Monthly Archives: May 2016

Breaking the feedback loop

Certain media, subgenres, subcultures, etc. draw on certain emotions or states of mind. Take the Shakers, a celibate Christian sect that used to exist in the American Northeast: when non-Shakers want to get laid, they go out and get laid, or find a simulation thereof, but when Shakers want to get laid, they sublimate it into (prototypically) crafting a piece of furniture. Some other well-known examples exist within the space of musical subgenres: punk draws on anger, depressive black metal draws on depression, etc.; but an important difference between Shaker crafts and punk music is that Shaker furniture is not, and punk songs are, designed to bring about their own emotional sources in the minds of the viewer/listener. In the former case, a community exists that brings about and incentivizes the sublimation of a certain mental source into a certain type of product, but the product, because it doesn’t bring about its own mental source in the viewer, can’t catalyze a scene around that source; in the latter case, it can.

For an artist, craftsman, etc. to be able to sublimate an emotional source into a product, the source must be present. A punk musician who stops being angry, or a depressive black metal musician who stops being depressed, would likely end up drifting away from the scene, no longer able to relate to its idiom and the products within it, or to produce cultural artifacts in its expected mold.

The internet has made it much easier to form scenes, but it necessarily exerts systemic selection pressure upon them: those who have more time and inclination to use the internet can more easily form or influence a scene. Since time spent online funges against time spent in other pursuits, some of which are important for mental stability, internet scenes tend toward depressive mental sources; that is, the internet tends to generate scenes of depressed people who sublimate their depression into cultural artifacts that push their viewers toward depression. A radical political scene, for example, attracts depressives and produces arguments that the world is in such a state that hopeless, lethargic, fuming despair is the only rational response. Of course, radical political scenes aren’t the only things that do this…

mememagic

Given this, it seems like it ought to be possible to subvert an idiom, to create artifacts within an idiom that draws on and promulgates a certain source such that the artifacts promulgate a different source while remaining recognizably within that idiom, socially if not stylistically, and thereby break the feedback loop that spreads/intensifies that source and allow its audience/the members of the scene an escape from it.

Imagine a hypothetical poetry student, who is drawn to poetry out of a sense of depression or alienation, and, upon reading more and more poetry, becomes more and more drawn to the vision of himself as a deep, depressive poetic-type, begins writing poetry in that mold, starts or joins a scene of like-minded people who all wrote and read deep, depressive poetry and, in so doing, becomes more and more committed to the concomitant vision—and then reads F. T. Marinetti, whose poetry, being about the glories of war, action, and speed, is aesthetically almost the exact opposite of the relevant mood, while still remaining within the poetic world our student is operating in. Maybe our hypothetical student abandons the depressive, poetic vision and goes out and buys a motorcycle. Or, for that matter, imagine a philosophy student who believes that the Great Questions are deeply important, and that it is therefore necessary for him to live up to the ascetic philosophical ideal of the ‘Life of the Mind’. What could happen when he reads Marinetti? Well, I don’t go in for that Life of the Mind shit anymore.

Two other examples of subversion that come to mind are transcendental black metal, which seems to be aware of, and even intend, its subversive quality, and the scene that coalesced around Mencius Moldbug, which in recent years has thrown off its depressive mindset and started focusing on taking practical steps to cultivate a better life.

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The three Reddits

In addition to the right-Reddit, there is now a left-Reddit, sponsored by Lena Dunham and advertised by leftist press-release reprinter TechCrunch, previously known for doxing Mencius Moldbug.

Given the Rabid Puppies and so on, it seems likely that fandoms will pillarize. I hear that the interactive fiction world has already split along political lines: choice-based interactive fiction is apparently associated with the left, and parser-based interactive fiction with the right. To round out the pillars, is there a Christian interactive fiction industry? Christians are one of the two groups in America that have completed the process of pillarization—Christian rock, Christian colleges, Christian video games, even a Christian brand of mints (yes, really; they sold them at the Adventist store when I was young, and yes, there are such things as Adventist stores)—so it wouldn’t surprise me. Then again, Rod Dreher doesn’t seem to think there’s such a thing as a Christian pillar.

American cartoons are mostly left-coded, leaving the right with anime and My Little Pony.

And the Ghostbusters reboot—at a time when the studios are seemingly incapable of coming up with new ideas, and relying mostly on, of all things, comic-book superhero films—is being marketed with the same techniques as Hillary Clinton (and, arguably, as 12 Years a Slave): you should consume this product because it is politically obligatory for Right-Thinking People to consume this product. If this strategy works, it will be reused.

Speaking of Hillary Clinton, remember that pillarization in the Netherlands was consciously chosen by political elites:

The Dutch parties, deciding to recruit their followers exclusively from an ideologically clearly defined group, had to anticipate two consequences—a desirable and an undesirable one: By pillarization they could ensure a longlasting, nearly blind loyalty but on the other hand they had to accept a strict limitation of their sphere of influence, because all members of different religious or ideological groups were by definitionem beyond reach. …

They compared the disadvantages of limiting their sphere of influence with the big advantages: if a realistic chance could be expected to gain a majority, pillarization would be the best strategy possible for gaining both: majority and loyal voters.

And remember that Dutch pillarization was functional because of the strong tradition of cooperation among the elites of the different pillars.

No such tradition exists here.

