Money, Markets and Politics

I was caught up in the financial market turmoil some year ago – well since before the ‘credit crunch’ bankrupted Northern Rock as an independent financial institution. With the demise of Lehman Brothers, the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB, and AIG on the brink, I thought I’d give the matter some thought. As a rationalist, these events have spurred me to find out whether it is the possession and exercise of such immense wealth and instruments of financial leverage that drive the world, or whether it is anything more.   If it is just money that drives politics and world order, then we really are in trouble- not least because there are seismic changes in the characteristics of those who hold the levers of ‘money’. Most of our politicians are complicit in such changes and guilty of yielding to those with such intruments irrespective of ideology or moral fibre. It is almost impossible to be elected to many high offices unless one has such wealthy benefactors and bankers.

Let me start off with a paper that I was reading recently from Ethical Politics by Anitra Nelson that I think hit the ‘nail on the head’ in so many ways. For me, it compounds my view that absolute values have no place in a modern liberal democracy:

“The root of all evil” is the title Alan Macfarlane gives to a brief discussion of the social effect of money in a collection of articles on The Anthropology of Evil (Parkin, ed., 1985). Here Macfarlane briefly explores the basis of the idea that money is evil. He points to the obvious connection between money and evil demonstrated in the greed, consumerism and profiteering characteristic of capitalism. “Yet money, and all it symbolizes, is the root of all evil in a deeper sense than this,” writes Macfarlane. And he (71-2) elaborates:

“Viewed from outside the system, money can be seen to do something even more insidious. It subtly eliminates the very concept of evil. Or, rather, it makes it impossible to discriminate between good and evil…’Money’, which is a short-hand way of saying capitalistic relations, market values, trade and exchange, ushers in a world of moral confusion. This effect of money has been most obvious where a capitalistic, monetary economy has clashed with another, opposed, system. Thus it is anthropologists, who have…noted how money disrupts the moral as well as the economic world. As Burridge, for example, writes of the effect of money in Melanesia: money complicates the moral order, turning what was formerly black and white into greyness. Money, he argues, ‘…invites a complex differentiation and multiplication of the parts and qualities of man’ (Burridge 1969:45). More broadly, it is money, markets and market capitalism that eliminate absolute moralities. Not only is every moral system throughout the world equally valid, as Pascual noted, but, within every system, whatever is, is right.

I present this quote because I believe it raises an issue that is at the heart of the problem of Ethical Politics… In particular I worry about the political implications of accepting the labour theory of value. This is where I return to the Macfarlane quote, to Ethical Politics and money. The labour theory of value suggests that monetary exchange is rational in terms of socially necessary labour time. That implies an exchange of labour and the products necessary to sustain that labour giving the capitalist system rationality that I don’t believe it embodies. A bun fight theory of exchange might appear to be no theory at all, but war is war. Why is market exchange necessarily any more rational than gift exchange, love or war? Its quasi-mathematical appearance, made possible by the use of money, is a primary deception.

If the labour theory of value was correct monetary exchange might remain a useful technique to use in the transitional stage to socialism. Marx regards dispensing with the state and money as essential. But, in the same way as taking over the state was a new stage in the proletarian revolution, some have argued that monetary exchange can be adapted to socialist ends, at least temporarily. The communist experiments of the twentieth century in Russia and Cuba grappled with the difficulties of monetary exchange but never overcame them (Nelson, 2001). Especially in his early works Marx castigated the utopian socialist for their confidence in the manipulation of money to eliminate exploitation. Even though he designed his theories as a critique of their, as he saw it, muddleheaded proposals for reform, the labour theory of value has given solace to reformers following their tradition. In fact money seems to be a veil for social war; money is a weapon (Cleaver, 1979).

Ethical politics

… I have access to certain natural resources. I have some knowledge of the potential and limitations of local human and non human resources. I have mouths to feed, generations to nurture, civilisations to reproduce culturally, socially and materially. I don’t need money to evaluate these human and non human resources. I don’t need money to distribute these human and non human resources. I do not need money to (re)produce these human and non human resources. I do need commonly agreed upon social principles and processes to assess the utility of these human and non human resources, to organise the reproduction of them and to distribute them. Our job, the job of ethical politicians today, is to design non monetary forms of appropriation and distribution of material and non material resources. I believe that this will constitute the basis of a truly postmodern society featuring ecologically sustainable behaviour (ESB) and social justice. A society without myths associated with modern society regarding money. The ethical politics of a post economic universe must feature substantive grassroots democracy and ESB. There will be no pretence at neutrality but rather a conscious and conscientious effort to create a balance within and between the fulfillment of the various needs and wants of all the contenders for existence. We want a world where people deal with people and non human nature directly and collectively and care.

References:

Bellofiore, Riccardo, “Marx after Schumpeter”, Capital and Class, # 24, Winter 1985: 60-74.
Bellofiore, Riccardo, (Ed.), Marxian Economics, a Reappraisal, Volumes I and II, London/New York, Macmillan Press/St Martin’s Press, 1998.
Cleaver, Harry, Reading Capital Politically, Brighton (Sussex), The Harvester Press, 1979.
Macfarlane, Alan, “The root of all evil”. In Parkin, David (ed.) The Anthropology of Evil, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1985: 57-76.
Nelson, Anitra, Marx’s Concept of Money: the God of Commodities, Routledge, London, 1999.
Nelson, Anitra, “The poverty of money: Marxian insights for ecological economists”, Ecological Economics, March 2001: 499-511.

Being Sexy – Intellect, Relationships, Social Dynamics

I often shock people around me when they deliberate on issues related to social and world dynamics. I argue that the main driver of one-world dynamics is increasingly relationships and fashions (and psychological and social ramifications thereof) and not religion, abstract beliefs, ethics, or social injustice. I see the latter as effects and not as primary causes – for me there is sufficient and adequate academic research and experience to support this thesis. I argue that our evolution has greatly handicapped modern society. We have tools to excite and titillate us, we have tools to control our bodies over short time spans, and yet we have the psychology and the linguistic dexterity of our stone age ancestors. The main drivers, I submit, are not intellect and some grand world vision (perhaps they never were), but a simple issue related to being ‘sexy’ – it is the grandest accolade of the neoliberal globalised consumer society. Indeed, I see issues related to psychology of leadership in the same vain. We are given politicians and leaders not on the basis of their exceptional humanity, vision or thoughts but by the size of their purse and the image that their parasitic spin-doctors can create for them. We have already elaborated on this research in previous articles, and no doubt we’ll return to this topic again. For the purpose of this post, I’ll reproduce some recent articles written with a feminism perspective, that I think touch on related issues.

 

Feminine intellect vs. ‘slut chic’  (Dotty Burns)

“I think; therefore I am.” Profound philosophical statements such as this are not the kind of things that are coming out of the mouths of American female icons these days. Objects of popular admiration such as Paris Hilton or Jessica Simpson are more likely to quote a child’s cartoon character. Based upon my observation, the raunch-culture that these two celebrities represent has become increasingly appealing to an absurd degree.

