The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

A New Ideology

There is no reality which is not mediated by perception. This is not to say that there is no reality; the famous “I refute you thus,” kicking a rock, applies. It does not mean there are no natural laws, no physics, chemistry, or even truth—or Truth. It means that we decide what reality means through a thick lens of belief. This lens picks out what is important, obscures the unimportant, and distorts everything, and most people are hardly even aware that it exists.

Keynes once wrote that most politicians are slaves of some defunct economist, generally whose name they don’t even know. That we should regulate the world through markets is an idea which would have been absurd to virtually everyone three hundred years ago, even as the divine right of Kings is absurd to us today. That corporations should shield their owners from liability is an idea which was bitterly opposed by most capitalists two hundred years ago. That greed leads to better outcomes was laughable to virtually everyone, including Adam Smith, who thought it worked only in very specific circumstances and lamented that tradespeople were constantly in conspiracy against the public.

That goods, including food, should be primarily divided based on market success is another idea that most of the world, for most of history, has never held.

What is oddest about our modern ideology is the same thing that is odd about virtually all ideologies: It contradicts itself. We do not have either free or competitive markets, and not one in a hundred free market ideologues could define a competitive market, nor would they want one if they could, as an actual competitive market reduces profits to nearly nothing. Free markets cannot exist without government coercion, yet we have come to assume that it is government which makes markets unfree, which is a half truth at best. It’s markets that make governments unfree when they buy government–and the first thing any good capitalist does upon winning a market is try to eliminate the free market, since an actual free market threatens a monopolist or oligopolist.

An ideology tells us what is thinkable and what is unthinkable, what is moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. Right or wrong. It either says that 90 percent taxation is right and good when imposed upon great wealth, or an unthinkable burden on “value” creators. It further defines value, for instance, privileging financial innovation which actually destroys genuine good production. It says that food that makes us sick is acceptable and that banning such food is unethical. It says that it is right and proper that men and women meet their needs by working for other people, without any ability to meet their own needs if the market deems them surplus beyond private or public charity. It says that land that lies fallow is not available for anyone to grow food, that pumping poison into water and food and air is acceptable, that rationing health care by who has the most money is the best way to organize health care. Or, it could say that healthcare is too important to allow people to buy their way to the front of the line.

People think that their individual decisions matter, but so much of what happens is dictated by social contexts. A man goes to war, or not, and that has little to do with him personally. A college student has a huge debt and that is because she is a Millennial, not a Baby Boomer. A generation has fantastic success, but that is because they are the GI Generation in America. These circumstances are not the results of individual decisions, even if it feels like it. Born 30 years earlier, the exact same people would have stagnated on farms. A generation raised in affluence undoes all the protections put on the economy by those who experienced the Great Depression, because they think they know better, really, and they never experienced the Great Depression or the Roaring ’20s.

One of the most important books of the past 200 years was a pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto. You should read it. Virtually every demand in the Communist Manifesto has been met by Western Democracies. Conservatives like Otto Van Bismark looked at it and said, “Oh, you want pensions? We can give you that if it means you don’t rebel and cut our heads off.”

A credible opposing ideology, a credible existential threat to the reigning ideology, creates a reaction. That reaction can be, well, reactionary, but it tends to blend towards that ideology. When the main ideological and material competition to Western Capitalist Democracy is a nasty form of Islam and Chinese Totalitarian State-run crony capitalism, that leads nowhere good, not least because they aren’t credible threats (no, Islamism is not going to conquer Europe, Japan, North America, or South America, sorry).

But an ideology organizes things. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Akkadians, the ancient Egyptians, if they wanted to do something, set up a new religion, with a new God. They were quite brazen about creating Gods, really. They ran the banks out of the churches, and indeed, ran some truly terrible usury, with interest rates as high as thirty to forty percent (which is why debt holidays were instituted, it didn’t take long before people owed more grain or silver than existed in the entire universe, with rates like that).

When we want to do something, we fiddle with market design, with little incentives here or there. We make bureaucratic rules, create new laws, set up secret courts and bureaucracies to run them, make small adjustments here or there to make sure things work out as we want. A little tax here or there, a subsidy here or there, a patent or IP law change, a law requiring millions of dollars before one can set up a bank, laws allowing corporations to monetize public research by universities, and all the right people make money and the wrong people don’t, and all is good in the world.

The fundamental idea of our current regime is one that most people have forgotten, because it is associated with Marx, and one must not even talk about the things Marx got right, because the USSR went bad. The fundamental idea to which I refer is that we are wage laborers. We work for other people, we don’t control the means of production. Absent a job, we live in poverty. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they are exceptions. We are impelled, as it were, by Marx’s whip of hunger. It took a lot of work to set up this system, as Polyani notes in his book The Great Transformation, but now that it has happened, it is invisible to us.

A new ideology that leads to prosperity should insist on changing this relation to the means of production. This doesn’t mean a Marxist proletarian “communist” paradise, but it does mean giving ordinary people back real economic power, which means the real ability to say “no” to wage labor, and freedom from needing to take the next job that comes along regardless of what it is. Not only will this lead to a different, much more fair division of goods created by society, it will lead to much better treatment of wage labor workers. The experience of the dotcom boom should be instructive in this regard: When you can walk out because you don’t need this job and it isn’t clear you can be replaced, bosses suddenly start treating you very, very well indeed.

I’ll talk about what that ideology looks like and what that society looks like, at a later date, certainly in my non-fiction book. It will be, not a consumer society, but a producer one, in which most people feel that they can make things, feel that they can provide for much of their own needs. Though many people sneer at the idea that technology matters, in actual fact, technological change makes possible new modes of production, along with new social arrangements. The assembly line and factory imply a type of social arrangement, the heavy plow implies a type of social arrangement, hunter-gatherer implies yet another. Within each of these technological tool kits, however, there are choices: Some hunter-gather bands are the sweetest, most kind, peaceful people you could ever want to meet. Others are high practitioners of torture and head-hunting. Central planning of the Soviet variety and industrial democracy of early to mid-twentieth century America are both within the possibilities of industrialization. Radios were originally used much like the early internet till the government used the excuse of the Titanic sinking to seize the airwaves from the early pioneers and sell them to large companies.

There are, ultimately, two dominant strategies: cooperate or compete. If you want widespread prosperity, the dominant strategy in your ideology must be cooperation, though competition has its place. And ultimately the difference between the right and the left is this: The right thinks you get more out of people by treating them badly, the left thinks you get more out of people by treating them well.

An ideology that believes in treating people well is a lot better to live under. And as a bonus, happy people are a lot more fun to be around. And societies with that ideology, all other things being equal, will tend to out-compete those who believe that fear, misery, and the whip are the best way to motivate people.

Finally, an ideology that succeeds is always universalist. It asserts, for example, that all people have certain rights and does not admit exceptions. This may bother the relativists, but a powerful ideology admits no doubt on core ethical concerns: Democracy is how everyone should rule themselves, no exceptions, or, everyone has a right to a trial and to see the evidence against them, or, anyone who doesn’t worship the True God is going to hell.

A powerful ideology is a scary thing. If your ideology isn’t strong enough, doesn’t create fervent enough belief that people are willing to die for it, then it won’t change the world. But if it does create that level of fervent belief, then it will be misused. The question is simple: Will this do more harm than good?

An ideology which leads to us killing a billion or more people with climate change, allow me to posit, is a bad ideology. At the end of its run, neoliberalism will kill more people than Marxist-Leninism did, and our grandchildren will consider it monstrous. Most of them will be no more able to understand how or why we submitted to it (or even believed in it) than we can understand how Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao came to power. Hyperbole? Not in the least, because the body count is going to be phenomenal.

When faced, then, with a monstrous ideology, our duty is to come up with a better one, an opposing one. Because ideology determines what we do. It is both the lens through which we see the world, and the motor that pushes us forward.

(Originally Published October 22, 2013. Back to the top in 2017 as most current readers won’t have seen it, and it’s foundational. Back up again, October 9, 2021, for the same reason.)

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Open Thread


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 10, 2021


  1. Outstanding.

  2. bob mcmanus

    “Seduction* is the new opium of the masses.” Preliminary Materials Young Girl

    (seduction being the creation of desire in the other, ie, ideology)

    I am a tiqqun pomo post-Marxist kinda guy.

    Ideologies come from praxis, and must be appropriate to material conditions, so let’s look around and start revoltin’

    Deconstruction/destruction, distribution, dispersion, desertion-in-place.

    Sand in the gears, sabotage. Refuseniks. Just quit working. Disorganize.

    It will start, if it is to work, by looking like spontaneous anarchism.

    I think and read, but there are younger and better minds working on it.

  3. Dan Kervick

    The part of the communist ideal and analysis that always appealed to me most is the key part about “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The rest of the business about dialectical materialism, the labor theory of value, the withering away of the state – meh.

    It doesn’t seem unjust to me that people have to work for their fair share of the social output. It’s only unjust that some people don’t have to work at all, and can pull down a comfortable income just by being invested as a part-owner in capital resources. And its unjust that other people are denied the opportunity to contribute their work, but are instead confined to unemployment and provided with a mere subsistence to keep them quiet, dependent and out of the picture as far as power, dignity and status go.

    The best way to boost the power of labor is to move to a system of 100% full employment underpinned by a public employment system in which the substantial labor burden of maintaining society is divided up as fairly as possible, according to people’s talents, likes and capabilities. If there is no impoverished buffer stock of unemployed, there will be no buyers’ market for workers.

    I don’t think there is any long-term socially viable system in which people are offered a comfortable share of the society’s output as a flat-out right corresponding to no matching labor obligation whatsoever. That will always lead to resentment among those who are working to produce that output.

    I’m not that gung-ho about the marvelous creativity of the self-seeking individual either. Individuals can indeed be very creative, but they do most of their best work in teams. Shakespeare did his best work as a jobbing playwright writing for a team of actors, many of whom were business partners in the Globe and other ventures, scraping for a living in London – in some cases by writing plays to entertain lazy aristocrats who lived on rents and most of whose names we don’t remember for having accomplished anything of significance, despite their marvelous stores of leisure, liberty and free income. Creativity comes more from struggle and necessity than from indolence and unencumbered self-direction.

  4. Formerly T-Bear

    @ Petro & Lambert Strether

    Would second yours and add magnificently and brilliantly written.

    @ Dan Kervick

    Good to see you commenting here. Marx has problems but they are mostly the result of propaganda and marketing devices, not of knowledge and economics. Economic value is the sole result of human endeavour, aka work; e.g. air is of vital importance but it is not (other than on the very periphery) an economic good, or finding and gathering involves work as well giving those things found and gathered an economic value. Marx was addressing an obvious weakness in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations where value was attributed to certain commodities used in coinage that was associated with (accountancy factor) all other commodities and incomes derived from productive factors. Throw Marx out and you throw the baby out with the bathwater. Political Marxism is a construct of the time and may not retain direct validity but nevertheless serves as one response to economic conditions, an exemplar from history retaining some utility yet.

    Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday (ISBN 978-1-846-14758-6) recounts his observations of still existing social and economic solutions and the dynamics entailed in their operation. Your noting Marx’s maxim – ‘From each … to each …’ seems to be the very earliest basis of anthropological (and economic) association. Note the changes he describes, needed to develop more complex social and economic forms required to control and direct more advanced and larger political and economic units.

    I would agree fully with the observation that a better form is needed to organize economic understanding, and that this form does not currently exist, and may never be produced; too much is invested now in neoclassical ideology to allow an ‘the Emperor has no clothes’, economic patches and fig leafs are the menu du jour and will obscure the ever growing cracks in the economic edifice. It is doubtful that a basic understanding of economic history will ever be produced, the world no longer speaks with each other, only at each other and no more so than in the academia of economics.