The emergence of pillarization in the Netherlands

A par­ty defining itself merely as the representative of a certain, clearly distinguishable part of the population, automatically rafrains from addressing itself to potential voters not belonging to this part of the population. It sets drastic limits to its potential voter-reservoir. This self-chosen restraint only seems sensible if there is a likelihood of compensating for this loss of possible voters by an eventually total absorption of the chosen group. To this end the parties not only claimed to be the only representatives of this part of the population. They moreover tried to integrate their followers as totally as possible into their sphere of influence, mainly by creating a system of organizations and associations that corresponded to the various party lines. The result was a fairly complete exclusiveness and absorption of all members of the group in question. The pillars thus created were defined by their belief or ideology and deliberately closed to non-members.

At this stage it becomes clear, that the Socialist pillar is oriented along the same lines as the denominational pillars. The Socialists too had a clearly defined reservoir of followers—the workers. They had a common ideology; they closed their front against dissenting ideologies; they created a broad network of organizations and associations into which they tried to integrate all social activities of their followers. They used the same ideologically based exclusiveness and the same totality of absorbing their followers as the denominational parties did. The only difference was that they could not take over an existing network of church associations—they had to create everything from scratch. So the Dutch parties, deciding to recruit their followers exclusively from an ideologically clearly defined group, had to anticipate two consequences—a desirable and an undesirable one: By pillarization they could ensure a longlasting, nearly blind loyalty but on the other hand they had to accept a strict limitation of their sphere of influence, because all members of different religious or ideological groups were by definitionem beyond reach. …

It appears very much as if the parties decided to choose pillarization after checking the costs and benefits of mobilizing ideologically defined groups. They compared the disadvantages of limiting their sphere of influence with the big advantages: if a realistic chance could be expected to gain a majority, pillarization would be the best strategy possible for gaining both: majority and loyal voters. Indeed, all three parties—the Catholics, orthodox Protestants and Socialists—seem to have reckoned with this possibility. The Catholics expected to gain a majority among the population in a surprisingly short time because of their high fertility rate. They dreamed of the ’Catholic Netherlands’ and of an unchallenged political supe­riority. The orthodox Protestants clearly wanted to gain as many voters as possible from liberal Protestantism. They at least explicitly strived for the Protestant’s dominance and for a structuring of social life according to their religious beliefs. The Socialists assumed that the workers would help them to gain a majority at the polls, as they likewise hoped in other countries too. All three of the parties could reasonably count on winning the majority because of the considerable overlapping of the categorial groups (for example among the Catholic and Protestant workers). The condition was that they succeeded in mobilizing totally their specific reservoirs. The course of events however showed that the parties considerably overestimated their possibilities of such total mobilization. Only the Catholic were able to win over nearly the whole Catholic part of the population. They profited mostly from the support of the organizationally united Catholic church. The Socialists and especially the Protestants were less successful. So it is no surprise that the ’doorbraak’ — a refrainment from pillarization — was explicitly justified by the disappointment of hopes for a majority.

Pillarization in the Netherlands is linked so closely to the origin and the behaviour of the political parties, that each attempt to explain it without reference to these parties must necessarily lead to contradictions. Pillarization is not the consequence of struggles for emancipation or for protecting the identity of the churches only, it is mainly an effect of the mobilization activities of the Dutch political parties, focussing on religious and ideologically defined groups and arguments, during a time of specific conflicts.

(source)

 

Pillarization: the secret of Dutch success

Discussing a number of hypotheses, Lijphart concludes that there are two factors, plus one indirect explanation and one comprehensive explanation. (Politics 1968, ch. 5) The two factors are firstly, the basic sense of nationalism among the members of all four blocs, which is reinforced by a few national symbols, and secondly, the crosscutting of the religious and class cleavages. The first factor promotes unity and the second diminishes sharp divisions. The so-called indirect explanation is the deferential character of the Dutch political culture: Dutch politics is “highly elitist” and the masses accept this elitist leadership. (Politics 1968, 102) The reason for this is to be found in the comprehensive “explanans,” in itself the crux of Dutch political stability, namely, the spirit of accommodation among the political elites. “That is the secret of its success.” (Politics 1968, 103)

(source)

Pillarization

Here’s a term that I don’t see often enough.

From a summary of the work of the Dutch sociologist Arend Lijphart:

In the fifties and the sixties many political scientists in the Western world were concerned with the crucial question of how political systems could be made both stable and democratic. Their concern to find an answer to this question had clearly been stimulated by their desire “to clean the world up” after the chaotic Second World War, to prevent a further spread over Western Europe of the Communist type of totalitarian stability, and to support the democratic experiments of the newly independent but unstable countries of the Third World. In their search for the conditions of stable and democratic political rule most of these political scientists came to believe that political fragmentation of a society poses enormous obstacles to the realization of stability and democracy. In their view the cleavages or fragmentation, created by differing social, ethnic, religious, and cultural groups, had somehow to be overcome before there could be any prospect of a stable, democratic regime.

In other words, in the fifties and sixties, the mainstream opinion of political scientists was that diversity and democracy can’t coexist.

