We are settling into the winter of our discontent. A grey winter.Short days and grey skies. Optimism and hope are overcast. Is this gray a new dawn we are witnessing or a dusk? Is this the gray of a decaying dead body, a corpse, or the spark, a glimmer of new consciousness?
…Gray is therefore the disconsolate lack of motion. The deeper this gray becomes, the more the disconsolate element is emphasized, until it becomes suffocating.Wassily Kandinsky, On the Spiritual in Art …the dreadful, northern gray-in-gray…sunless conceptual-spectrism….
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
A central argument that Alvin Toffler has been pitching is we are in the midst of a third historic economic transformation, that follows agriculture and the industrial revolution. This is third wave based on knowledge instead of conventional raw materials and physical labor, and will affect all aspects of human life, including economics and even warfare.Perhaps the end of the nation state.This change or shift will have a significant effect on global security, and economic power struggle. The result are these ripples of volatility and instability and almost a return back to the older debates between Veblen and Dewey over the viability of democratic structures.
Veblen’s critique of the business system led to some non-democratic solutions to the problem.He held that the two options of political/economic development were fascism and technocracy opposed to John Dewey’s democratic theory. Veblen’s criticism of the business cycle is appropriate to our complex economy and perhaps can be democratized to avoid fascism or technocracy. While both men shared their era’s faith that intelligence could bring about a better society, Veblen’s faith in human intelligence precluded an advocacy of democracy while Dewey’s was radically democratic. Veblen was skeptical of the power of democracy. Also, because of the trust Veblen viewed the public putting in the business community, he feared that the fascism inherent in business interests would come about with the consent, perhaps even unconscious, of the people.
While Veblen presented his vision of the rise of fascist captains of industry in The Theory of Business Enterprise, he did extoll another version in The Engineers and the Price System. The second vision, softer, is one of rule by engineers and technicians, what today is termed the technocracy.Seemingly akin to the Chinese economy in some ways. It is interesting to note that due to Veblen’s criticisms of the American habit of trusting business, there was scant hope for democracy to do anything but give rubberstamp approval to the rule of business interests.
THOMAS FRANK: I’ll give you an example what I mean. So, I was on a radio show the other day with a tea party leader, you know, one of these protest leaders. And he seemed like a good guy. But what he did say that struck me was he said he was really against monopoly, you know? And we’re laboring under all these monopolies, all these concentrated powers here in America. And what we need to do is get back to free markets. And then we can do away with that. And it was mind-blowing.
Because if you look back any further than the Obama Administration, since, I mean, 1980 in this country, we have been in the grip of, you know, of this pursuit of ever-purer free markets. That’s what American politics has been about. That’s what has delivered this, you know, the awful circumstances that we find ourselves in today. And to think that that’s what’s missing, that’s what we need to get back to, is–
BILL MOYERS: That’s more than nostalgia. What is that?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, that’s the disease of our time. You know, that sort of instant forgetting.
BILL MOYERS: But what does it do to our politics when the very
esmen for what some people have called a decade of conservative failure. I mean, remember before Obama, they turned a budget surplus into a deficit. They took us to war on fraudulent pretenses. They borrowed money to fight it. They presided over a stalemate in Afghanistan. They trashed the Constitution. They presided over the weakest economy in decades–
THOMAS FRANK: Not weak for everybody.
BILL MOYERS: No, no.
THOMAS FRANK: Some people did really well.
BILL MOYERS: Okay, they compiled the worst track record on jobs in decades. And they ended up with the worst stock market in decades. I mean, it was a decade of conservative failure. And yet, Obama’s their villain?
THOMAS FRANK: Think of all the crises and the disasters that you’ve described. And I would add to them things like the, what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And the Madoff scandal on Wall Street. And, you know, on and on and on. The Jack Abramoff scandal. The whole sordid career of Tom DeLay.
All of these things that we remember from the last decade. I mean, some of them that we’re forgetting. Like who remembers all the scandals over earmarking, anymore? And who remembers all the scandals over Iraq reconstruction? All that, you know, disastrous, when we would hand it off to a private contractor to rebuild Iraq. And it would, you know, of course, it would fail.
Those things have all sort of been dwarfed by the economic disaster and the wreckage on Wall Street. But I would say to you that all of these things that we’re describing here are of a piece. And that they all flow from the same ideas. And those ideas are the sort of conservative attitude towards government. And conservative attitudes towards governance. Okay?
BILL MOYERS: That government is a perversion.
THOMAS FRANK: Government is– yeah, government is a perversion. And to believe that the federal government can be operated, you know, with all of its programs, can be operated well and do things that are good for the people, is, as you say, is a perversion. Read More:http://www.alternet.org/story/145249/bill_moyers_%26_thomas_frank%3A_how_america%27s_demented_politics_let_the_gop_off_the_hook_for_their_giant_mess/?page=2
It seems odd that Veblen would criticize a movement explicitly linking applied arts to social reform. But by this very linkage, Veblen maintained, Arts and Crafts goods perpetuated the canon of waste with ill effects beyond the aesthetic realm. Claiming that “a democratic culture requires low cost and a large, thoroughly standardised output of goods,” Veblen argued that more than any art form, “industrial art . . .must fall into line with the technological exigencies of the machine process” that made goods widely accessible. Ignoring these exigencies kept the Arts and CraftsMovement confined to the “hothouse shelter of decadent aestheticism,” and hampered the aesthetic and thus social education of common people. Veblen recognized the “artistic value” latent in many Arts and Crafts goods, but thought the social relevance of applied arts would best be assured by an emphasis on “sensuous beauty of line and color and on visible serviceability,” qualities easily attained by modern machine processes and ignored (in Veblen’s opinion) by the majority of those enamored with “the industry of a past age.”…John Dewey, in his own discussion of machine industry’s democratizing potential, worried that its “soulless monotony” would debase workmen deprived of the chance to balance efficiency with “inventiveness.” But Veblen did not believe escaping waste and exploit meant embracing functionalism. The machine process did not negate human creativity, but merely vitiated the barbarian tendency to view the laws of physics as the actions of a
humanoid entity with humanoid goals. In this barbarian mindset, wrote Veblen, a worker’s “creative imagination” was stunted by the assumption that mechanical processes must be carried out according to fixed ideas of “sufficient reason” rather than “efficient cause.
…By 1923 Dewey’s Human Nature and Conduct (1922) was Veblen’s standard authority for explaining why social-democratic reform
was both demanded and constrained by the psychology of the common man in modern society, and though postwar America’s persisting “derangement” led Veblen to doubt a workmanlike society was as close as he had once believed, he continued exposing the dangers of institutional inertia as Dewey’s colleague at the New School for Social Research—established to promote “a searching readjustment of the established order.”…http://history.fas.harvard.edu/people/graduate-students/documents/throntveit-mih-veblen.pdf