  5. Wonderful. I particularly like the first paragraph. Lens of belief indeed.

  6. Celsius 233

    @ Formerly T-Bear
    October 23, 2013
    …It is doubtful that a basic understanding of economic history will ever be produced, the world no longer speaks with each other, only at each other and no more so than in the academia of economics.
    Good stuff and the “at”, as opposed to the “to”, is hammer to nail.
    I see the slime rising from the soup, that was the oceans, as the restart of the new ideologies.
    We’re bound to our demise through unbounding ignorance and sloth/greed.

  7. Manofsteel11

    This is very interesting.
    Indeed, good is better than evil, some production can be better than consumption, not destroying our environment is better than focus on short-term shareholder profits and free market interests and political freedom desires need to be balanced out.
    And yet, ideologies are rarely innocent self-emerging do-good tools, but rather are instruments of power and related (bloody) struggles. Trying to promote them under challenging realities may lend them as tools for people with other motives – be careful yours is not kidnapped by aggressive doers and overachievers, as so many have been during the course of history.

    While current technology and social needs may propel an epochal transformation of the magnitude seen during the industrial+scientific revolution, one must realize that conservative forces can and will exploit the same circumstances to galvanize their own version ideology. In fact, they have been doing so over recent years, as the data+newspaper headlines clearly show.

    Can one offer an ideological platform that truly promotes good for the long-term, mitigates the cost of change and keeps selfish humans at bay? Do texts about ideologies end up constructing or at least supporting desirable social realities? Do social realities emerge out of socio-economic, technological and other changes, while ideologies are marginally used to justify one course of action over the other? Can one articulate something so compelling that both ‘the people’ and ‘those in power’ will buy into it to the extent we will change our lives as a society and as individuals, or will we need more drastic catalysts?

    Hell, the heck with it, just try!

  8. David Kowalski

    Two points, it is widely known at least among the managerial class that treating people poorly is less productive in the aggregate (Theory x vs. Theory Y). However the psychological satisfaction of the hard line Theory X is widespread, not just for the bosses and elite but even for a large number of workers who are hurt by it.

    Second, is the comment my girl friend made while watching a documentary about Stalin, “What’s the difference between Stalin and a mass murderer. There isn’t any.” Well;, these ideologues are, as Ian pointed out, mass murderers and in many cases hired killers.

  9. Great post, Ian. I look forward to the book.

    I put up a link at MNE here along with some thoughts this post provoked.

    Moribund ideologies often die hard. Neoliberalism is one such recalcitrant ideology since it is deeply embedded through years of propaganda by those who interests it serves and also entrenched institutionally. That doesn’t mean that it, too, will be superseded, event though it seems to have nine lives. Who would have thought it could survive the global financial crisis?

    But the notion that neoliberal capitalism masquerading as democracy is the final stages of human social, political and economic development and that we stand at “the end of history” (Fukuyama) is nonsense, as many have pointed out.

    What the next stage will look like is as yet unclear — probably because Western hegemony is on the wane and globalization is going to result in the interface of many non-Western inputs now demanding to be acknowledged. That is a positive development for cooperation over competition since the West is hyper-competitive and individualistic and other cultures are more communal and cooperative traditionally.

    As life scientist and operations type Roger Erickson has been saying for some time over at MNE, complex adaptive systems automatically create emergent problems as previously emergent problems are solved creatively through indirection (Mao’s “Let a hundred flowers bloom.”). Thus, the scale of emergent problems is continually increasing, and successfully adaptive organisms must meet these challenges by increasing return on coordination to stay ahead of extinction.

    While the solution to emergent problems may be unforeseeable, the method that nature uses to deal with emergence is well-known, and that is to create the conditions for flexible and creative response. It’s called agility.

    Organizational rigidity and fixity (ideology) work against this. Rather, flexibility, creativity, and experimentation are required, as well as the capacity to recognize what is working based on feedback and to amplify, leaving behind unsuccessful attempts as soon as they are recognized as such.

    In this sense, the requirement for solutions is ongoing in complex adaptive systems, which all biological systems are. There is no final solution, only appropriate and inappropriate methodology as dictated by changing context. There is no information out of context. Data taken out of context is meaningless. The challenge is get the context right and then be agile enough to adapt to changing context.

    Mental fixity and behavioral rigidity are obstacles to that, when what is needed is increase the degree of freedom in the engineering sense and that involves more complex forms of control. The levers and dials on a control panel that worked in the past will not necessarily work well in the present and future if adjustments are not made owing to changing circumstances.

    As Hegel observed in his philosophy of history, history is the record of increasing freedom (“history has a liberal bias”) but not merely “freedom from” coercion and constraint. There is also an increasing “freedom to” choose and to act, and increasing knowledge has also resulted in increasing degrees of control over events.

    Finally, there is also increasing “freedom for” self-actualization and self-determination. Democracy is freedom for self-determination, since ideally democracy is freely choosing individually but also in concert the law that one lives under in society.

    So the drive is evolutionary and the obstacles are largely self-created by putting obstacles in the way of the creative process individually and cooperatively in coordination with others.

  10. Ian Welsh

    Part of what I am saying is that we always are operating under ideologies. If you believe in the right to a trial: that’s ideological. If you believe we shouldn’t ration health care based on who has money, that’s ideology. If you believe women should be treated equaly to men/or differently: that’s ideology. The old joke about ideology is that everyone thinks the other guy has an ideology, but that they’re just pragmatists. To decide, say, to bail out banks in 2007/8 is a profoundly ideological decision (and one that someone who actually believed in competitive markets would not take, I might add, which is why people like much of the Zero Hedge crowd are so angry about it.

    There is no balance, there is just ideology. You may hodgepodge ideologies together, that’s normal: sometimes it might result in better results, often it creates monstrous hybrids, but it’s still ideology.

    Right now, because there is no ideology that really speaks fully to the best in us, we have a “the worst were full of fire and passion, the best had no resolve” situation.

    I also don’t believe that ideology necessarily reduces flexibility: what it does is tell people what parts of an equation are important. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. An FDR Liberal and a neoliberal do two very different things when shown the exact same problem.

  11. Jeff Wegerson

    What needs to be done and how to do it are pretty much known. How to get there is the hard part. H0w are enough people organized around a workable strategy and a workable set of tactics to effect the needed changes and methods already known.

  12. Dan Kervick

    I can’t agree with that Ian. Yes, people have deep fundamental values which are not based on their perceived conduciveness to the pursuit of of other even more fundamental values. But most of the things we value are not like that. We support our aims and decisions with some evidence that tries to tie the immediate consequences of our actions to the successful pursuit of consequences that are more important to us. And if the evidence shows that we are mistaken about that connection, most of us are prepared to modify our actions accordingly.

  13. Ian Welsh


    part of how we get there is creating an ideology that says we have to get there that enough people believe in, an ideology that says we have the ethical right to do what is necessary, and an ethical imperative to do it. I’m not obsessing over ideology because it is impractical, I am obsessing over it because it is extraordinarily practical.

    There’s dishwater “should” and there is “must and will”. There is also ideology that is so invisible that people just do what it says without even thinking about it, it’s just obvious to them that they should. Organizing society through jobs, for example, is now obvious ideology to us. It wasn’t one hundred years ago.

  14. BlizzardOfOz

    As with many of Ian’s better posts, my reaction is: thank you for distilling such a critical topic, so little discussed that I had almost forgotten about it, in such an engaging manner.

    This concept of (as Ian terms it) “ideology” is fascinating – it is very much like the objects outside Plato’s cave, completely unseen and yet the real cause of everything seen. And ideology truly is unseen, because it is layered, and the foundational layers (“axioms”) are scarcely perceived. That is, people barely perceive or acknowledge either the mere existence of foundational ideology, nor the overwhelming influence of that foundation on the other layers of belief.

    I actually prefer the term “religion” to “ideology”. The term “religion” sounds archaic, but that’s exactly why I like it — it puts emphasis on the continuity of human experience. People have this tendency to assume we modern people are so much smarter than those primitive religious types, but this is a dangerous fallacy. It is dangerous because it obscures the very existence and importance of ideology. We are “scientific”, are we not? We “know” what is true, because we are “empirical”? Of course we don’t — we know nothing, but we are too disinclined accept this, which prevents us from really examining what we think we know.

    I also prefer the term “religion” to “ideology” because I believe that religion is literally the foundation of so much of our ostensibly secular ideology. (Arch Druid Report had a really insightful series of posts on this topic recently, vis a vis the “civil religion of progress” being really a facade to Christianity.) I recognized this in myself as an adult — I found in myself almost all the forms of Christian belief, despite the fact that I thought I had rejected Christianity completely.

    This topic of a new ideology leads to so many questions — what would that ideology look like, how are ideologies created historically, how are they propagated? So much discuss. But this seems like *the* topic to keep an eye on in the years and decades to come, as our increasingly decrepit civilization falls apart.

  15. Minimax

    What the next stage will look like is as yet unclear — probably because Western hegemony is on the wane and globalization is going to result in the interface of many non-Western inputs now demanding to be acknowledged.

    I wouldn’t say that Western hegemony is on the wane, the “West”, (at this point, really just a euphemistic way of saying “the U.S.”) is, like Rome after the Punic Wars, reorganizing its system of control to have less of a “home”/”abroad” distinction, shoring itself up by asset-stripping the local authorities and concerns that lie within its sphere and transferring those assets to private “global” concerns whose property rights are primarily guaranteed by the imperial center’s power–“globalization”.

    I really don’t see how you can decry the former while implicitly lauding the latter.

  16. BlizzardOfOz

    Sorry for double-posting, I just wanted to add: I’m pretty sure that recycled Marxism is not what Ian had in mind by a new ideology (?). Of course any new ideology would borrow from past traditions, but …

    The notion that a new ideology’s rallying cry is going to be “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”, is just horrible. It has this ominous totalitarian ring to it. First, “from each according to his abilities” — what, at gunpoint? That is not how you inspire creative genius. Second, “to each according to his need” — who decides? And again, “need” is not the language of creativity, it is the language of survival.

  17. Ian Welsh

    Smart analogy Minimax. But the Chinese are allowing less of that than you might think… they don’t intend to be a satrapy.

  18. JZ


    I think you nailed it with this essay. You struck a nerve and pierced a few commentators. That’s a good thing. Those who think they’ve got the whole damn thing figured out need a reality check. Life is a very disjointed and complicated journey. Getting it right is like threading a needle with one hand.

  19. Antifa

    Wonderfully written insights, Ian. Thank you. An Idea is like water to fish. Water is real, and what’s real can’t change. Until it does.

    Why, the very Idea that Ideas go out of style is quite a shocking Idea to many minds making headlines today.

    The Idea that neoliberal economics is the most advanced notion ever come up with is probably the chief pillar remaining to hold that mess of contradictions together. But it do keep a rollin’ along, don’t it, and all over the world, too, messing up everything, everywhere it goes. A vampire squid feeding virtually all wealth to less than 100,000 people.

    And this is considered the best Idea ever.

    Ah, for the days of the Vikings, when an honest day’s pillaging of someone else’s property and women was enough of labor for a working day. No need to spread religion or dogma or explain hard currency valuation to the natives you robbed. Just sack the place and go, with virgins over your shoulder.

    Alas, the modern style is to take all our Best Ideas along when we go a pillaging now, settle ourselves in and watch in shock and awe as our ideas ruin more lives and put an end to more people and prosperity than our weapons ever could. We measure success by the spread of our Best Ideas, not by the mess — I mean creative destruction — they leave behind.