Every time I catch a glimpse of MTV or open the latest issue of Marie Claire, I become immediately overwhelmed with an array of pop-tarts and ebullient models whose careers are based on the exploitation of their bodies as well as their stupidity.

Not every aspect of popular culture that is intended to appeal to women nowadays is anti-intellectual, but the onrush of superficial celebrities who represent nothing but vulgar materialism has increased to a sickening extreme. As a woman in her early 20s, I am appalled that senseless trends and unscrupulous women appeal to the age group I associate myself with.

This is not the testimony of a radical feminist; although, I do believe in protesting against the tactless pop-tarts that adorn the covers of most contemporary magazines, I embrace femininity as much as any other all-American girl. The bulging cosmetic purse in my backpack, and the back-issues of Vogue in my bookcase are not the normal archetypes associated with your average femi-Nazi. I do not necessarily believe in the common gender ideology of feminism. I simply wish to uphold the intellectual liberation aspect of feminism.

Having attended a modern-day beauty school where I acquired an education in “slut chic” rather than in actual cosmetology as I had originally intended I cannot emphasize enough the importance of feminine intellectualism.

I spent day after tedious day trimming the gray manes of nagging housewives, and applying gobs of stark-bright colors to the faces of classmates whose daily conversation couldn’t extend beyond that of their insane vanity or their moronic sexual indiscretions. I found myself lost in a superficial and meaningless existence.

Of course, upon joining the institution, I did not possess extreme notions about beauty culture that is essentially a prequisite of a college of cosmetology. As a naive 18-year-old girl who has always adamantly subscribed to beauty trends, I eagerly entered the school with the intention of using the vocational training to fund my ultimate goal of earning a college degree. However, the whole endeavor was such a disappointment that I couldn’t imagine working in the industry even though I had already graduated. I became so disillusioned about the beauty industry that I began to see working as a cosmetologist as emotionally damaging as selling my body on the street.

According to writer Betty Freidan, who wrote the pro-feminist novel “The Feminine Mystique,” women are suffering from a type of epidemic. Freidan’s theory, aptly titled ” the problem that has no name,” dictates that because of the idealized image of women, as well as other contributing factors, women are prisoners of their own minds.

Freidan’s observations have allowed me to realize that there is a movement against the mind-set and culture that is defining every modern woman.

We’ll leave the asylum of beauty that I attended to house the absolute conformist of the superficial lifestyle. In the meantime, I am abhorred to see ideals of a thoughtless raunch-culture infesting regions of mainstream culture and society.

 

Intellect, talent and character? Young women these days just aspire to be ‘sexy’,  Rosie Boycott (Daily Mail)

Being “sexy” has become the most important accolade a teenager can aspire to, outdoing intelligence, success at school and character. This, at least, is the view of American author Carol Liebau, whose new book Prude: How The Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls has just been published in Britain.
 
Liebau brings heavyweight credentials to her mission. She’s the first female editor of the Harvard Law Review, and as such, she’s cracked another glass ceiling on the road to female equality. She also happens to be incredibly attractive into the bargain: this is no old-fashioned blue stocking attacking a generation out of envy for a life which had passed her by. Her book, I believe, is a timely wakeup call to us all. “Girls are being led to believe that they’re in control when it comes to sexual relationships,” Liebau says.
“But they’re actually living in a profoundly anti-feminist landscape where girls compete for attention on the basis of how much they’re prepared to do sexually for boys.”

Even much of the so-called “good” advice aimed at girls is bad, insists Liebau. Sexual education in schools starts with the assumption that all teenagers are having sex, and does little to encourage abstinence. She goes on to quote Sharon Stone and some of the most laughably bad advice ever given to teenagers. Stone, it appears, encourages teenagers who feel pressured to have sex to offer oral sex instead, since it’s safer. “Young people talk to me about what to do if they’re being pressed for sex,” she says. “I tell them what I believe . . . if you’re in a situation where you cannot get out of sex, offer oral sex.”
But it is not just Stone who dishes out bad advice. Liebau also blames celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears for the phenomenon.

Looking at Hilton’s websites, which feature films and photographs of her in provocative and dominant poses, the message she sends out is clear: Young women are being taught to believe that “sexy” equates to empowerment and that only through promiscuity and sexual aggression will they achieve their peers’ admiration.
Dr Michele Elliott, director of the children’s charity Kidscape, told me that what is going on is rushing the sexual development of children to the point where it is dangerous. “Girls as young as five or six are wearing thongs that say ‘Eye Candy’ and T- shirts which say ‘So many boys, so little time’,” she says. “You can buy pole-dancing kits for kids, and I’ve known parents who take their children to beauty salons for make- overs.”Children are told about looking stylish on a first date, or given advice about diets. We’re raising a generation who believe this is what they should be aspiring to.”

Two years ago, I made a documentary about women and age, in which I spoke to women in their 50s who were being made redundant from their jobs. The same wasn’t happening to men of equivalent age and status. Their problems stemmed from fading looks in a culture which all too often prizes beauty above ability. It was depressing, but not as bad as an interview I also conducted with a group of pretty 11-year-olds in West London. They all wore make-up and trendy clothes and said they’d be happy to have plastic surgery. It was, they said, more important to them to be good looking than it was to be clever, helpful or talented. Looks, they believed, were the passport to success. They all spoke of having boyfriends, and their nods, winks and giggles indicated to me that while they might not yet be having full-blown sex, this was certainly not long in the future.

Carol Liebau believes this sudden drop in the age at which girls have sex is the most noteworthy aspect of the sexual revolution. She quotes a report at San Diego University that analysed 530 studies of sexual behaviour spanning five decades and involved 250,000 young people. From 1943 to 1999 the average age of girls losing their virginity dropped from 19 to 15. During the same period, the number of sexually active women under the age of 20 rose from 13 per cent to 47 per cent. And between 1969 and 1993, the percentage of female teenagers and young adults having oral sex skyrocketed from 42 to 71 per cent.

But perhaps the most dramatic phenomenon was the revolution in young women’s beliefs about pre-marital sex. Only 12 per cent approved of it in 1943. By 1999, 73 per cent did. Liebau notes: “Baby-boomers first had sex when they were in college. Today’s young women lose their virginity when they’re still at school.” And it’s not only an American problem. A recent Unicef survey of 21 countries found that British children were most likely to have had sex before the age of 15. Sexually transmitted infections in Britain have risen by 63 per cent in a decade, with HIV and gonorrhoea close to record levels. “There exists a status quo in which almost everything seems focused on what’s going on below the waist,” argues Liebau.

Typing the word sexy into Google, I found a staggering 22,800,000 entries versus just over 4,000,000 for the word clever. Clothes are marketed to make you look “sexy”; food is “sexy”, as are cars, cameras, and certain kinds of table lamps.
 
