GOP as the
from Paul Krugman, The Crazy Party (New York Times: 9-19-13):
Early this year, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, made headlines by telling his fellow Republicans that they needed to stop being the “stupid party.” . . . . In recent months, the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party.Reliance on epithets is no substitute for taking seriously the cognitive and psychological dimensions of right wing rhetorical performances, including the sado-sexual obsessiveness of the right, which is of far greater significance than the endless repetitions of the shibboleths of free market individualism (which themselves function as floating signifiers and performative cues, rather than as elements in a theoretical world view). Paul Krugman's opinion piece in the New York Times, quoted above, is a case in point of such an evasion of the fundamental questions posed by the behavior of the far right. It is precisely the investigation of the cognitive and psychological dimensions of politics that is one of the major objectives of this site.
The cognitive dimensions of the right-wings rhetorical performances merit serious attention, all the more so when considered together with the data in Figure 1, PISA Math Scores, 2003 - 2012: 25 Nations. I have color-coded the information so that one can see more clearly the regional patterns. The United States (in red) rests at the very bottom of the distribution. The media never presents the data graphically, and only speaks of rankings. But it is the quatitative spreads that are so striking. (We may note in passing that the media's inability to perform at the level required by the Common Core State Standards for high school math is intimately related to Figure 1. See, for example, the New York Times' editorial board's correction of its math error in Who Says Math Has to Be Boring?)
Southest Asia is in light blue. The gap between Shanghai and Japan is 77 points; between Shanghai and the U.S. is 132 points. Finland (in dark blue) has dropped 22 points since last tested in 2009, and Sweden 16. The UK held steady at 119 points behind Shanghai, 42 points behind Japan, but the other Anglo-Saxon nations show continuing decline from 2003 to 2012 (Canada down 14, Australia down 20, and New Zealand down 23 points in that period). Poland is the only bright spot among the non-Asian nations, jumping 23 points from 2009 to 2012. All the Asian nations showed increases of from 6 to 17 points.
PISA 2012 Scores Just Released (December 3, 2013)
Figure 1. PISA Math Scores, 2003 - 2012: 25 Nations
NCES, Highlights PISA 2003, p. 14 NCES, Highlights PISA 2009, p. 18
NCES, Highlights PISA 2006, p. 12 OECD 2013 Key Findings, p.5
Southeast Asian nations are in light blue; Scandinavian nations + Switzerland in dark blue; Anglo-Saxon nations in orange; France, Germany, Belgium and Poland in green; Italy, Portugal and Spain in brown; the United States in red. These are the advanced capitalist nations (some have been omitted for the sake visual clarity).
While the October crisis (the government shutdown) in the United States was unfolding, And before the PISA 2012 results were released, the OECD released the results of its first assessment of the cognitive abilities of adults (Stubborn Skills Gap in America’s Work Force, New York Times October 8, 2013). Figure 2: comparison of average numeracy proficiency among young adults, and Figure 3: young adults, 16-24 year-olds minus all adults, 16-65 is derived from this PISA report. Figure 1 is bad enough; in relation to Figure 1, Figure 2 indicates a relative worsening of American cognitive performativity; and Figure 3 shows that in the U.S. cognitive performativity of young adults falls short of the cognitive performativity of all adults.
Another hallmark of an historically exhausted progressivism is its almost exclusive focus on educational institutions and teacher development, as can be seen in this New York Times article of December 8, 2013: O.E.C.D. Warns West on Education Gaps, and in the statement from the National Center on Education and the Economy:
comparison of average numeracy proficiency
among young adults, 16-24 year-olds (adjusted)
OECD (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from
the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Publishing, p. 83
|O.E.C.D. Warns West on Education Gaps:
Yet the American and British governments “have followed the Swedish model by opening more and more ‘free schools’ or charter schools,” said John Jerrim, a professor at the Institute for Education.
His skepticism was echoed by Mr. Schleicher, the O.E.C.D. official, who said, “The data shows no relation between competition between schools and the overall performance level.”
Asked afterward what the highest-performing systems had in common, Mr. Schleicher said: “High performers pay teachers more. They are also systems with a commitment to universal achievement.”
3: young adults, 16-24 year-olds minus all adults, 16-65 (p.
|The National Center on Education and the Economy released this statement on the PISA 2012 Results from its President and CEO Marc S. Tucker:
But that raises the question directly—what does account for the success of the leaders? What would the United States, or states within the United States, have to do to match their performance?
The first thing they do is very simple: they carefully study the strategies, policies and practices used by the top performers, not with an eye to copying anyone, but to learn from them, to adapt the best to build a version uniquely suited to our own needs.
Second, they provide more resources to the students who are harder to educate than to the students who are easier to educate.
