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Popular Narratives to Help Us Understand Now

A brief timeline of how the seeming paradoxical philosophical anthropologies of neoliberalism and neoconservatism can co-exist today.

Brock Baker`

on 29 November 2016

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Transcript of Popular Narratives to Help Us Understand Now

French Revolution
Civil War
Guns, Printing Press, Compass/Telescope
Martin Luther, John Calvin
Civil Rights and Coporate Personhood
World War 1
The New Deal
Stock Market Crash
The Great Depression
Roaring '20s
Industrial Revolution
Steam Engine
Robber Barons
Andrew Carnegie
J. P. Morgan
John D. Rockefeller
Charles M. Schwab
World War 2
Century of the Self
Understanding Our Now
How incomplete assumptions about human nature distort our socio-political reality
Montesquieu, who emphasized the need to have balanced forces pushing against each other to prevent tyranny.
Iroquois nations' political confederacy and democratic government have been credited as influences on the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution
John Locke
American Revolution
Victor Lebow
Planned Obsolesence
“Progress through Planned Obsolescence” in Vance Packard,
The Waste Makers (1960), pp 45 – 57. Also see Made to Break by Giles Slade (2006); and a 20 page pamphlet called “Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence” by Bernard London (1932). Brooks Stevens, a U.S. industrial designer is often credited for popularizing the term “planned obsolescence” after he used it in a speech in 1954. Stevens’ defined planned obsolescence as, “Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.” (from Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World,”
Milwaukee Art Museum, June 7 - Sept. 7, 2003.)
Retailing analyst Victor Lebow articulated the solution that has become the norm for the whole system.
He said: “Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of
life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our
ego satisfaction, in consumption . . . we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at
an ever-accelerating rate.”46
Social Security
The '60s
R.D. Laing
The Counter Culture Movement
The Birth of NeoConservatism
Leo Strauss
Irving Kristol
William Kristol
Neoconservatism, Kristol maintains, is not an ideology but a "persuasion", a way of thinking about politics rather than a compendium of principles and axioms.[12] It is classical rather than romantic in temperament, and practical and anti-Utopian in policy. One of Kristol's most celebrated quips defines a neoconservative as "a liberal who has been mugged by reality".
Neoconservatism in the United States is a branch of American Conservatism that is most known for its advocacy of using American economic and military power to promote liberal democracy in other countries. The movement emerged during the early 1970s among Democrats who disagreed with the party's growing opposition to the Vietnam War and had become skeptical of the Great Society's welfare programs. Although neoconservatives generally endorse free-market economics, they often believe cultural and moral issues to be more significant, and so have tended to be less thoroughgoing in opposition to government intervention in society than more traditionally conservative and libertarian members of the Republican Party
The Birth of Neoliberalism
August von Hayek
The Power of Nightmares
Neoliberalism describes a market-driven[1] approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that stresses the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining the political and economic priorities of the state. The term is almost always used by opponents of the policy.[2][3]
The term "neoliberalism" has also come into wide use in cultural studies to describe an internationally prevailing ideological paradigm that leads to social, cultural, and political practices and policies that use the language of markets, efficiency, consumer choice, transactional thinking and individual autonomy to shift risk from governments and corporations onto individuals and to extend this kind of market logic into the realm of social and affective relationships.
The Society of the Spectacle is a critique of contemporary consumer culture and commodity fetishism. Before the term ‘globalization’ was popularized, Debord was arguing about issues such as class alienation, cultural homogenization, and the mass media. When Debord says that, “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation,” he is referring to the central importance of the image in contemporary society. Images, Debord says, have supplanted genuine human interaction.[1]
Thus, Debord’s fourth thesis is "The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images."[23]
In a consumer society, social life is not about living but about having; the spectacle uses the image to convey what people need and must have. Consequently, social life moves further, leaving a state of 'having' and proceeding into a state of 'appearing;' namely the appearance of the image.[24]
"In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false."
Why We Fight
Why We Fight describes the rise and maintenance of the United States military–industrial complex and its fifty-year involvement with the wars led by the United States to date, especially its 2003 Invasion of Iraq. The documentary asserts that in every decade since World War II, the American public was misled so that the Government (incumbent Administration) could take them to war and fuel the military-industrial economy maintaining American political dominance in the world. Interviewed about this matter, are politician John McCain, political scientist and former-CIA analyst Chalmers Johnson, politician Richard Perle, neoconservative commentator William Kristol, writer Gore Vidal, and public policy expert Joseph Cirincione.
The Trap
Century of the Self
The Mass Media
Manufacturing Consent
The Canadian documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media presents a lengthy, detailed look at the political beliefs of celebrated intellectual Noam Chomsky.
Casting only passing glances at Chomsky’s groundbreaking work in the field of linguistics and his eventful life, filmmakers Mark Achbar and Peter Witonick instead focus on his activities as a political dissident and media critic.
Particular attention is paid to his contention that the American mass media serves as a form of thought control in a democratic society, with major news organizations systematically bending the truth to support the status quo.
Congress is spending billions on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, all the while cutting funds for public broadcasting. Why is it so? Author Eva Golinger says that the media perpetuated abroad by America is delivering US propaganda outside of the country. There is always a double standard when it comes to US foreign policy, says Golinger, who thinks the US' media apparatus is being used to shape public opinion outside of the States.
Canadian television journalist Barry Zwicker outlines the publicly available evidence that the first Bush administration orchestrated an elaborate conspiracy to gain support for the first Gulf War. Iraqi soldiers were reported by alleged eye witnesses to have removed babies from incubators. As it turns out, this was a lie promoted in speeches by George Bush Sr., repeated the false testimony of the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador coached by a Washington public relations company.
As the US and Iranian governments escalate tensions in the already volatile Straits of Hormuz, and China and Russia begin openly questioning Washington's interference in their internal politics, the world remains on a knife-edge of military tension. Far from being a dispassionate observer of these developments, however, the media has in fact been central to increasing those tensions and preparing the public to expect a military confrontation. But as the online media rises to displace the traditional forms by which the public forms its understanding of the world, many are now beginning to see first hand how the media lies the public into war.
progress through technological/scientific rationality, whereby nature becomes stuff that we can manipulate for the sake of improving material conditions.
Federalist Paper #10
RealPolitik 101
Act Boldly
Protect Power
Appear Unwavering while being flexible