    It’s hard to see economic ideas alone as the lens through which to find our way to a better state of our planet (and as a consequence, of our species). Economics is about “everything of value that people find or make,” right?

    But every single thing humans value or make comes from the earth, the air, the rain, and the sun. Our entire economic input is from our ecology, from our deepest mine to the tallest moutains, to the depths of the oceans, it is where our everything comes from. And we continue to rape it instead of manage it.

    Even the Vikings knew not to come back to the same village too often. We don’t know that.

    Thankfully, classical economics is now hitting hard ecological limits that will force it to recognize ecology as the ultimate input, and account for it’s condition to this and following generations. Hopefully. Maybe economics will just go further away from ecology to continue counting angels on the head of a pin, heedless of the natural sources of everything of value that humans find or make. Ignoring where everything comes from is bad science from the start. Time for that to change.

    But this Idea will take such a wholesale change of current worldviews that it will only happen when we’re forced to recognize, like fish, that the water around us has indeed changed, and that we are stuck in a new reality where the old Ideas don’t even work. We’re there, by the way. We’re living the change right now, whatever it turns out to be.

    If there is a first step out of the mess we are in, it has to be to set a proper aim, to decide on where and who we want to be when we can call ourselves successful managers of our one planet, our sole economic input. It seems that proper management of our biosphere is the right aim — running a living planet spinning through space, not a smog-choked ruin with dead oceans, wildfires and spreading deserts everywhere you turn.

    Why is running a living planet the right aim? Because everything humans value springs from that. Kill that and whom have you killed? That’s right.

    Now there’s an idea that might catch on — we have to live here for a long, long, time and for that to work we have to own and operate our hurtling home for the very long term. Not for this coming quarter. Not for Jamie Dimon or the Dow Jones average. Not for fiat money or hard currency or seashells or notched sticks. For our only economic input. For our very lives.

    The frogs have to make it, and the bees, and every species that contributes to life here has to make it if we are to make it. Time to grow up, clean our house, and run our zoo like it matters. Because it really does. It really does.

    Umm, who do I see about starting a new religion? Or does this have to be one of those kitchen-table start-ups you hear about?

  20. ECHOecho

    Isn’t “ideology” granting a bit too much to it (neoliberalism)? In particular, you say it is contradictory: internally inconsistent. Then, what, then is “ideology?” Oh, but (enter: my invented interlocutor), you say, “Well, of course, within all systems of thought, you can find the little or not-so-little internal contradictions.” Reply: Then what is it — if it fails in its ostensible purpose of providing an objective, workable set of criteria for human action and interaction — except an attempt on the part of its campaigners and sales-reps at persuading those around them–inviting their complicity in all of the things which they would have liked to do in any case, but for the accomplishment of which they appreciate a few dimwitted friends? And, I repeat back to you your observation: This goes for all ideology… Despairing of a set of objective criteria justifying some desired ends, we clothe the savage motives in pretty but ultimately incongruous garb. This way, we can take them to parties–and, you know, even advance their cause. It is nothing but a call for collusion, or sin by committee. So, you can keep your yet-to-be-articulated thing. But, now, the soon-to-be-birthed thing, maybe it will have the shrewdest of all internal contradictions; it will be the first one birthed in full-awareness of its awkwardness and logical impossibility; indeed, it will keep this as axiom number zero. And, so, it ought to be called “Irony.” No, this would take altogether too much courage–a fit of rebellion and panache only demonstrated by the greatest of men qua men (Caligula). Before that sort of fantastic thing could ever come to be, we will have to content ourselves with one far more humdrum: biology: A quantification of human needs will necessarily be undertaken and its codification shall be law, while its perpetual excuse will be its ideology. A likely name will be: “Justice.”

    So what? Well, a rebellion begins: “(You have committed) This thing, but no more; in fact, everything prior and future has been revoked in this one moment!” One soul who was willing to risk even its existence at the chance of voicing this cry inspires others who rush into the safety of a crowd to begin shouting slogans. But their goals are the same as they were yesterday. It is only now, with the force of numbers that they feel like they might be able to accomplish them. This is not to condemn or to congratulate their motives: only to point out that their language and slogans will simply be geared toward what they want to do–engineered to enlist help toward that end. And what are their goals? Well, some perfectly reasonable variants of a biological imperative, with all the nods to a fully flowered theory of altruism and group dynamics. The next regime is Biology, no? And, so, perhaps we ought to cheer, rather than sneer. But it is important to note that it is not necessarily an intellectually perfect thing–indeed, “we are all pragmatists.” Which is perhaps another way of saying: let’s do whatever it is that we want to do. And this is not rebellion, which is an act of negation or refusal. And the goal of rebellion–since it inherently risks everything–could hardly be biology.

    So, a question: When you adopt the pose of positivity, which you do whenever you invoke ideology, are you perhaps missing something? Something… is it a thing? The clarity of speech if not the honesty of the rebel is exchanged for a PR campaign.

    And–I don’t care –whatever you’re selling–I’m not buying.

    You know, we really don’t need some new way of articulating some sort of supposedly obvious decency– or enlist an army of minds to articulate the basic needs of a human being. If there are new and undiscovered human needs –and I’m sure there are — then, I’m sure we can count on the intellectual entrepreneurs of the world to begin hawking their fresh new wares. You just have to refuse immediately to consent to their violation. (It’s what you do…)

    And… this new ideology and its new era– it will really only be for survivors of the last, no? Woe to those survivors. You will know that you were not among those who stood up and issued the ultimatum to the trainwreck of the age: This, but no more. In fact, here is where I get off…

    I beg you: no more ideology. Just cries of rebellion– of an immediate and timely kind.

    Nuff preachin.

  21. b2020

    A quibble:
    “The experience of the dot-com boom should be instructive in this regard: when you can walk out because you don’t need this job and it isn’t clear you can be replaced, bosses suddenly start treating you very very well indeed.”

    This is misleading. For one, even in dot-coms with people who were objectively and clearly irreplaceable, executive stupidity resulted in bad treatment “indeed”. Worse, even in dot-coms, even moreso elsewhere, executives are, rightly or wrongly, absolutely convinced that everybody except themselves and their near-peers are utterly replacable.

    I don’t have a solution. I do know that there is a continuum that includes optional labor all the way to self-exploitation, and that the key is not being able to walk away from your – e.g. life’s – work, but not having to do so. Intellectual “property” restrictions for “work for hire” are part of this – creation should be inalienable, and should only be subject to limited scope/time licensing – as is equity – if you do not own what you work on/for, you are always a serf. Taylorism and “efficiency” are strong driving forces to turn a nation of shop owners into a labor reserve of at will and/or minimum wage serfs. Any future society placing a premium on robustness, resilience, and maximizing the use of scare human “resources” has incentives to move away from JIT “efficiency”. But the war is about control – about power – not labor. The first battle is about inbred wealth and the accumulation (and compounding) of influence, resources, connections over generations. If – pace Keynes, and beyond the scarce labor society – we see labor as a privilege, a substantial part of which is to wield disporportionate resources for the benefit of the many, then this power to control such resources should be awared by merit, i.e. proven or at least suspected ability to deliver. The Manhattan Project or the Apollo program were, whatever the merits, awarded to Oppenheimer/Groves and von Braun by democratically elected representatives. So was the TVA. Incorporation and executives are the attempt of “market” corporatism to (pretend to) solve this problem. Democracy is in dire need of structural reform, but its track record – and its focus on the essence of power – is better than that of the “market”, and the failure of the Soviets was a failure of democratic accountability for power – the “ownership” and waste of productive resources including the laborers themselves was a consequence of that.

  22. Ian Welsh sez: An ideology tells us what is thinkable and what is unthinkable, what is moral or immoral, ethical or unethical …

    All well and good, I suppose, and the essay provides interest with its many references to earlier thinkers, but I’m frustrated by how much text is used to say so little, really. If you were to define your principal terms a bit more fully, you would have to admit that how ideologies are formed and transmitted is quite complex and that they flow, like history, without much direction or guidance. An idea is cognition is perception is social instruction is memory is emotion is imagination is so many other things. Ideologies have all those components and more, and once reified, take on lives of their own that often render subscribers prisoners and/or crazy (and I mean crazy quite literally). Hence, the true believers and internal conflicts of logic that accompany any ideology. That we adopt so many ideologies unwittingly has been called deep culture: assumptions undergirding our society that channel perception and thought according to the specific culture and moment in which one finds oneself. One such aspect of deep culture is how with think in terms of either numbers or time, which varies dramatically across cultures and history. Viewing one’s assumptions (to which we’re all continuously forced to conform through social pressure, e.g., how to dress, what to drive, what to eat) from outside is notoriously difficult and does not automatically grant the ability to alter one’s ideology.

    Further, your bit about Marxist doctrine and who controls the means of production probably made sense before the digital age, but now that so much of our economic life is information-based (of one sort or another) instead of material and the means of production has/have been democratized, individuals have more power than ever to create, produce, and publish. But ironically, that does not confer much economic power because the big players are now using propaganda and crowdsourcing to remove any proletariat power that digital tools award. Same thing with weapons and state monopolies on the use of force. In addition, those tools are quietly being removed or placed solely under subscription services in the cloud that make end users into revenue streams or simply coopt the user, making the user the product. That’s why all the new tablet, smartphone, laptop and desktop computer designs move everything from HDs onto networks.

    None of this will last, though. The (unacknowledged) dominant ideology of the age, at least in the West — that we can live in our heads rather than our bodies and therefore create virtual realities according to whatever wish fulfillment we desire (incipient transhumanism if you will) — cannot last much longer. Could be months, years, or decades, but the natural world in which we live is in freefall and all the fiat money and technological innovation we can imagine won’t keep us fed, housed, clothed, and entertained.

  23. I borked my URL above but fixed it this time. BTW, I got here by way of this comment:

  24. bob mcmanus

    I of course liked what ECHOecho said above a lot.

    When I said an ideology must match the material conditions I of course meant the end of Fordism, the end of modernism, and the end of mass communication. This is partly what tiqqun, TC, Hardt & Negri etc are getting at, you cannot impose a universalist egalitarian ideology on the twitter/facebook crowd, the only crowd that really counts in “The Coming Revolution.” They are not listening.

    They will do it themselves, I hope, but if we are to help the elders cannot do much more than what elders usually do…tweet them permissions and set them free.

    I will not try to inhibit them.

  25. Formerly T-Bear

    The Chambers dictionary shows ideology as:
    _Science of ideas,
    _Abstract speculation,
    _Visionary speculation,
    _A body of ideas, usu. political and/or economic, forming the basis of a national or sectarian policy
    _Way of thinking.

    Quite a load for one word to be carrying. Where are the synonyms when you need them to differentiate a specific intended use so as to not confound or confuse the casual reader with ambiguity. The Oxford Thesaurus has the synonyms for ideology:

    where Roget’s has three major categories:
    Pervading attitudes,
    System of belief,
    System of ideas.

    Ideology is broad enough to hide a good part of philosophy innit. This and subsequent posts read quite well, but lurking within is the question of which ‘ideology’ is it that is intended, the challenge is akin to verbally describing a finely cut diamond as it moves in light, the linear capabilities of language not keeping up with the dynamics presented.

    Would remark that it is disappointing that Dan Kervick cannot respond to civil comments addressed to his remarks. The NEP site Kervick writes for (ab)uses censorship for ideological purposes, perceived challenges to MMT orthodoxy have been treated as ad hominem attacks; a site well worth reading but commentators beware, past experiences have made that site a definite ‘fly-over territory’ as far as commenting there. It was informative that Kervick’s remarks went into an instantaneous Marxist lather when presented with the idea ideology, more the pavlovian foaming of a propagandist rather than an erudite response of intellect. So be it, that chance will not come again.

