OT: Long Term Complexes of Poli

NO politics allowed and METAR and I agree. But the thick article I link here is not about current politics but about one deep aspect of political theory: does representative democracy suck and only exists through pretenses and errors of thought, or was Churchill correct that it stinks but better than anything else that has been tried?

We do not even need to discuss that. The reason I am posting this here is to let some interesting and even powerfully useful alternative breezes blow through.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/09/12/cant-we-come-u…

what matters is not the content of the scientific theories of the Ionian philosophers (everything really isn’t made of water) but their “second order” traditions, their tolerance of dissent and appetite for argument. What matters is that, by arguing it out without feuds or heresy hunts, they eventually arrived at the theory of the atom, of which everything is made.

These institutions of open inquiry are foundational to the practice of democracy. As Amartya Sen argues, good primary schools contribute as much to democracy as strong political parties do, and, as Robert Putnam has shown many times, the presence of choral groups and cafés in an Italian town tells us more about its prospects than the wisdom of the laws in its statute book does.

david fb

5 Likes

was Churchill correct that it stinks but better than anything else that has been tried?

Yes, he was!

The Captain

3 Likes

what matters is not the content of the scientific theories of the Ionian philosophers (everything really isn’t made of water) but their “second order” traditions, their tolerance of dissent and appetite for argument. What matters is that, by arguing it out without feuds or heresy hunts, they eventually arrived at the theory of the atom, of which everything is made.

Spot on except there have been quite a few feuds and heresy hunts in the sciences like Newton and Leibniz over calculus. Scientists are humans after all. The issue is to not institutionalize the restriction of ordinary free speech – speech not covered by the First Amendment.

The Captain

Local case in point, pulling posts!

1 Like

Heard an interview with this guy - interesting idea:

https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/N/bo146791…

The book is about the shift in the political structure of the US

Jeff

2 Likes

Another book offering how government has morphed within the USA.
Book title:Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

https://www.amazon.com/Democracy-Incorporated-audiobook/dp/B…

Democracy is struggling in America - by now this statement is almost cliche. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms “inverted totalitarianism”?

Wolin portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive - and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best the nation has become a “managed democracy” in which the public is sheperded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls. Wolin makes clear that today’s America is in no way morally or politically comparable to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany, yet he warns that unchecked economic power risks verging on total power and has its own unnerving pathologies.

He argues passionately that democracy’s best hope lies in citizens themselves learning anew to exercise power at the local level.

Well sure it is best when voters are actively interested in their government and can see through what is spouted via the corporate controlled media. But any change of the current heavily corporate influenced government will be severely resisted. Also there is a danger that the voter can be manipulated by a demagogue running on a change platform but has their own self interested agenda they plan to follow.

I believe is correct in his thesis of the conjoined economic & state power in control of our nation. And it took decades for that evolution to occur and likely decades to unravel IF the USian citizenry wakes up. At 71, with a 10-15 life expectancy, I am unlikely to see much change if any happen.

2 Likes

Another book offering how government has morphed within the USA.
Book title:Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

There are three ways to control populations

Force ← Totalitarianism
Religion ← Holy Roman Empire, Islam
Money ← Democracy Incorporated

The Captain

1 Like

My apologies ahead of time if this is too political.

has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms “inverted totalitarianism”?

I find statements like this to be “anti-historical” to coin a term as it seems to ignore historical fact. The U.S. is probably the most democratic it has ever been, and that explains most of the political turmoil we feel.

Remember that our nation began with the vote mostly limited to white males who owned land, and even within this group true democracy was only practiced at the local and perhaps state level. The president was chosen by a group of “elites” called the electoral college. This was because the Founding Fathers were skeptical about the “masses” being able to make good political decisions on their own.

Until McGovern, presidential candidates were largely chosen by party power-brokers with the primaries used to prep the candidate for the campaign. This is why past populist demagogues like Huey Long and William Jenning Bryant didn’t get very far. Since then, the presidential nominating process has become much more democratic, most recently with efforts to reduce the influence of superdelegates.

Has this improved the quality of the presidential nominees?

…democracy’s best hope lies in citizens themselves learning anew to exercise power at the local level.

Isn’t that what is happening in the republican party with the decline of the party establishment and the rise of populist forces, from the Tea Party to MAGA? Was the author asleep for the past 20 years?