Third, we see that all the top performers have invested heavily in the skills of their teachers. Some have focused on sourcing their teachers from much higher quality high school graduates, insisting that their teachers have bachelors’ degrees in the subjects they will teach (including their elementary school teachers) and insisting as well on solid preparation in the craft of teaching (they do not believe in alternative routes into teaching that skip this step). Some, most notably Shanghai, have worked very hard to set up systems that have the effect of helping teachers to improve their practice year after year in a very disciplined way.
Fourth, they have all put a lot of effort into building internationally competitive academic standards, intellectually demanding curriculum and examinations built on the curriculum that are designed to measure the full range of complex thinking skills on which their standards are based.
The top performers have all found ways to give very young children and their parents a lot of support before the children first show up for school. They pay a lot of attention to vocational education and training and to school to work transition. Not least important they work hard to build effective systems, the parts and pieces of which are designed to support one another and rely—gasp!—on government to implement those systems well.
|I know an historically exhausted progressivism when I see it
the owl of Minerva flies only at night
this is that time,
but there's no owl in sight
|Why do I call the above an
historically exhausted progressivism? Because of the by now
obviously naive presuppositions of consumerism and the Cartesian self, which today's
progressives share with neoliberals. The latter are not shy about
proclaiming their commitment to an ideology of materialism:
from Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, 2012):
neoliberalism . . . is the free market ideology based on individual liberty and limited government that connected human freedom to the actions of the rational, self-interested actor in the competitive marketplace. p. 2
and from Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2010):
For classical liberals, producers were the servants of consumers who pursued their material needs and wants as they saw fit. pp. 2-3
It is not clear whether today's progressives share these assumptions or are simply too exhausted to confront them. Consider the comments on Thorstein Veblen to the right, and think of how right on he was. Wherever we look, whether at the awsome accumulation of wealth at the top and the prodigious spending on status; or at the masses' frenzied pursuit of fashion, possessed of the latest technology that enables an almost chimpanzee-like simplification of language, and whose appetites are actively shaped by multinational corporations (The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, New York Times, February 20, 2013); or at the continued vitality of the disease Nietzsche called ressentiment, which brings me back to the title of this page: The GOP as the Stupid Party: an inadequate conceptualization.
This is the context in which to consider the PISA results. Education cannot overcome the fundamental tendencies in society. It can only reflect and build upon them.
Ressentiment and desire undermine the prospects for Bildung, Resentiment by simply waging war against science and modernity (Vincent), succeeding in lower class communities in undermining the external positive referentials that play a critical role in the internalization of models and values that promote inner discipline; and desire by undermining from within through narcissistic regression the very possiblitity of such self-discipline (Hall, Ceci). When these two forces combine--and they are the dominant ideological performances and identificatory references for enormous subgroups of the population (see map)--development suffer a fatal wound. Children under such powerful influences are deprived of the whole framework that is the sine qua non for development--and this has nothing to do with schooling taken in isolation from the context in which schooling occurs.
|Malcolm Rutherford, The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918-1947 (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Saginaw Valley State U.
[Veblen] provided a strong criticism of hedonism, including marginal utility theory, satirizing its conception of man as a "lightning calculator of pleasures and pains" and arguing that economics should look to more modern social-psychological theories of behavior based on instinct and habit. (35)
Rick Tillman, The Intellectual Legacy of Thorstein Veblen (Greenwood Press, 1996)
Veblen's criticisms [of neoclassical economics] took two forms; one was scientific and had to do with the requirements of a properly evolutionary science of economics; the other was political and moral and had to do with the direction in which he thought society should evolve. First, econmics in his view was still largely pre-Darwinan in that it used utilitarian theory as its criterion of choice and clung to an outmoded hedonistic psychology; it was teleological in that it unrealistically postulated certain processes such as equilibrium as normal and taxonomic insofar as it substituted classification for causal explanation. It erred, methodologically, in using deduction to draw conclusions from unrealistic axioms. 31
Veblen's criticism of neoclassicism also focused on its neglect of the origins of consumer tastes and preferences, its use of marginalist explanations of income distribution and, implicitly, with the static role it assigned to the state. In his view, neoclassicists simply took consumption patterns for granted without inquiry into the origins of consumer values. They ignored the emulatory nature of much of consumption and, also, the role of advertising and salesmanship in whetting consumer appetites. 31-2
The framework within which this site unfolds is know as Cultural Historical Activity Theory (and a variety of other terms--see Mohamed Elhammouni, "Lost--or Merely Domesticated," in Chaiklin, The Theory and Practice of Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2001). Notwithstanding its success in the nation where it was most fully implemented (Finland), this approach does not address the vulgarity, violence and greed of modern life. It does not address such phenomena as The Stupid Party; it has nothing to say about fascism as a generic phenomenon of modernity and as a central feature of American life. Nor does it have anything to say about the cognitive effects of our enormously powerful corporate networks devoted to the stimulation of desire and envy. Cultural Historical Activity Theory is Hegel with a smiley face, a utopian Progressivism. But development can go awry; regression can occur; archaic forces persist and become the raw materials of opportunistic political elites. Cognitive decay--entropy--may be the signal event of our time. Shit happens, and the smile is wiped off Hegel's face. That's in part what Figure 1 is about . . . and what this site is about.