About fifteen years ago this dominant belief among political scientists was challenged by the young Dutch Arend Lijphart. In 1968 he published his The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in The Netherlands. Both within the country and elsewhere (thanks to the English edition) the work was highly acclaimed. Its success was due, in large part, to his description of Dutch politics as a paradoxical case of strong social segmentation or pillarization which was also marked by stability and democracy. That is, contrary to expectations, Holland is both stable and democratic despite its extensive social cleavages.

A notable (and likely unique) feature of Dutch pillarization was the tradition of cooperation among the elites of the different pillars. Needless to say, this will not be replicated in any redevelopment of pillarization today…

But how did pillarization work? A firsthand account of pillarization is given here:

I am Protestant by birth and when I talk to my Catholic peers it seems to us that we are from different countries. … When I was born my mother was helped by a Protestant midwife and my birth was announced in the Protestant newspaper. The announcements (and paper) were printed by a Protestant printer. … I went to a Protestant school … we didn’t go to the greengrocer next door, who was Catholic, because we imagined that the quality was no good and the prices exorbitant, but rather, we went several blocks away to the Protestant greengrocer where they had exactly the same things but we believed that the quality and the prices were far better … we went to Protestant summer camps … and followed the Protestant t.v., radio, and newspapers.

In other words, pillarization was a system of mass voluntary segregation. Members of one phyle chose to take part in only the social institutions associated with that phyle. Some people tried to reject pillarization, but in practice, they ended up in the Liberal pillar.

Secularization led to depillarization in the Netherlands. In Belgium, on the other hand, pillarization had both a religious (Catholics vs. Protestants vs. Liberals and Socialists) and an ethnic (Walloons vs. Flemings vs. Germans) aspect. Belgium is still pillarized—and between its political deadlock, the now-infamous failure of its police, and the dysfunction of Molenbeek, it’s no model of good governance.

 

Conscious manipulation of the phonetic substance

A number of the languages of Borneo also have preploded final nasals, which have arisen from word-final simple nasals in syllables that have a non-nasal onset. These are perhaps best known from the Land Dayak-Kendayan ([kənᵈájaᵗn]) Dayak area of southern Sarawak and adjacent parts of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, but they have a geographical distribution which is very similar to that of postploded medial nasals. The term ‘nasal preplosion’ was coined by Court (1967) in a brief description of the phonology of Mentu Land Dayak. In this language nearly all final nasals are preceded by a brief voiceless oral onset, as in əsɨᵖm‘sour’, burəᵗn ‘moon’, or turaᵏŋ ‘bone’. The exceptions fall into two classes: personal names, and bases in which the final syllable begins with a nasal consonant. While the first class of exceptions evidently is motivated by conscious manipulation of the phonetic substance for purposes of marking semantic fields, the second is due to purely phonetic factors. Phonetic information on vowel nasality is poorly reported for most AN languages, but relatively good data is available for the languages of Borneo, and in these it is clear that vowels are most strongly nasalised by a preceding primary nasal consonant in a process that can be described as ‘onset-driven’ nasal harmony (Blust 1997c). Coda-driven nasal harmony is generally absent, but some minor leakage of nasality into vowels that precede a final nasal must take place in most languages, or final nasals would be universally preploded. The preplosion of final nasals can therefore be seen as a strategy for blocking nasal spreading in the ‘wrong’ direction. When a final syllable begins with a nasal consonant this is impossible, as in Mentu Land Dayak inəm ‘six’. The oral element in a preploded nasal is voiceless in some languages, such as Mentu Land Dayak, voiced in others (as Bau/Senggi Land Dayak), and mixed in Bonggi, spoken on Banggi Island north of Sabah, where Boutin (1993:111) reports -ᵇm, -ᵈn, but -ᵏŋ.

Robert Blust, The Austronesian Languages

Figli di proletari meridionali picchiati da figli di papà in vena di bravate

Alexander van der Bellen, a nominally independent candidate backed by the Green Party, recently defeated Norbert Hofer of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) in the second and final round of the election for the mostly ceremonial office (think ‘elected temporary constitutional monarch’) of the Austrian presidency.

Herr Doktor van der Bellen, a self-described “Flüchtlingskind” (child of refugees), is in fact the son of aristocrats: his grandfather, Alexander von der Bellen, fled Russia for Estonia in 1919 and changed his surname as was required by Estonian law at the time, and his father, Alexander van der Bellen, fled Estonia for Austria in 1941. According to a profile of the politician in Die Zeit, his parents “wollten bei mir alles vermeiden, das darauf hinweist, dass wir Flüchtlinge sind”—wanted him to avoid any sign that the family were refugees; so he assimilated, and now doesn’t speak Russian. The expectation of assimilation was still allowed back then.

Van der Bellen eventually became a professor of economics, joined the Social Democrats, switched to the Green Party in 1994, and left the Greens in 2008, but retained their backing. (In 2007, the Green Party’s youth wing released posters urging Austrians to use the Austrian flag to pick up their dogs’ feces, with the caption, “Anyone who loves Austria must be shit!”) After the other candidates were eliminated in the first round of the election, van der Bellen, a pusher of mass immigration and a “United States of Europe”, ran as the anti-Hofer candidate, campaigning against the “populist” FPÖ.

You can guess what the demographic breakdown of the vote looks like:

hofer1

Hofer won rural areas; van der Bellen won cities.

hofer2

University graduates voted 81% for van der Bellen.

hofer3

Blue-collar workers voted 86% for Hofer.

hofer4

Hofer won among men; van der Bellen won among women.

