Tag Archives: Cathedral

Everybody was on the same page

This was a revisionist interpretation of art history, and it had two prongs. The first was the suggestion of actual collusion between MOMA and the C.I.A. The evidence for this has always been largely circumstantial. The man who directed cultural activities at the C.I.A. in the early years of the Cold War, Thomas Braden, had previously been the executive secretary of MOMA. According to Saunders, a number of MOMA trustees were also on the board of the Farfield Foundation, a C.I.A. front. The president of the museum in the nineteen-forties and fifties was Nelson Rockefeller, whose family had supported MOMAfrom the beginning, and who had close ties to the intelligence community and an unabashed commitment to the patriotic uses of art. (It was Nelson who had demanded the removal of Diego Rivera’s murals from the walls of Rockefeller Center, because they depicted Lenin.) During the war, Rockefeller had been the Roosevelt Administration’s coördinator of inter-American affairs; the head of the art section in that office, René d’Harnoncourt, joined MOMA in 1944 and became its director.

What this suggests, though, is simply that the leaders of MOMA, like the leaders of most mainstream institutions in the United States after the war, were anti-Communists. As Saunders acknowledges, there were no explicit arrangements between the government and the museum, and the reason was that there didn’t need to be. Everybody was on the same page. Rockefeller and Alfred Barr, the founding director of MOMA, who, after the war, served as chairman of the painting and sculpture collections, did not have to be encouraged to use American art to promote the nation’s image abroad. They never pretended that they were up to anything else. Barr was a lover of European modernism, but he was on a mission to persuade Americans that theirs was a modern culture—a mission that he pursued by mounting exhibitions on modern architecture and design, and starting the museum’s department of film, headed by the formidable Iris Barry and dedicated to the proposition that Hollywood movies were part of the modern movement in the arts.


But, you know, it’s still a wacky conspiracy theory to say that everyone was on the same page.

Cultural domination in Puritan Massachusetts

The Puritan ministers […] created a completely new form of political authority — in the Weberian sense of legitimate power — which I have called cultural domination. Cultural domination, as here conceived, requires four formal supports.

First of all, like charismatic authority, it requires recognition in the form of ritual election or some similar mechanism of oath swearing or covenant signing. Fealty is sworn to the “correct” cultural formation, in this case Puritan biblicism, and the officeholder is empowered only as the specially trained bearer and interpreter of that cultural tradition. The “laity” generally conceive of this high cultural training — whether centered around biblicism or some other intellectually legitimating principle like reason or rationality — as being endowed with an automatic efficacy that need simply be applied to any problem to generate a univocal solution. The biblical truth is eternal and immutable, claimed Thomas Hooker, “but the alteration grows, according to God’s most just judgment, and their own deservings.”

Such belief gives rise to the second formal requirement, that officially authorized bearers of the cultural tradition must always agree in their public formulations or at least not disagree. If this condition is violated, the laity may come to see the cultural tradition as an amorphous collection of expressions or principles manipulated by “mandarins” for their own aggrandizement.

The third requirement is that all public expression of the culturally able must be bestowed on these public acts, including forced attendance, titulary homage, and silent obedience. Finally, to ensure the stability of the entire system, unauthorized cultural expressions must be carefully monitored and severely suppressed when they contradict or threaten to “desacralize” the authorized formulas.

Darren Staloff, Making of an American Thinking Class: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in Puritan Massachusetts. (source)

Eric Hoffer on intellectuals

Hoffer’s hostile attitude toward what he called intellectuals is complicated, even contradictory. On the one hand, he admired well-educated, articulate people, corresponded with them, and wrote down hundreds of quotations from their books. On the other, he despised those he identified as “men of words” and expressed contempt for them and their followers

In the usual sense of the word, Hoffer himself was an intellectual. He read books and wrote them. But he had no desire to teach others, he said, and this made him “a non-intellectual”. For the intellectual is someone who “considers it his God-given right to tell others what to do.”

What the intellectual craves in his innermost being is to turn the whole globe into a classroom and the world’s population into a class of docile pupils hanging onto the words of the chosen teacher.