"war is the continuation of politics by other means." - Carl von Clausewitz
Ideology vs RealPolitik
Being vs Becoming
Political Theory
Idealogues cling to an ideal/principle (Being) over other considerations.
Political ideologies have two dimensions:
Goals: how society should work
Methods: the most appropriate ways to achieve the ideal arrangement.
An ideology is a collection of ideas. Typically, each ideology contains certain ideas on what it considers to be the best form of government (e.g. democracy, theocracy, etc.), and the best economic system (e.g. capitalism, socialism, etc.). Sometimes the same word is used to identify both an ideology and one of its main ideas. For instance, "socialism" may refer to an economic system, or it may refer to an ideology which supports that economic system.
Human Nature
There exists an implicit view of human nature within any political theory that helps determine its focus and ultimate strength. Identifying, analysing and evaluating this implicit view of human nature should always be a goal when evaluating a political theory/policy.
The Take
We heard rumors of a new kind of economy emerging in Argentina. With hundreds of factories closing, waves of workers were locking themselves inside and running the workplaces on their own, with no bosses. Where we come from, a closed factory is just an inevitable effect of a model, the end of a story. In Argentina today, it’s just the beginning. In suburban Buenos Aires, thirty unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave.

All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act – The Take – has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head. In the wake of Argentina’s dramatic economic collapse in 2001, Latin America’s most prosperous middle class finds itself in a ghost town of abandoned factories and mass unemployment. The Forja auto plant lies dormant until its former employees take action.

They’re part of a daring new movement of workers who are occupying bankrupt businesses and creating jobs in the ruins of the failed system. But Freddy, the president of the new worker’s co-operative, and Lalo, the political powerhouse from the Movement of Recovered Companies, know that their success is far from secure. Like every workplace occupation, they have to run the gauntlet of courts, cops and politicians who can either give their project legal protection or violently evict them from the factory.

The story of the workers’ struggle is set against the dramatic backdrop of a crucial presidential election in Argentina, in which the architect of the economic collapse, Carlos Menem, is the front-runner. His cronies, the former owners, are circling: if he wins, they’ll take back the companies that the movement has worked so hard to revive. Armed only with slingshots and an abiding faith in shop-floor democracy, the workers face off against the bosses, bankers and a whole system that sees their beloved factories as nothing more than scrap metal for sale.

