Subject: Political Power and Submission to the Beneficiaries of Imperialist Law and Order, with an interpretation by filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini.
4 October 2015
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
In recent discussions of capitalist class Power, and specifically European Fascist power at the time of the US entry into the Second World War, we made reference to the theoretical work of the late Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006, (The Anatomy of Power, 1983) and that of the much celebrated German sociologist Max Weber, 1864-1920, (Collected Political Writings, 1921). The revolutionary Italian filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975), also dealt with the subject of political power and the patterns of subjugation/domination that he observed in the capitalist consumer society in which he lived and died. The artistic genius of Pasolini provides us with a palpable illustration -- an inside view-- of a command economy governed by the rules and regulations of a self-interested property-owning class. Such was the milieu of European Fascism and the operations of its power hierarchy, whose managers celebrated a particular form of “Law and Order”.
Please see the seven items below, all of which pertain to understanding the sources of dependent political power pyramids and the instrumental dynamics of domination/subjugation that reproduce authoritarian relationships throughout late capitalist societies.
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom
(with English subtitles)
John Kenneth Galbraith’s text from “The Anatomy of Power” :
Power, wrote John Kenneth Galbraith in his book, The Anatomy of Power (1983), is the ability to make people submit to the will of another. With this pithy definition of power, the famous Harvard University economist began to develop a descriptive analysis of power, as it has existed in human society, and perhaps as it exists in the entire animal kingdom. Apes are not capitalists, nor are dogs and rabbits ..., nor are most of us. Nevertheless the lives of all of us are interwoven into power networks, of which we are more or less conscious.
Galbraith offers us some useful categories with which to examine this network of which we are a part.
I have been concerned to make wholly visible these constants –to identify the sources of power in personality, property, and organization and to see the instruments by which power is exercised and enforced.(The Anatomy of Power, p.2)
He goes on to explain what he means by instruments of power :
It is a measure of how slightly the subject of power has been analyzed that the three reasonably obvious instruments of its exercise do not have generally accepted names. These must be provided: I shall speak of condign, compensatory, and conditioned power.(pp. 21-22)
According to historic periods and specific situations, these concepts can be applied with some measure of success. In 17th Century Europe, for example, we can see how the power of charismatic personalities of absolute monarchs and emperors, and how the pecuniary power of wages and investments (i.e. property) which created bonds between people in the political economy of mercantile capitalism shaped people’s behavior. Later beginning in the second half of the 18th Century, with the appearance of a new political economy of liberal democracy and industrial capitalism, the power of personalities was displaced in large part by another source of power, that of organization, and with this displacement of the power source other instruments of power were found to be useful: conditioned behavior was more reliable than the fear of punishment (i.e. condign power); and, as time went on and consumerism took over the cultural landscape, compensatory power lost its monopolistic hold over many people. In short, in the contemporary political economy to see power relationships as they really exist, we are advised to look at organizations today (above all corporations, of course, but also churches, the military, and other associations of highly disciplined people) as the primary sources of power; the dominant instrument of contemporary power being explicit and/or implicit indoctrination, which creates individual habits and mass conformities that secure individual and group submission to the will of others.
Galbraith goes on to discuss “the dialectic of power” –how sources and instruments give rise to a symmetrical oppositions—and how the concentration and diffusion of power at any given time is decisive in achieving established goals, but always with unforeseen consequences. His chief concern in the 1980’s is our concern today: the condign punishment administered by military/police organizations to make people submit to the will of government policy makers, and the conditioned power of corporate organizations (including the mass media) to impose the will of the few on the population at large, with maximum private profits going to the former while the latter suffer from the growing inequalities.
Galbraith, as always, fails in his analysis to give priority to social class relationships, but the concepts he offers are useful in demystifying the every-day relationships we encounter in the institutions and neighborhoods where we live and work.
Max Weber on the Typology of power (from “Collected Political Writings,” 1921) :
3 types of ‘compliance’
[Three means –physical, material, & symbolic—which are employed within organizations/institutions to make subjects comply.]
1) Coercive power, based “on the application or the threat of application of physical sanctions.”
2) Remunerative power based “on control over material resources & rewards through allocations of salaries, wages, benefits, etc….”
3) Normative power, resting “on the allocation and manipulation of symbolic rewards and deprivations.”