  26. John

    Very interesting post, I’m glad I came across it.

    You make an interesting point that relates to something I have been wondering about. You write:

    “And societies with that ideology [I think you mean a cooperative one], all other things being equal, will tend to out-compete those who believe that fear, misery and the whip are the best way to motivate people.”

    I wonder about that. I must preface the following remarks by saying that I have not intensively studied this, but why, for example, are co-operative enterprises not more prominent in the US economy? Are there reasons other than the more traditionally typical access to capital and entry barrier questions that make the co-operative model less competitive (which themselves raise nettlesome questions under a co-operative framework)?

    One issue that comes to mind is the free-rider problem. I don’t think there will be much question regarding whether there are free-riders. Who makes the decisions to identify possible free-riders? Who makes the decision to punish free-riders? How will that punishment take place (lower wages? how much lower, being fired, what type of process for firing)? Who will actually carry out punitive measures? Can the co-operative model do these things more efficiently from a product/service pricing perspective than the autocratic model? Though not empirically-based, my reaction is that the autocratic model can do this more efficiently (though efficiency and just decision-making are two different things).

    How about all that decision-making? Do the individuals in the co-operative enterprises want to engage in the time-consuming process of decision-making, will they care too? Or would the co-operative employees rather just want to put in their 8 hours and go home to coach baseball, help the kids with their school-work, etc.?

    I know there are a lot of successful co-ops out there, and I would like to see more (my personal favorite is New Belgium Brewing, whose Ranger IPA is mighty fine), and there is even a co-operative business association (, but I am still left to wonder why co-operative enterprises have not assumed a more important role in the US economy.

  27. Anthony

    Excellent discussion. I feel we have personnel visions but act more within societies norms. Enough people need to align to change things. That is brought on through voicing our thoughts.

    I also believe there is too little talk on this by current leaders.
    We have a general ideology we dont follow because of the old.

  28. lk

    Will you mention race or gender in this book of yours? Do you even have publicly presentable opinions on these two crucial issues? How can any sort of consciously constructed new ideology that claims to help people ignore these two things? Here are two important pieces:

  29. Ian Welsh

    I have discussed gender in the past, I have less to say about race, but I have discussed it at length in a couple pieces. I tend to consider the status of both as contingent on power and production relationships as well as history (trivia, or not: the status of blacks is high in China because the blacks who do go to China tend to be rich or powerful).

    My book will have at least a chapter on the family, and the way I want to structure the economy will make women vastly better off, I’ll be sure to make that clear. As for race, well, a big part of what I want to see is Africa unfucked by the way we run the global economy. I think that’s something people of color might be able to get behind. I also believe, firmly, that an economy run the way I want is better for POCs, because it cuts out a ton of the gatekeeprs and thus reduces the effect of racism.

    Racism is beyond fucking stupid, that makes it hard to deal with on an intellectual level.

  30. Ian Welsh

    Back to the top.

  31. Tom W Harris

    Google “realist left” – it’s an “Old Deal” approach that just might work.

  32. Steeleweed

    While “Deer Hunting With Jesus” put Joe Bageant in the public eye, it was his memoir, “Rainbow Pie” which spoke more directly to me and bears on the issue here. Joe grew up in rural West Virginia, within a largely self-sufficient community, what he called a “labor economy” rather than a “money economy”. Farmers produced most of what they needed and operated on very little cash. He saw his community driven from that life by regulations favoring Big Ag over small farmers, pressured into wage-slavery in support of WWII and post-war eventually , lured from “small-c conservative: production-oriented lives into eager consumerism.

    I am between the Greatest Generation and the Boomers, from an area that was at least 15 years behind the curve. Lacking personal exposure to the Great Depression, I did see its effect on people and society. It produced a very conservative outlook regarding financial issues and a very strong sense of community. The post-war boom was subdued, but followed by collapse of mining and timbering all over the West, leading to takeover of devastated small towns by ultra-wealthy as vacation homes and eventually real-estate bubbles.

    The mostly-self-sufficient life endured for several thousand years, so I’d call it a pretty successful model. When global warming and the resulting political and social chaos finally makes the global supply chain and cheap-energy lifestyle untenable, that simpler life is the only viable option. What is disturbing, is that by the time it happens, there will be few who are experienced in maintaining the more people-friendly, environment-friendly life.

  33. alyosha

    I learned sometime ago that whoever controls the stories a culture hears and believes, controls the culture. Ideology is what’s behind the stories.

    Stories are the easily digested bits of ideology, boiled down, simplified, the contradictions omitted or masked, so that even children can understand them. Stories clothe the ideology.

  34. Duder

    A big part of how we get a new ideology is by identifying and proposing a corresponding historical subject.

    Central to the effectiveness of the communist manifesto was its ability to propose a new historical figure in the proletariat. The manifesto identifies this subject and proposes a historical mission, as an anti-theological, revolutionary figure, able to remake the historical destiny (end) of humanity. Call it a new God, whatever, but this discursive feat is not simply a matter of getting everyone to believe in it. For the 19th century communists it was a question of imbuing new and imaginative historical significance into the present human condition. And then working to make such an imagination reality.

    I fear that the contemporary left, whose historical imagination ends and begins with nostalgia for the 20th century social welfare state, is not up to the monumental task it claims as destiny.

  35. shubttsadiq

    A new ideology. A new ideology. Blah, blah, blah. The fuck are you even talking about, you asshole.

    “I’m an intellectual, I AM an intellectual.”

    UGH. Stop talking.

  36. BC Nurse Prof

    Ian: You have defined ideology, but how is it that humans can generate an ideolgy and live by it, denying facts and other ideologies?

    A new theory about this is gaining traction. I have run across this and found it fascinating. How could two different genetic mutations that each result in maladaptive evolutionary fitness, when found together result in tremendous evolutionary success?

    Have a look at this YouTube video of Ajit Varki presenting this theory at a CARTA symposium earlier this year in San Diego (20 minutes).

  37. EmilianoZ

    Ian Welsh: If your ideology isn’t strong enough, doesn’t create fervent enough belief that people will die for it, then it won’t change the world.

    Neoliberalism has without a doubt changed the world. Will people die for neoliberalism? Maybe a handful of libertarians. Sure many people will die for money. Is it the same thing as dying for neoliberalism?

    I dont think neoliberalism is generating that much to-die-for enthusiasm. The strongest, most effective part of the neoliberal ideology is the TINA part. Even people who dont care much about the free markets think there is no alternative.

    Neoliberalism seems to be a minimal ideology. It’s really just a fig leave for the looting of the nation by the rich.

    Emmanuel Todd thinks the age of ideology is over. For him ideology is what replaced religion mostly in the 19th and 1st half of the 20th century. He cites 2 factors that for him killed ideologies in the postwar era.
    1) Ideologies were about building a utopia here on earth. In the postwar era, the conditions of life became pretty comfortable for most people in the West. In other words the utopia had materialized, the dreams were no longer necessary.
    2) Mass alphabetization had made the rise of ideologies possible in the 19th century. Nearly everybody had a primary education. But it’s only in the postwar era that mass higher education occurred. According to Todd, that killed ideologies too. I’m not sure why. Does he think people with a university degree have too much critical thinking to believe in a utopia?

    Now conditions of life have become wretched for many people again. But have we become too cynical for a new ideology?

  38. Hugh

    I have no problem investigating foreign interference in our politics. How about startng with Israel?

  39. Hugh

    “What is oddest about our modern ideology is the same thing that is odd about virtually all ideologies: it contradicts itself.”

    I am constantly gobsmacked by the contradictions spewed by our elites. A lot of it is hypocrisy, a lot of it is class interest, and the rest is just incoherence. Take the looming tax reform debate. First, it isn’t about reform. It’s about cutting taxes on the rich, but being sold as tax cuts for the middle class. Only problem is for most of the middle class tax decreases are cancelled out by eliminating traditional tax deductions. Taxes in the lowest taxable income bracket could go up. Meanwhile the highest, Donald Trump-level, tax bracket will decrease, but that’s not even close to the biggest gimmes for the rich. Proposed decreases in the estate tax could save rich heirs, like Trump’s kids, hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars.

    Then there is the decrease in corporate taxes to the tune of a couple trillion over ten years. Guess who owns the corporations. If you said the rich and top 10%, you win. So this is just another way to siphon money off to the rich. I’m sure you are as surprised and shocked at this as I am. Not. This is especially crazy for two reasons. The first is that the people pushing these tax decreases for the rich are exactly the same people who rail against increasing the national debt. Their only rationale is vague assurances that somehow all the growf these tax cuts for the rich and corporations will stimulate will make the math all work out, despite some 40 years of experience to the contrary. The second is that the rich and corporations are already sitting on mountains of cash, which they are not investing in the US or American jobs, but which they are using to finance stock buybacks to pump up share prices, gamble on Wall Street, and in those instances where they do build plants and create jobs, it is in China and the Pacific Rim. How will more of the same change any of that? It won’t, but I suppose to sell the con, that’s what they need to say.

  40. V. Arnold

    BC Nurse Prof
    September 27, 2017

    Enjoyed your link immensely.
    Especially the concluding remarks quoting Danny’s understanding of our self destructive nature; the cartoon was excellent.

  41. V. Arnold

    Addendum: Without getting lost in the weeds; it does seem apparent, even obvious, that not all humans are so self destructive/maladaptive as we…

  42. Hugh

    My Israel comment belonged in a different thread. Sorry.

  43. .

    The alt-right believes you get more out of some people by treating them well, others by treating them badly, and it’s silly to believe the same rules of thumb apply to all.

  44. Joan

    I too don’t see Islamism taking over in Europe; it is not an attractive faith to most secular people who are now seeking and looking for answers, from what I can tell. Anyone needing to shift from secularism to a more defined believe system can easily walk down the street and check out Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity, or Judaism if they were secular Jews. There are some scant few Europeans also looking into pre-Christian paganism and praying to older gods.

    What I do see, unfortunately, is another migrant crisis in Europe, or even a constant influx of such crises, in the decades ahead. If Islamism were to take over, it wouldn’t be from Europeans converting, but from importing a high birthrate population.

  45. someofparts

    Yesterday at the laundromat I noticed that someone had brought in old print copies of New Yorkers and the NYT Sunday magazine. It was an odd little moment because I remembered that when I was young I thought both of those publications were interesting. The surprise was discovering that now when I look at them, I can barely summon enough interest to scan the tables of content.

    Instead, knowing that both publications are conversations the extremely privileged are having with one another, I considered both of them too dishonest to waste time on. They struck me as the print equivalents of MSNBC or CNN, who have apparently trained me to tune out our misleaders.

  46. bruce wilder

    . . .we decide what reality means through a thick lens of belief. This lens picks out what is important, obscures the unimportant, and distorts everything, and most people are hardly even aware that it exists.

    You almost say it later in the essay, that “thick lens of belief” typically includes a bunch of almost purely imaginary stuff that has only a tenuous correspondence to things and relations we can individually perceive and manipulate. In a very important way, ideologies are anti-pragmatic in the way they construct and maintain a shared, socially-constructed grammar and vocabulary for symbolic manipulation of meaning.

