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MARX AND MILLS September 30, 2008

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.

Wither representative democracy? The crass behavior of the former State Labor Government and the criminal behavior of some players at the local level, in particular property developers, led to the sacking of the Wollongong City Council, and the introduction of the notion of community democracy – “democracy in the deep sense”.

Still representative democracy seems problematic and unsatisfactory almost everywhere you look. So the conceit of a discussion between Karl Marx and John Stuart Mills, which would have been possible, seems very appealing and instructive. Paul Gingsborg suggested the idea in his recent book, and he was interviewed by Phillip Adams on ABC National’s Late Night Live last week:

Democracy:Crisis and Renewal



1. Judith Ellis - September 30, 2008

What a most enjoyable and insightful interview. Thank you, wmmbb!. I will now take out my Marx and Mills books and brush up on their notions. These things struck me profoundly:

1. Democracy does not control the autocracy of television.
2. Out of the belly of the beast comes: Obama. (Hmmm? Does democracy then work? I also thought of Obama return to community activism as president.)
3. Renewal being shown in the donations given to the Obama campaign and young people in Berkeley asking for $5 dollars for the Obama campaign when the approached might ask what do they want?
4. Family as key institution in any process of transformation.
5. Citizen participation. (This reminded me of a video clip I posted on my blog by the comedienne Wanda Sykes.)
6. Individual futures being in our hands and organzining to bring about collective change.
7. Focus groups: The Growth of Civil Society
8. Transference of focus groups into democracy. (Who would have thought they were different. Right!?)
9. Workers participating in decision-making
10. Gradual revolution

I will purchase this book by Paul Gingsborg. I like many of the points here and presenting two notions of the world and economy and finding commonality (or at the very least, in my opinion, respect which allows for the possibility of error.)

Marx’s notions of a violent revolution became softer over time. This reminded me of the notions of Malcolm X who espoused violence, went to Mecca, and returned more peaceful. It was then that he was murdered. How unfortunate.

Thanks again, wmmbb. You have given me much to think about.

2. wmmbb - September 30, 2008

Guess what this morning there was a package at the front gate. “That could be the book you ordered” – and it was Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan and for good measure, since I am spending the household budget, Michael Nagler’s, The Search for a Nonviolent Future.

Thank you for the recommendation. I am sure that I will read it with a great deal of pleasure. I notice he says that he was told that black swans look ugly. I don’t agree.

I am pleased you liked the download. I am not sure how much longer it will be available.

I might have to get back to you in relation to your other observations.

3. wmmbb - September 30, 2008

Judith regarding your specific observations, whatever the failing that democracies seem to share, your country seems to lead in citizen activism, whether of the right or left.

I am thinking of the Civil Rights Movement which included all sorts of people such as Quakers in its nonviolent expression. Then there was the Anti-Vietnam War movement. There is the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley that Paul Ginsborg mentions. Then there is the Community Organizers, who I associate with Saul Alinsky in Chicago. Obama seems to have tapped into it, during his campaign, very successfully with regard to the Democratic Caucuses.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the libertarians seem to be pretty active. Then there are the fundamentalist Christians who have Sarah Palin as there Joan of Arc.

I had not known that Malcolm X was killed after coming back from Mecca, although I knew he went and had commented on the diversity of people attending.

Thanks for your comments Judith and your book recommendation. Now I have some reading to do.

4. Judith Ellis - October 1, 2008

Happy reading! As usual, some enjoy the book, other don’t. Check out his website. He is a most unusual thinker who doesn’t seem to be terribly impressed or moved by the crowd with no disdain, for the masses–that is. Enjoy!

Movements are movements because they affect the whole. All of the above have done just that. The interesting thing about movement, as well as Black Swans, is that they can be both good, bad and always impactful. Our response, input and preparation can make the difference.

Let me know about the Nagler read. I may have to pick that one up too. You are not alone in “spending the household budget.” 🙂

5. wmmbb - October 1, 2008


Both Tom Peters and you suggested The Black Swan, so it comes well recommended.