But this only means that Cultural Historical Activity Theory must be further developed in response to new challenges. Cultural Historical Activity Theory is really part of that current of thought--of intellectual praxis--most often referred to as continental philosophy abroad, and as Pragmatism and Progressivism at home.
Thus, dramatic transformations of actual cognitive and expressive modalities are only now becoming intelligible (Flynn) and problematic (Hall). Flynn is about the emergence on a large scale of formal operational cognitive capabilities in the twentieth century, but wonders if "these gains will persist into the twenty-first century . . . at least for developed nations." Hall is about the way a mass consumer culture of regressive narcissism undermines the development of these capabilities. (There are separate pages for developmental psychology and the consumer culture of regressive narcissism
Bobby Jindal, who first used "stupid" to characterize the Republican Party, was referring to the sado-sexual remarks of, among others, Tod "legitimate rape" Akin, and Richard, "rape is God's will" Mourdock, and was more concerned with their inefficacy than with their intellectual content, while Krugman, in transitioning from stupid to crazy, was referring to the joyful march to Armageddon and the Second Coming of the Tea Party Republicans during the first two weeks of October, 1913.
Although this page focuses on the mistaken labeling of these sado-sexual performances as merely stupid (stupid as epithet not concept), this does not mean the Stupid Party has not played a major role in achieving the effects evident in Figure 1.
few things can be said: the old antinomies are dead. Markets
sorts* will have a place, but so will a vibrant public sector and a
continuous pragmatic (Pragmatism as in John Dewey) adjustment of the
relations between state and markets . . and organisms (not the
Cartesian selves of the neoliberal ideology).
S.A. Smith, in his Revolution and the People in Russia and China: A Comparative History(Cambridge Univesity Press, 2008), provides the historical context for the developmental issues that are simultaneously political issues:
Indeed, without denying the real potental for tension between individual autonomy and class-based collectivism, we may conclude that genuine forms of collectivism and cooperative action are possible only where class solidarity is grounded in autonomous individuals capable of demanding the recognition due to them as thinking, feeling persons. Without that, new forms of group coercion based on weak individuality are likely to be the result . . . p. 110But are we "no longer material for a society?" This page begins to address (but not answer) Nietzsche's question.
*Johanna Bockman, Markets in the name of socialism : the left-wing origins of neoliberalism (Stanford University Press, 2011)
from Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882/1887)
What will not be built any more henceforth, and cannot be built any more, is—a society in the old sense of that word; to build that, everything is lacking, above all the material. All of us are no longer material for a society; this is a truth for which the time has come. It is a matter of indifference to me that at present the most myopic, perhaps most honest, but at any rate noisiest human type that we have today, our good socialists, believe, hope, dream, and above all shout and write almost the opposite. Even now one reads their slogan for the future "free society" on all tables and walls. Free society? Yes, yes! But surely you know, gentlemen, what is required for building that? Wooden iron! The well-known wooden iron." And it must not even be wooden.
see also Utopianism is what the landlords have time for…
It is now apparent, in the light of recent work in developmental psychology, but also in primate biology, archeology, anthropology, and history, that there is an enormous variability in contextualized cognitive and discursive performativity. This variability is seen not only across a historical span measured in millions of years; it is contemporary: it appears as "Differences in cognition across cultures, social groups, and domains of practice." (Engestrom) This is the context in which we must look at both the PISA results and the sado-sexual performances of the Stupid Party--after all, it is the Stupid Party that has made educational policy. Although this page focuses on the mistaken labeling of these sado-sexual performances as merely stupid (stupid as epithet not concept), this does not mean the Stupid Party has not played a major role in achieving the effects evident in Figure 1. (Sweden has its own version of No Child Left Behind. See Doubts grow over the success of Sweden's free schools experiment, This article was published on September 10, 2011, before the results of PISA 2012 were published.)
The GOP "Base"
Map 1. The 231 House GOP votes on the deal to end the shutdown and raise the U.S. Treasury
debt ceiling (H.R. 2775: No Subsidies Without Verification Act): red=no (144); blue=yes (87)
|Map 2 show the geographical
electoral base of the Party referred to by Bobby Jindal as "The
Stupid Party" (Huffington
Jindal was Governor of
Louisiana and incoming president of the Republican Governors
Association when he made these comments, and thus might be said to
speak with some authority.