    I looked to see if I had commented before on this essay. (I miss bob mcmanus.) I wanted to see if I had said what I often say about market liberalism: that the economy is obviously NOT organized by “markets” (since few actual, institutional markets exist) and the “market god” of neoliberalism is as imaginary as any divine inhabitants of mythical Olympus. What is weird is the way in which, despite the unreality of “the market economy”, political economy is nevertheless organized by the ideology of markets, aka neoliberalism. Handicapping the ability of most people to think clearly about the architecture of the society or the polity seems to be a critically important feature and point of leverage for an ideology as a story coordinating mass behavior.

    I would go further and suggest that every new ideology with revolutionary ambition must attack the old ideology’s secure hold on unreality. We have forgotten, but Christianity once attacked pagan superstition with a vengeance. Secular modernity emerged in the Enlightenment’s attack on Christian superstition.

    One other point: I am not a conservative, but I think Ian gets the conservative pole of ambivalence wrong in this passage:

    There are, ultimately, two dominant strategies: cooperate or compete. If you want widespread prosperity, the dominant strategy in your ideology must be cooperation, though competition has its place. And ultimately the difference between the right and the left is this: The right thinks you get more out of people by treating them badly, the left thinks you get more out of people by treating them well.

    It is far more problematic than that passage implies. There are two necessities to productive cooperation: specialization (and by extension deep investment in specialization to be productive) and organization to coordinate the specialized. Deep investment in specialization makes the specialized vulnerable to exploitation and extraction by the political force (with the threat of violence) applied to organize. There is cooperation and the fruits of successful cooperation are subject to wastage in disputes or poorly designed and managed organization (by, for example, leadership that would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven).

    “Competition” so-called is just an outcome of a successful political scheme to constrain or channel violence and elite privilege in conflicts over the allocation of resources, risks and income.

    Conservatives and authoritarians are typically reluctant to allow subaltern classes to claim rights over resources, agency in their own affairs, or the right to organize to oppose the interests of elites and for themselves.

    Where conservatives have a point, which socialists deny at their peril, is that every system of institutionalized cooperation is subject to strategic competition in the form of “gaming the system”. Hence Michel’s Iron Law among other generalities of cyclical degeneration of organization.

  47. Rebecca

    When faced, then, with a monstrous ideology, our duty is to come up with a better one, an opposing one.

    That’s the equivalent of being too competitive. A more cooperative approach deals with the issue with intelligence and sensitivity.

    The idea (the ideology, if you will) is not to get incessantly caught up in dueling binaries. If you approach the issue with the mindset of coming up with a “better, an opposing” ideology to the one you’ve identified, you’re stuck. What you oppose is what you maintain.

    Hint: You don’t want to be known as a “producer” or a “consumer” society. These are flimsy identities for a person, culture, or society (definitionally, of course, said activities go on to one degree or another).

    Perhaps the non-fiction book will be more enlightening. Or the piece on MMT, which Ian understands better than most people on earth.

    Keep coming!

  48. Plague Species

    Secular people don’t have a lot of kids. Muslims do. That alone portends a takeover all else being equal. Of course, all else isn’t equal. I see you caveated your comment with the last sentence of it and I began this comment before reading your comment entirely.

  49. Plague Species

    There’s no chance any longer for a truly organic counter ideology to manifest. The evil, malevolent “Intelligence” goons would snuff it out in its infancy or in the womb before it was born or hatched, and if not they would quickly infiltrate it and usurp it.

    If and when there is no recourse to the law any more, the evil, malevolent goons should die horrible deaths as punishment for their sins against humanity and human potential.

    Some of those goons are here in our midst interacting with us and playing a part. Constantly surveilling. Reconnoitering. Having a ball doing it, in fact. The perks of the “job.”

  50. Willy

    I once had a successful sociopath tell me: “Perception is a strange thing.” Before he proceeded to ruin my political position by puppeteering from the shadows. Everything was political to him. Everything was all about power and control. What amazed me wasn’t that he had such values, but that so many others had the inability to perceive such. In fact, the latter type of person seems to make up most of any society.

  51. Mary Bennett

    bob mcmannus, My experience of deliberate disruptors, self styled hell raisers, is that they tend to be emotionally immature attention seekers. As well as profoundly selfish beings. The “angry” teen who accidentally on purpose breaks Aunt Jane’s pretty china because OMG, fancy china, ick, doesn’t stop to think or even care that in decades of raising seven children, Aunt Jane never got to have anything pretty.

    Nor does deliberate disruption allow makers and builders to prosper. Quite the contrary seems to occur. The Russian Revolution opened space for the murderous Bolsheviks, and the French Revolution paved the way for Napoleon.

    Take down the old oppressive structures and crowds of small time sociopaths who want to Be Important Right Now immediately jump in while productive, well meaning people are still figuring out what just happened. For a based on real events picture of what can happen, may I suggest the excellent novel, Katya, by Sandra Birdsell. She is Canadian and our host has probably knows of her.

    Neo-liberalism was invented by a clique of (mostly) recently arrived Mittel European intellectuals who despised both agriculture and industry as messy and dirty things a cultivated man–they were and still are mostly are men–shouldn’t have to confront or deal with in his daily life. These guys were and are clever Trotskyist intriguers; they plotted and infiltrated. Their great strength is that they know neither restraint nor remorse and never back down. If the USA can be transformed into a commercial hub, sans such ugly necessities as making, building, growing or raising stuff, they hinted and suggested in countless publications, the right sort can get even richer than they already are and those striking unions can be put in their place for ever. The neo-liberal line appealed to the greed and snobbishness of the rich and to the social class insecurities of Republican Babbits, the auto dealership/real estate nexus which controls almost every small town and which was just then being bribed to sell out their own towns to the likes of KMart and its’ successors. Both groups were promised no more civil unrest, and both, I believe, knew of and agreed to mass impoverishment of everyone else but themselves. The voting public, or large parts of it, was sold a vision of American military greatness, and enough WWII vets were still alive to vote for bring back the glory days and targeted propaganda could be used to soothe and sway other voters. I remember my grandparents voting for Nixon in 1972 because they were “scared” of “McGovern economics”. Which is a bit odd, because I doubt that McGovern, the former seminarian, knew much of anything about economics.

    The great weakness of this ideology and of its proponents lies, I would argue, in its very lack of measure and restraint. These folks never know when enough is enough, despise all boundaries and simply won’t keep their grubby fingers out of other people’s lives. Their outrageous behavior and policies have managed to provoke the enmity of both Russia and China. I believe Putin would have liked to revive the WWII alliance, but I think Ukraine was a last straw for him.

    The tactic of disruption doesn’t threaten neo liberals, they use it themselves. What they do fear, and with reason, is non-participation of the masses. What happens when, let us say, a fourth of parents keep their children home and homeschool? One can find in almost any town, working class intellectuals, reading people used to deprivation, who would be happy to explain history or mathematics or civics to your children in return for a modest fee or even a free meal and your phone call to the right official when town authorities try to condemn their trailer house or apartment building. And they would do so without discussing sexuality or disrespecting your religion.

  52. someofparts

    Mary Bennett – I doesn’t keep the rest of us from enjoying what you post but bob mcmannus posted on 10/2013 so he probably won’t see it.

  53. Willy

    bruce wilder has implied that instead of attacking a rival ideologues ideologies, because they’re likely to go full emotional and just dig their heels in further, that we instead find common ground and try to proceed from there.

    So I ask, what about Ted Nugent? He seems a prominent spokesman for the antivax conservative ideologue. One day he publicly whines about thinking he’s dying from his covid, the next he’s making barnyard noises to describe the vaxxed. What is the common ground with people like that, besides of course singing Cat Scratch Fever?

    If another example is less controversial, less apt to lead to mindless namecalling, I may be able to provide one.

  54. Hugh

    We live in an upside down world where things increasingly don’t work This makes a lot of people mad and angry, and the only thing they hate worse than this is any attempt to fix them. So if you come up with a program or ideology that is clear and will work, it will be rejected as simplistic. And if you come up with one that is complex dealing with complex problems, it will be branded as incomprehensible. If you supply evidence to support your view, others will just make up their own and say you’re lying.

    We still think that people are guided by a certain level of self-interest, but this isn’t true or rather it is turned inside out. So people will choose things that are destructive and will destroy them and theirs, because, at least in their own minds, they will have won the argument. It’s like a passenger on the Titanic congratulating him/herself that nobody is going to tell them there are icebergs out there, as the water comes up to their nose.

    It’s like we don’t just need an army of problem solvers but an even larger one of psychiatrists and psychologists to help people accept that it is OK to solve problems.

  55. Trinity

    “There is no balance, there is just ideology.”

    I would argue there is no ideology without a defined system of values supporting it. What’s valued now? Rich white people. Stratospheric wealth. Symbols of wealth. Power over the masses, control of politicians, shareholder service over everything else. It’s a long list that also includes lying, cheating, and breaking the law (even flaunting the same). Murder, destruction of habitats, greed, we could could compile quite a list.

    Show me your ideology, and I’ll know what you value. But they don’t control what WE value. That’s our only in. We need to render them irrelevant, and the best way to do that is with a different value system, such as insisting on competition in our local market and the good that creates. (The cable companies keep all competition out, and high prices in, and they seem to have a death grip on almost every county in the US.)

    A strong value system is power. And the last thing we want to do is organize, because they are all infiltrated and destroyed from within, in the same way we are propagandized and divided on other topics.

    As Rebecca pointed out, creating a dichotomous ideology will merely elicit a response, and not a good one. I would bet they (or their minions) have game planned for every possible scenario we could dream up.

    I haven’t read all the responses yet, but the best one so far is by Tom Hickey dated October 23, 2013. I highly recommend it. I’m not entirely sure what he means by “the scale of emergent problems is continually increasing” except in the case of forcings or stresses on the system (observed climate change is a good example of emergent problems increasing in scale) so I will have to think about it some more. What I’m wondering is if that statement is NOT true for stable (statistically stationary) systems.

    We are going to have to change something, and the only thing we can change is ourselves. Becoming more “agile” as Hickey wrote in 2013, and also solving problems at the scale we do control: ourselves and our communities. (Which is exactly why the Koch Keystone Kops keep showing up at county and local school board meetings). The Keystone Kops are powerless when a strong alternative value system is already in place. And it could be argued that a strong alternate value system is a stronger community, and might also help reduce our existential fears.

    In other words, define your ideology but based on a set of values different from the one in which we are already embedded.

  56. Mark Pontin

    Someofparts: ‘Yesterday at the laundromat I noticed that someone had brought in old print copies of New Yorkers and the NYT Sunday magazine. … I remembered that when I was young I thought … those publications were interesting … now when I look at them, I can barely summon enough interest to scan the tables of content … I considered both of them too dishonest to waste time on. They struck me as the print equivalents of MSNBC or CNN’

    You were right then and you’re right now. Both publications are incredibly degraded from what they were.

    The NYT has always been an an establishment mouthpiece, of course, and thus somewhat dishonest. Nevertheless, I had the experience of reading some old NYT book reviews from the 1970s recently, because I was curious about what mainstream reviewers had thought of certain novels when they came out. So it wasn’t what I was looking to see, but I was immediately struck by how much smarter and better-written some of the writing was then than now.

    As for the NEW YORKER, I used to read that fairly regularly from the 1970s through to the early 2000s. Say what you like about Shawn and his mandarin tendencies, the magazine used to be a remarkably idiosyncratic production, and in the 1970s you’d sometimes have whole issues essentially given over to one piece, as with George Trow jr.’s ‘In the Context of No Context,’ which is brilliant in places and was quite astute about where the culture was headed. True: alongside that, you’d also have John McPhee pieces which might feel worthy but tedious. (Though not all John McPhee is that.) The fiction writers might have been bourgeois types like Updike, Cheever, or Ann Beatty , but they were mostly substantial (honestly, Updike was often the least of them). Even the 1990s NEW YORKER under Tina Brown might have been vulgar. But it was vulgar with some personality and still plenty of good writing.