 

The mystery model: 2016 is not 2008

Previously: 1 2 3.

I expected that the mystery model would apply to the 2008 primary, but it doesn’t.

Mississippi 37.3% Obama
Louisiana 32.4% Obama
Georgia 31.4% Obama
Maryland 30.1% Obama
South Carolina 28.5% Obama
Alabama 26.4% Obama
North Carolina 21.6% Obama
Delaware 20.1% Obama
Virginia 19.9% Obama
Tennessee 16.8% Clinton
Florida 15.9% N/A
Arkansas 15.8% Clinton
New York 15.2% Clinton
Illinois 14.9% Obama
New Jersey 14.5% Clinton
Michigan 14.2% N/A
Ohio 12.0% Clinton
Texas 11.9% Clinton
Missouri 11.5% Obama
Pennsylvania 10.8% Clinton
Connecticut 10.3% Obama
Indiana 9.1% Clinton
Nevada 9.0% Clinton
Kentucky 8.2% Clinton
Massachusetts 8.1% Clinton
Oklahoma 8.0% Clinton
Rhode Island 7.5% Clinton
California 6.7% Clinton
Kansas 6.2% Obama
Wisconsin 6.1% Obama
Minnesota 4.6% Obama
Nebraska 4.5% Obama
Colorado 4.3% Obama
Alaska 4.3% Obama
Arizona 4.2% Clinton
Washington 3.7% Obama
West Virginia 3.6% Clinton
Hawaii 3.1% Obama
New Mexico 3.0% Clinton
Iowa 2.7% Obama
Oregon 2.0% Obama
Wyoming 1.3% Obama
Utah 1.3% Obama
New Hampshire 1.2% Clinton
South Dakota 1.1% Clinton
North Dakota 1.1% Obama
Maine 1.0% Obama
Idaho 1.0% Obama
Vermont 0.9% Obama
Montana 0.7% Obama

To recap: there’s one statistic that almost perfectly predicts the results of the 2016 Democratic primary. States that come in at above 8.00% (Oklahoma is rounded up) go to Clinton, with two exceptions, Michigan and Indiana, out of 24; states that come in below 8.00% go to Sanders, with two exceptions, Arizona and Iowa, out of 20. In my original post on this model, I called New Jersey, California, New Mexico, and Kentucky for Clinton, and West Virginia, Oregon, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana for Sanders. The West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon primaries have since been held. Clinton won Kentucky and Sanders won West Virginia and Oregon.

In 2008, of the 23 eligible states above the 8.00% cutoff, Clinton won eleven and Obama won twelve; and of the 25 states below the 8.00% cutoff, Clinton won eight and Obama won 17.

Has any election in recent history other than the 2016 Democratic primary been decided by a single statistic like this? Eyeballing the maps of both parties’ primaries back to 1980, it doesn’t look like it.

The closest precedent that I know of is the general election in 1968.

Some comments on New Left history

Here are some comments that deserve to be promoted to the main blog.

Mr Zero Man:

For what its worth, here is an anecdotal account:
I was a dedicated Marxist as a student in the US (early 2000s). Studying dialectics, believing in a workers’ revolution, calling each other comrade, all of that. I come from a South European country where a lot of people are still communists, there are communists in parliament, it is common. My impression in the US at the time was that marxism was dead there. There was pretty much no marxist elements in any of the social science or humanities courses I took (I was a philosophy major). The postmodern liberal agenda which was evident in social sciences & humanities at the time was to me completely alien to marxism. I didn’t feel any crossover. I graduated leaving the US academic world feeling it was an explicitly anti-marxist and anti-communist place.

Some details: Me and my small group of 4-5 friends were libertarian Marxists at the time – we were familiar with Lenin but we were of the opinion that the Bolsheviks had betrayed the workers; we identified with the Kronstant rebellion, with the Paris Commune, and with the anarchist movements in Catalunia and Ukraine. We generally considered anarchists to be more principled but never having achieved the higher theoretical standard of Marx. Socially we admired the anti-colonial movements in Cuba, Algeria, Vietnam etc even though we felt those revolutions had all been betrayed by their leaders, which is how we felt about the USSR and China as well. We admired small guerilla groups like Red Brigades, RAF, 17N and Weatherman for their authenticity and I guess their youthful outlaw sex appeal. The French May 68 and the Situationist interpretation of it was very important to us. In the US we got on much better with anarchists than we did with the Leninists or Maoists who still hung on to little ineffectual communist parties. There was an anarchist bookshop that we used to go to, and used to hang out with anarchists. Anarchists were at heart just a tribal youthful in-group based around punk music and veganism but there was quite a few of them. We had the original Black Panthers in high regard, but we couldn’t get anywhere with the blacks we tried community outreach to because of how different our mentalities were (in contrast to the 60s-70s when there still were communist blacks).

Theoretically I adhered to the line of the young Marx, agreed with a lot of the Frankfurt School interdisciplinary approach, but even more so with the French Situationists Debord and Vaneigem. I read early Lukacs and some Hegel. I thought Reich’s contribution was central. And to a lesser extent Fromm. I liked Chomsky as a describer of US foreign policy but he wasn’t a theorist.