“Even in a union meeting of more or less unlearned longshoremen, I never have the feeling that I know best, that I could tell them what to do”, Hoffer pleaded. He had faith in the competence of ordinary Americans to solve their own problems. …

One target was Herbert Marcuse, a Marxist political theorist who taught at Brandeis University. America suffered from “repressive tolerance”, Marcuse believed, and many leftist radicals of the day (such as Abbie Hoffman and Angela Davis) admired him. Hoffer called Marcuse “a shabby would-be aristocrat”. …

Hoffer at one point defined an intellectual “as one who saw himself as born to teach, lead and command”; later as “a literate person who feels himself a member of … an intellectual elite.” He began to develop these ideas even as he was writing The True Believer. Mass movements are generated by non-creative men of words, he believed. …

He viewed them as a dangerous species. They scorn profit and worship power; they aim to make history, not money. Their abiding dissatisfaction is with “things as they are”. They want to rule by coercion and yet retain our admiration. They see in the common criminal “a fellow militant in the effort to destroy the existing system”. Societies where the common people are relatively prosperous displease them because intellectuals know that their leadership will be rejected in the absence of a widespread grievance. The cockiness and independence of common folk offend their aristocratic outlook. The free-market system renders their leadership superfluous. Their quest for influence and status is always uppermost.

A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual’s sense of worth as an automated economy is a threat to the worker’s sense of worth. Any social order, however just and noble, which can function well with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.

All intellectuals are homesick for the Middle Ages, Hoffer wrote. It was “the El Dorado of the clerks”—a time when “the masses knew their place and did not trespass from their low estate”. Intellectuals enjoyed their first taste of blood when they started the French Revolution. Writers and revolutionaries had a new sense of their power. “They knew that the world was vulnerable to the potency of thought and that they were the new makers of history.”

But the nineteenth century had been a big disappointment. The workers had shown unwelcome signs of wanting to join rather than rebel against the bourgeoisie. The members of the intelligentsia, pushing too openly for revolution, had overplayed their hand and were discredited in the failed European revolutions of 1848. They didn’t return to the stage of history until the Russian Revolution.

Unless they are consulted and flattered, Hoffer argued, intellectuals constitute a destabilizing force in society. When a prevailing order is discredited or overthrown, it is often “the deliberate work of men of words with a grievance”. Even a vigorous and meritorious regime is likely to be swept away if it fails to win the allegiance of the articulate minority. When we hear of widespread disaffection within the society it is really the intellectuals who are disaffected. On the other hand, where that minority lacks a grievance, the prevailing order—however incompetent or corrupt—is likely to remain in power.

The modern faith in education as the solution to society’s ills had only made matters worse. Shortly before The True Believer was published, Hoffer noted that if it is true that “…the most rabid fanatic comes from among the non-creative men of words, then it is obvious that a spread of education and a reverence for creativeness is likely to multiply the number of those thwarted in their attempts to create.”

Possibly, then, “the diffusion of literacy in the Western world … has created a reservoir of fanatics of the most virulent kind.”

Educational efforts in Asia had kindled more resentments and grievances than solutions, he thought. “Many of the revolutionary leaders in India, China and Indonesia received their training in conservative Western institutions.”

— Thomas Bethell, Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher

The key to North American intellectual life

The figure of Benjamin Franklin is indelibly associated with Creole nationalism in the northern Americas. But the importance of his trade may be less apparent. Once again, Febvre and Martin are enlightening. They remind us that ‘printing did not really develop in [North] America during the eighteenth century until printers discovered a new source of income — the newspaper.’ Printers starting new presses always included a newspaper in their productions, to which they were usually the main, even the sole, contributor. Thus the printer-journalist was initially an essentially North American phenomenon. Since the main problem facing the printer-journalist was reaching readers, there developed an alliance with the post-master so intimate that often each became the other. Hence, the printer’s office emerged as the key to North American communications and community intellectual life.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.

The deep Cathedral?

What is the role of gender in consolidating social identity and subjectivity? How has Conchita Wurst changed our aesthetics and political ethos?

openDemocracy is a website for debate about international politics and culture, offering news and opinion articles from established academics, journalists and policymakers covering current issues in world affairs. openDemocracy was founded in 2000 by Anthony Barnett, David Hayes, Susan Richards and Paul Hilder. Publishing started in May 2001.[1]

In dialogue with feminist, queer and transgender groups, the Challenging Male Supremacy Project works with male activists to raise consciousness and strengthen practices of accountability in order to counter the harms of male violence and privilege, and build broader struggles for transformative justice and collective liberation.

Prominent contributors to the webzine have included Kofi Annan, George Soros, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Shirin Ebadi, Sidney Blumenthal, Peter Hain, Pierre Bourdieu, Manuel Castells, Fred Halliday, and David Blunkett.