Even Gordon Brown is not immune. On June 15, 2004, the BBC business programme heralded his achievement of becoming the UK’s longest continuously serving Chancellor with the words: “But never mind that: he’s a brooding malcontent who oozes sex appeal.” Checking further into our politicians revealed that “sex and David Cameron” yielded 458,000 entries. From all of this, just one message emerges. Sex is everywhere. Everyone is doing it. That’s the way it is.
Sex has become just another commodity, something to drop into your day between a visit to the manicurist or a trip to the supermarket. The very real psychological, emotional and physical impact on young girls of having too much too soon is being ignored.
 
By relentlessly emphasising sex and beauty, the standards by which young women have traditionally been valued – their character, intellect or skills – are being eroded. Our increasingly sexual society also affects the way young girls look at being mothers. Of course, unwed mothers were treated deplorably in the past, but today’s almost universal acceptance of pre-marital sex has effectively sanctioned a life-changing decision that can have a severely detrimental impact on a young unwed mother and her child.

The psychological and spiritual costs to young girls living in a sex-saturated society can’t be calculated in physical or economic terms alone. Giving “too much, too soon” has been associated with an increased risk of suicide and a much greater incidence of depression. How ironic that in so many other ways young women have never had it so good. Their professional options are virtually limitless. There are more female medical and law students than male ones. In school, girls out-perform boys. They start reading earlier.
 
They live longer, are less likely to commit crimes or become victims of them. Even that last bastion, pay scales, was toppled earlier this year when a survey from the private banking group Investec revealed that 39 per cent of women who work full-time and have partners believe that they earn more than their men. Translated into numbers, that means that 1.8 million women in full-time work across the country earn more than their partners.

But as barriers to female professional advancement have fallen, so too have many of the traditional social conventions that protected girls. When I was a teenager (and indeed, until I was in my late 20s) if a boyfriend came to stay at my parents’ house, he always had to sleep in the spare room.Too many of us, it seems, have forgotten that those well-worn customs (requiring a boy to meet a girl’s parents before a first date, for example) are, in fact, a way of protecting a daughter and being actively involved in her development.

From the boy’s side, turning up in the living room to meet the parents – however embarrassing – signaled a readiness to assume responsibility for the daughter of the house. Such customs sent out signals not only of sexual restraint, but also of a proper respect for women. Many of the customs that today are dismissed as limiting and restrictive were actually very empowering, because they offered women a way to resist unwelcome sexual advances (“I can’t – my parents expect me home by midnight”) without having to look prudish or frigid. Nowadays, girls who resist a boy’s advances are no longer backed up by a social consensus which honours their right to say “no”, their right to be chaste.

Parents themselves have fallen foul of the fashion which seems to dictate that everyone should be allowed to do what they want, when they want. And, as a result, everything around today’s young girls conspires to push them towards sex, sending the implacable message that the sexually inexperienced are uncool, abnormal or hopelessly undesirable.
And as society has changed, so too have role models. Where once younger people looked up to leaders in their communities for their inspiration, now they look to celebrities such as Paris Hilton and take their cues from her and her like.

Since Paris’s main message seems to be one of “just do it”, those who don’t want to are inevitably left looking hopelessly out of touch with the rest of society. And what this has created, it seems to me, is a world where men are freely able to exploit women and get away with it.Take the current crop of teenage men’s magazines: most are openly hostile to women, seeing them as nothing more than sex objects for the delight of macho men.
 
Yet women willingly send in their (half-naked) photos to be pored over by thousands of insecure young men who are only too anxious to return to a world where men did rule the roost and women were merely chattels.Thirty five years ago, when I co-founded Spare Rib – one of the earliest feminist magazines – the debate about female sexuality was one of the trickiest the feminists encountered. Like my co-founder, Marsha Rowe, I’d been working on an underground magazine at the end of the 1960s. The underground Press had an ambivalent attitude towards women. To refuse to sleep with someone was both old-fashioned and hypocritical in a culture which promoted free love. Marsha and I both felt uncomfortable. How could real liberation – the right to work, to achieve, to earn the same as men – be equated with having to have sex with someone you didn’t necessarily love? It didn’t. And that conviction was one of the impetuses which kicked the magazine into life. The same is true today, where overtly raunchy sex is the new chic among today’s teenagers, seen as a further step along the road to liberation.
 
Sexuality is a wonderful part of being human, but it is one that should not be treated lightly, or as a commodity devoid of emotional power. It’s high time that grown-ups started taking an interest in what their children get up to: benign neglect may be considered a “liberated” way to rear our children, but in the end it is our daughters who will pay the price.

 

Social Engineering & Commodification of Global Culture

Recently, with globalisation, liberalisation, with changing relationship between genders, the resurgence of fundamentalism almost as a convulsive by-product of the shrinking space for cultures to exist in sheltered isolation, I thought we’d look briefly at the commoditisation of global culture. We have touched on a similar article recently. What spurred me on to this aspect was the need to understand some of the political and social dynamics of changing world order, the potential for emergence of new world powers, and possibly devise some tests as to see whether we are really an open society or whether we are living in a culture that is fashioned by a hidden elite.

Social engineering can be used as a means to achieve a wide variety of different results, as illustrated by the different governments and other organizations that have employed it. Social engineering is a concept in political science that refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes and social behaviour on a large scale, whether by governments, large multi-nationals, clandestine special-interest groups, or private groups. In the political arena the counterpart of social engineering is political engineering.

For various reasons, the term has been imbued with negative connotations. However, virtually all law and governance has the effect of changing behavior and can be considered “social engineering” to some extent. Prohibitions on murder, suicide, littering, fraud and rape are all policies aimed at discouraging perceived undesirable behaviors. In British jurisprudence, changing public attitudes about a behaviour is accepted as one of the key functions of laws prohibiting it. The most effective way for “social engineering” is through mass media and especially audio-visual broadcasting. Governments also influence behavior more subtly through incentives and disincentives built into economic policy and tax policy, for instance, and have done so for centuries.

In practice, whether any specific policy is labeled as “social engineering” is often a question of intent. The term is most often employed by the political right as an accusation against anyone who propose to use law, tax policy, or other kinds of state influence to change existing power relationships: for instance, between men and women, or between different ethnic groups. Political conservatives in many countries accuse their opponents of social engineering through the promotion of politcal correctness, insofar as it may change social attitudes by defining “acceptable” and “unacceptable” language or acts.

In his classic political science book, The Open Society and Its Enemies, volume I, Karl Popper examined the application of the critical and rational methods of science to the problems of the open society. In this respect, he made a crucial distinction between the principles of democratic social reconstruction (called ‘piecemeal social engineering’) and ‘Utopian social engineering’

“the piecemeal engineer will adopt the method of searching for, and fighting against, the greatest and most urgent evil of society, rather than searching for, and fighting for, its greatest ultimate good.” For him, the difference between ‘piecemeal social engineering’ and ‘Utopian social engineering’ is “the difference between a reasonable method of improving the lot of man, and a method which, if really tried, may easily lead to an intolerable increase in human suffering. It is the difference between a method which can be applied at any moment, and a method whose advocacy may easily become a means of continually postponing action until a later date, when conditions are more favorable. And it is also the difference between the only method of improving matters which has so far been really successful, at any time, and in any place, and a method which, wherever it has been tried, has led only to the use of violence in place of reason, and if not to its own abandonment, at any rate to that of its original blueprint”

What is Neoliberalism?