Map 1. The 231 House GOP votes on the deal to end the shutdown and raise the U.S. Treasury debt ceiling (H.R. 2775: No Subsidies Without Verification Act, vote taken on October 16, 2013), is from swampland.time.com. Click on the links below the screen images--they are extremely useful.
Bobby Jindal, who first used "stupid" to characterize the Republican Party, was referring to the sado-sexual remarks of, among others, Tod "legitimate rape" Akin, and Richard, "rape is God's will" Mourdock, and was more concerned with their inefficacy than with their intellectual content, while Krugman, in transitioning from stupid to crazy, was referring to the joyful march to Armageddon and the Second Coming of the Tea Party Republicans during the first two weeks of October, 1913.
One ought to keep these maps in mind. They provide the geographical context for considering the nature of the bond between the base and the rhetoricians of the right.
As will be seen in the next several panels below, a pervsive sado-sexual discursive practice is the essence of the GOP's public presence. For starters: transvaginal ultrasound.
2012 Presidential Election, by county
The GOP's Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill in Virginia, well-covered in the media, was of a piece with Akin's and Mourdock's performances. This event, taken together with the Akin and Mourdoch rape comments, and others like it, are discussed in the media in terms of insensitivity and political stupidity. Unconceptualized is the primary character of the GOP Right: its sado-sexual discursive practice. "Don't you realize that you are hurting people" is a liberal plaint when the right wing attacks women's rights (or cuts the food stamp program). Don't you realize, would be my response to this liberal plaint, that to hurt people--to hurt the other--is precisely the point. To hurt the other is the source of a perverse joy that the GOP base gets out of the theater of ressentiment that politics provides. And even when it appears not to be, the sexual obsessiveness of the GOP is present as the inner logic that drive their performances, that generates their rhetoric. (Dan T Carter, From George Wallace to New Gingrich)
from Yrjö Engeström and Reijo Miettinen, "Activity theory and individual and social transformation," in Reijo Miettinen, and Raija-Leena Punamaki, Perspectives on Activity Theory (Cambridge, 1999), pp. 25-6:
It is surely appropriate to avoid imposing rigid, one-dimensional sequences on social reality. But especially among Anglo-Saxon researchers adhering to the ideas of Vygotsky, the standard alternative seems to be to avoid history altogether. Differences in cognition across cultures, social groups, and domains of practice are thus commonly explained without seriously analyzing the historical development that has led to those differences. The underlying relativistic notion is that we should not make value judgements concerning whose cognition is better or more advanced--that all kinds of thinking and practice are equally valuable. Although this liberal stance may be a comfortable basis for academic discourse, it ignores the reality that in all domains of societal practice value judgements and decisions have to be made everyday. People have to decide where they want to go, which way is up. If behavioral and social sciences want to avoid that issue, they will be unable to work out useful yet theoretically ambitious intellectual tools for practitioners making those crucial decisions.
sado-sexual obsession recurs, as Nietzsche said, eternally.
late September 2013, for example, these two anti-Obamacare ads hit the
Creepy Uncle Sam Anti Obamacare Ad The Exam Female Version
Uncle Sam plays proctologist in creepy political ad
Rush Limbaugh - "It Makes Her A Slut, A Prostitute" Feb 29, 2012
What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps.
On today's show (3-2-12), Limbaugh turned up the heat and suggested that women who use insurance-covered birth control should post sex tapes online: "So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch," he said.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, Echo Chamber: Rush
Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Estabisment (Oxford
Press, 2008), p.p. 188-89. (Emphasis added.)
Limbaugh's attempts at gender-based "humor" are of the locker room variety. As the California gubernatorial recall was heating up, Limbaugh informed his folowers that Leutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante--"whose name loosely translates into Spanish for 'large breasts'--leads the Terminator by a few pionts" (August 18, 2003). A photomontage on the Limbaugh website shows a photograph of Schwartzenegger's head and shoulders from his Pumping Iron days as a body builder. A naked woman has been transposed onto his shoulders. Over her breasts is a sign reading BUSTAMONTE. When Madonna endorsed General Wesley Clark, Limbaugh reported that she had "opened herself" to him. Why the vulgarity in this message does not alienate the churchgoing conservatives in his audiences a question for which we have no ready answer.A striking illustration of the cognitive limitations of liberals is that they fail to note the obvious--that is, they fail to conceptualizes the generic character of this stream of sado-sexual performances. Each recurring moment in the sado-sexual unfolding of rightwing practice is treated as an isolated event that need not be grasped as part of a pattern requiring adequate conceptualization. Jamieson and Cappella just don't get it: The vulgarity and sadism of Limbaugh's rhetoric is the main event in this theater of ressentiment, while the "issues" are merely the occasion for the expression of emotionally appealing sexual inuendo and sadism. This is the stuff of Nietzsche's ressentiment.