This little microcosm of ours had no influence from the university, from the faculty, from the curriculum. Like I said, I experienced those years as if Marxism was completely dead in the US and especially within academia. All the 3rd wave feminist, pro-gay, politically correct liberal stuff was to me at the time completely irrelevent and unconnected to Marxism, it was bourgeois identity politics that didn’t grasp capitalism and the state as the main enemy. There were very few contemporary thinkers who had proper marxist dialectical thought behind them. Negri and Hardt were a bit trendy but I thought they were full of shit. Zerzan has a lot of Marx in his theorizing and I still like how he thinks but he went up a dead-end street. Apart from Fredrik Jameson the only other real American marxist thinker in the tradition of the Frankfurt-School I can think of is Christopher Lasch and he ended up a social conservative, which I think is very interesting because I took a similar path completely independently.

The way “Marx” and the evil “Frankfurt school” are tossed around on NRx and the manosphere as strawmen and proofs of conspiracy still annoys me, it’s not rigorous in the least.

The claim “they literally believe the white working class should be gassed” doesn’t match my experience at the time. As marxists we usually did the opposite, we idealized the working class, white or black, and (as you can probably guess) most of us were middle class and higher. We believed in direct democracy and so we considered the working classes as intrinsically noble people who would make the best choices if only they achieved the revolutionary consciousness that education and the media were holding them back from.

Note again this is just anecdotal personal experience, but I would be really surprised to find evidence that there is significant marxist influence in US academia or the greater Cathedral. Marxism and SJW-liberalism have common ancestors but very little overlap between them.

Actual Marxists by definition can’t believe that  the white working class should be gassed, unless they take the Weather Underground’s line. Note that the name ‘Weather Underground’ is a reference to a Bob Dylan song.

Mr Zero Man:

Re Marcuse’s influence on the New Left. The main factors behind the New Left were the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, which were mostly grass-roots American liberal movements that never included significant critique of capitalism. I don’t buy that he was a big influence over it. Sure he wrote some books that were popular in student-left circles but it’s difficult to gauge their actual influence. My impression is that they had very little, and the label “guru of the Left” is an overstatement. His works were too high-brow and required an in-depth appreciation of Hegelian Marxism and Freud. They make for very difficult reading. Examples of contemporaries with much bigger influence were singers like Dylan and Lennon, and to a lesser extent Alan Ginsburg and Timothy Leary.

For the more radical anti-capitalist side, the figures that had an actual following at the time were the sexier, flamboyant, more “hip” revolutionaries like Abbie Hoffman, Eldridge Cleaver and the student leaders that later formed Weatherman. Weatherman, like many american marxists at the time, accepted the Black Panther Party as the revolutionary vanguard. The BPP belonged to the Maoist/Third Worldist tradition and was not influenced by the Western Marxism of Marcuse. The SDS was a large movement, more liberal than radical, but it lost most of its grass-roots support when the leadership was taken over by the Weathermen. Weathermen were explicitly against Marcuse, they regarded him a sell-out and armchair radical, (Bernadine Dorn insulted him to his face publicly as I recall), and after disagreements with the Panthers they tried to assume the mantle of revolutionary vanguard themselves, before fading out of relevance completely. Like the Panthers their theoretical line was Third Worldist and uninfluenced by Marcuse’s school of thought – they combined their traditional “vulgar Marxism” with all the hip counterculture psychedelic free-love ideas that were floating around, in order to attract young people. This broader youth movement, by the way, is what actually stuck around in various forms and had a tangible influence on american society towards a non-traditional direction. “Sex drugs and rocknroll”, not Marxism.

When civil rights was absorbed into the political mainstream and the draft ended, the New Left effectively ceased to exist as a historical force.

As for Marcuse’s influence on the academic world – I’m not convinced that he had any serious influential followers. I don’t see it. I would like to find evidence to the contrary.

I think the case is more like this:
A 70s feminist academic writes a dumb paper about feminism. To prop up her weak paper, she uses some footnotes and quotes from Marcuse so it seems more serious and weighty. Academics do that shit all the time.
That doesn’t mean she follows Marcuse’s political framework. It just means he is an approved authority to use some quotes from when it is useful, he’s just a status indicator. Marcuse’s position was unabashed Marxist, i.e. the point is the abolition of capitalism, wage labour and the commodity form. If that is absent, then his influence is just peripheral. It’s no longer Marxism. The real influence in this example would therefore be from feminism. It’s a different strand of thought.

To give a similar example. What is Evola’s influence on NRx? I would say it’s peripheral. Some NRx writers will have read a couple of his more well-known books, some of them will quote him from time to time, maybe some play a little bit with one of his ideas. But Evola as a thinker has a very specific metaphysical framework regarding Transcendence, Being/Becoming et al. He has a very specific political framework of the priestly and military castes and how their temporal authority is tied to his metaphysical framework. If your system doesn’t accept the whole framework, you can’t really say that Evola is a central influence on it. But “Evola is a major influence on NRx” is the kind of half-assed claim a journalist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about might say. I would argue Marcuse’s role in leftist thought is roughly equivalent. Hit me with counter-evidence if you have it though.

I know @cuttlefish_btc (CW: commie) thinks Leary had deep state ties, but I don’t know anything about that.

There was a guy called Maoist Jeff in the Something Awful commie diaspora a few years ago, who took the M3W line so far that he once said it would be good if everyone in the First World were killed. Someone pointed out that he lived in Texas and he went lmao, my life is worth nothing compared to the revolution. For anthropological interest: the group blog he posted on is still online.