4 types of ‘social action’*
1) Instrumental action (like ‘rational choice’ developed in economic theory), where the actors weigh the relative efficiency of different available Means to an End and sometimes the Ends themselves, seeking to maximize ‘benefits’ (Zweckrational, i.e. with purpose);
2) Value rationality, where the relative effectiveness of the Means to an End may be assessed, but the Ends are accepted as given, perhaps as a ‘Moral Imparative’ (like the ‘Protestant Work Ethnic’);
3) Affectual action, where action is governed by emotion;
4) Traditional action, where action is governed by customary or habitual practice.
[*Weber allowed for ‘mixed types’ of action.]
UMass Amherst's Richard Wolff discusses why labor force participation is the lowest since 1977 and what's really needed to stimulate the economy.
38% of American Workforce Still Jobless
The Curse of Totalitarianism and the Challenge of Critical Pedagogy
Who's Donald Trump?
by Jesse Kornbluth & Alvin Krinsky
(Watch the documentary that he suppressed for 25 years!)
This film was suppressed 25 years ago.
The film was commissioned in 1988 by Leonard Stern as the first of a series on celebrity businessmen and finished in 1991. Back then, the only way for a film to be seen was on television or in the theater. Donald threatened to sue any broadcaster or distributor that took on the film. In effect, it was suppressed. It was screened twice in back-to-back standing room only showings at the Bridgehampton Community House on July 3, 1991, the same day that Donald announced his engagement to Marla Maples.
Why it's important and why we should care now.
Now that Trump is running for president, it is time for the American People to meet the real Donald and learn how he does business. The old Trump and the new Trump? They're the same Trump.
The 80's was the beginning of the "me generation" of billionaires.
The 80s was the first modern "decade of greed". Donald Trump was the most visible of a handful of businessmen who became celebrities, a trend that has continued to this day.
What's happened with Trump since?
Since the completion of the film, Trump’s Atlantic City Empire is gone - sunk into bankruptcy. He is best known as the star of "The Apprentice," for building golf courses, slapping his name on buildings that others build, and acting as a superstar real estate agent. Oh, and he is still trying to move the Palm Beach airport.
Time to imagine: From ‘Disaster Capitalism’
to a system of our own
by Cynthia McKinney, for RT
Since the founding of the United States, generations have been inculcated with the belief that capitalism is the only acceptable method of economic organization. Isn't it time for a radical change of thinking?
Critical analysts should have long recognized that the Unites States is a country steeped in cognitive dissonance. How else could the very Founding Fathers who were also holders of enslaved Africans write this in their Declaration of Independence from King George III of England: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This is what one should take as a clue that pathology lies ahead.
As an aside, I must say that it is good, from time to time, to revisit these founding documents because as I re-read the Declaration of Independence it becomes very clear that today we, too, are saddled with a government like that of King George III—committing many of the very same offenses delineated as grievances in the July 4, 1776 document. And so, you could say that the United States has come full circle and is in dire need of fundamental change.
Why, even Founding Father Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” So, there you have it: something is brewing. The people of the world have suffered from capitalism in all its variant formations—from Crony Capitalism to Disaster Capitalism; it has been a disaster for a growing number of people.
Capitalism has shown itself to be a form of economic organization that favors a minority of the people. Comedian George Carlin said it far more succinctly than I can write it, when he talked about the real owners and the politicians and their relationship to everything of value in a society. In short, he concluded that capitalism created a global club “and you ain’t in it.”
French economist Thomas Piketty, the author of "Capital in the Twenty-first Century," seems to confirm this Carlin truism in his study that found that, in the long run, the rate of return on investment in capital is greater than growth which leads to a concentration of wealth; he predicts that extreme income inequality, like the kind witnessed today, especially in the United States, will get worse without political intervention. Piketty advocates a global tax on wealth. Piketty explains his research here.
This originally Western European form of organization was violently exported to and imposed on the rest of the non-Western European world. And thus, writes Dr. Anibal Quijano, that capitalism is a power model that gave birth to the idea of race and the classification of the world’s population. According to Quijano, the “mental construction” of race was used to express the experience of colonial domination and “its specific rationality: Eurocentrism.” Quijano wrote that capitalism is merely another form of labor control.
