Archive | September 2016

Peak Chaos and “The Compulsion of the Stars”

I don’t know if you caught the fifth and last lecture in Charles Taylor’s series on “The Malaise of Modernity”. It’s well worth taking in. And I want to comment, in that regard, on what he characterises as the three pillars of the modern malaise in their deficient aspects: (market) individualism, instrumental rationality (technology), and the political malaise, which he describes in terms of “Invisible Hand mechanisms” in the sense that they are felt to be semi-autonomous processes or “inevitabilities” in the face of which we seem to be unable to do very much.

This threesome of “Invisible Hand mechanisms” which have the appearance of autonomous processes is a curious one, since it brings to mind the Three Moirai or Fates of antiquity and therewith, ironically, also something deemed completely irrational by modernity itself — “the compulsion of the stars”.  This is another case of what I call “ironic reversal at our end of history”.

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Peak Chaos

“Post-truth” was a phrase I used a decade ago in the old Dark Age Blog, principally in my attack on Thatcherism and on Fukuyama’s “end of history” triumphalism. It seemed to adequately describe the threat of “Dark Age” being sounded by writers like Morris Berman, Jane Jacobs, Tom Frank, or William Irwin Thompson, amongst others. It’s rather unnerving, though, to see the term “post-truth society” now come into fairly common usage in 2016, or even recast as a utopian ideal as in Rolf Jensen’s The Dream Society (which I’ve described as “capitalism 3.0”).

If you think about it, though, “post-truth” and “chaotic transition” are quite interchangeable expressions and very much connected with the significance of Charles Taylor’s lectures (and book) on “malaise”, as referred to in the previous post. There, however, the status of truth is evaluated in terms of (the ethics of) authenticity and the inauthentic, where the inauthentic is described as the debased or degraded authentic (or what I’ve sarcastically referred to as “the genuine imitation”). These debased or degraded forms of the authentic (or originary), in this context, thus correspond to Gebser’s “deficient mode” of the mental-rational consciousness structure. And if you’ve followed The Chrysalis long enough, you will see in this the process of “the devaluation of values” that is nihilism, and especially in terms of my pet bugbear – the confusion of the totality with the whole. The “totality” is an inauthentic (or counterfeit) whole.

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Charles Taylor: The Malaise of Modernity

Back in 1991, the notable Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor delivered 5 lectures as part of the CBC Radio’s annual Massey Lectures. The lectures were entitled “The Malaise of Modernity” and were subsequently published as a book by that title. The 5 lectures have since also been posted to YouTube under the title Sociologie de l’intégration (you probably didn’t realise you could read and understand French, eh?).

Serious students of Jean Gebser will certainly want to pay attention to these lectures, as they are very pertinent to the meaning of Gebser’s diagnosis of “the mental-rational consciousness structure” now functioning in “deficient mode”. This is, essentially, what Taylor means by the word “malaise”.

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Infuriating Flip-Flops

The Liberal Party of Canada has often been accused of campaigning on the Left and then governing from the Right. They certainly out-flanked the social democrats on the Left in the last election and effectively sucked the wind out of the sails of the social democratic leader Thomas Mulcair (who, to their dismay, alienated even his own base of support by running on a small-c conservative or Blairite platform).

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The BoC’s “New Normal”: (S)low

Most probably future historians (assuming there are any) will look at the 2008 Great Market Meltdown as a landmark event in the fortunes of the Modern Era. The global economy has not really recovered from it, and, apparently, is not predicted to very soon. Slow to low to no growth is the “new normal” according to the Bank of Canada and the IMF.

Slow growth is the “new reality” according to the BoC. It’s a mixed blessing, and a mixed blessing is often just another way of saying “predicament” or “dilemma”.

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The Influence of “Dark Money”

You have to wonder about people who sing hymns to liberty, truth, justice, and the American Way even as they conspire in the dark to undermine and subvert it all. This is by no means exclusive to America either. But Citizens United certainly seemed to turn the United States into a kind of petri dish for observing how the fungus of Dark Money spreads and colonises the culture, even into the judiciary.

Today’s Guardian, which always seems to be on top of things before anyone else, has what appears to be an exclusive, based on leaked documents, of a particular egregious instance of the influence of Dark Money in the US political and judicial process.

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The Last March of the Ents

A few days ago, I posted something about trees and my affinity for trees (in “The Word for World is Forest“).  Probably some people didn’t take me seriously. But by odd coincidence, “The man who thinks trees talk to each other” appeared yesterday in The Guardian, about a German forester who also has what we might call an “unconventional” understanding of trees — unconventional perhaps only in the sense that it is an old understanding. It brought to mind, though, the “Ents” of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the movie Avatar.

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