For decades we have been telling ourselves we are a democracy. We tell our people that elections mean we are a democracy. This is hammered home repeatedly. Consequently, we tell the world we are a democracy. But in reality, we are not. We have never been. We want it, but we don’t have it.
By R.C. Smith (Read the PDF version here) Author’s note: Due to the amount of interest that I’ve received over recent time regarding my series of papers ‘Introducing an alternative philosophy of systemic change’ and ‘On the Basic Income Law, Economic Democracy, Participatory Economics, and the Importance of the Commons in the 21st Century: Further thoughts on an alternative philosophy of social change‘, I’ve decided to publish my lecture notes entitled ‘Revolution, History and Dominating Social Systems: Notes on a foundational approach to systemic change’. While the following discussion summarises certain points made in previous papers and studies that extend well beyond the mentioned series on a philosophy of systemic change, the reader may find these notes of particular interest as they expand on and contextualise several key themes in that series. Please also note that the following was originally intended as personal lecture notes, which I’ve edited to make more accessible to the reader – More substantive discussion can be found in previous or forthcoming articles/studies/papers. I) One of the fundamental challenges of the 21st Century In the introduction to this lecture I wrote that: one of the greatest, most fundamentally challenging questions facing us in the 21st Century not only has to do with how we might transcend capitalism and formulate a more just, systemic alternative. There’s a deeper, more pressing issue facing us and it has to do with a fundamental understanding of the history of social systems of domination. Despite the deep flaws of Ayn Rand’s (capitalist) philosophy, I argued in a recent paper (in light of comments made by Slavoj Zizek) that she was right about at least one thing: free market capitalism, with its concept of ‘universal exchange’, historically takes the place of direct domination. For Rand, money is the strongest instrument for freedom because as a form of exchange, money mediates in principle between two separate individual parties, wherein both sides of the exchange ‘freely’ reach an agreeable trade that suits them both. While Zizek is right to suggest that we can refute Rand’s conclusion that our only option is the rule of money or direct domination – that without money direct domination will need to be restored and freedom will be eroded – the problem we face is nevertheless clear: If capitalism as a system of in-direct domination (i.e., Marx’s analysis of the abstract nature of domination evidenced by the type of social relations that the system of capital produces) emerged in history as an alternative to systems of direct domination – the fundamental question we face becomes, then, how might we formulate, in the present, a truly progressive and emancipatory (systemic) alternative without reproducing direct or in-direct systems of domination? In order to approach the challenge of how we might transcend capitalism, how we might even potentially transcend markets or even money, without reproducing systems of domination, I argue that we need to understand not only the importance of a critique of the system of capital but also a foundational, interdisciplinary and holistic perspective that goes beyond capitalism itself. What I mean by this last statement – as I’ve argued elsewhere – is that we must understand the basic elements that appear common across many societies and their determinate forms as transhistorical to some capacity. Money, commodity, the state, markets, are of course included in this discussion, but I also claim that we must focus on the deeper foundational underpinnings of the genesis of pre-capitalist and capitalist societies that focus on the mechanisms that are driven toward or foster the specific dynamics of hierarchical, dominant, authoritarian, coercive and exploitative society writ large. When addressing the challenge we face in the 21st Century, this approach is important, I claim, because in order to understand what an alternative horizon might look like we must take into account a more or less foundational critique of society across different historical eras – even those societies that are on the fringes of the historic unfolding of capitalism’s institutional structures (i.e., indigenous societies, etc.) but reproduce similar systemic problems. In addition, this transhistorical character that I refer to is not necessarily meant to refer to a sameness in pre-capitalist and capitalist societies. In other words, there is something unique about capitalist societies in history when it comes to commodity, money and markets. But what I am more so interested in – at least in terms of the notion of the transhistorical aspect – has to do with what drives or underpins the shift from systems of direction domination to systems of in-direct domination (the latter being capitalist societies). For me there is something transhistorical beneath the surface (which I discuss extensively by considering mostly the psychological/emotional, existential, relational/anthropological, epistemological (and so on) aspects of human experience), which propels or indeed fosters the genesis of dominating social conditions and underpins the historical birth of the system of capital, which I consider to be one of Horkheimer and Adorno’s main theses in Dialectic of Enlightenment (i.e., ‘domination of the natural environment leads to limitation of the human horizon to self-preservation & power’.). I also take this to be a basic argument in Adorno’s critique of culture, particularly with regards to his analysis of domination and interhuman violence in his critique of culture, as well as in his analysis of the problematic status of the subject as enmeshed or caught up in the “dialectic of enlightenment”. It’s not to dispute the uniqueness of capitalist society – I almost see it as affirming the uniqueness of the system of capital precisely insofar as also recognising a continuity in that which underpins the shift from pre-capitalist to capitalist societies. (In previous works, this is what I mean by continuity in the midst of discontinuity). Moreover, as critical as I am of Slavoj Zizek’s overall project, he is right when he reflects: “one can criticize money as an alienated form,” but the more pressing question is “how can we actually organize complex social interaction outside money without direct domination?” As noted in a …
Since 2000, Africa has made convincing strides towards several of the Millennium Development Goals. As the 2015 deadline approaches, however, a shift must be made from an exclusive focus on the MDGs to a post-2015 ...
Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it's becoming hard not to.
Jan Servaes's insight:
All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science. IOW: the confirmation bias confirmed!
The Green Climate Fund will be launched later this year, but India, China and, perhaps more surprisingly, the European Commission, will not contribute to its capitalisation. France promised to contribute, and called on its partners to do the same.