With The Take, director Avi Lewis, one of Canada’s most outspoken journalists, and writer Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller No Logo, champion a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century. But what shines through in the film is the simple drama of workers’ lives and their struggle: the demand for dignity and the searing injustice of dignity denied.
A Philosophical Schema
One way to organize thought through a philosophical lens is to see philosophic inquiry as a prolonged journey whereby we try to find and figure out the best stories that explain our own and all possible experiences. These stories/narratives/discourses have all the elements any story has - characters (both flat and round), settings, and plots that hold it all together. The job of the philosopher is to evaluate how good/beleivable/true/useful the story is.
Discourse / Story
Handy Tools of Analysis
If you look hard enough you will detect some very important philosophical categories/tendencies/characteristics in any discourse that can help your analysis
Helps establish the discourses metaphysical/epistemological leanings
Four Domains of Truth
Branches of Philosophy
Helps focus/expand the impact of the discourse
Grand Story
Over arching metaphor
The comprehensive explanation about how and why things are in the world. The story that explains and connects all stories.
Cultural Myth
Cosmogonies (stories about how the world came to be) are interesting places to start identifying important features of the over arching metaphor or metanarrative of a society.
Underlying Concern


Sensory World
What we observe and experience daily about the world.
Natural Order is supplied by the metanarrative, and thus is a great place to learn more details about the over arching metaphor.
When our
overarching metaphor
adequately explains

underlying concern
observed reality
we feel at home in the world, in so far as it makes sense. It helps bridge the paradoxical situation of Being/becoming.
When our
overarching metaphor
does not
adequately explain our
underlying concern
observed reality
do not
feel at home in the world because nothing seems to make sense anymore and we become anxious and suffer a
spiritual crisis
. We are lost in the paradoxical situation of Being/becoming. Spiritual crisis' occur often when there are paradigmatic shifts caused by innovations in thought and/or science and technology.
Spiritual Crisis
At its most basic level
politics is about who decides who gets what, when and how.
The why or rationale for these decisions is found in the stories of
legitimacy, authority
, which find their home in the
of a culture.
Plato and Aristotle: Haves and Have Nots
Why the Pen is Mightier than the Sword and Why Having Both is Preferable
Plato's "Republic" and Machiavelli's "The Prince" recognizes the crucial importance of
cultural myths
for providing the
legitimate authority
. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly they show how to create and maintain them.
Plato's "Republic": The Noble Lie
Machiavelli's "The Prince": Ruling for Dummies
Stories Matter!!!
Power, Authority and Violence
Forms of Governments
- tricky little thing... that which runs through people. The stories of reality/truth that inform and compel us to act. Power/knowledge - discourse.

- that which is not questioned

- a force inflicted by an individual or group on an other(s)
"We accept of the reality with which we are presented" (Peter Weir, dir., on his The Truman Show
What does this mean?
We all love a good story. It is so easy and wonderful to get caught up in a good book... but take note what the bard said,
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players."
But some men and women also author, produce and direct... these people are best able to control how the story goes.

Reality is that which is
The English word “real” stems from a word that meant regal, of or pertaining to the king.
“Real” in Spanish means royal.Real property is that which is proper to the king.Real estate is the estate of the kingReality is that which pertains to the one in power, is that over which he has power, is his domain, his estate, is proper to him.The ideal king reigns over everything as far as the eye can see. His eye. What he cannot see is not royal, not real.He sees what is proper to him.To be real is to be visible to king.The king is in his counting house.
All stories need characters - in political philosophy the main relationships we care about are how our conceptions of the divine, nature and human interact and relate to create the stories of the world (the discourses).
The Divine
The Divine
So what stories are being told? not being told?
What stories do you believe in?
The Divine
From something sacred and connected to the divine and humans to something apart, separate, stuff to manipulated, dominated and controlled.
From something limited by the divine and nature to something free.
Political Philosophy: A Narrative Perspective
Empirica and the Preeminence of Science as the Metanarrative of Truch
Popular Stories of Our Contemporary Context
Social Sciences
From an undeniable truth to a concept to be questioned
The Adam Curtis Collection
Adam Curtis is an English film maker who says, "My favourite theme is power and how it works in society", and his works explore areas of sociology, philosophy and political history. He describes his work as journalism that happens to be expounded upon through the medium of film. Mr. Curtis' attempts to articulate some of the stories that dominate our world.
Pandora's Box
The dangers of technocratic and political rationality.
The Living Dead
The way that history and memory (both national and individual) have been used by politicians and others.
The Century of the Self
How Freud's theories concerning the unconscious led to Edward Bernays' development of public relations, the use of desire over need and self-actualisation as a means of achieving economic growth and the political control of population.
The Power of Nightmares
Suggests a parallel between the rise of Islamism in the Arab world and Neoconservatism in the United States in that both need to inflate a myth of a dangerous enemy and of a righteous destiny in order to draw people to support them.
The Trap: What Happened to our Idea of Freedom
A story about how the modern conception of freedom emerged and its consequences.
All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace
See http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/all-watched-over-by-machines-of-loving-grace/
Interview with Adam Curtis
The Military Industrial Congress Complex
President Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation
Eisenhower's farewell address was the final public speech of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President of the United States, delivered in a television broadcast on January 17, 1961. Although the speech is best known for its warning about the growing military–industrial complex, it also contained warnings about planning for the future and the dangers of massive spending, especially deficit spending.

