I had never heard of James McGill Buchanan until I read, in today’s Guardian, a review by George Monbiot of Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s recently published book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. I have yet to read and assess MacLean’s research and argument, but I wouldn’t be really surprised at the revelation of a “stealth plan” for, and prospects of, “totalitarian capitalism”. That was already the conclusion of political scientist Sheldon Wolin in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and The Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Nor are Maclean or Wolin the first to express fears about totalitarian capitalism, only the most recent. There is also Jane Mayer’s related investigation into Dark Money. Totalitarian Capitalism has been anticipated in any case by other names such as “corporatocracy”, “plutocracy”, or “techno-fascism”. This has been a growing threat.
How likely an outcome and endgame is it? I would say very likely. It would be the logical culmination of Jean Gebser’s anticipated breakdown and collapse of the mental-rational/perspectival consciousness structure barring some unanticipated intervention and disruption of this dynamic.
There’s a pretty big discrepancy between Canada’s “brand” and the actual boots on the ground reality, not least when it comes to Canadian-based extractive industries in their operations around the globe.
That dissonance between the “brand” image and the reality, the good words and base deeds, was brought home by two articles that appeared in today’s Guardian that seem, ironically, very connected. The first is “Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally“, and the second, “The Canadian company mining hills of silver — and the people dying to stop it“, which is about Tahoe Resources’ mining operations in Guatemala. And this is not the first and only case of gross malfeasance by Canadian mining corporations in Latin America.
Canada’s “Sunny Ways” Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, received something of a “rockstar welcome” from G20 protesters in Hamburg this weekend. I’m completely bemused by this hero worship and the return of Trudeaumania 2.0 because, for one thing, it’s quite unearned and undeserved. Trudeau’s apparent celebrity and popularity seems based in nothing more that the fact that he’s The Not-Stephen-Harper, Canada’s former Conservative Prime Minister whose authoritarian inclinations and brooding darkness about our “Sea of Troubles” sharply contrasted with Trudeau’s “Sunny Ways” approach and demeanor.
But, for the most part, Justin Trudeau’s government has done very little apart from symbolic gestures to actual earn the “celebrity status” Trudeau has been accorded, and symbolic gestures to “progressivism” without corresponding substantive policy is just perception management. So, I would really like to caution you about mistaking such symbolic gestures for substantive policy and “real change”, as the Liberal slogan promises. Trudeau is not the white knight come to slay the neo-liberal dragon, to dispel the murk and gloom of the austerity policy and rectify the massively unequal distribution of the commonwealth, nor to rebuild and restore the resilience of the democracy after its inherent vulnerabilities to authoritarianism were revealed in the Harper years.
But when even Donald Trump says that “Justin is doing a spectacular job!”, and the head of the World Bank gushes about Trudeau, too, you have to wonder what that “job” really is except something quite akin to what Algis Mikunas called “technocratic shamanism”. But just being the “Not-Stephen-Harper” politician isn’t good enough to live up to the commitment for “real change”.
Globalisation. “A rising tide lifts all boats.” It was always a lie — a propagandistic slogan only — from the outset, for even its proponents described it in terms of “creative destruction”. There would be “winners” and “losers”. But in public, they overplayed the “creative” and downplayed the “destruction” bit, and they did so in the context of an “age of diminishing expectations” as Christopher Lasch called the period.
“Neo-liberal globalisation” isn’t, actually, the most accurate term for this process. “Globalised neo-liberalism” is the more accurate term. “Globalisation” is actually the creative aspect of this process. Neo-liberalism is the destructive aspect. But these two processes — one creative and integrative, one destructive and nihilistic — have become conflated as the meaning of “globalism” itself.
Imagine, if you will (as if, these days, you need to imagine it at all) that you wake up one morning and find yourself propelled into a Franz Kafka novel, or into a painting by Salvador Dali or a mind-bending M.C. Escher print. What you would most likely experience is a state of aporia where nothing makes sense. Aporia might be translated as “puzzlement” or bewilderment, but perhaps “stupefaction” is the most accurate translation of the meaning of aporia.
While we are on the topic of “the collective representations” (that is, images) and how this plays out in relation to Howard Bloom’s “Global Brain” theme, I’ld like to revisit an earlier posting (pre-Trump) on that and build upon it further. That posting was called “The Image and the Spirit of Place” and addressed some of the missing information that always attends the image as a “genuine imitation” reality. Images are abstractions from the real, and often only have a tenuous relation to the reality which they supposedly mirror or represent. The Anthropocene. as the “built-environment”, is, amongst other things, a vast ecosystem (or technosystem) of images and image complexes, or “collective representations”. So, in a sense, we live inside this collective hallucination of the “Global Brain” within a system of mental abstractions called “the images” or the “representations”, which is a kind of schizophrenia.
… and a cast of millions.
I just wanted to briefly follow up on the last post on the Global Brain with a comment about Trump’s “style” — and megalomania – in terms of his seeing himself as the actor and director and star of his own movie or reality TV show. That was clearly evident in his referring to his cabinet appointments as “central casting”, and how he views himself as a star and “celebrity” that affords him certain exceptional entitlements, not least of which is “grabbing pussy”.
This is, I think, very much involved in the meaning of the term “hypernormalisation” and Rolf Jensen’s notions of “The Dream Society” as also “New Normal”.