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ILLUSIONS OF DEMOCRACY March 14, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Philosophy.
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Albert Einstein wrote of the illusion of consciousness referring, at least in part,to our cultural disconnect from nature.

And it is not as if we do not breathe in oxygen and expire carbon dioxide. Karl Marx, it seems along with the materialist conception of history and surplus value, had a word to say along with co-author Fred Engels concerning the deception of the mass mind in the interest of the one per-cent, even before the invention of television.

John Stoehr, at Al Jazeera, has posed: What if Democracy is an illusion? I believe by this he means representative democracy, whereas I am one of the hopeless idealists who thinks democratic citizenship and dialogue is more fundamental than political structures and formal processes, including formal meeting rules. I have tried to put something of this argument, taking too much of the generous rules of engagement at Catallaxy. I think Kevin Rudd was correct in saying that Climate Change is the existential challenge of our time.

Something of John Stoehr’s argument is given by the following:

Karl Marx never visited the United States, but he nevertheless understood the country, because he understood capitalism. As you know, there’s no American ideology that’s mightier than capitalism. Equality, justice and the rule of law are nice and all, but money talks.

In their 1846 book The German Ideology, Marx and co-author Frederick Engels took a look at human history and made a plain but controversial observation. In any given historical period, the ideas that people generally think are the best and most important ideas are usually the ideas of the people in charge. If you have a lot of money and own a lot of property, then you have the power to propagandise your worldview and you have incentive to avoid appearing as if you’re propagandising your worldview. Or, as Marx and Engels would put it: The ruling ideas of every epoch are the ideas of the ruling class.

The ideas of the one per cent become the dominant ideas because the one per cent convinces the 99 per cent that its ideas are the only rational and universally valid ideas. Consider free-market capitalism. The idea says that growth provides prosperity to all, that government governs best when it governs least, so there’s no need to discuss the redistribution of wealth. That’s neoliberalism and that idea has been the only acceptable economic policy since the Clinton era. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was its greatest champion. After the collapse of the housing market, he said he was dead wrong. Even so, the idea remains dominant. Why? Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but the ruling class happens to make a lot of money from a free market.

Somewhat like Captain Renault in Casablanca, I am quite shocked to read this reference to Marx and American Politics, other than it has been published on a Middle East media platform. Then again, my attention was caught by the reference to Socialism on one of those radio programs, this one from New York, that specializes in degrading people.

Here is Dennis Dalton’s lecture on Marx’s Critique of Capitalism:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

The way in which culture and political discussion change is interesting. I have not been able to discover how the delusion of consciousness that Einstein reference happened in cultural history.

POSTSCRIPT:

Here is the full Einstein quote, just to challenge me, if nobody else:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us “the universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

Comments»

1. DIALOGUE AND DEMOCRACY « DUCKPOND - March 29, 2012

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[…] Illusions of Democracy (wmmbb.wordpress.com) […]


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