Here in my opinion is the central problem. True democracy will inevitably lead to a fracturing of society unless there are countervailing forces that maintain an underlying unity. In the past these unifying influences included a limited number of news and TV outlets (most Americans shared the common experience of Walter Cronkite, Ed Sullivan, and the middle class American dream embodied by Donna Reed), public schools, the draft, and “melting pot” immigration. Now we have cable and internet echo chambers, no common public service experience, multiculturalism supplanting social integration, and identity politics. Regardless of whether you think these trends are good/bad, the fact is that it is far easier these days to think “Us vs Them” rather than “fellow Americans”.

Community these days means our social media friends who believe what we do rather than our real-life neighbors, and that I think is the true underlying threat to American democracy.

21 Likes

"There are three ways to control populations

Force ← Totalitarianism
Religion ← Holy Roman Empire, Islam
Money ← Democracy Incorporated"

maybe also:

Pestilence ← Mother Nature

1 Like

There are three ways to control populations

Force ← Totalitarianism
Religion ← Holy Roman Empire, Islam
Money ← Democracy Incorporated

I think this is pretty much correct.

There is the US example, too, which is a combination of force, religion, and money in various proportions. We always need to be vigilant to make sure one of these does not predominate.

Pete

1 Like

In the USA money is close to dominating it all, as $$$ has long been and is still being used to shift policy of Christian and Jewish sects (hello AIPAC, Federalist Society RC hookups, etc), to foster large numbers of disorganized untrained dangerous armed “militias” easily mobilized for madness via powerseeking broadcasters and social media organizations.

david fb

2 Likes

Isn’t that what is happening in the republican party with the decline of the party establishment and the rise of populist forces, from the Tea Party to MAGA?

No, it is not. What is happening today is a very deliberate attempt to over-throw the will of the people by spreading what are demonstrable lies. This is very different from citizens learning how to exercise their power.

13 Likes

Here in my opinion is the central problem. True democracy will inevitably lead to a fracturing of society unless there are countervailing forces that maintain an underlying unity. In the past these unifying influences included a limited number of news and TV outlets (most Americans shared the common experience of Walter Cronkite, Ed Sullivan, and the middle class American dream embodied by Donna Reed), public schools, the draft, and “melting pot” immigration.

I am old enough to have lived this first hand and there was a time when I thought this is how it always was. As it turns out the US (and presumably many other societies) have gone through many eras where life and societal norms and influences were vastly different. And we survived.

Before the broadcast era every city had dozens of newspapers, many with labels like the Manhattan Democrat or the Arkansas Republican. They made no pretense of being “fair and balanced”, you knew exactly where they stood from the masthead on down. Talk about news silos! It may be that television is a more potent force, that the internet has made the silos even narrower, but the concept is/was the same.

Believe it or not there was a time when social class and division were far greater than today: in the Gilded Age you were either “of money” or you were not, and that was that. We made it past patriarchy and racist ideologies, not entirely but pretty well. And it was not so long ago that religion played a far more central role in American life and politics, or if you prefer it was fairly long ago that church was central, including a time when many states had actual state religions, and we seem to have come through both of those eras OK.

Everyone remembers the 50’s, Bull Connors’ fire hoses, and Martin Luther King’s marches for equality, I suspect more than half of the readers here remember the 60’s assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy, yes actual gun deaths of major political leaders. Within a few years there were anti-war riots in the street, protestors getting their heads bashed in by construction workers, buildings exploding via home-made bombs, and then race riots burning down metropolitan areas across the country. And we survived.

Heck, somewhere in our history we had a costly Civil War over slavery where 600,000 people died over an issue that’s been debated since Ancient Rome and beyond.

I say this not to say ‘Oh don’t worry about it, we’ve had worse” even though we have. History can turn on a dime. The colonies were reliably British in 1765 and at war with the Mother country a decade later. But - and here’s the punch line - we have been through worse and we have survived and we have thrived. Heck, we made it through Disco with barely a scratch.

“Unity” in the country can take many forms. I recall the patriotic fervor after 9/11, I can only imagine what it was like after Pearl Harbor. I remember the conformity of the “Father Knows Best” era and I can imagine there have been many others, perhaps when we “all pulled together” in the Depression and other times over the past 250 years.

I choose to be optimistic about our current troubles not because I have any insight into the future but because being pessimistic would only give me an ulcer and ultimately I am powerless to do anything about it all anyway. There’s that song, an earworm if there ever was one, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Good advice. Not perfect, of course, but then what is?

Unity Schmunity. Let freedom ring. Hopefully there will be better days ahead.

14 Likes