I believe that, with race as the line of demarcation, a global superstructure of unearned privilege has been constructed; its objective is to benefit a few to the disadvantage of everyone else. Thus, today, all six billion of us are forced to abide by a rigged, apartheid-like global economic system that serves the interests of the few who sit in command of it. Race is the structural glue that holds together a ravenous human exploitation system. Some characterize the nature of capitalism as “crony” capitalism because social relationships able to wield state power are oftentimes determinants of one’s “success,” not necessarily one’s talent or merit. Linguist and social commentator Noam Chomsky even said that capitalism is incompatible with democracy!
Another variant of capitalism is known as “Disaster Capitalism,” popularized by author Naomi Klein. She points out that the US government’s use of shock in torture on the individual level is now being harnessed and carried out on a mass scale by some capitalists. In an interview with The Nation she says, “The exploitation of crisis and shock has very consciously been used by radical free marketeers.”
She observes the use of crisis to introduce changes advocated by a few that would never be acceptable to the majority in the absence of the crisis, adding that the shocks have to get bigger and bigger as people become aware of the capitalist machinations.
Eventually, the solutions to the crisis are exactly the ones advocated by those who planned prior to the crisis; thus, when the crisis hits, a plan for change can be introduced by the few as salvation for the many.
I have long seen this purposeful misbehavior in the continual destabilization of Africa; I have seen democratic administrations violently deposed by a few Western Europeans or US leaders with kleptocrats installed and the world sighed in boredom. And these actions are very good for the bottom line: better than respectful trade. Why pay for a resource when you can get it for relatively free and a few African lives? I write in detail about my eyewitness accounts of just this kind of state behavior done to benefit certain individuals in my book, Ain’t Nothing Like Freedom.
Klein describes the multiple US wars against Iraq and Hurricane Katrina as examples of Disaster Capitalism. On the other side of those “opportunities” are the millions of Iraqis and thousands of Katrina survivors who still haven’t made it back home yet. Klein characterizes Disaster Capitalism as “making money out of misery.”
I hope this sets the stage for why a rebellion is building. I hope this background clarifies why Lady Rothschild and her apparent ideological acolyte, Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich, are now fawning over the virtues of capitalism, hoping that we the people will somehow forget our current misery. Hence the need for Reich’s soon-to-be-released book, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few.
However, drawing from the work of others, I think it’s pretty clear that capitalism has always been about the few and has never been about the many. So, despite Reich and Rothschild, what I’m sensing is that there is a real opportunity for us to define for ourselves the kind of system we want to be governed by! Why are they working so hard to save capitalism? Because, as Ronald Heifetz reminds us, there is no such thing as a broken system. Global economic structure benefits some and disadvantages others. The architects of the current system benefit immensely from it and they don’t want us to get any ideas about changing anything! So they will introduce the changes that we need by admitting a few more members into the club!
But, we can do better than that! And we must.
Things are getting interesting
Journalist and feminist Carol Hanisch put it this way last year when Lady Rothschild first enunciated her goals for “Inclusive Capitalism.” Hanish wrote, “The superrich are getting nervous that the great slurp up from the pockets of low and middle income working people into their own dangerously bulging ones is causing “unrest” around the world.”
Dr. Nafeez Ahmed wrote in The Guardian that the “Inclusive Capitalism” initiative, laden with neocon ideology, was merely a Trojan Horse to combat a rising “global revolt.” Dr. Ahmed further writes that the current global nervousness on the part of the so-called one percent comes at a time of immense economic and social change—due to the end of relatively inexpensive fossil fuels.
One thing is clear and that is that if we have a plan in the midst of chaos, we can win, too. They don’t always have to be the ones with the plans. Right now, some think tanks are churning out visions of the global social structure after this chaotic period ends. Well, I think it’s high time that we apply their theories of Cliodynamics, Chaos, and Creative Destruction in order to usher in that deep, transformational, second-order change that most of us everywhere agree is needed.
In the memorable words of neocon Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
Next week, in my fourth and final installment in this series, I will explore the visions of change that we are all working for. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with me.
Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
"My weapon is media, lectures, protest, organization." Kenneth S. Carr (Dedon Kamathi)
"The Bush family has a political dynasty that the Kennedy family was not allowed to have." Steve Cokely
"Be true to who you are. Don't worry how others may view you. Society is ill, infected with racism, homophobia, and violence. Always remember, it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to such a profoundly sick society." Coretta Scott King
"We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The biggest weapon in the hands of the oppressors is the minds of the oppressed." Steve Biko
"Make your spirit flexible, and nothing will ever bend you out of shape." Wisdom by Taro Gold
Updates mailing list