now you’ve noted the unpleasant motivational baggage that adds to the confusion. I’m starting to get paranoid myself. I was just back on the Malcolm Bull post from a few days ago, looking for the link to the Samir Amin article that Chabert left, and I noted in passing that the conversations there seemed more cordial, informative, mutual — I was pleased, surprised, hopeful. Something changed between then and today, although maybe it was already taking shape and I didn’t realize it. It illustrates that emergence can lead to destruction as well as creation.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2007 @ 10:43 pm

  74. Ktis, I bet you believed in those bioweapons ice cream trucks. Or thought “it’s possible”. Thumb sucking gullibility is nothing to brag about; that two hundred million other Americans share something like it has proven lethal to millions of Iraqis. Brains that are putty in the hands of imperialist power with control of television are dangerous to themselves and others. Manipulating your pop-culture soaked imagination is evidently a breeze. You can recite the whole msm pundit conversation about Iraq as if that risible exchange of packaged pseudo-thoughts were suitable for a grown man, as if this could be considered – excuse me, “imagined” – a debate worthy of adults. It would be better for everyone if you and others took responsibility for knowing and understanding things you are capable of knowing and understanding, instead of boasting of your own infantilisation.

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    Comment by chabert — 9 December 2007 @ 4:37 am

  75. “Ktis, I bet you believed in those bioweapons ice cream trucks.”

    (I’m wondering: does Chabert really believe I believed this? Or is she just saying it for rhetorical purposes, intended either to torment me or to instruct me with sarcasm or in retaliation for what she perceives as my complicity with Parody Center in tormenting her? Or is it an object lesson in the hazards of naively assuming good intentions even in the face of evidence to the contrary? Or is she acting from some other motive, either benign or malign, conscious or unconscious, that I haven’t figured out yet? Or is there nothing personal about it, and this just the way she is? Should I respond with ironic detachment so that all my own bets are covered and I can laugh it off if I’m being made a fool of, which is a distinct possibility? These ideas pass across my mind in a flash, unbidden.)

    Okay Chabert, let’s imagine together that I believed Iraq had portable laboratories for growing biotoxins — no, better: let’s imagine that I SAID I believed it, along with all the other evidence-so-called that Powell trotted out to the UN about Sadddam’s WMDs, his capabilities for delivering them, and his association with al-Qaida. The majority in the US Congress on both sides of the aisle also said they believed these things. At the time the Iraq invasion was launched the majority of Americans said they believed that Iraq posed an immediate danger to the US, and for that reason they said they believed that the war was justified on these grounds.

    Meanwhile, it had been established even at the time that the evidence being trotted out for worldwide public display was a pile of unlikelihoods and innuendos and downright falsehoods, molded together into a narrative about what terrible thing was about to happen if the world, and especially the US, didn’t do something about it right now. Let’s say that Powell was acting as a shill, that knew at the time he was deceiving his audience, the intention being to persuade not the UN but the American public that the already-planned war against Iraq was justified on the grounds of American self-interest.

    So, what was the real story here? Did Powell believe his own story, or did he know he was lying? Did the Congress believe his story, or did they know at the time that it was a lie? If they all knew it was a lie, why did they all go along with it? Did they believe that Saddam was a threat and that the war would uncover evidence they didn’t have, thereby demonstrating after the fact the justification for the war? Did they believe that taking over Iraq would be in the best interests of American oil companies and other corporate interests that stood to gain by establishing an American-controlled government in the heart of the Middle East, but that the American public wouldn’t go along with that particular rationale? Were they responding to the American public’s craving for revenge after the World Trade Center, building on American resentmenbt of Saddam’s persistent US-directed hostility after the first Gulf War as justification for making him the target? Did they believe that Iraq really would be better off without Iraq, and that incipient forces for democracy on the ground could be congealed into a just and participatory government, but that the US public wouldn’t support such an abstract ideological reason for going to war?

    What clues do subsequent events provide? After none of the evidence turned out to be be what Powell said it was, after the occupation continued to drag on and the cost in money and lives started piling up, did the American public turn against the war and the administration? No. Despite not turning up any evidence, the majority of Americans continued to say they believed that the weapons really were there, that Saddam really was pals with Bin Laden, etc. But then we start hearing more from the administration and the Congress about Saddam’s intrinsic evil, his persecution of his own people, the good deed we were doing for the world, At the same time, more skepticism started coming from the relative left that the war had been concocted by Bush to support his oil buddies and to improve his flagging popularity numbers. Democratic congresspeople began saying they had been duped, just like the rest of the American public, that they had taken Powell’s and the CIA’s word for it. Or that Rumsfeld had failed by not chasing Bin Laden or by underestimating the troop strength needed to get the job done.