One has only to enter into the experiental
horizon (Medard Boss, Psychoanalysis
and daseinsanalysis; Robert Stolorow, World, Affectivity, Trauma:
Heidegger and Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis) of the
right-wing phantasy world, where the gun is a prop
in the theater of revenge,
(see Gibson, Warrior
and Manhood in Post-Vietnam America, Hill & Wang,
thus linked to the whole culture of violence, revenge, and righteous
slaughter (Katz, Seductions
While discussions of the 2nd Amendment can be interesting,
completely miss the cultural historical forces behind the right-wing
affair with redemptive
violence (Paxton, Anatomy
of Fascism). Remember
the 2008 GOP primary debates
where torture--that is, sadism--was a key issue.
Sometimes the phantasy of the marauding other breaks through its politically coded, euphemistic representations. Thus, Senator Lindsay Graham on why we need assault weapons:
“In 1992 you had the riots in Los Angeles,” Graham said. “I think it was the King event, but you could find yourself in this country in a lawless environment through a natural disaster or a riot. … And the story was about a place called Koreatown. There were marauding gangs going through the area, burning stores, looting and robbing … and raping.” (see NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Lindsey Graham play the ‘racial scare’ card in gun control debate, the Grio, Joy-Ann Reid February 14, 2013)
And sometimes the phantasy is actually enacted, as in the hunting down of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and the uprising of white support for the perpetrator in his hour of need. Not all whites, of course, but the severely and the really white. (For this distinction see Intel Finalists.)
Of a piece with the above is birtherism. In this context "racism" should be thought of as a system of cognates, together with the generative grammar of this system of cognates. Lee Atwater had an intuitive grasp of this. Atwater truly exceeds himself, for he is describing Deleuze's plane of immanence, about which more elsewhere.
A fundamental feature of modern life is that all this stuff is not hidden from view; it is just forbidden, in the same way that various taboos forbid elucidation. To really understand Figure 1 means that now we must deal with what we are so uncomfortable discussing. Otherwise Figure 1 is only the beginning.
Percent Who Doubt Obama's Citizenship from the Daily Kos, "Birthers are mostly Republican and Southern," July 31, 2009
Lee Atwater on Racism
from Wikipedia: (for the video see Lee Atwater's Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy)
As a member of the Reagan administration in 1981, Atwater gave an anonymous interview to political scientist Alexander P. Lamis. Part of the interview was printed in Lamis's book The Two-Party South, then reprinted in Southern Politics in the 1990s with Atwater's name revealed. . . . Atwater talked about the Republican Southern Strategy and Ronald Reagan's version of it:
Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.
Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?
Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."
from Dan T Carter, From George Wallace to New Gingrich:
Theoretically, it might be possible to separate race from the social issues. Theoretically. In reality, fears of blackness and fears of disorder were the warp and woof of the new social agenda, bound together by the subcounscious connection many white Amerians made betweeen blackness and criminality, blackness and poverty, blackness and cultural degradation. 42
the Puritan terror
The excerpt below is about Puritanism in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. That it appears so well to describe today's right wing is indicative of the power of the Hegel-Deleuze mode of thinking subsumable under the terms concrete universal (Hegel) and plane of immanence (Deleuze). And keep this excerpt in mind when reading Carter's and Lowndes' accounts of the rise of the right and the "social issues" of the sixties. The reason that it is pointless to argue these "social issues" is that they are mere recurrences of a primordial theme outside the space of reasons, at the borderline between symbolic expression and the inarticulate brute.
from Puritanism as a Revolutionary Ideology, Michael Walzer, History and Theory, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1963), pp. 59-90
About the Puritan saints Walzer writes of " . . . their almost Manichean warfare against Satan and his worldly allies, their nervous lust for systematic repression and control." p. 63
"They felt themselves to be living in an age of chaos and crime and sought to train conscience to be permanently on guard against sin. The extent to which they would have carried the moral discipline can be seen in the following list of offenses which merited excommunication in one seventeenth-century congregation:
-for unfathfulness in his masters service
-for admitting cardplaying in his house . . .
-for sloth in business.
-for being overtaken in beer.
-for borrowing a pillion and not returning it.
-for jumping for wagers . . .
-for dancing and other vanities.
Had the saints been successful in establishing their Holy Commonwealth, the enforcement of this discipline would have consituted the Puritan terror." p. 64One begins to get a sense of the deep historicity of the Tea Party when one contemplates Walzer's description of the Puritan saints and Lee Atwater's astonishingly frank interview on Republican strategy (above right).