Things your future economics and politics textbooks might fail to mention.
A summary of Douglas Dowd’s (2004) prologue in Capitalism and its Economics.
What your economics textbooks will fail to mention.

Industrial Capital or Capital Goods: are produced by means of production such as machines or tools, used to produce commodities (goods or stuff) for sale in a market.
Capital: money, wealth, assets, capital finances, investments.
Capitalism has three systematic imperatives:
oligarchic rule

Could only meet those imperatives through the overlapping developments of:
colonialism - which became imperialism, and has now become globalization
industrialization – machines, factories and big firms
nationalism – love of country
These developments, which will be examined more fully later, allow capitalism to exist and continue but they also produce crises – threats to survival (war, environmental degradation, etc.).
Capitalism: How does it work?
Capitalist profitability has required, and capitalist rule has provided, ever-changing means and areas of exploitation. The central social relationship making this possible is the ownership and control of productive property: a small group (capitalists, bourgeoisie, elite) owns and controls, and a great majority (workers, proletariat) that does not, and whose resulting powerlessness requires them to work for wages simply to survive.
Expansion, Exploitation and
Oligarchic Rule
Capitalists take profits (which arise out of the exploitation of the worker’s labour and earth’s material wealth) and accumulate more capital which can be used to create more profits – the basis of economic growth.
This process of economic growth does not only rise vertically but also horizontally - like a pile of money, as it gets taller it increases proportionally outwards as well. As capitalists take their profits (capital accumulation) to create a new means of capital accumulation (i.e. start a new business) they must expand outwards to new geographic areas.
In order to expand upward and outwards capitalism needs the ability to exploit more labour and the State’s cooperation in external expansion (through trade deals, wars, etc.), which is aided by capitalism’s ability to control the State.
Ultimately, one can use the metaphor of body to see the capitalist process come to life.
First, the vertical (capital accumulation through exploitation) and horizontal (geographic and population growth) expansion of capitalism is the essence or “heartbeat” of the capitalist process.
Capitalism as a Body Metaphor
Ultimately, one can use the metaphor of body to see the capitalist process come to life.
Second, the ability to exploit labour and the State’s cooperation in the expansion process can be seen as the “muscles” of the capitalist process.
Capitalism as a Body Metaphor
Ultimately, one can use the metaphor of body to see the capitalist process come to life.
Lastly, the ability of capital (money, wealth and power) to rule the political process can be seen as the “brain” that allows the continuance of the expansion, exploitation and oligarchic rule necessary for capitalism to exist.
Capitalism as a Body Metaphor
Heartbeat - vertical (capital accumulation through exploitation) and horizontal (geographic and population growth) expansion.
Muscles – ability to exploit labour and expand geography
Brain - capital’s ability to control political process for the benefit of capitalism
Capitalism as a Body Metaphor
The Changing Face of Humanity and its Political Economy
Oliver Stone's: Untold History of the United States
There is a classified America we were never meant to see. From Academy Award®-winning writer/director Oliver Stone, this ten-part documentary series looks back at human events that at the time went under reported, but that crucially shaped America's unique and complex history over the 20th century. From the atomic bombing of Japan to the Cold War and the fall of Communism, this in-depth, surprising, and totally riveting series demands to be watched again and again.
The Ascent of Money
Niall Ferguson Collection
Civilization: The West and the Rest
The series charts the financial history of the world, demonstrating the effect that finance had on some of the most momentous historic events
For the past five centuries, Western civilizations have prevailed around the world. More people have been influenced by Western food, clothing, medicine, government and religion worldwide than by any other civilization. How did that happen? What led the West to be so influential and powerful? And how long will the West sustain its supremacy? As America approaches the 2012 presidential election in the midst of a geopolitical paradigm shift, acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson returns to public television with a timely look at the reasons behind the West’s economic ascendancy and why Eastern civilizations may now be taking the lead.
Universalism and Equality
It needs to be pointed out that there is much debate whether these 'characters' can be separated at all - the great influence of humans on nature (the Anthropocene) suggests separating concepts is a mistake that has drastic consequences.
Full transcript