    And so on. Bush’s popularity didn’t take a real hit until New Orleans, when his lack of responsiveness belied his public posturing as a champion of American security. Even now the American public remains ambivalent about the war, saying that Bush has done a crappy job and that we ought to get out, but maybe not until we secure the peace which probably half the American people still believe is attainable. Economically the results have been mixed: oil prices have skyrocketed (good for oil companies), the market hasn’t suffered appreciably, but the dollar has sunk and the government’s debt has skyrocketed, and Iraq remains unexploitable.

    So, it’s difficult to identify with any certainty the dominant motivation for launching American military action in Iraq. It’s also hard to say whether the primary motivation has stayed constant or has changed since the initial invasion. All these hypotheses and more regarding interests and beliefs and ideals, constituencies and multitudes and the people could conceivably and plausibly account for what happened and continues to happen (without invoking magical rabbits).

    Can the right answer be figured out, and if so how? This sort of thing seems relevant in evaluating Hardt & Negri’s book, both as a description for what has happened and as a guide for what could happen. Maybe it’s impossible to sort out the reasons with anything like objectivity. Maybe it doesn’t really matter why the war happened and why it persists. If that doesn’t matter, what does matter? Choosing a constituency or an ideal and sticking with it? Evaluating and interpreting events from inside a specific and admittedly partisan point of view?

    I really would like to know your opinions on these matters, not to ridicule or combat them publicly but to consider their merits as I shape my own views. I don’t spontaneously gravitate toward political thought or action, but I’m trying to correct that deficiency. Specifically, I’m trying to understand the left’s response to H&N, as well as the broader critique of the moderate left from the far left. I recognize the difficulty of resisting the hegemonic social reality of the West, and especially of the US, that permeates life at all levels and restricts individual and collective freedoms in ways that neoliberal ideology either fails to recognize or doesn’t really care about. I’m looking for alternatives.

    (Just to be clear: I was against the Afghanistan war. During the rampup to Iraq I was living in France with no ready access to the American popular press. I read the case Powell presented to the UN and was amazed that he was trying to sell what was obviously a truckload of shit. I was even more amazed that Congress supported it. I considered the possibility that these biotoxin trucks might exist, but it didn’t take much internet research for me to figure out that it almost surely wasn’t true — surely Congress could have done the same. I concluded that the neocons were behind the whole scheme, exploiting widespread American fear and rage and frustration to muster popular support. I wasn’t sure whether the neocons’ vision of American century was entirely a rationale supporting the moneyed interests within America, or whether the economic argument was intended to acquire big-money support for what was really a misguided and very dangerous ideological agenda having to do with spreading democracy and economic freedom worldwide. I wasn’t sure whether the Democrats in Congress went along with Bush because they didn’t dare resist what had become a tidal wave of populist support, or whether they too agreed with the neocon position. I concluded it was mostly the latter. This is my sworn testimony.)

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 9 December 2007 @ 8:30 am

  76. ‘you can recite the whole msm pundit conversation about Iraq as if that risible exchange of packaged pseudo-thoughts were suitable for a grown man’

    I knew that it was only a matter of time, Clysmatics. And this pile of garbage expects us to be respectful of HER manhood? I knew the minute you said what happened with Iraq she wouldn’t be able to take it, because she is into the 9/11 truthies and that’s why nobody can believe anything else she says. She will kill herself (the sooner the better) rather than realize that Al Qaida DID DO the attacks. Fucking social menace. You have to realize that it always circles back around to this, and that you will NEVER get anywhere with her. She DOES have the empty time with nothing to do but blog, so she will take advantage of every chance she can to insult all men, because she was born WITHOUT PENIS.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 9 December 2007 @ 10:03 am

  77. “his capabilities for delivering them, and his association with al-Qaida.”

    Clysmatics, don’t you see that’s where she stopped already and is just figuring out an angle to get back to it. She thinks Al Qaida is a CIA database. You should NOT keep torturing yourself, because she always takes advantage of nice people, and has turned RYAN VU into a eunuch over a year’s period.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 9 December 2007 @ 10:05 am

  78. “She thinks Al Qaida is a CIA database.”