The Dissenting Sociologist:

Nydwracu:

Forget Marcuse. The book that, more than any other, formalized the shift on the Left away from the White working class cause- indeed, altogether away from Marx- and towards today’s SJW identity politics was “Hegemony and Socialist Strategy” by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe.

From the Wik blurb:

“The position outlined in this book is usually described as post-Marxist because it rejects (a) Marxist economic determinism and (b) the view that class struggle is the most important antagonism in society…A key innovation in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy was Laclau and Mouffe’s argument that left-wing movements need to build alliances with a wide variety of different groups if they are to be successful and establish a left-wing ‘hegemony’.”

And get a load of this:

“Laclau subsequently used [his] account of discourse to re-consider the nature of identity, arguing that all political identities are discursive – even if they are experienced by individuals as ‘natural’ […] For example, though an individual may think that they are just ‘born male’ this is, for Laclau, not the case: ‘maleness’ is a socially constructed category that has no innate meaning.”

And I asked…

My understanding is that the defining (and perhaps oversimplified, but still generally true) difference between the Old Left and the New Left is that the Old Left believed the proletariat is the revolutionary class and the New Left believes that academics-lumpens-and-minorities-together is the revolutionary class. Is this inaccurate? If it’s not, where did it originate from? It’s attributed to Marcuse there…

…and got these responses:

Mr Zero Man:

I would say for the American New Left in general, it was blacks and radical students who were perceived as the vanguard of the revolution. Not sure about the significance of academics and lumpen (other than the fact that a lot of the rioting blacks were lumpen). And just as significant was identification with the third world anti-imperialist struggle. The Vietcong were just as important as US blacks in the collective imagination of the American New Left. There is a documentary about the Weather Underground which is worth watching, it captures the spirit of the time fairly well.

Thinking again of the ideal of the lumpen as vanguard. I guess the white american counterpart was the counterculture outsider, hippy outlaw on the fringes of society. A very american combination of rugged individualism and tribal/communal living. Not exactly the underclass Marx or Bakunin referred to with the same term.

There’s the counterculture outsider figure, and then there’s the counterculture outsider figure. The land-hippies I’ve met don’t strike me as SJ. Some land-hippies probably are—there are still radical communes, at least in Europe, but when I think ‘counterculture outsider figure’, I think Kurt Cobain or John Darnielle—or Amedeo Modigliani, who ties into Taal‘s theory that it’s all about wanting to destroy bourgeois society or something.

NRK:

“My understanding is that the defining (and perhaps oversimplified, but still generally true) difference between the Old Left and the New Left is that the Old Left believed the proletariat is the revolutionary class and the New Left believes that academics-lumpens-and-minorities-together is the revolutionary class. Is this inaccurate?”

Rather inaccurate as it misidentifies contemporary SJWs (of which it is true) with the historical New Left, of which it has been already pointed out that it was, if anything, dominated by the maoist belief that third-world peasants, a global majority, were the revolutionary class.

When it comes to Marcuse, it is at the very least a massive overstatement. He and his peers had observed the failure of the proletariat to fulfill its expected role first in 1914, when it allowed itself to be divided against itself along national lines, and later in 1933, when it voted for Hitler. So yeah, the Frankfurt School had little hope of the workers coming to their senses, but none of them offered any serious alternative, making their philosophy a rather pessimistic business.
Marcuse did differ from the rest of the Fankfurt School in that he believed that social outcasts would naturally adopt a critical attitude towards society, which didn’t make them the revolutionary agent, but more of a useful roadblock in capitalism’s path towards the complete elimination of human autonomy.
By contrast, Adorno’s view on such hopes is summed up by his statement that “In the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than glorification of the splendid system that made them so”.

“I tried to read one of Marcuse’s books once, I think Eros and Civilization, and just couldn’t get through it. The man seemed literally insane. I don’t think I’m alone here — I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anyone on the internet reference Marcuse favorably.”
Here’s the thing, the same is true of contemporary leftist academics -Marcuse is definitely the most marginalized figure of the Frankfurt School, which is weird considering that he used to be the most popular. And extra weird considering that certain alt-right figures try to turn him into some SJW-overlord.
Also, there’s a first time for everything, and while I do tend more towards Adorno’s side of their disagreements, Eros and Civilization is a great book.

Finally, if you want to know where today’s loony leftists come from, why not look at which people they actually do read? People like Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, they all seem way more influential than any of those dead straight (well in Adorno’s case it’s debatable) white men who cross-read Marx with Freud.

Yakimi:

@NRK,

>the historical New Left, of which it has been already pointed out that it was, if anything, dominated by the maoist belief that third-world peasants, a global majority, were the revolutionary class.

The New Left defined “Third World” to include minorities living in the First World, and “First World” to mean all white people. Rather ironic that visions of a global race war did not die with Nazism, but were reignited by Left. From the Weather Underground manifesto,

>[…] we confront the fact that the white workers do not constitute the main or the most oppressed sections of the work force within the worldwide political economy of US imperialism. On the contrary, they form a tiny and the most privileged sector of that proletariat. More, racially and politically, they are members of the oppressor nation in relation to the Third World, including, as always, the blacks and the browns here and as such they experience concrete benefits, both material and spiritual. They are the best paid, most comfortable, and the least oppressed among the proletariat of the US imperialist political economy.