1979 was a hallmark year for the destiny of the contemporary Global Order. That was the year of a new modus-operandi: a way of controlling the world as have never been seen, a year in which Margaret Thatcher, the prime-minister of Great Britain implemented a Socioeconomic construct that embraced Economic Social-Darwinism, ousting classical theories of nation-state economics.

According to French Economic analyst Pierre Bourdieu (1998), ‘the neoliberal utopia tends to embody itself in the reality of a kind of infernal machine, whose necessity imposes itself even upon the rulers. They want independent central banks. And they preach the subordination of nation-states to the requirements of economic freedom for the masters of the economy, with the suppression of any regulation of any market, beginning with the labour market, the prohibition of deficits and inflation, the general privatization of public services, and the reduction of public and social expenses’ (p36).

Tracing its conceptual pre-natal origins to Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian Philosopher-Economist, it sprouted ‘from a tiny embryo at the University of Chicago’ (George, 1999) developing into an expansive doctrinal network of internationally dispersed foundations, institutes, research centers, and academia whose sway today frame the World Order Agenda: the basis of the Washington Consensus.

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime-minister, and a disciple of Hayek, developed this proliferating doctrine into a social and economic program, the justification for whose arbitration she coined under the acronym TINA: There Is No Alternative.

Since then, Neoliberalism has become an intercontinental alliance, forged under the auspices of a historically burgeoning agenda whose traces could be tracked through the joint movements and inclinations of the European banking order, social theorists, and political scientists and luminaries.

Today, its deliberately orchestrated effect on culture is as profound as it is subversive, as compelling as it is timely to examine.

Neoliberalism Globalization as a Cultural Phenomena

Though based on theoretical and economic models, Neoliberalism is a profoundly subtle but deeply transforming Cultural Phenomena. The theoretical and economic surefootedness of neoliberalism lies in its wanton perpetuation and acceptance as a cultural form, perpetrating its doctrine through cunning principles and technologies of Bio-Power.

As Jim McGuigan, an acclaimed sociologist, expresses ‘Theoritical critique of neo-liberal thought and practice is necessary but what captures my attention most, as a culture analyst rather than a political economist, is the command of neo-liberalism over popular consciousness and everyday life’ (2004).

Free trade zones open themselves up to the deluge of millions of products and services and a good proportion of them are cultural, though in a sense not understood hundred years ago.’When all forms of communication become commodities, then culture, the stuff of communications, inevitably becomes a commodity as well. And that is what’s happening. Culture-the shared experiences that give meaning to human life- is being pulled inexorably into the media marketplace, where it is being revamped along commercial lines’ (Rifkin, 2000: 140).

The Culture of Neoliberalism is a brand name culture and the careful bio-political manipulation of these ingredients of human consumption define a transformation of Culture that creates new sanctions on who buys what, who views what, who eats what, leading to an anaesthetized normalization of the human psyche.

‘Psychologist Robert J. Lifton calls this new generation ‘protean’ human beings’they expect to get their software for free but are willing to pay for services and upgrades. They live in a world of seven-second sound bites, have short attention spans, and are less reflective and more spontaneous. In fact, their lives are far more temporary and mobile and less grounded than their parents’.

‘While they are less able to compose a written sentence, they are better able to process electronic data. They are less analytical and more emotive. They think of Disney World and Club Med as the ‘real thing,’ regard the shopping mall as the public square, and equate consumer sovereignty with democracy. They spend as much time with fictional characters on television, film, and in cyberspace as they do with peers in real time’ (Rifkin 2000: 187).

.Further, ‘These protean men and women are less interested in history but are obsessed with style and fashion’Customs, conventions, and traditions, on the other hand, are virtually nonexistent in their fast-paced, ever changing environment’ (Rifkin 2000: 187).Neoliberal Normalizaiton

The eradication of a national, traditional, and spiritual consciousness is critical and part and parcel to the Neoliberalization of the World Order. Insomuch on the surface it is not a bad idea as it destroys nationalism, rigid mores, and religious mandates. However, Neoliberalism intends to replace those old hearth values with new Corporate ones, creating an essential global bourgeoisie that it normalizes through a double speak, selling commercialization and free market choices as democracy.

Neoliberal influence in the media is deeply instilled and resonates concomitantly with not only a Washington Consensus, but also a Mass broadcast consensus, a Hollywood Consensus, and a European Union Consensus. It has systematically organized the structuralization of a carefully engineered rhetoric through a school of policy experts whose messages by the virtue of sheer repetition creates a widespread ‘normalizing’ of the masses, creating the ingredients for a new bourgeoisie.

Pierre Bourdieu with the aid of Loic Wacquant (2001) identifies two types of these experts. ‘First there is ‘the expert’ proper employed in ministries, company headquarters and think tanks whose task is to come up with technical justifications and scenarios for neo-liberal policy decisions that are actually made on ideological rather than spuriously technical grounds.’Second, ‘there is the communication consultant to the prince’, who is not only your run-of the-mill spin-doctor but a much grander type as well. The consultant may be a ‘defector from the academic world entered into the service of the dominant, whose mission is to give an academic veneer to the political projects of the new state and business nobility (p5).

with the aid of identifies two types of these experts. (p5).‘Bourdieu and Wacquant argue that what they call ‘New Liberal Speak’ is a ‘new planetary vulgate’. Certain words are repeated continually, such as ‘globalisation’, ‘flexibility’, ‘governance’, ‘employability’, ‘underclass’, ‘exclusion’, words that are difficult for any of us to avoid using. Other words are not so speakable in polite company, indeed virtually unspeakable, such as ‘class’, ‘exploitation’, ‘domination’ and ‘inequality’ (McGuigan, 2004).

(McGuigan, 2004).Further this Normalization is systematically institutionalized through Socialized Primary and to a greater degree Secondary Public Education, which by the virtue of its ‘factory-production’ setup, becomes a pliable technology of bio-power, its administrators and board of directors obeying Neoliberal systemization, transacting the crucial implementation in exchange for self-preservation.

According to McGuigan (2004) We are witnessing the neo-liberalisation of the public sector itself, not only in cultural institutions in the narrow sense but also in areas such as education’ (p7).

Public Education becomes a highly charged incubator for creating the new consumer, the new citizen, and the new liberal. It becomes a playground, a museum, a repository, and a carnival for brand marketing, its apparatuses of ‘education’ become conventions for a predictable and no-alternative lifestyle based on SAT and Advanced Placement exams produced by independent contractors such as the ‘College Board’.