    Nowadays all that’s gone. Under Remnick, it’s become this plodding, dumb PMC-lifestyle accessory written by people who seem to be not very intelligent or even knowledgable about anything for readers of the same kind. Especially when they try to cover something science-related, when it’s pathetic: there’s a Rivka Galchen article on nuclear fusion as a potential savior from climate change (!?!) that so absolutely fails to know what the relevant questions are to ask, that the consistent incompetence of the piece is a kind of achievement. Of course, all the current NEW YORKER writers are ‘woke’.

    I recently looked at some old NYT reviews and reporting from the 1970s

  57. someofparts

    One of the real treasures on my bookshelf is something it sounds like you would enjoy. It is a collection of articles from The New Republic from 1914-1964. The list of contributors is breathtaking. My parents loved to read and talk about events of the day and now I think they were lucky to live in the heyday of such writing.

  58. bruce wilder

    So many “events” of our day are just made-up shit, what would be the point of discussing any of it!?!

  59. someofparts

    Watched the Braves shellack Milwaukee this afternoon and was thinking how fine it would be if our government were as competent as some of our ball clubs.

  60. Soredemos

    @Mary Bennett

    “The Bolsheviks didn’t build anything” is a pretty wild take.

  61. Soredemos

    @Mark Pontin

    It’s pretty hard to find American political periodicals that are worth anything anymore. The Baffler is consistently good. In These Times is decent. Current Affairs was mostly good, despite how profoundly annoying Nathan Robinson is, but it’s probably dead now because when push came to shove his ego wouldn’t allow him to actually commit to socialism in the workplace. Boston Review offers up good pieces surprisingly often.

    Teen Vogue (!) legitimately has consistently better and more progressive politics than most of the PMC liberal rags, including The New Republic and Mother Jones.

  62. Plague Species

    So many “events” of our day are just made-up shit, what would be the point of discussing any of it!?!

    Best comment in this thread. It speaks to powerlessness that we’re relegated to the unrealities they create for us to discuss but hey, it’s an opportunity for folks like Astrid to show off their cut and paste knowledge. So much knowledge acquisition and yet no one can find a way out of the paper bag we’re in. That about sizes it up.

    We’ve passed peak reading and analyzing. We know all there is to know of our current predicament and conundrum. More reading and analyzing at this point is mere mental masturbation at best intellectual peacockism at worst and outside of that, a waste of precious time considering how little time is left.

    It’s pretty hard to find American political periodicals that are worth anything anymore. The Baffler is consistently good. In These Times is decent. Current Affairs was mostly good, despite how profoundly annoying Nathan Robinson is, but it’s probably dead now because when push came to shove his ego wouldn’t allow him to actually commit to socialism in the workplace. Boston Review offers up good pieces surprisingly often.

  63. someofparts

    Yep. Teen Vogue has a reporter assigned to cover labor issues. I’ve also found American Prospect and ProPublica to be good.

  64. Plague Species

    Are you joking? You actually “read” Teen Vogue? Some of you are, well, let’s just say weird. Bizarre, actually. Teen Vogue is a mainstream publication and as such it is containment and perception management. Its purpose is to catch possible inquisitive minds early and entrap them behind a guise of independence and objectivity.

    Do any of you really believe a new ideology will miraculously arise from Teen Vogue or anything like it? Get out of here with that nonsense. No new ideology could arise, all else being equal but it’s not, from the edifice of the current entrenched ideology. That’s as basic as gravity.

    Of course, it you lay out your super duper new and improved ideology here or anywhere, Chris Wray and Company is listening and watching and ready to pounce. He and his ilk may not be able to find Brian Laundry, it’s not their REAL job afterall, but they sure as hell are competent at snuffing out potential budding ideologies by assassinating them before they gain ground or usurping them from the inside out if they miraculously manifest beyond that first level of containment.

  65. Astrid

    Every publication, including The Jacobin and The Grayzone, has things that they will not say or cover. Look at what happened to the Intercept (whatever you think of Glenn Greenwald, he definitely has more integrity than what’s left there), Truthdig, and The Real News Network. It’s no longer possible to do self supporting (as in no billionaires or at least centimillionaire owner) reporting except at a very very low budget level. It’s a very precarious and frankly dangerous lifestyle and I try to throw a couple bucks their way and hope others do as well. As for honesty in news coverage, I’d rather trust RT or CGTN these days, they do not tell the whole story (often they just don’t cover what the state doesn’t want to talk about) but they don’t seem to manufacture completely false stories the way that BBC, CNN, and most other Western MSM outlets regularly do. And Going Underground on RT is the best interview show I’ve ever seen.

    Mainstreamish publications may accidentally allow some good reporting to happen, but they will correct that mistake sooner or later. I admit that I am lazy and mostly let’s Naked Capitalism digest it for me. Even then there’s plenty of chaff that gets closed in 15 seconds, and Yves has some profoundly elitist, credentialist, arguments from authority tendencies. She really doesn’t “get” people who are different from her, even the Japanese and Aussies that she worked years with, she will throw in stereotypes that were dated even when she learned them decades ago. And her hatred and profound lack of curiosity about the Chinese, not even making a minimal effort to substantiate the NED linked and self discrediting sources for the vast majority Uyghur genocide and Hong Kong protest stories, certainly makes me wonder how she filters other topics where I don’t have enough familiarity to question the narrative she’s sticking to.

    I too let my subscription to The New Yorker other mainstream liberal publications in the early 2000s, and stopped listening to NPR and reading NYT outside of lifestyle (mostly to keep up with the ridiculous obsessions of my peers) and WaPo outside of weather coverage (the Capital Weather Gang has the best general weather coverage in the country and saved me some horrific commutes). It just became too blah and boring and dishonest, even to this born and bred PMCer. And their transparent even then bias on Israel and Iraq was already filling me with slam magazine across the room rage on a regular basis.

  66. Astrid

    Teen Vogue had some good labor reporting indeed, but it’s noticeable what doesn’t get through. And it gets cluttered with esoteric identity politics du jour. Payday Report does amazing work on the topic with basically zero resources and deserves all the support it can get.

  67. Hugh

    In the aughts, there was a lot of crossover between Democratic and progressive sites, This fell apart in the 2008 election and after Obama took office. The Democratic sites tended to close up shop, close comments, or take an even more “our way or the highway” response to progressives. Most of the progressive blogosphere just disappeared or sold out, or tried to sell out. Ian’s blog is one of the few that tried to take up and continue the progressive tradition. It’s funny though how some others continued to wheel and deal. Glenn Greenwald is a kook, a sellout, a has been. Yet he gets regularly trotted out as some kind of a continuator of progressivism even though he never was one, he sold out to a billionaire, he sat on the Snowden files until they faded into oblivion, and best of all, even though he’ll still vent against those mean ole Democrats, he completely missed all four years of Trump. I’m talking silence, AWOL, gone fishing, missing in (non)action. You would hardly know Trump was or had been President if you read Mr. Integrity Greenwald. Taibbi continued to do his thing but that was the problem. It was a thing, a schtick. This is silly, that’s corrupt, but what’s the plan? There wasn’t one. As for the MSM, it is still owned by big corporations and billionaires. It’s become even more partisan, mostly because conflict sells, and opinion is cheaper to do than reporting.

  68. bruce wilder

    Can we talk about ideology some more? Not the imaginary ideology we might have wished for a decade ago, but the ideology on offer now: the ideology of the long emergency?

    Ideologies, I submit for your consideration, are about conferring legitimacy. The U.S., its global imperium and the neoliberal hypocrisy are in the midst of an acute legitimacy crisis.

    The response to COVID is a shambles now. A new family of rapidly mutating, highly contagious disease is globally endemic and the globalized economy built over the last 45 years is teetering on the verge of financial and logistic collapse. Tomorrow many states and localities will mark, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

    The long climate emergency continues to loom larger — the natural world never quite degenerating fast enough to justify the panic recommended by some and the techno-optimism bubble never bursting and so never releasing for real policy action those caught in the climate-change/renewables grift. Hugh is convinced that TDS is a valuable political litmus test, political insanity being an indication of moral integrity!

    Neoliberalism stumbles forward, still the favored apology for doing the work of cutting taxes for billionaires, while the American two-party system tries to sort itself into a Party of Parasites and a Party of Predators.

  69. Soredemos


    Literally nothing you said here about naked capitalism is true. Authoritarian? They have a weird way of showing it, with their vocal criticisms of vaccine mandates.

    And they don’t don’t blindly accept either the Hong Kong or Xinjiang narratives. Their takes are much more nuanced than that. I’m sure you think Hong Kong was a fake ‘color revolution’ engineered by the CIA, but the fact remains that it had genuine widespread support there, including things like residents hiding protestors in their apartments. As for Xinjiang, the Chinese government is doing *something* to them, though it falls far short of genocide. The Chinese government itself openly admits to deploying Party agents to live with Uyghur families, which is at minimum deeply disturbing.

  70. Soredemos


    Greenwald is a huge dick. He’s also a genuine journalist with significant, and continuing, accomplishments. I don’t agree with everything he says; he has an arrogant and stubborn streak that at times causes him to weigh in on topics he has no understanding of, and not infrequently he can have bad takes that he then turns into weird hills to die on. And despite being married to a socialist he seems habitually oblivious to any distinction between liberals and the left. A recent episode had him misrepresenting Nathan Robinson as some sort of innocent victim being unfairly attacked by the ‘liberal left’, which is an astonishingly bad take. But then, if Greenwald is any singular thing, he a libertarian, which is why he’s ruthless about government crimes but has little if anything to say about corporations and teams up with billionaires. So of course his inclination is to side with the ‘self-made’ business owner in a labor dispute.

    It’s a very clear sign of someone’s huge bias and cognitive dissonance when they just dismiss Greenwald. He’s a pretty unlikable douche in many ways. He’s also undeniably important, and his critiques frequently valid.

  71. Mark Pontin

    Bruce W: ‘So many “events” of our day are just made-up shit, what would be the point of discussing any of it!?!’

    One point would be discussing the big, real things they _aren’t_ talking about that aren’t made-up shit, and that will never be talked about if the status quo types have their way.

    Like, for instance, I’ve never seen any remotely truthful media discussion of the full mechanics of the 2008 bailout/Wall Street coup and the very active criminal complicity of the Obama administration in fronting for that coup. It was world-historical level corruption and in the fairly short term it — as much as any other particular factor — is what’s gutted the American empire with the populace’s outrage (the reasons assiduously undiscussed or scapegoated in the MSM) at it.

    Like I don’t see any discussion now that alongside humanity’s hydrocarbon release we’re inadvertently geoengineering with industrial particulate release, so we’ve now reached the point where to the very extent that we draw down greenhouse gas release the temperature will go up. That’s what happened after the GFC in 2008, and why we’ve seen the uptick in extreme climate events in the last year alongside such drawdown of greenhouse gas release as occurred because of the COVID19 pandemic. Now, though, the Siberian permafrost has started to melt, with all the methane release that implies.

    Like that.

    someofparts: ‘Teen Vogue (!) legitimately has consistently better and more progressive politics than most of the PMC liberal rags.’

    For real. And it’s a Conde Nast rag, yet. Interesting times.

    Astrid: ‘Every publication, including The Jacobin and The Grayzone, has things that they will not say or cover.’