“the Third World, including, as always, the blacks and the browns here.”

NRK:

@yakimi
The Weather Underground can hardly be taken as a representative sample of the american New Left, if anything, they were their lunatic fringe. It’s a bit like taking the Baader-Meinhof gang to represent the german students movement. Also, I’m pretty sure no one considered the white people living in the Warsaw Pact countries or in Yugoslavia to be part of the first world.

Yakimi:

@NRK,

I’m not claiming that the Weather Underground is representative of the New Left. But their definition of Third World was entirely standard, hence the “as always”. “Third World” was used in exactly the same way as “People of Color” is today, which is why “Azalea: A Magazine by Third World Lesbians” had the title that it did and why the Third World Center at Brown University is now the Brown Center for Students of Color.

The activists of the Third World Liberation Front or the various Third World Centers at universities, who were not fringe lunatics but the progenitors of all the “studies” programs now taught today, thought of themselves as being part of the global Third World proletariat simply because they were not white.

I’m not sure what they thought of whites in communist countries. The integrity of their narrative probably depended on not thinking too hard about it.

Mr Zero Man asked NRK about Fanon’s influence, and NRK replied:

Fanon seems important because of his identitarian bend, the defense of indigenous/colonial/nonwhite/marginal cultures and experiences against western overreach, including the overreach inherent in “eurocentric” marxian critique. There’s an appraisal of authenticity in there that would have been anathema to the Frankfurt School, but is quite important in contemporary identity politics. And for him being too hardcore, it’s not all pronouns and safe-spaces with campus leftists, would that it were. You also have supporters of Hezbollah, Hamas and the iranian regime, their respective treatment of ethnic and sexual minorities notwithstanding. Edward Said does seem to be more important to those types than Fanon, though.

Eros and Civilization offers very little in terms of prescription, and it certainly doesn’t advocate some hippy “kick out the jams” attitude. Instead, it predicts that capitalism is on the way of de-legitimizing itself due to the increasing discrepancy between the happiness it promises and the misery it produces. This will eventually lead (and is already leading) to people losing the will to fulfil their role in society. Marcuse is cautiously optimistic that this will not lead to the collapse of civilization, but to the emrgence of new societal relations that are motivated by Eros.
Which is sort of a Rorschach Test, as this is either a beautiful way to speak of solidarity (which is what he means, he’s not talking of turning people into bonobos), or super creepy and degenerate.

The text you linked does a good job of identifying the weakest spot in Marcuses argument, one that also raised my eyebrows upon reading. That being said, the author seems to over-emphasize the importance of that rather vage speculation, and also frame it in a much more specific way than it was stated. Marcuse never specifies how much repression is actually needed to maintain a civilization, and how much would be surplus. It is easy to see that the completely unrestrained primal instincts would not be able to restrict themselves for the sake of enhanced and lasting gratification, but it is not at all obvious that this is impossible once a certain threshold of individuation is passed.

Are there supporters of the Iranian regime anymore? I don’t think I’ve seen any. Edward Said is certainly influential today, so in the unlikely event that I ever have enough spare time to read an entire book, that’s an obvious place to start.

It could be worthwhile to imagine trying to reconstruct the history of the ‘alt-right’. This would be difficult: as the term is used now, it’s a set of social groups, not a coherent thing. The term is used in the media to refer not only to the alt-right proper, but also to GamerGate, Mencius Moldbug, Vladimir Putin, and Dugin’s Eurasianism. There are some overlaps—Richard Spencer’s NPI seems to have been recruited into Russia’s propaganda network, opponents of the mainstream media tend to support GamerGate, some people have moved from ‘neoreaction’ to the alt-right, etc.—but these are all different things, and they’d have to be disentangled. The history-of-ideas of ‘neoreaction’ (good lord, the term was a transparent joke, how did it catch on?) is easy enough to reconstruct, but the alt-right proper is an organic and somewhat decentralized response to social (shock-jock irony becoming sincere) and political (of course) conditions, which makes it much harder to reconstruct its history. To the extent that it has an intellectual wing, it (like all intellectual wings of political movements) starts with the organic and decentralized responses and builds systems around it; these systems can shape it once they catch on, but the motivating force is the set of organic responses.

This suggests that the default assumption should be that the Frankfurt School, the Yippies, the Weathermen, the student radical movement in general, etc. were completely different things, and that the overlap between them was purely social.

Marcuse’s deep state ties

Marcuse’s first published article in 1928 attempted a synthesis of the philosophical perspectives of phenomenology, existentialism, and Marxism, anticipating a project which decades later would be carried out by various “existential” and “phenomenological” Marxists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as well as others in Eastern Europe and the United States in the post-war period. Marcuse argued that Marxist thought had degenerated into a rigid orthodoxy and thus needed concrete “phenomenological” experience to revivify the theory. He also believed that Marxism neglected the problem of the individual and throughout his life was concerned with individual liberation and well-being, in addition to social transformation and the possibilities of a transition from capitalism to socialism.