The process could be summed up as a ‘Bottom-Line-thinking Education Service’ bent on the socialization of the Corporate world and the neoliberal doctrine through viral marketing, rule mandates, ‘legal’ norms, fundamentally anti-introspective, and inherently obedience based, carefully sustained through a psychologically brutal and conniving double speak called ‘Individuality’ and extended through pseudo-ideas promoting ‘Equality’, ‘Tolerance’, ‘Diversity’, and ‘Positive discrimination’.
Cultural Capitalism

The agenda of free-trade is inherently an agenda of ‘Cultural Capitalism’. Using shells of old cultures and vestiges of marginally extant tradition as familiar icons and anti-icons, creating a set of customized ‘diverse’ and ‘international’ homogenously inspired products aimed to generate maximum profit and address a fundamental consumption based solidarity sugarcoated and sold as ‘Equality’, ‘Diversity’ and of course, ‘Globalization’. This is Cultural Capitalism. According to Jeremy Rifkin (2000), (‘Cultural production is beginning to eclipse physical production in world commerce and trade’ (p8); ‘This is the era of cultural capitalism’ McGuigan 2004).

‘By Cultural Capitalism, Rifkin does not just mean the priority of an information and service economy over an industrial economy, he means the commercialization of experience itself’ (McGuigan 2004). All economy and culture are coming closer to the prototype cultural industry of Hollywood, dealing in dreams and meanings. In this ‘Weightless economy’the physical economy is shrinking (Rifkin 2000: 30).

(McGuigan 2004). All economy and culture are coming closer to the prototype cultural industry of Hollywood, dealing in dreams and meanings. In this ‘Weightless economy’the physical economy is shrinking (Rifkin 2000: 30).Additionally, the gatekeeping function of the new Culture Capitalists creates a widespread commercialization of a few brand genres keeping out a larger output of local innovation and originality through high barriers to entry, making these virtually imperceptible and financially bankrupt in the deluge of cultural systemization, hyper-marketing, and iconization of a few select artists.

Pierre Bourdieu observes ‘And yet the world is there, with the immediately visible effects of the implementation of the great neoliberal utopia: not only the poverty of an increasingly large segment of the most economically advanced societies, the extraordinary growth in income differences, the progressive disappearance of autonomous universes of cultural production, such as film, publishing, etc. through the intrusive imposition of commercial values’ (p37).

observes (p37).The implications are decidedly, what McGuigan calls, ‘sinister’. ‘The goal of cultural capitalism is to commodify human relationships tout court, catching them young, cultivating and servicing their every need, deploying something called R (relationship) technologies. As Rifkin (2000: 171) says, ‘Marketing is the means by which the whole of the cultural commons is mined for valuable potential culture meanings that can be transformed by the arts into commodifiable experiences, purchasable in the economy’. Further on, he observes, ‘The culture, like nature, can be mined to exhaustion’ (p247).

The Final Question of Sustainability

Neoliberal Globalization is becoming unsustainable. The pressures being put on the psychological and social constructs of Societies and Communities, and inequity between extant generations, the strange and artificial complexities convoluting the norms of human relationships and exchanges, are gradually intensifying creating both repressed and expressed discontent worldwide.
‘Globus’, a Globalization think tank and policy guild based in Netherlands with Neoliberal underpinnings, even revealed in its December 1999 Berlin Conference on 21st. Century Social Dynamics: Towards the Creative Society , ‘‘ it is of paramount importance to gain legitimacy for this action (corporate globalization) in the world’s civil society directly, via public opinion. It is difficult to give shape and substance to democracy on the international level. Relying on propaganda is risky because it can only produce support for a limited period of time. We can increase the involvement of the public by informing them honestly and by listening carefully to the signals coming from citizens and NGOs’ (p6).

Globalization has become so far reaching and the Corporate doctrine so pervasive that it affects every aspect of life. It has ceased to be pure theory and has become a causality in on itself. The scope of influence is so large in its penetration, its rejection can also be equally expansive, beginning with community advocacy, resource sharing; and burgeoning into larger, more tangible awareness as the inevitable Economic and Social destabilization sets in.

Globus itself posits ‘ Indeed, people have already started to counter-react against effects of primary globalisation: 1. People react against the globalisation of American images and values by stressing their own roots and local identity. 2. People react against the primacy of technology and economy by (re)exploring emotions and spiritual values. 3. People react against universal materialism by stressing non-materialist values. 4. People react against the pooling of governance capacity on the supranational scale by demanding decentralization and decisions nearby 5. People react with fear against alienation caused by the further abstraction inherent in globalisation 6. People react against insecurity by looking for scapegoats, by demanding ‘protection from the terrifying foreign’- be they foreign refugrees, foreign cultures, foreign products or foreign investors. 7. People react against ecological degradation by formulating alternative values and action programmes in the sustainable development paradigm.’ (p9)

This highly charged lifestyle has a rate of quick burnout, and destroys the fundamental solicitude required by human beings to meaningfully process experiences. The generation born after 1980 shows the excruciating signs of wear and tear, the psychological world of ‘options’ taking an immense toll on experiential metabolism. Suicide rates, codification of all forms of communication have created a frightening apathy. Creating virtual slaves out of an entire generation brainwashed through the last iota of perception to be model servants within the new machine.

Jeremy Rifkin (2000) comments, ‘If the capitalist system continues to absorb large parts of the cultural realm into its sphere in the form of commodified cultural products, productions, and experiences, the risk is very real that the culture will atrophy to the point where it can no longer produce enough social capital and thus support an economy’ (p245).

comments, (p245).Ironically the only thing that allows Neoliberal Globalization to continue is the vestiges of the old order, the exploitation and re-ornamentation of previous norms, expected to seamlessly blend into the manifestation of the doctrinal new world order.

Pierre Bourdieu (1998) observes, ‘..in reality what keeps the social order from dissolving into chaos, despite the growing volume of the endangered population, is the continuity or survival of those very institutions and representatives of the old order that is in the process of being dismantled, and all the work of all of the categories of social workers, as well as the forms of social solidarity, familiar or otherwise’ (p38).

observes, (p38).In the words of Globus (1999) ‘ community sustainability’ sustaining human communities as valuable systems in their own right. This involves maintaining or enhancing the community’s economic and socio-cultural well-being, its cohesiveness, and the long-term health of the relevant human systems’ (p13)

Alternatives in Sustainability: The Other New World Order

The sustainability of Globalization would necessarily then posit a systemic restructuring of Society along traditional lines, in the sense, promoting order instead of so called ‘normalization’, reason instead of so called ‘spontaneity’. As a cultural phenomena Neoliberalism has eviscerated binding community ties, alienated filial bonds, distorted the capacity to perceive by engineering a mechanized and deliberately repressive public education generating an unprecedented well of apathy and ineptitude.

The sustainability of Globalization would require dismantling these ‘relevant human systems’, especially Education, into a school of disciplined enlightened meritocracy, whose model, discipline, and compassion would shape and further human systems across regions, and the most successful models of such leadership create franchises across the world, promoting Cultural cognizance, resource integration, and Common resolve.

The Culture of the Community is at the very heart of this new sustainability. This culture would be one that combines the choicest attributes of human tradition with a sweeping eye towards a vigorous and long-term modernity. The physical architecture of suburban planning must reflect the vision of the new architects, one of marble and Plexiglas, Classical and Modern. A refining of cultural alternatives in the areas of dining, cinema, and society must craft metropolitan presence within the comfort of a familiar suburbia.