We must use our freedom to maintain a radical perspective and build an alternative to austerity and exclusion, says Tom Vickers.

openDemocracy’s mission statement asserts: “openDemocracy is committed to human rights and democracy. We aim to ensure that marginalised views and voices are heard. We believe facilitating argument and understanding across geographical boundaries is vital to preventing injustice”.[2]

Women have played a seminal role in keeping food cultures all over the world alive. Nikandre Kopcke discusses her inspiration for setting up a pop-up restaurant which showcases the culinary talents and diverse cultural heritages of migrant women in London.

openDemocracy is owned and published through a non-profit foundation.[3] It has been funded by a number of philanthropic organisations, including the Ford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, as well as a base of individual donors.[4] High profile individual supporters have included Heidi Bergemann, John Cleese, Carl Djerassi, Pamela Raspe, and Reinhard Hesse.[4]

African feminist filmmakers and theorists reflect on the shifting roles of women working at all levels of the film and media industries on the continent, and the task of making films that challenge the existing fictions that misrepresent and distort women’s realities.

The CIA uses philanthropic foundations as the most effective conduit to channel large sums of money to Agency projects without alerting the recipients to their source. From the early 1950s to the present the CIA’s intrusion into the foundation field was and is huge. A U.S. Congressional investigation in 1976 revealed that nearly 50% of the 700 grants in the field of international activities by the principal foundations were funded by the CIA (Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders, Granta Books, 1999, pp. 134-135). The CIA considers foundations such as Ford “The best and most plausible kind of funding cover” (Ibid, p. 135). The collaboration of respectable and prestigious foundations, according to one former CIA operative, allowed the Agency to fund “a seemingly limitless range of covert action programs affecting youth groups, labor unions, universities, publishing houses and other private institutions” (p. 135). The latter included “human rights” groups beginning in the 1950s to the present. One of the most important “private foundations” collaborating with the CIA over a significant span of time in major projects in the cultural Cold War is the Ford Foundation.

According to Balibar, and I share his view, if we adopt a radically relational perspective, the concrete redefinition of statehood in Europe is already bringing with it the material conditions for a redefinition of a collective subject of history. The crisis of Europe is therefore the problem of a collective subject of history – the people – which is beyond the nation state.

It is important to note that once the CIA had officially been established in 1947, John Whitley and Nelson Rockefeller would both cooperate actively with the Agency, serving either as ‘fronts’ for CIA funding, or using their own money to fund initiatives which were useful assets to the Agency. Whitney, who also served on the Psychological Strategy board (PSB) during the early 1950s, made himself useful to the CIA by furnishing financial backing for new companies and business ventures, which he registered under his own name. As Frances Stonor Saunders has pointed out, the Rockefeller Foundation formed ‘an integral component of America’s Cold War machinery’. Although it may not have been an actual CIA conduit, the Foundation did play an important part in shaping US foreign policy, funding the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a major Cold War think-tank, as well as research grants and fellowships. Nelson Rockefeller himself had strong ties to the American intelligence community and used his family’s extensive fortune to promote US foreign policy objectives. In addition to his influential position within the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, he also served as president of the Museum of Modern Art, which played an important role in the CIA’s cultural Cold War. During the 1950s, Rockefeller received briefings on covert activities from both CIA director Allen Dulles and Tom Braden, director of the CIA’s International Organizations Division. In 1954 Rockefeller was appointed chairman of the Planning Coordinating Group, which controlled all National Security Council decisions and cover t operations. In that same year Rockefeller replaced C. D. Jackson as Eisenhower’s special advisor on psychological warfare.

Theorists of gender and sexuality stress the significance of public performance of gender and the role of repetition in consolidating one’s social identity and subjectivity: we are (exist), as gendered and sexual human beings, in relation to our peers and society; our public presence plays a role in this recognition and our social integrations. But we can also constantly become what we aspire to be by challenging social norms and expectations. Narratives of gender and sexuality meet half way – or so they should in a society respecting individual and sub-group rights. In this respect, collecting 12 points from many European countries – amongst them, several with over-active fascist-populist movements – produces a series of controversial discourses: first, European audiences are beginning to accept the Euro-pop consumption of marginalised social identities (homosexual, transvestite, drag and what is known in gender studies as ‘queer’). Second, the artistic elites (Eurovision judges) appear to promote new tolerance agendas that incorporate art into policies of equality (still not harmonised at European level). Finally, popular venues, such as that of Eurovision, can streamline such agendas into global public consciousness in as imperceptive ways as those employed by harmful propaganda machines of old times (e.g. the Third Reich).

The best-known socialist

Harrington was the best-known socialist in the United States during his lifetime,[9] in recognition of which the City University of New York established “The Michael Harrington Center for Democratic Values and Social Change” at Queens College.[10]