I will certainly let you know of my response to this book written by Michael Nagler. Nonviolence is a subject I believe you will take to, given what I know about the depth of your religious views. The promotion of violence, in its various expressions, seems to remove people from their humanity so that they become caricatures. A process that is particularly evident on television, it seems. Nowadays I give little time to watching television. i prefer to ignore what they have to offer. In this case, “ignorance is strength”?

6. Judith Ellis - October 1, 2008

wmmbb – It’s funny when religion is spoken of. Christ himself never said a negative word about non-believers but spoke quiet frequently of the religious leaders of his day. I am not big on religion generally. What I am incredibly moves me is the message of Christ, I love his priniciples. Though I believe that everyting in the Bible is true, not everything there is truly spoken. Christ, however, never missed the mark, as he is love. I want to be as Christ. I often fail miserably. Let me know what of Nagler’s book. Regarding movies, I’m a big fan, especially those of the golden years gone by of great movie-making. Betty Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Faye Dunnaway, Walter Pigeon, Orson Wells, Gregory Peck, and Sidney Portier are among my favorites.

7. wmmbb - October 2, 2008

My joke – at least I am amused – is that the great spiritual teachers and leaders have often spoken metaphorically, whereas as some of their followers have been determined to interpret their messages literally.

I am not without sympathy. I am not going to throw the first stone (Wow! What a response?) Include me among those who do not get it. I often do not understand the context either, and not able to speak truly.

You make an interesting comment, Judith, about movies. When Hollywood was at its peaks, films were being mass produced. For example, Casablanca was just another movie. It is interesting that some actors and some films have stood the test of time, but were nevertheless instantly recognized as exceptional.

8. Judith Ellis - October 2, 2008

Although the movies of old were mass produced the difference may be the actors themselves. Many of these actors seemed to consider their jobs as art, the way Michaelangelo may have thought of his work. They considered themselves artists. I have read more than a few biographies of these actors when I was performing and was always struck by their dedication to their craft that included intense background studies of the emotions, time, and environment the character might have found himself/herself in. I took this as a cue to do the same in my operatic and dramatic roles too. It helped.

9. wmmbb - October 3, 2008

We have a limited CD library, and I have seen a few movies a few times, but that is about as much as I know.

By the way, did you see the movie, that Oorvi talked about, Judgment At Nurmberg, with Burt Lancaster and Spencer Tracey?

10. Judith Ellis - October 3, 2008

I have only 2 CD movies actually. I have thousands of music CDs from classical to gospel to jazz. Most movies I have seen since an adult we pm AMC and TMC. Growing up, we couldn’t watch a lot of TV . I have not seen Judgment at Nurmberg, but I do know of it. I’ll check it out. So, Oorvi’s a movie buff, eh?

11. wmmbb - October 3, 2008

Oorvi saw the movie on television. Must be a movie buff as well I suppose.

We have many Opera and Classical CD’s in this house, but music is not my thing.

By the way, Michael Nagler sent me an email saying he agreed with you, but I am not sure what was the specific reference. It must have been some observation of yours about nonviolence.

I have not started on The Black Swan, while I have been reading The Search for a Nonviolent Future.

12. Judith Ellis - October 4, 2008

I will purchase Professor Nagler’s book. I knew a wonderful woman, Lillian Mellen Genser, who ran the Center of Peace and Conflict Studies at Wayne State University, for many years. Lillian and I sat on a board together and I found her to be most loving. I would occasionally go to her home and just sit at her feet and listen. What a wonderful person she was and how she loved peace. She was also a fighter, not one to lie down easily for causes she believed in.

Children were very dear to her too. This is her World Pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the world, to care for earth and sea and air, to cherish every living thing, with peace and justice everywhere.” Oh, how I remember talking to her about peace. Lillian passed a few years ago in her late 80’s. I’m sure many people knew her much better than I. But she left an indelible impression on me.

13. wmmbb - October 4, 2008

I am very confident that you will enjoy the book, Judith. I have not finished yet, but I am also looking forward to The Black Swan.

Thank you especially for sharing your friendship and memories of Lillian. I like her pledge so much, I think I will adopt it – as other have, and more others will do now and in the future.

14. Judith Ellis - October 5, 2008

Thanks, wmmbb, for reminding me of Lillian. After commenting here I wrote a piece in memory of her on my blog. My heart smiles when I think of her.

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