The media that exists currently to bombard the masses with ‘seven second news bites’ about urban molestations, rapes, clichUand rehearsed ‘political news commentary’, and soft-porn must be governed and slowly eschewed out of its effete content and replaced with innovative programs representing enthusiastic depictions of genuine cultural multiplicity, popularization of research, and a use of language that makes introspection (which still exists in plenty, merely commodified and repressed) a passionate and constructive outlet for making discoveries, rediscoveries, and innovating.

This call for a New Novus Ordo Seclorum must be answered by a breed of highly efficient, brilliantly cultivated, meticulously educated, and intense body of enlightened leaders without ideologies or religion, handpicked from the current generation pool, who would through specializations in banking, finance, media, policy, government, and entrepreneurship resources systematically create footholds in strategic human systems and control sectors guiding the destiny of this era under a new bold flagship.
As with the so called ‘Neoliberal Revolution’ which before 1979 was widely laughed at as ‘Utopia’, this too, it may be surmised, be a palpable Social model in a matter of time.

References

Bourdieu, P.& L. Wacquant, 2001. NewLiberal Speak- notes on the new planetary vulgate, Radical Philosophy 105, January-February, pp 2-5.

Bourdieu, P. (1998). The essence of neoliberalism. Le Monde Diplomatique

C. f. (1999, Dec 6). Primary globalisation, secondary globalisation, and the sustainable development paradigm-opposing forces in the 21st. century. Globus, Retrieved Nov 27, 2005, from http://www.tilburguniversity.nl/globus/.

Gamble, A., 1994 [1988], The Free Economy and the Strong State- The Politics of Thatcherism, London: Macmillan.

Gamble, A., 2001, Neoliberalism, Capital and Class 75, pp127-134

George, Susan. “A Short History of Neo-Liberalism: Twenty Years of Elite Economics and Emerging Opportunities for Structural Change.” Conference on Economic Sovereignty in a Globalising World. , Bangkok. 24 Mar 1999.

McGuigan, J., 1997, Cultural populism revisited, Golding, P. & M. Ferguson, eds., Cultural Studies in Question, London, Thousand Oaks & New Delhi: Sage, pp 138-54
McGuigan, J. 2003, The Social construction of a cultural disaster- new labour’s millennium experience, Cultural Studies 17.6 pp 669-690

Parts from Neoliberalism Globalization and The Commodification of Global Culture by Alexander Rai

The essence of neoliberalism

Over the next set of articles (and iterations thereof) we want to cover the structure of financial and world markets, models of democracy, and look at rationality of such endeavours so as to try to make some sense of world dynamics. We welcome articles and comments from all those who want to contribute to this dialogue, debate, and understanding in the context of rationality. 

As the dominant discourse would have it, the economic world is a pure and perfect order, implacably unrolling the logic of its predictable consequences, and prompt to repress all violations by the sanctions that it inflicts, either automatically or —more unusually — through the intermediary of its armed extensions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the policies they impose: reducing labour costs, reducing public expenditures and making work more flexible. Is the dominant discourse right? What if, in reality, this economic order were no more than the implementation of a utopia – the utopia of neoliberalism – thus converted into a political problem? One that, with the aid of the economic theory that it proclaims, succeeds in conceiving of itself as the scientific description of reality?

This tutelary theory is a pure mathematical fiction. From the start it has been founded on a formidable abstraction. For, in the name of a narrow and strict conception of rationality as individual rationality, it brackets the economic and social conditions of rational orientations and the economic and social structures that are the condition of their application.

To give the measure of this omission, it is enough to think just of the educational system. Education is never taken account of as such at a time when it plays a determining role in the production of goods and services as in the production of the producers themselves. From this sort of original sin, inscribed in the Walrasian myth (1) of “pure theory”, flow all of the deficiencies and faults of the discipline of economics and the fatal obstinacy with which it attaches itself to the arbitrary opposition which it induces, through its mere existence, between a properly economic logic, based on competition and efficiency, and social logic, which is subject to the rule of fairness.

That said, this “theory” that is desocialised and dehistoricised at its roots has, today more than ever, the means of making itself true and empirically verifiable. In effect, neoliberal discourse is not just one discourse among many. Rather, it is a “strong discourse” – the way psychiatric discourse is in an asylum, in Erving Goffman’s analysis (2). It is so strong and so hard to combat only because it has on its side all of the forces of a world of relations of forces, a world that it contributes to making what it is. It does this most notably by orienting the economic choices of those who dominate economic relationships. It thus adds its own symbolic force to these relations of forces. In the name of this scientific programme, converted into a plan of political action, an immense political project is underway, although its status as such is denied because it appears to be purely negative. This project aims to create the conditions under which the “theory” can be realised and can function: a programme of the methodical destruction of collectives.

The movement toward the neoliberal utopia of a pure and perfect market is made possible by the politics of financial deregulation. And it is achieved through the transformative and, it must be said, destructive action of all of the political measures (of which the most recent is the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), designed to protect foreign corporations and their investments from national states) that aim to call into question any and all collective structures that could serve as an obstacle to the logic of the pure market: the nation, whose space to manoeuvre continually decreases; work groups, for example through the individualisation of salaries and of careers as a function of individual competences, with the consequent atomisation of workers; collectives for the defence of the rights of workers, unions, associations, cooperatives; even the family, which loses part of its control over consumption through the constitution of markets by age groups.

The neoliberal programme draws its social power from the political and economic power of those whose interests it expresses: stockholders, financial operators, industrialists, conservative or social-democratic politicians who have been converted to the reassuring layoffs of laisser-faire, high-level financial officials eager to impose policies advocating their own extinction because, unlike the managers of firms, they run no risk of having eventually to pay the consequences. Neoliberalism tends on the whole to favour severing the economy from social realities and thereby constructing, in reality, an economic system conforming to its description in pure theory, that is a sort of logical machine that presents itself as a chain of constraints regulating economic agents.

The globalisation of financial markets, when joined with the progress of information technology, ensures an unprecedented mobility of capital. It gives investors concerned with the short-term profitability of their investments the possibility of permanently comparing the profitability of the largest corporations and, in consequence, penalising these firms’ relative setbacks. Subjected to this permanent threat, the corporations themselves have to adjust more and more rapidly to the exigencies of the markets, under penalty of “losing the market’s confidence”, as they say, as well as the support of their stockholders. The latter, anxious to obtain short-term profits, are more and more able to impose their will on managers, using financial directorates to establish the rules under which managers operate and to shape their policies regarding hiring, employment, and wages.

