“Creative Destruction”, Nemesis, and the Age of Paradox
I wanted to continue quickly from the last post, and while it is fresh in my mind, on the subject of “creative destruction” in relation to the Age of Paradox. The term “creative destruction”, invented by the Austrian economist Josef Schumpeter to describe contemporary corporate capitalism, and adopted especially by neo-conservatives during the Bush Administration, is also expressive of the paradoxical. In fact, creative destruction is not only the Dance of Shiva the Destroyer, but also the meaning of the apocalyptic.
“Creative destruction” is not only implicated in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and what she calls “disaster capitalism”, but was a centrepiece of neo-conservative thinking and the Bush Administration’s hubris about assuming the management of global human affairs. The Invasion of Iraq, which was largely rationalised in terms of “creative destruction”, was one of the most hubristic acts in all human history.
“Creative destruction” is a cosmic power, usually reserved for the gods, and especially exemplified in Shiva’s Dance. The hubris of the Bush neo-conservatives was the presumption that they could manage and control this paradox of the cosmic power of creative destruction by “rationality”, and of a rationality that excludes the paradoxical on principle. This was “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” stuff from the get go, and it’s not surprising that Nemesis soon followed, and is exactly what we call “ironic reversal” or unintended consequence, perverse outcome, revenge effect, or blowback and so on.
In assuming one could control and manage the forces of “creative destruction”, we see reflected in real terms what Iain McGilchrist calls the “usurpation” by the “Emissary” of “the Master” in his book on neurodynamics The Master and his Emissary. The assumption of the mental-rational consciousness that it could manage and control the paradoxical forces of “creative destruction” belongs to magical thinking, and corresponds to what Algis Mikunas described as “technocratic shamanism” in his essay “Magic and Technological Culture”. And this hubris or usurpation by deficient rationality in relation to the paradoxical was furthermore reflected in the slogan and theme for the war that usurped “divine” prerogative: “Shock and Awe”, which few recognised as “apocalypse”.
The hubris of the neo-conservatives, which was a hubris of the mental-rational consciousness more generally, is that it was master of these apocalyptic powers of creative destruction. But while it certainly had command of those powers of “creative destruction” and did indeed summon them up, it had no mastery of them at all, as subsequent events and consequences have proved to everyone’s great detriment.
And in this you see precisely what disturbs Iain McGilchrist about the usurpation of the “divided brain” by the “Emissary”, and what concerned also Jean Gebser about the irruption of the mythical and magical into the matrix of the mental-rational that had become itself “deficient”.
To presume to work with the powers of creative destruction and to command them is stealing fire from heaven, in a sense. And this is somewhat akin to what McGilchrist means by the Emissary’s “usurpation” of powers and prerogatives that do not belong to it. In other words, McGilchrist’s term “usurpation” has the same meaning as “hubris”, and his explicit pessimism about the future and the human prospect corresponds to his understanding of Nemesis as the fruit of that usurpation as hubris.
It’s in those terms, then, that “creative destruction” stood for another example of the “irruption” of the paradoxical into a soil poorly prepared for it — the mental-rational, dialectically oriented consciousness structure, and the result was catastrophe.
Neoliberal globalisation is this same catastrophe in the making, and here we will highlight another example of the irruption of the paradoxical into the matrix of the mental-rational structure that is ill-prepared for it, and where it works as self-contradiction and self-negation. Some of this was illustrated in George Monbiot’s recent article in The Guardian on the contradictions of neo-liberalism. (Although Monbiot doesn’t pursue this deeply enough). As noted, the fathers of neo-liberalism, Hayek and Friedman, both applauded corporate monopolies as the reward of economic efficiency in the “free market”. That is neo-liberalism’s “trojan horse” and its own self-contradiction, one that is now being carried to its logical conclusion in the form of “techno-fascism” and “technocratic shamanism” and precisely in the name of “libertarianism” or “anarcho-capitalism”.
(Both Peter Thiel and the recently mentioned Patrick Schumacher belong in this category, and I would call this self-contradiction “chaotic thinking” owing to the fact that it is inept at handling the paradoxical).
For this reason I hold that it is the irruption of the paradoxical into a consciousness structure that is “deficient” in the handling of the paradoxical that is the reason for the chaos of the affects and of thinking, and so is implicated in “New Normal”, “Post-Truth” and “chaotic transition”, and, of course, the present paranoia and anxiety. Most of The Chrysalis has been concerned to highlight the reasons why the paradoxical is incompatible with the logic of the mental-rational or ‘perspectival’ consciousness. And I think these two examples show why that logic is not adequate or “fit for purpose” for an Age of Paradox where it can only manifest as self-contradiction and self-negation.