    It’s always been that way. I used to be a journalist, though for higher-end, tech-science-business mags like MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW, RED HERRING, ARS TECHNICA, and such. But it all started getting a lot worse — the things you couldn’t say because they’d just be edited and you’d be out the door if you wrote them twice — till in 2008-2010 I couldn’t take it any more. I cannot imagine what the corrupting, brain-destroying process of working for the NYT either in the Judith Miller days or now would be like. Although actually I can, and anybody who chooses to destroy themselves that way probably deserves it.

    The answer is to freelance and pick and choose among the outlets where they might let through what you want to say. But ….

    Astrid: ‘It’s no longer possible to do self supporting (as in no billionaires or at least centimillionaire owner) reporting except at a very very low budget level.’

    Yup. Immiserating and very stressful in its own way.

  72. Mark Pontin

    @ Soredemos —

    Astrid is correct about naked capitalism.

    Authoritarian? Yes, to some extent. Y. Smith/Susan Webber is a neoliberal-lite Karen. If one dissents in any serious way from her sometimes extremely ignorant opinions she flips. Then, if she’s losing the argument — and she’s not as bright as she thinks she is — she tears the offending party’s comments out.

    NC is a useful aggregator. But in the end — except for very occasional reporting by Yves on Calpers, H. Horan on the Uber ponzi, and analysis by Lambert S — it does NO investigative reporting whatsoever. It is to that extent parasitic, in the sense that Y. Smith is getting a free ride on the sources that do carry out investigative journalism or real analysis.

  73. Hugh

    It used to be at a place like firedoglake that the comments were often more interesting than the posts because you would almost always learn something new from them. After FDL faded out, Naked Capitalism took up the slack and a lot of FDL refugees. It had a narrower range but after the 2008 meltdown still interesting and informative as were the comments. But then she just developed too many no-go subjects, like MMT and Russia, that seemed to go to uncritical, even goofy extremes. Now I find the comments unreadable and if it didn’t have its news aggregations posts, I probably wouldn’t go there at all.

  74. Astrid


    I specifically meant that Yves habitually appeal to authority rather than argue her case. She regularly says “so and so is a doctor with accreditation from XYZ” or “so and so is a high level consultant working in China for several years (not currently, and not multiples) and they say otherwise, so you who cites reporting by people living there now must be dishonest and trolling”. Once she closes hey mind to a topic, without even exploring the topic, she’s done and jumps to banning anyone who disagrees as a troll.

    There is definitely some local support for Hong Kong protesters. But the Western media don’t touch on the numerous videos where the leaders are pro-violence and racist against all mainlanders and people who are supportive of Lam and the PRC. There are numerous reports that people in Hong Kong (esp. Mainlanders and Indians and even Taiwanese who don’t speak Cantonese) were legitimately afraid of the thuggish behavior of the black shirts. So it’s not all AstroTurf, but nor is there the universal anti-CPC sentiment reported in the west. It’s like saying January 6 was a universally supported response against the US government.

    As for what’s happening in Xinjiang. There is definitely heightened security, but given the number of radicalized Uyghur attacks against other Uyghurs in Xinjiang, fighting as ISIS in Syria and now Afghanistan, and various terrorist attacks on Chinese targets, what do you propose as a reasonable and proportionate response? It may not be all friendly job training schools and women’s right as presented by the Chinese, but can you honestly say that the vast majority of Uyghurs are better off under ETIM than the Chinese? What gives US and USians, who can’t even find the place on the map, the moral authority to tell other countries how to manage their internal security situation, against terrorists nurtured by Saudi $ and NED propaganda?

    As for CPC cadres living with local families in underdeveloped areas, it’s been going on since 1949. It’s a strategy to help bring up development standards in backwards areas and also educate CPC cadres by living amongst poor peasants. I’m sure there are propaganda and social control aspects to it (much like all missionary work), but it’s not more nefarious than that.

  75. different clue

    Perhaps a place to look for chunks of thought and perception to make an ideology of living decently for the future and avoiding worst outcomes would be the overall ideologies and mental sub-routines of societies organized for achieving a decent life for most of their members. The New Deal period was one such period and perhaps the record of the thinking of that time should be mined for old-but-good thoughts and perceptions to work into whatever new ideology is emerging.

    One whole group of peoples down through time who could be looked at for beneficial life-maintainance-encouraging ideologies are the Indian Nations. They are almost never thought of as a place to go for some real thinking. But they are still here and still thinking. Their ideologies led them to make large parts of this continent a very life-rich place at the time of European entry. Perhaps crafting our own version of those parts of those ideologies we can handle could help us re-enhance the life-supporting capacity of this land.

    Here is a talk Oren Lyons gave once at the U N, I think. It is played over a backdrop of “mystical music” and “inspirational video footage”, to make the message seem less tough, perhaps. Here is the link.

    Some time ago a Haudenosaunee ( Iroquois League) delegation gave presentations to a U N gathering which they also wrote up and published as a book called A Basic Call To Consciousness: The Haudenosaunee Address To The Western World. I am having trouble finding a pdf version and it may be that one must buy the book or borrow it from a library, which is only fair. ( I bought a copy which i still have somewhere).
    Here is a pdf teaser which allows a very few pages to actually be seen.

    Here’s a link which seems to offer the opportunity to create yourself a “free account” which would allow you to read this and other books on e-file. Since i am not a digital person I don’t know whether to trust this or not.

    Enough rooting around has found this link to some of the actual material in that book.
    ( hopefully this link will work).

  76. Astrid

    Just add to Hong Kong, as I made a trip to Mainland China in fall of 2019, at the tail end of that mess. I know plenty of Mainlanders who are privately very critical of various aspects of the CPC and Chinese government/society. Nobody thought the protesters were reasonable or even had legitimate claims. The protesters turned pro-Hong Kong people, who were open to attending school or investing there, strongly against doing so. The universal sentiment was that they were despoiling their own nest out of incomprehensible stupidity. Perhaps the false consciousness of jiayangguizi (fake foreign devils) who think chasing the approval of the West will make them superior to people who share their genes and heritage.

    If you look at the national extradition law that the black shirts were protesting, it was a very restricted and reasonable law. It permitted extradition of persons abroad only for things that were considered crimes in Hong Kong, if no death sentence would be involved, and only with express approval of Hong Kong’s executive. These are laws that are pretty universal world wide and certainly nothing like the US’s long arm jurisdiction. Protesting such a law, especially in light of the tragic murder that sparked it, is like protesting mask mandates and border quarantines for Covid. A whole lot of anger for time tested, common sense provisions for protecting the general public. It was intentionally stoked by anti-Chinese plutocrats such as the owner of Apple Daily (who has been publishing intensely seditious and racist content against Mainlanders for years) to cause trouble. There was no legitimate reason to protest it except that they wanted to protest, and eventually to riot. Whites in Hong Kong got a false picture because most were already anti-Mainlanders, most did not speak/read the local language and consumed anti-PRC English media, were not targeted by the violence, and the locals were afraid to speak out due to the violent and destructive behavior of the protesters. As often as not, the “I know because I lived there” meant they actually lived there 5 or 15 years ago, so they have no idea what’s actually happening in the ground at that moment.

    That the left in the west is so fully taken in by a narrative invented by MSM/governments that they already know lied to them on everything that mattered in the last 30-40 years, speaks to their pathetic state. Completely coopted on this and who knows what else. Given the lack of resources by alternative voices and their intense distrust of non-Western media sources as propaganda (it may well be, but so is Western MSM), the left is intentionally left going in “woke” circles in a media driven fog of ignorance.

  77. Willy

    @ different clue: The New Deal period was one such period and perhaps the record of the thinking of that time should be mined for old-but-good thoughts and perceptions to work into whatever new ideology is emerging.

    Solving problems which the powerless majority cannot solve themselves? Making sure the PTB share fertile ground with the less corrupted and institutionalized masses? Rome had its Republic, its Five Good Emperors, then a Renaissance. Hell, even the Ottomans had their good sultans. During all those periods it was certainly good to be friends with the king, but those kings also demanded competency. And a fair amount of integrity. I think you speak of an age where ideology isn’t a mask for corruption.

    And then, we need a direction in which to drive towards. While it’s obvious progressives enjoy debating solutions more than conservatives do, that strength can also be turned into weakness in a corruption-owned world. Progs can be led into endless bickering, going in circles, round and round, I mean.

  78. Hugh

    Shorter Astrid: China is wonder-wonder-wonderful. If the US does it, terrible, terrible, terrible. But if China does it, sparkle ponies for everyone. Other than letting us know what the latest Chinese propaganda line is, there is no point to it.

  79. different clue

    As I read the Reddit, I see a ” reddit-drama” entry about a reddit-subthread blow-up . . . specifically on the Late Stage Capitalism sub-reddit.

    I just found it so I haven’t read it yet. But it seems as if it will be interesting so I offer it just in case.

  80. different clue


    One weakness of many progressives is that they are spiteful, envious, jealous, mean, petty, small, etc. Many of them only want to be the Head Lenin In Charge. It has been referred to as “sectarianism”. That is one reason I am not a progressive, because I have smelled their nasty meanness up close. I left them rooting around in their own perceptual and behavioral garbage cans. Let them stay there and fight over who gets to be King of the Garbage.

    There is a way around that. Different groups of change-seekers can find different theories of change to support and act on. They can report back to eachother from time to time as to what seems to be working and what seems not to be. As long as they accept that ” don’t convert, don’t missionize, don’t poach or recruit from eachother” ethic, that approach can work. But if they get infiltrated and subverted by the Head Lenin In Charge wannabes, then they will go nowhere and achieve nothing yet again.

    That is a choice which change-seekers have.

  81. Soredemos


    Russia and criticism of MMT are not no-go subjects. It’s just that no one ever offers up anything on either of them that aren’t pure trash. MMT especially I have yet to see a single good faith critic of. Literally every attempt at criticizing it I’ve seen anywhere reads like the person hadn’t even gotten three paragraphs into one of the (many; MMTers cannot be accused of not sufficiently making their views known) MMT summaries.


    Sorry, but you really are just coming across as a China shill. Your arguments basically read like a retread of 19th century European colonialism apologia. Beijing shouldn’t even be in Xinjiang. That’s far behind the territory it can stake a meaningful Han claim to.

  82. Soredemos

    @Mark Pontin

    Claiming she’s a neoliberal of any kind is 100% bullshit.

    Also you’re basically saying that aside from all the original reporting they do, they do no original reporting.

  83. Astrid


    I don’t care how I come across here. There people who are interested and curious seem to be listening, the others will hold onto their prejuidices even though I provide some openings for them to investigate for themselves. Maybe they (you) will investigate, maybe not. I can’t measure my value based on what others do, I can only say what feels true to me. I am ready to learn I’m wrong, but none of the strongly anti-China people (you are not one at all, though some of your words I strongly disagree with) here manage that. They just exposed themselves as ugly bigots who will threaten and intimidate me, project wild fantasies about my motivations and origins, when I am pretty upfront about my motives and experience.

    I made a case. Might be good, might be bad. I don’t think you did at all, except to recoil into fairly baseless prejuidices. Rather than answering my question or look at what ETIM does to other Uyghurs or Syria or just did in Afghanistan (and recently did in Pakistan), perhaps engage in a discussion about the limits of national security versus regional cultural identity (though again, the Uyghur separatist movement appear largely motivated by Saudi style Wahabbi Islam that is alien to traditionally more relaxed Uyghur culture), you deflect with a sweeping statement about how the Chinese don’t belong there.