"The persecution of witches, of course, was not a vital aspect of Puritan endeavor, but the active, fearful struggle against wickedness was. And the saints imagined wickedness as a creative and omnipresent demonic force, that is, as a continual threat." p. 79
from Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas:
As culture war, backlash was born to lose. Its goal is not to win cultural battles but to take offense, conspicuously, vocally, even flamboyantly. Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of backlash culture; voicing the fury of the imposed-upon is to the backlash what the guitar solo is to heavy metal. Indignation is the privilege emotion, the magic moment that brings a consciuosness of rightness and a determination to persist. . . . Everything seems to piss conservatives off, and they react by documenting and cataloguing their disgust. The result is what we call the plen-T-plaint, a curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world. Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us; the plen-T-plaint is a horizontal rather than vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on. 121-3Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) replicates the inner logic of Walzer's description of the Puritan terror in the form of an empirically rich description of the GOP right. Frank's concept of the Plen-T-Plaint captures the essence of the right's performative modality. The goal of the rhetorical performances of the GOP right "is "to take offense," to provide the theater within which an unappeasable rage can be acted out.
See Fox News, where this is a major rhetorical device.
Joseph E. Lowndes' From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (Princeton, 2009) refers to the "foundational violence of modern Republicanism." (p. 2)
For the centrality of violence in the political theater that is the far right (and the cognitive primtivism of the performance) see Alex Jones vs Piers Morgan On Gun Control (CNN 1/7/2013).
The war on Christmas: "the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities . . . " the cognitive dimension of the Plen-T-Plaint: the incredible smallness of mind--not even pre-operational: Fox News specializes in this, thus presupposing and simultaneously imposing a mind shrinking to the vanishing point. This is what liberals completely miss in their response, this is liberal affirmative action for stupid whites.
the Proto-Dorian Convention--the answer to Thomas Frank's question: What's the Matter with Kansas?
See the excerpt to the right from Wilbur J. Cash's The Mind of the South, as well as Bruce Clayotn's discussion of Cash's concept of the Proto-Dorian Convention. If you have wondered what binds working class whites to Tea Party billionaires such as the Koch brothers; if Thomas Frank's question--What's the Matter with Kansas?--matters; then Cash's key concept is for you. And if you have been perplexed by the antics of right wing elite actors in populist settings, I offer a variation on Cash's concept: proto-Dorian schmoozing.
Consider, Mitt Romney's infamous reference to Michigan's trees (Mitt Romney On Michigan's Trees And Cars, 2/24/12). Focusing on the innanity of these remarks is to miss the point. Given the fundamental reality of the elite-mass relationship within the GOP rhetorical field, the speaker has open to him only two rhetorical postures. The first, and primary one, is to articulate the rage and ressentiment of the base through code words (i.e., floating signifiers). Even economic issue can be floating signifiers, such as cutting Medicare, as Lee Atwater has pointed out. Secondarily, there is the posture of proto-Dorian smoozing, of which the trees episode is a good example. One must take seriously the appeal to lower class whites who identify with the beleaguered rich, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, are cognitively primitive. The emotional appeal of the proto-Dorian convention is dealt with in Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense. The Crudeness and vulgarity that perplex Jamieson and Cappella are the aesthetic principles of the right's appeal.
Here is some more proto-Dorian smoozing: Mitt Romney: "Son Of The South"
the Proto-Dorian Convention
from Bruce Clayton, "No Ordinary History: W. J. Cash's The Mind of the South", in Charles W. Eagles, The Mind of the South: Fifty Years Later (University Press of Mississippi, 1992)
Cash offered a gripping argument that the elite had so drilled its superiority into the psyche of the common whites that they intricately and mysteriously connected themselves once and for all with their betters. Here was Cash's "proto-Dorian convention." Because of slavery, and the common white's psychological needs, color elevated the common white "to a position comparable to that, say, of the Doric kight of ancent Sparta," Cash wrote. The planters were admired and obeyed not because they were inherently good or capable, but because the lowly white saw in their masters--cotton patch Doric knights, in other words--examples of what they might become. This belief was a fantasy that coddled the ego of the common man and was thus integral to maintaining the proto-Dorian bond. When Helper,* Cash wrote, "and others began at last on the eve of the Civil War to point out the wrongs of the common white and to seek to arouse him to recogizing them, they could get no response." Why? Becuse "the common white, as a matter of course, gave eager credence and took pride in the legend of the aristocracy which is so valuable to the defense of the land. He went further, in fact, and, by an easy psychological process which is in evidence wherever men group themselves about captains, pretty completely assimilated their own ego to the latter's--felt his planter's new splendor as being in some fashion his own." (pp. 11-12)
from W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South (Alfred A. Knopf, 1941)
Yeoman and cracker turned to the planter, waited eagerly upon his signal as to what to think and do . . . because he was their obviously indicated captain in the great common cause. "The stupid and sequacious masses, the white victims of slavery . . . believe whatever the slaveholders tell them; and thus are cajoled into the notion that they are the freest, happiest, and most intelligent people in the world," wrote the bitter [Hinton Rowan] Helper, gazing in baffled anger at the scene. (69)