Marcuse published the first major review in 1933 of Marx’s just published Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, anticipating the tendency to revise interpretations of Marxism from the standpoint of the works of the early Marx. At the same time that he was writing essays synthesizing Marxism and phenomenology, Marcuse wrote a “Habilitations” dissertation on Hegel’s Ontology and Theory of Historicity (1932). The text stressed the importance of the categories of life and history in Hegel and contributed to the Hegel renaissance that was taking place in Europe. These works revealed Marcuse to be an astute student of Germany philosophy and he was emerging as one of the most promising young philosophers of his generation.

In 1933, Marcuse joined the Institut fur Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) in Frankfurt and soon became deeply involved in their interdisciplinary projects which included working out a model for critical social theory, developing a theory of the new stage of state and monopoly capitalism, and providing a systematic analysis and critique of German fascism. Marcuse deeply identified with the “Critical Theory” of the Institute and throughout his life was close to Max Horkheimer, T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Franz Neuman, and other members of the Institute.

In 1934, Marcuse — a German Jew and radical — fled from Nazism and emigrated to the United States where he lived for the rest of his life. The Institute for Social Research was granted offices and an academic affiliation with Columbia University, where Marcuse worked during the 1930s and early 1940s. His first major work in English, Reason and Revolution (1941), traced the genesis of the ideas of Hegel, Marx, and modern social theory, and demonstrated the similarities between Hegel and Marx. Marcuse argued for discontinuities between Hegel’s philosophy of the state and German fascism, placing Hegel instead in a liberal constitutional tradition. The text introduced many English speaking readers to the Hegelian-Marxian tradition of dialectical thinking and won Marcuse a reputation as an important interpreter of Hegel and Marx.

In December 1942, Marcuse joined the Office of War Information as a senior analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence. He prepared a report on “Presentation of the Enemy” that proposed ways that the mass media of the allied countries could present images of German fascism. In March 1943, Marcuse transferred to the Office of Secret Services (OSS), working until the end of the war in the Research and Analysis Division of the Central European Branch. Marcuse and his colleagues wrote reports attempting to identify Nazi and anti-Nazi groups and individuals in Germany and drafted a “Civil Affairs Handbook” that dealt with denaziification. In September 1945, he moved over to the State Department after the dissolution of the OSS, becoming head of the Central European bureau, and remaining until 1951 when he left Government service.

After working for the U.S. government for almost ten years, Marcuse returned to University life. He received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to study Soviet Marxism, lecturing on the topic at Columbia during 1952-1953 and Harvard from 1954-1955. At the same time, he was intensely studying Freud and published in 1955 Eros and Civilization, an audacious synthesis of Marx and Freud which sketched the outlines of a non-repressive society. His vision of liberation anticipated many of the values of the 1960s counterculture and helped Marcuse to become a major intellectual and political influence during that decade.

In 1958, Marcuse received a tenured position at Brandeis University and became one of the most popular and influential members of its faculty. Marcuse published a critical study of the Soviet Union in 1958 (Soviet Marxism) which broke the taboo in his circles against speaking critically of the USSR and Soviet communism. While attempting to develop a many-sided analysis of the USSR, Marcuse focused his critique on Soviet bureaucracy, culture, values, and the differences between the Marxian theory and the Soviet version of Marxism. Distancing himself from those who interpreted Soviet communism as a bureaucratic system incapable of reform and democratization, Marcuse pointed to potential “liberalizing trends” which countered the Stalinist bureaucracy and that indeed eventually materialized in the 1980s under Gorbachev.

In 1964, Marcuse published One-Dimensional Man, which is perhaps his most important work. Marcuse’s wide-ranging critique of both advanced capitalist and communist societies analyzed the decline of revolutionary potential in capitalist societies and the development of new forms of social control. He argued that “advanced industrial society” created false needs which integrated individuals into the existing system of production and consumption via mass media, advertising, industrial management, and contemporary modes of thought. The result was a “one-dimensional” universe of thought and behavior in which the very aptitude and ability for critical thinking and oppositional behavior was withering away.

In One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse also analyzed the integration of the industrial working class into capitalist society and new forms of capitalist stabilization, thus questioning the Marxian postulates of the revolutionary proletariat and inevitability of capitalist crisis. In contrast to orthodox Marxism, Marcuse championed non-integrated forces of minorities, outsiders, and radical intelligentsia, attempting to nourish oppositional thought and behavior through promoting radical thinking and opposition. His book was severely criticized by both orthodox Marxists and academic theorists of various political and theoretical commitments. Despite its pessimism, it influenced many in the New Left as it articulated their growing dissatisfaction with both capitalist societies and Soviet communist societies.

(source)

To summarize: when the Frankfurt School academics fled Germany, they relocated their home institution to Columbia University. In December 1942, Marcuse joined the Office of War Information, FDR’s domestic and foreign propaganda agency. (For more on OWI, see here.) A few months later, he transferred to OSS (the predecessor of CIA), worked there until 1945, and then transferred to State. After leaving State in 1951, he received a Rockefeller Foundation grant (and even CIA has admitted that, at the time, the Rockefeller Foundation was closely tied to CIA) to study Soviet Marxism, and eventually wrote a book on the subject, which “broke the taboo in his circles against speaking critically of the USSR and Soviet communism”, and which pointed to potential ‘liberalizing trends’ that “eventually materialized … under Gorbachev”, soon before Gorbachev’s government abolished the USSR. Then he developed the New Left line on the proletariat.