Thus the absolute reign of flexibility is established, with employees being hiring on fixed-term contracts or on a temporary basis and repeated corporate restructurings and, within the firm itself, competition among autonomous divisions as well as among teams forced to perform multiple functions. Finally, this competition is extended to individuals themselves, through the individualisation of the wage relationship: establishment of individual performance objectives, individual performance evaluations, permanent evaluation, individual salary increases or granting of bonuses as a function of competence and of individual merit; individualised career paths; strategies of “delegating responsibility” tending to ensure the self-exploitation of staff who, simple wage labourers in relations of strong hierarchical dependence, are at the same time held responsible for their sales, their products, their branch, their store, etc. as though they were independent contractors. This pressure toward “self-control” extends workers’ “involvement” according to the techniques of “participative management” considerably beyond management level. All of these are techniques of rational domination that impose over-involvement in work (and not only among management) and work under emergency or high-stress conditions. And they converge to weaken or abolish collective standards or solidarities (3).

In this way, a Darwinian world emerges – it is the struggle of all against all at all levels of the hierarchy, which finds support through everyone clinging to their job and organisation under conditions of insecurity, suffering, and stress. Without a doubt, the practical establishment of this world of struggle would not succeed so completely without the complicity of all of the precarious arrangements that produce insecurity and of the existence of a reserve army of employees rendered docile by these social processes that make their situations precarious, as well as by the permanent threat of unemployment. This reserve army exists at all levels of the hierarchy, even at the higher levels, especially among managers. The ultimate foundation of this entire economic order placed under the sign of freedom is in effect the structural violence of unemployment, of the insecurity of job tenure and the menace of layoff that it implies. The condition of the “harmonious” functioning of the individualist micro-economic model is a mass phenomenon, the existence of a reserve army of the unemployed.

This structural violence also weighs on what is called the labour contract (wisely rationalised and rendered unreal by the “theory of contracts”). Organisational discourse has never talked as much of trust, co-operation, loyalty, and organisational culture as in an era when adherence to the organisation is obtained at each moment by eliminating all temporal guarantees of employment (three-quarters of hires are for fixed duration, the proportion of temporary employees keeps rising, employment “at will” and the right to fire an individual tend to be freed from any restriction).

Thus we see how the neoliberal utopia tends to embody itself in the reality of a kind of infernal machine, whose necessity imposes itself even upon the rulers. Like the Marxism of an earlier time, with which, in this regard, it has much in common, this utopia evokes powerful belief – the free trade faith – not only among those who live off it, such as financiers, the owners and managers of large corporations, etc., but also among those, such as high-level government officials and politicians, who derive their justification for existing from it. For they sanctify the power of markets in the name of economic efficiency, which requires the elimination of administrative or political barriers capable of inconveniencing the owners of capital in their individual quest for the maximisation of individual profit, which has been turned into a model of rationality. They want independent central banks. And they preach the subordination of nation-states to the requirements of economic freedom for the masters of the economy, with the suppression of any regulation of any market, beginning with the labour market, the prohibition of deficits and inflation, the general privatisation of public services, and the reduction of public and social expenses.

Economists may not necessarily share the economic and social interests of the true believers and may have a variety of individual psychic states regarding the economic and social effects of the utopia which they cloak with mathematical reason. Nevertheless, they have enough specific interests in the field of economic science to contribute decisively to the production and reproduction of belief in the neoliberal utopia. Separated from the realities of the economic and social world by their existence and above all by their intellectual formation, which is most frequently purely abstract, bookish, and theoretical, they are particularly inclined to confuse the things of logic with the logic of things.

These economists trust models that they almost never have occasion to submit to the test of experimental verification and are led to look down upon the results of the other historical sciences, in which they do not recognise the purity and crystalline transparency of their mathematical games, whose true necessity and profound complexity they are often incapable of understanding. They participate and collaborate in a formidable economic and social change. Even if some of its consequences horrify them (they can join the socialist party and give learned counsel to its representatives in the power structure), it cannot displease them because, at the risk of a few failures, imputable to what they sometimes call “speculative bubbles”, it tends to give reality to the ultra-logical utopia (ultra-logical like certain forms of insanity) to which they consecrate their lives.

And yet the world is there, with the immediately visible effects of the implementation of the great neoliberal utopia: not only the poverty of an increasingly large segment of the most economically advanced societies, the extraordinary growth in income differences, the progressive disappearance of autonomous universes of cultural production, such as film, publishing, etc. through the intrusive imposition of commercial values, but also and above all two major trends. First is the destruction of all the collective institutions capable of counteracting the effects of the infernal machine, primarily those of the state, repository of all of the universal values associated with the idea of the public realm. Second is the imposition everywhere, in the upper spheres of the economy and the state as at the heart of corporations, of that sort of moral Darwinism that, with the cult of the winner, schooled in higher mathematics and bungee jumping, institutes the struggle of all against all and cynicism as the norm of all action and behaviour.

Can it be expected that the extraordinary mass of suffering produced by this sort of political-economic regime will one day serve as the starting point of a movement capable of stopping the race to the abyss? Indeed, we are faced here with an extraordinary paradox. The obstacles encountered on the way to realising the new order of the lone, but free individual are held today to be imputable to rigidities and vestiges. All direct and conscious intervention of whatever kind, at least when it comes from the state, is discredited in advance and thus condemned to efface itself for the benefit of a pure and anonymous mechanism, the market, whose nature as a site where interests are exercised is forgotten. But in reality, what keeps the social order from dissolving into chaos, despite the growing volume of the endangered population, is the continuity or survival of those very institutions and representatives of the old order that is in the process of being dismantled, and all the work of all of the categories of social workers, as well as all the forms of social solidarity, familial or otherwise.

The transition to “liberalism” takes place in an imperceptible manner, like continental drift, thus hiding its effects from view. Its most terrible consequences are those of the long term. These effects themselves are concealed, paradoxically, by the resistance to which this transition is currently giving rise among those who defend the old order by drawing on the resources it contained, on old solidarities, on reserves of social capital that protect an entire portion of the present social order from falling into anomie. This social capital is fated to wither away – although not in the short run – if it is not renewed and reproduced.

But these same forces of “conservation”, which it is too easy to treat as conservative, are also, from another point of view, forces of resistance to the establishment of the new order and can become subversive forces. If there is still cause for some hope, it is that forces still exist, both in state institutions and in the orientations of social actors (notably individuals and groups most attached to these institutions, those with a tradition of civil and public service) that, under the appearance of simply defending an order that has disappeared and its corresponding “privileges” (which is what they will immediately be accused of), will be able to resist the challenge only by working to invent and construct a new social order. One that will not have as its only law the pursuit of egoistic interests and the individual passion for profit and that will make room for collectives oriented toward the rational pursuit of ends collectively arrived at and collectively ratified.

How could we not make a special place among these collectives, associations, unions, and parties for the state: the nation-state, or better yet the supranational state – a European state on the way toward a world state – capable of effectively controlling and taxing the profits earned in the financial markets and, above of all, of counteracting the destructive impact that the latter have on the labour market. This could be done with the aid of labour unions by organising the elaboration and defence of the public interest. Like it or not, the public interest will never emerge, even at the cost of a few mathematical errors, from the vision of accountants (in an earlier period one would have said of “shopkeepers”) that the new belief system presents as the supreme form of human accomplishment.