(1) Fascism as a Plane of Immanence
One will never understand what is happening now in the United States unless one is prepared to consider the question of "fascism." Of course, serious people, respectable people, shun this word, viewing it as an epithet, not a concept. Yet Robert O. Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004) provides us with a characterization--a conceptualization--that points directly to the current right wing of the GOP:
The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism. p. 84
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. p. 218 continued →
Paxton gets more specific:
The United States itself has never been exempt from fascism. Indeed, antidemocratic and xenophobic movements have flourished in America since the Native American party of 1845 and the Know-Nothing Party ofthe 1850s. In the crisis-ridden 1930s, as in other democracies, derivative fascist movements were conspicuous in the United States. The Protestant evangelist Gerald B. Winrod's openly pro-Hitler Defenders of the Christian Faith with their Black Legion; William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts (the initials "SS" were intentional) . . . . Much more dangerious are movements that employ authentically Amerian themes in ways that resemble fascism functionally. The Klan revived in the 1920s, took on virulent anti-Semitism, and spread to cities and the Middle West. In the 1930s, Father Charles E. Coughlin gathered a radio audience estimated at forty million around an anticommunist, anti-Wall Street, pro-soft money, and---after 1938--anti-Semitic message broadcast from his church in the ouskirts of Detroit. For a moment in early 1936 it looked as if his Union Party and its presidential candidate, North Dakota congressman William Lemke, might overwhelm Roosevelt. . . . p. 201
continued below left
Finally, Paxton brings us up to date. Altough Anatomy of Fascism was published in 2004, it describes the anti-Obama Tea Party uproar of 2009 with uncanny prescience--the Youtube video at the right (click on link below screenshot) is a good example.
Today a "politics of ressentment" rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same "internal enemies" once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights. . . . The languge and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models. They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans, as Orwell suggested. . . . No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance [one minute and 45 seconds into the video above right]. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy. p. 202 (Emphasis added)
Maps 1 and 2 above right show the geographical distribution of the electoral base of the Party referred to by Bobby Jindal as the "stupid party." The video "I want my country back" is a concrete performative correlate of the maps. Political science meets existential phenomenology. Abstract representations meet concrete phenomena. The Internet is the techno-cognitive axis of a praxiological revolution in thought, where the idea of transcendental empiricism becomes practical activity. And "fascism" emerges as a fundamental concept, as the inner logic of a plane of immanence (and as a page on this site: Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense).
"I want my country back!"
("The language and symbols of an authentic American fascism . . . ")RINO [Republicans In Name Only] American Traitor Rep. Mike Castle
Tap-Dances Around Obama Birth Certificate (July 20, 2009)
A Concept of Brutishness
There is a simple brutishness to the rhetorical performances of the right, an inexhaustible reservoir of rage, cognitively primitive, sadistic in impulse and sexual in symbolic content. Brutishness is intended as a concept in four domains: phenomenology, history, developmental psychology, and theory.
Phenomenology. The phenomenologal analysis of brutishness is made possible by the Internet, and can be grasped as either thick description (Geertz) or as a plane of immanence (Deleuze). The first step toward a concept of brutishness is Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense: the Current American scene. xxx
Theory. Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment plays a key role in the assembly of critical theoretical texts and intellectual resources. Indeed, the psychoanalytic concept of defense mechanisms is Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment given clinical expression. Click on Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense: Theory.
History. This is so far the history of ressentiment as a political force, and is mainly an assemblage of relevant texts. Ressentiment is a component of brutishness, but the latter cannot be simply reduced to the former. See Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense: History.
Developmental psychology: Bildung. The excerpt to the right gets us started. The materials relevant are found here. I didn't read all all of this, but my entire intellectual life has been spent within those currents of thought most often referred to as continental philosophy abroad, and as Pragmatism and Progressivism at home. James A. Good, A Search for Unity in Diversity: the Permanent Hegelian Deposit in the Philosophy of John Dewey (Lexington Books, 2005), and Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas (University of Chicago Press, 2012) suggest the deep inner connectedness of American Pragmatism and Hegel/Deleuze. Finnish educational theorists refer to Dewey, Vygotsky, and Bronfenbrenner as major influences.
It is now apparent, in the light of recent work in primate biology, archeology, anthropology, and history, that there is an enormous variability in contextualized cognitive and discursive performativity. This variability is seen not only across a historical span measured in millions of years; it is contemporary: it appears as "Differences in cognition across cultures, social groups, and domains of practice." (Engestrom) This is the context in which we must look at both the PISA results and the sado-sexual performances of the Stupid Party--after all, it is the Stupid Party that has made educational policy. Although this page focuses on the mistaken labeling of these sado-sexual performances as merely stupid (stupid as epithet not concept), this paragraph suggests the larger context in which all such questions must be considered.