    You’re right Jonquille, I didn’t remark on that idea because it wasn’t central to my own thinking about Afghanistan or Iraq. I also don’t think the idea had much impact on public opinion. Of course if the administration or the CIA actively planned the Trade Center attack then the real story behind these events changes completely, though it’s conceivable that similar motives would have provoked the domestic sabotage: to stimulate public enthusiasm for neocon Empire. Similar questions can be asked about this possibility as about the rest: is it possible to confirm or deny, is it possible to ascertain the ideals or interests behind such a conspiracy, does it really matter? (For what it’s worth, I’ve not seriously looked into the evidence of such a conspiracy, mostly because I just can’t believe that even somebody like Cheney would turn his malevolence onto America in such a directly violent way. But I could be wrong.)

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 December 2007 @ 10:33 am

  79. hat even somebody like Cheney would turn his malevolence onto America in such a directly violent way. But I could be wrong.)

    well let me help you out of the confusion, Clysmatics: singing in unison with American and English Leninist on the other side of the blawgosphere, Chabert is now claiming that Kosovo isn’t run by Albanian terrorists, who enjoy the support of ninety percent of its population, namely because this population was breast-fed islamic fundamentalism as expressed by the idea of a jihad for Greater Albania. These jihadists were not invented by the US, although the US greatly helped them in the 1990s with politicial and financial backing. They are autochtonous, homegrown, intrinsic, etc. … and they EXIST. The Serbian government didn’t send them against Serbia, they did it on terrorist orders, and terrorism is their very national program.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2007 @ 11:10 am

  80. And they also have an enormous fight with the Christian Orthodox church, they destroyed practically all Serbian monuments dating back to the 13th century. But for a vulgar Marxist this is unimportant because you know those monasteries are in fact burgeois cultural product, and they are dedicated to SPIRITUAL matters as well wouldn’t you know!

    Like

    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2007 @ 11:12 am

  81. “So, it’s difficult to identify with any certainty the dominant motivation for launching American military action in Iraq.”

    Why is this difficult? You have summed up a television show, and said, from this, from what I watched on television over a short period of time, in no context, as if born yesterday, I can’t know or understand anything. Well, duh.

    “I read the case Powell presented to the UN and was amazed that he was trying to sell what was obviously a truckload of shit. I was even more amazed that Congress supported it.”

    So what accounts for your amazement? What do you think distinguishes you from all the people who were not in the least amazed? It might be something as simple as their having a memory which can retain information more than a few weeks old, and even retain things not daily refreshed by the mass media. After all this was not the first aggressive war ever waged by this state or indeed these same managers of this state. These same policy makers had not long before informed the public that Nicaragua was a few days march from Texas, that an airstrip on the island of Grenada threatened the security of the US, and that a military invasion was necessary to arrest the president of Panama for drug dealing. Even more recently the television had told you of “operation horseshoe”. (A Mexican diplomat explained that Mexico could not support the Kennedy Administration’s anti-Cuba policy: “If we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”) When will you catch up do you suppose? When will you stop being amazed by this tv series, do you think? How many identical episodes do you have to see before each new one ceases to amaze? We know the cure for amazement – from Theseus and Ariadne. An old knowledge, nothing flashy and radical and complicated. You could try that.

    Like

    Comment by chabert — 9 December 2007 @ 11:59 pm

  82. I agree that the American policymakers have a history of acting ruthlessly and corruptly, hiding their schemes from the American public and then cooking up post-hoc rationales to make rotten fish smell like gardenias. Historical precedent is a useful analytical tool, no question, and presenting the results of such analyses is also valuable work.

    “When will you catch up do you suppose? When will you stop being amazed by this tv series, do you think? How many identical episodes do you have to see before each new one ceases to amaze?We know the cure for amazement – from Theseus and Ariadne. An old knowledge, nothing flashy and radical and complicated. You could try that.”

    Excellent advice, Chabert. So I’m going to take the obvious next step and walk out of this labyrinth of a conversation. Thanks for staging this performance for my benefit, and perhaps also for others who have been following along.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 10 December 2007 @ 6:19 am

  83. Chabert keep your fangs off my dad; he’s too classy for your type of trailer trash!!!

    Like

    Comment by parody center — 10 December 2007 @ 7:07 am


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