UTOPIA OF ENDLESS EXPLOITATION: The essence of neoliberalism. What is neoliberalism? A programme for destroying collective structures which may impede the pure market logic. Pierre Bourdieu

 

Politics and Ethics

We all spend a great deal of time criticizing those in and out of power for their conduct and exercise of leadership or lack thereof, but rarely do we try to elucidate the qualities that we would like to see in a leader. It is important that we do this.   Politics is the acquisition and exercise of power, and real harm can come when people who are unsuitable for the job attempt it.  Here are some starting points for such a discussion.

In his important lecture “Politics as a Vocation”  the eminent German sociologist and political economist Max Weber identified two kinds of  “deadly sins” in politics: a lack of objectivity and a lack of responsibility.  In an essay early last year DHinMI discussed the latter sin, irresponsibility, in connection with Ralph Nader.  This essay discusses the need for objectivity, or “seeing clearly.”  The qualities that Weber sees as necessary in politics are very similar to qualities that Chinese sages hundreds and even thousands of years ago also counseled and trained leaders to develop, no doubt reflecting Weber’s extensive studies of Eastern thought.

Weber delivered his lecture in 1918 to a group of students as Germany was undergoing the revolution that ended the rule of the Kaisers, a moment when careers in politics and political participation would be open to a far greater number of people.  Toward the end of the lecture he discussed the inner enjoyments a life in politics could provide and the personal conditions or traits needed for such a vocation.  Along with passion, which Weber stressed was not “sterile excitement” but deep devotion to a cause or purpose, and a sense of responsibility, a politician or activist needs a sense of balance and proportion.

Weber states,

This is the decisive psychological quality of the politician:  his ability to let realities work upon him with inner concentration and calmness.  Hence his distance to things and men.  ‘Lack of distance’ per se is one of the deadly sins of every politican. . . . For the problem is simply how can warm passion and a cool sense of proportion be forged together in one and the same soul?  Politics is made with the head, not with the other parts of the body or the soul.  And yet devotion to politics, if it is not to be frivolous intellectual play but rather genuinely human conduct, can be born and nourished from passion alone.  However, that firm taming of the soul, which distinguishes the passionate politician and differentiates him from the ‘sterilely excited’ and mere political dilettante, is possible only through habituation to detachment in every sense of the word.  The ‘strength’ of a political ‘personality’ means in the first place the possession of these qualities of passion, responsibility and proportion.

Weber notes the perils and seductions that accompany the striving for power. Power can never become an end in itself.   “The sin against the lofty spirit of his vocation, however, begins where this striving for power ceases to be objective and becomes purely personal self-intoxication, instead of exclusively entering the service of ‘the cause.’”    A politician

is constantly in danger of becoming an actor as well as taking lightly the responsibility for the outcome of his actions and of being concerned merely with the ‘impression’ he makes.  His lack of objectivity tempts him to strive for the glamorous semblance of power rather than for actual power. . . . The mere ‘power’ politician may get strong effects, but actually his work leads nowhere and is senseless. . . . In this, the critics of ‘power politics’ are absolutely right.  From the sudden inner collapse of typical representatives of this mentality, we can see what inner weakness and impotence hides behind this boastful but entirely empty gesture.  It is a product of a shoddy and superficially blase attitude towards the meaning of human conduct; and it has no relation whatsoever to the knowledge of tragedy with which all action, but especially political action, is truly interwoven.

So how does one cultivate Weber’s objectivity or what i would call “seeing clearly,” and find balance?

Seeing clearly, the product of deep listening, is the fundamental prerequisite to all effective action.  This means above all seeing the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be or fear it is.  True clarity is neither excessive optimism nor a paralyzing pessimism.  Seeing clearly means not being blinded by by unresolved emotions, especially anger, fear, greed (self-seeking) or ambition.  Not being preoccupied with our own needs.  Not bringing so much baggage to a situation that we cannot appreciate nuance and small changes.  it means really listening to what someone else is saying, not immediately jumping to conclusions and reacting to what we think they are saying.  It means treating each situation freshly, reacting to the actual conditions that are presented, not reacting based on what happened in the past or what we assume to be the case.

As Weber noted, this requires a kind of detachment, or more properly non-attachment.  Part of being able to see clearly is avoiding being caught by distractions, desires, emotions and ambitions.  It is learning to find the stillness in the midst of the noise and activity all around us, and in that stillness, listening to our own intuition, our own cultivated judgment, our own inner ethical sense.  It also requires sufficient independence and integrity to avoid being overly beholden to supporters and patrons.  Seeing clearly often reveals avenues of action that might not have been initially apparent.  it is often the only way to see chinks in the opponent’s armor, and novel ways to resolve problems or extricate self, party or country from a difficult situation.
Finding balance and proportion.  Like the Greeks’ concept of the golden mean, Chinese sages teach us to find a balance between extremes.  In the Eastern concept of yin and yang, symbolized by the familiar interlocking design, opposites are seen as complementary halves of an integral whole, with each one partaking in some measure of the other.  Good contains within it elements of bad and vice versa.  No position is wholly correct or incorrect.  Neither side can, or should, absolutely prevail; attempting to bring that about only caused the tide to turn back toward the other pole.  There is always a higher vantage point in which opposites, necessary for navigating the relative world, are transcended.  Being able to step back from the conflict of the moment and to see things from a broader vantage point is necessary if one is to maintain a sense of proportion and not be crushed by setbacks and individual tragedies.  Balance also means caring for ourselves enough so that the self can ultimately become less important than the cause.  But while one should give oneself wholeheartedly to a cause, in the end what is important is not who wins but that the system and ultimately life continue.

Ethics and Politics.  Because politics involves the use of power and often requires difficult choices, a particular kind of ethical sense is needed.  Only a very principled and disciplined person can hope to properly make those difficult choices,  because only such a person is free of the self-seeking and fatal blindness that prevent one from seeing clearly.  Only one who maintains a sense of balance and distance can appropriately determine whether and when dubious measures are ever justified in pursuit of worthy goals and when a sense of responsibility dictates that they are not justified.

Someone unwilling ever to compromise or to use force or dubious means shpu;d not become involved in politics, says Weber, but neither should someone who lacks the selflessness and ethical sense to know that some means cannot be justified because their use will irretrievably damage the cause, and perhaps also the whole country, humanity or the planet.

Finally, politics requires not only discipline but toughness, what Weber called “the trained relentlessness in viewing the realities of life, and the ability to face such realities and to measure up to them inwardly.”  Speaking in 1918, at the birth of the infant German Republic and only two years before his own death, Weber was under no illusions about what might lie ahead.  “Not summer’s bloom lies ahead of us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness, no matter which group may triumph externally now.”

He concluded,

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.  It takes both passion and perspective.  Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth—that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible.  But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word.  And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that steadfastness of heart which can brave even the crumbling of all hopes.  This is necessary right now or else men will not be able to attain even that which is possible today.  Only he has the calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point if view is too stupid or too base for what he wants to offer.  Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.

Potentially facing our own dark night, those who care seriously about politics must demand no less of ourselves, our colleagues and our leaders.

Politics and Ethics, By Mimikatz