    The Qing directly governed Tibet and area of Xinjiang for the entirety of their dynasty. There was considerable commerce and involvement between core Han China and the regions since Tang dynasty. Tibet became independent only due to British machinations and the Younghusband Expedition, and the intervening 50 years or so were even more oppressive for the serfs than during the Qing times. Similarly, ETIM is claiming all of Xinjiang, even though northern Xinjiang is Altai and Mongol peoples, with no cultural affinity with the Muslim Turkic south Xinjiang. So when you say your broad statement, who belongs anywhere? Do whites belong anywhere outside of Europe? Ditto Asians their specific pockets of Asia (what of Singapore?). Do you want to roll it all humans back to the Rift Valley and reclaim Eurasia and Americas for the wonderful ice age megafauna? I can cosign that if you want to make that argument.

    China’s arrangement for Xinjiang, Tibet, Guangxi, and numerous other “autonomous” regions is similar to what the Soviets did with their Republics and not so distant from what India arranged with Bhutan and Nepal. As far as I see, there is heightened security, but no evidence of discussion or actual cultural genocide, in the order of Modi’s “democratic” India is doing in Kashmir or Bolsanaro’s “democratic” Brasil is doing to Amerindians in the Amazon basin. How real that autonomy may be debatable. But there’s no question that it holds onto the territories primarily to ensure its borders security and alternative of Saudi allied or India supported terrorist states is never acceptable to China, anymore than Iran backed Michigan or China backed Nuevo Mexico would be acceptable to the US.

    I don’t expect you to agree with me on China but this is how I see it. I see plenty of mistakes in CPC’s past, plenty of pitfalls in their present, and many future dangers including actual Western style imperialism (which the Chinese have largely evaded because of their geography and steppe dwelling neighbors) and climate change. But I also see a country that hasn’t fought a hot war in 40 years. That does not assasinate or subvert governments in other countries. That dramatically improved the lives of vast majority of its people, if often by coercive means and many there still lead lives of quiet desperation. The CPC legitimately earned it’s overwhelming support of its populace. That has steadfastly maintained the same claims to Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and the SCS islands for 70 years, and peacefully negotiated most of its boundaries with it’s neighbors including giving up most of the Qing heartland in eastern Russia and Mongolia.

    That gives me hope that they are reasonable, and perhaps capable of improvement. It’s not paradise, not even close. But for now, it seems like a much more lawful and better “big country” than anything out of the Anglosphere or most of Europe.

  84. Astrid

    On Yves. I don’t agree with Mark Pontin on much, but Yves is indeed a neoliberal-lite. She fondly speaks of the early 1980s as her standard for institute rectitude. She may publish links to many anti-imperialists and Marxist but she absolutely is not one. She just wants a kinder, gentler US capitalism circa 1978. Nevermind the number of leftist world leaders assassinated or couped, right wing dictators installed, brown people dead and maimed, labor movements crushed, etc., by that point. Her reasoning never transcends her class and education, I can almost detect the u-turn she makes when she hits the boundaries of her Overton Window.

    She’s basically Elizabeth Warren with better credentials and possibly even worse bedside manners. Doesn’t mean she’s not important or valuable to the left as she is, but she is also a neo-liberal. I don’t think her digesting is cannibalizing on original reporting though. It’s just highly potentially interesting stories and sources. Lots of sites that I came to value more than NC started with a link from there. I think she’s good for this ecosystem.

  85. Astrid

    On 19th century colonialism, there’s a big difference between Austria claiming Hungary or UK claiming Scotland, and Belgium claiming the Congo. While the former claims are ongoing debatable and open to future evolution, they are completely different from European colonialism against brown people an ocean away from their heartland, where there interest is exclusively merchantilism exploitation.

    I will restate that outside of four individuals who so frequently abused me previously that I now always skip their comments entirely, I am quite open to hearing sound arguments that China should indeed leave Xinjiang and doing so would be a positive for people of Xinjiang and/or China. But I have to hear a convincing argument and what you’ve said, does not constitute anything like that.

  86. Soredemos


    Shorter Astrid: colonialism is okay if it’s close to home and recent(ish). I especially like the justification for Tibet; ‘the Qing dynasty semi-ruled it, so China ruling it now is okay’. Pleased to be ignoring the Tibetan polity that was there for a thousand years or more before the Qing. Yes, actually, the English should get the hell out of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (two out three of those seem inevitable, largely due to the self-inflicted blow of the Brexit retardation).

    And, genuinely, neither you nor Pontin know what the hell you’re talking about vis a vis naked capitalism. Smith is 100% anti-neoliberalism. A significant portion of that sites postings are explorations of how much neoliberalism sucks. Literally just yesterday they had a post (some of the original reporting Pontin claims mostly doesn’t exist. He must really hate Welsh, by the way, because Welsh does literally zero original reporting) about how Chile’s privatized pension system is collapsing.

    You could argue that she’s for some heavily regulated form of capitalism, she very well may be. Her point about a ‘better’ version of Wall Street is that she had experience with it when people working there had values other than pure profit seeking, before the cancer of the Powell Memo had completely metastasized. She’s at minimum a social democrat, if not any kind of communist (Strether has always struck me as some sort of communist), and she’s also very clear that there are severe limitations to what even a well regulated capitalism can handle. It can’t handle the climate crisis. Smith has also repeatedly had outright praise for the efficacy of early Soviet centralization, and clearly thinks we need something akin to that level of central planning to even hope to deal with the climate problem.

    I don’t care if anyone dislikes naked capitalism. I do care if they dislike it for nonsense reasons.

  87. Astrid


    If you want to argue for more regional self determination, have at it. I don’t happen to agree that it’s logical in Tibet or Xinjiang because:

    1. The people of the region would simply be pawns in the central Asia Great Game, see -stans or Kurds. European style (and Canadian style) federalism with peoples that they’re somewhat differentiated from isn’t a great sacrifice for living under China and not, say, the US supported Uzebek government.

    2. Have you actually traveled to either region and talked to people living there, as opposed to exiles who have very specific interests against the PRC? I never saw that hostility in traveling in Tibetan areas. Even though I don’t know Xinjiang directly, it’s hard to fathom that they prefer their current security and relative prosperity to their lives pre-1949. Yeah, there’s a sliver of a chance that they might have gotten really lucky and somehow ended up with the Wangchucks, but that’s definitely not going to happen with the NED supported World Uyghur Congress or the ETIM Wahbbi terrorists. Why is it that millions of tourists, including Western tourists pre-2020, and nobody actually found anything more substantial than a tense security situation, justified by Wahbbi terrorists who killed thousands of Uyghurs (and Chinese and Mongols and Hui).

    3. You haven’t touched on the Nanjiang/Beijiang differentiation I mentioned. ETIM is claiming areas that aren’t Turkic or Muslim. And what about the Han who settled there already, what rights do they have?

    4. Is there a reason why the autonomy and cultural promotion that the PRC already gives to their ethic minorities is insufficient, and each group must go it alone? The rights and desires of mixed populations, in Northern Ireland or Donbas, is messy enough. Is smaller independence actually guaranteeing better right than big federated?

    5. Even assuming that the Uighurs in Nanjiang actually prefers to become a -stan, something I see zero credible evidence for, how is the West’s sanctions and spreading through debunked lies by WUC liars and ASPI actually helping the Uighurs in any way? Is it not exactly the stand taken by Cuban exiles in Miami against Cubans in Cuban?

  88. Astrid

    If you want to establish the basis for a fairer world where people are less oppressed by national governments and multinational corporations, then work on establishing that foundation. Take down the US’s evil imperialist regime, disarm everybody, take away all large accumulations of wealth, make food, education, security, and health (but not unlimited right to procreate or impose values in other people) universal human rights for every person alive, build a UN that actually cares for people and the planet, then maybe we can stop talking about ethnic identities altogether and just talk about people being good to each other.

    Otherwise you’re just taking one kind of tyranny for another, and my opinion is that your preference is demonstrably worse than the status quo in China right now.

  89. Astrid

    You’re inferring Yves thinks like Michael Hudson and some of the Marxists who occasionally publish on her site. Yes, I see that as a great positive that she brings to the world, as a platform and aggregator of relatively progressives thinking.

    But if you read what Yves writes, she is not left or Marxist. It’s1978 capitalist, mildly Keynesian and certainly better than what we have today, but she loves the market and believe it can be fixed. Yves and Warren believe in kinder, gentler capitalism.

    I don’t think it’s unfair to call what she believes in neoliberal-lite. She doesn’t get it. And she likely never will because she thinks she’s too smart to listen.

  90. Jim Harmon

    Even shorter Astrid: China rox and Amerika sux.

  91. Astrid

    Relatively short Jim Harmon; Astrid said something in defense of Chinese actions (citing regional experiences, histories, her own experience, and plenty of negatives of Chinese governance, etc.), therefore she must be a China shill. Thought stopper identified, further critical thinking disengaged.

    I guess that’s why you all keep voting Democrat no matter what they do.

    Horse dewormer

  92. Astrid

    And if you want to see why smaller is often not better, SNP lawfare prosecution of Alex Salmond and Craig Murray, is an example of what happens in the real world if independence is pursued without justice.

    Another example is AUKUS, which is more about creating a Perth nuclear submariner base in case the Chagos Islanders get to enforce their claims on Diego Garcia, than security and subs for Australia. What Sweden and Australia and the UK did for the US on Assange

    The small local elite can be easily bribed with small amounts of cash or pressured by a bigger regional player or hegemon due jour.

    Even what we think of as minnows can be just as bad to smaller minnows. A while back I had a vacation in Belize and everybody we met talked about Guatamalan belligerence (driven by land hunger for the relatively well forested and pristine Belize). Apparently every Guatamalan politician is obligated to talk loudly about annexing Belize, a country that speaks a different language and has a very different recent (past 400 years) history.

    And then there’s Israel, if ever a posterboy for why small is not better and the dark side of small ethnostates. That’s the situation Soredemos’s argument puts the non-Uyghur/Tibetan population in, if there’s no framework to guarantee and enforce their rights in an independent state. USians have no apprehension of the gnarled complexity of even rather small states. For Tibet, Amdo is very different from Kham, as well as Monpas and other smaller groups within the Tibetan umbrella. There are multiple sects of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Bon and animism practices. The Dalai Lama simply represents one strain of many, and based on past actions, those around him are not geared towards good governance or tolerance of dissident sects.

    And again, there’s no empirical evidence that most Tibetans and Uyghurs in their homeland want independence for themselves. They are comparatively prosperous, well integrated, and given substantial help (genuine poverty alleviation efforts, affirmative action in education that goes beyond college admissions and include bringing in highly qualified teachers from coastal areas, some of whom may be CPC members “embedded” with local families) to advance within China.

    They may dislike certain aspects of Chinese governance (if you literally believe Dalai is a living God who deserves supreme temporal authority, then living under the Chinese will never make you happy), but I’m guessing they are overall far more satisfied than the average USian with their “democracy”.

  93. Soredemos


    Wow. You honestly don’t see the massive difference between the Keynesian post-war consensus and neoliberalism? The former isn’t a ‘lite’ version of the latter; neoliberalism represented a massive, radical break with what had dominated for about the previous thirty years.

    Smith is some form of capitalism, saying she is is not some gotcha observation. But saying that makes her a lesser version of a neoliberal is a profoundly moronic statement.

  94. Astrid


    To someone who no longer believes in the post-WWII consensus, neoliberalism in its current manifestation is just acceleration of already unsustainable, brutal, and imperialist liberal consensus. All the seeds of terribleness were already there by 1960, neoliberalism was just ripping off the mask and moving it CONUS-ward, and up the socioeconomic chain.

    It’s vast for the affected American working class. The rest of the world just laughs and laughs, as the brutality they experienced for centuries visits the Metropole.

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