While this page begins with the PISA data, it uses that data as a jumping off point for a consideration of the the kind of activity that is the antithesis of the underlying objctive of PISA: that objective is the development of more advanced, abstract, scientific, formal operational thought among the students. The Stupid Party in its actual semiotic activities avoids and demonizes such advanced thought, while its policies have had the effect (perhaps only incidental to the main pupose of plundering public funds) of subverting such development through the attack on science and the attacks on public schools.
from Urie Bronfenbrenner, ed., Making Human Beings Human: Bioecological Perspectives on Human Development, (Sage Publications, 2005)
The contemporary scientific study of human development is characterized by a committment to the understanding of the dynamic relationships between the developing individual and the integrated, multilevel ecology of human development. This approach to development is marked by a theoretical focus on temporally (historically) embedded person-context relational process; by the embracing of models of dynamic change across the ecological system; and by relational, change-sensitive methods predicated on the idea that individuals influence the people and institutions of their ecology as much as they are influenced by them. (ix)
Especially in its early phases, but also throughout the life course, human development takes place through processes of progressively more complex reciprocal interaction between an active, evolving biopsychosocial human organism and the persons, objects and symbols in its immediate external environment. (xviii)
Within the bioecological theory, development is defined as the phenomenon of continuity and change in the biopsychological characteristics of human beings both as individuals and as groups. The phenomenon extends over the life course across successive generations and through historical time both past and present. (3)
Urie Bronfenbrenner is not talking about test scores or skills--he is talking about development. The absense of any reference to developmental processes in the American public discourse on education is striking. Flynn, below, is also talking about development
from James R. Flynn, What is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect (Cambridge Univesity Press, 2009)
the gulf that separates our minds from those of our ancestors a century ago p. i
Our advantage over our ancestors is relatively uniform at all ages from the cradle to the grave. Whether these gains will persist into the twenty-first century is problematic, at least for developed nations. But there is no doubt that they dominated the twentieth century and that their existence and size were quite unexpected. pp. 2-3
thee gains are huge. . . . How can our recent ancestors have been so unintelligent compared to ourselves? p. 9
If we prject IQ gains back to 1900, the average IQ score aggainst the current norms was somewhere between 50 and 70. If IQ gains are in any sense real, we are driven to the absurd conclusion that a majority of our ancestors were mentally retarded. p. 9-10
Our ancestors in 1900 were not mentally retarded. Their intelligence was anchored in everyday reality. We differ from them in that we can use abstractions and logic and the hypothetical to attack the formal problems that arise when science liberates thought from concrete situations. Since 1950 we have become more ingenious in going beyond previuosly learned rules to solve problems on the spot. pp. 10-11
. . . our ancestors were not mentally retarded; yet they could not cope with a huge number of Raven's itens; nor could they, as recently as those born in the 1930s, cope with the large number of Similarities items--and that we must seek an explanation in new habits of mind, rather than talk about test sophistication. p. 34
The scientific ethos, with its vocabulary, taxonomies, and detachment of logic and the hypothetical from concrete referents, has begun to permeate the minds of post-industrial peoples. This has paved the way for mass education on the university level and the emergence of an intellectual cadre without whom our present civilization would be inconceivable. p. 29
Science altered our lives and then liberated our minds from the concrete. This history has not been written because, as children of our own time, we do not perceive the gulf that separates us from our distant ancestors: the difference between their world and the world seen through scientific spectacles. . . . As use of logic and the hypothetical moved beyond the concrete, people developed new habits of mind. They became practiced at solving problems with abstract or visual content and more innovative at administative tasks. p. 172-174
from Levi R. Bryant, Difference and Givenness: Deleuze's Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence (Northwestern University Press, 2008)
A style or essence is what we might refer to as an identity of difference, or an identity produced through difference. It is not a type or a kind, but rather a rule of production, a genetic factor. It is an identity that maintains itself through topological variations. It is for this reason that we speak of morphological essences or diagrams of becoming. 68
Although Deleuze himelf never makes reference to the notion of topological essences, the theme can be seen to run throughout his work. . . . Insofar as a topological identity is produced between the variations a structure can undergo, Deleuze is also able to maintain the being of concrete universals which are no longer opposed to particulars. 70-71
Figure 4. percent who doubt Obama's from "Why doesn't America believe in evolution"
citizenship by Jeff Hecht, Science: August 20, 2006
from the DailyKos, "Birthers are mostly
Republican and Southern," July 31, 2009
The Research 2000 findings were pulled
together from a survey of 2,400 adults.
Poll question: Do you believe that Barack
Obama was born in the United States of
America or not?
Choices: Yes No Not sure
No + Not Sure = variable graphed
VIDEO: Santorum: Obama "A Snob" For Wanting Everyone To Go To College