Tag Archives: capitalism

Antonio Gramsci: The New Hegemony

One of the most fascinating political writers of the early 20th century was Antonio Francesco Gramsci. Gramsci was born in 1891 in the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia, and died at only 46 in Rome in 1937. During such a short life, he was able to formulate possibly the most influential philosophy of our times – rule brought about not by violent force but by consent of the subjugated class. Some call Gramsci’s philosophy Neo-Marxism, since it aims to achieve similar results without the extreme authoritarianism of Traditional Marxism. Gramsci himself does not appear to have called his philosophy anything; he simply described and emphasized the plan’s components: hegemony, praxis, and civil society.

Gramsci’s writings, mostly essays, are divided into pre-prison time and prison time. Prison time, courtesy of Benito Mussolini’s anti-Marxist Fascist Italy, lasted six years, 1929-1935. According to those who study Gramsci’s work, the pre-prison essays (1910-1926) lean towards the politically specific, while the latter woks are more historical and theoretical. Interestingly, Gramsci’s socio-political theories provide insight into common strategies used by both capitalists and Marxists. Concepts of hegemony, praxis, and civil society are entirely adaptable.

Hegemony

The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci’s view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.  Wikipedia, Antonio Gramsci

The bourgeoisie indeed ruled, until it was officially challenged in the 1960s by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  During the last 50 years, the U.S. has experienced a gradual and relatively peaceful normalization of the socialist order. The newly- socialist-bent institutions of the superstructure (courts, universities, news media) provide support to the superstructure itself (today popularly alternately called the military-industrial complex, the deep state, or the central banks). Meanwhile “the capitalist order” has assumed the full mantle of crony capitalism and is busy normalizing its own crony newspeak (bailouts, affordable housing, industry tax breaks). Hegemony brought about by the consent of the subjugated (taxpayers, the working-poor dependent on public assistance, the priced out renter) is totally fungible.

Praxis

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. Praxis may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas … It has meaning in the political, educational, spiritual and medical realms.  Wikipedia, Praxis

In other words, praxis is the end result of observation, study, and thinking. It is doing.  It can be action oriented towards changing societal norms and values. Or it can be action to defend the status quo against factions desiring change.  Endless discussions on the virtues of capitalism vs. socialism are fine, but movement towards or against one or the other can only come about via mobilization of armies of volunteers, financial supporters, and strategists.  Praxis is exemplified by mobilizers such as the Tea Party or MoveOn and the Koch brothers or George Soros.

Civil Society

What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two major superstructural “levels”: the one that can be called “civil society”, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private”, and that of “political society” or “the State”. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domination” or command exercised through the State and “juridical” government. The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s “deputies” exercising the sub-altern functions of social hegemony and political government.  Archive.org, Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

In summary, civil society lives by consent, while the State ensures by force the continuation of consent. Intellectuals function as the principal manufacturers of consent.  Academics are the foot soldiers that help either preserve the status quo or generate fresh value systems from which new hegemony arises.  Civil society is the battleground that gives rise to hegemony.

The International Gramsci Society, until recently presided by the late literary scholar Joseph Buttigieg (father of Rhodes-scholar and Mayor of South Bend, Peter Buttigieg, a presidential candidate in the 2020 U.S. elections), is one of many societies developing the socialist/Marxist consensual hegemony within today’s civil society.

Gransci meetingPictured lecturer:  Marcus E. Green, Phd, Pasadena City College, author of several Gramsci-related essays and secretary of the International Gramsci Society.

Gramsci’s Other Concepts

Antonio Gramsci discussed several other important concepts, many of which we can clearly see playing out today. Here are three:

Organic intellectuals: Scholars, artists, and functionaries (administrators, bureaucrats, industrial managers, and politicians) that identify with the economic structure of their society more than traditional intellectuals. Thus, organic intellectuals are more able to spread organic ideology, since their communication is with structures they identify as their own. Our representatives in the U.S. Congress are good examples of organic intellectuals; they identify with today’s penchant for kicking the can of the obviously unsustainable national debt down the road, and their ideological hegemony persists.

War of Position: Struggle against the existing hegemonic system is necessary for the establishment of a new system. The war to establish a dominant position must be waged on all three levels of society – economic, political and cultural. The current thrashing about between the administrative and legislative arms of our federal government should go down in history as a quintessential war of position.

Organic Crisis: Differs from ordinary financial, economic, or political crises. It encompasses an entire system that is no longer able to generate social consensus because the system’s ruling classes are unable to resolve conflicts. Organic crisis appears when, as Antonio Gramsci describes in his Prison Notebooks, “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Has the U.S. reached that point yet?

No Sign Congress Wants to Go Back to Work

If anyone at all harbored any hope that the U.S. Congress would go back to work after Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued his report on “Russian Collusion” stating there was none, those unfortunate hopeful folks need to abandon all optimism and go back to just shelling out tax money.

After nearly two years and approximately $30 million in expenses incurred by the Mueller investigation, Congress and the public got to see a redacted version of the Mueller Report in April 2019 – and a new round of pulling of hair and rending of garments commenced. The Democrat majority in the House of Representatives renewed its cry for more investigations and possible impeachment of the President. They want to look into his tax returns and his private real estate deals. They want to investigate who paid for his inaugural event, and why he is calling for changes in the U.S. Census.

Monopoly OligarchCertainly, we the people want Congress to root out corruption, and the fall from grace of many who Mueller dispatched into the arms of the judicial system might have been worthwhile. But, was this mere collateral damage within a higher agenda? Is it time for every voter and taxpayer to ask whether there is a higher agenda and what that agenda might be? Might such a higher agenda be the innocent belief that Donald Trump threatens the venues that government uses to take care of us? Or might the higher agenda be that of oligarchs who do not wish to relinquish control of government venues in charge of funneling wealth?

The innocents truly believe government can better their lives by providing free stuff. They ignore the fact that there is no such thing as free stuff. Take education that became unaffordable to the average American college aspirant when predictably colleges raised tuition in order to capture the largess offered by taxpayer-funded student loans.

On the other hand, oligarchs know exactly what they are doing by encouraging endless printing of fiat money. Think your rent is so high you barely can keep a roof over your family’s head? Look at all the practically free money created by rock bottom interest rates that end up parked in real estate that remains vacant for decades. Think your city is full of techies that can afford to price you out of purchasing a home? Look again at all the fiat money floating around that needs to be parked somewhere, and tech companies are as good a parking space right now as anything else. By the way, this scenario is not the result of capitalism, but the result of policies such as those established by the Federal Reserve (low interest rates) and your government at work (endless spending on entitlements and forever wars).

Voters and taxpayers might want to consider the invisible strings pulling the visible puppets that are so intent on avoiding change at all cost.

The Great Social Media Purge of 2018!

Vulture 8Media users that do not follow today’s prescribed line of thinking are feeling the pain. Outliers big and small are squawking loudly and persistently about curtailed “reach” of posts, invisible tweets, and shadow banning. Seems that The Powers that Be have devised a most effective way to help silence any differing views.

The Decline of America

Such media efforts are only the latest developments aiding in the nation’s covert decline – a decline evidenced by a gargantuan and growing national debt, decimation of our manufacturing base, rise of the 1% accompanied by decline of the middle class and explosive growth of the dependent class.

Why would this media tantrum rank right up there with the biggies, such as the tax-and-spend mentality that led to the gargantuan debt, that led to the need for near-zero interest rates to enable debt payments, that led to easy borrowing, that led to breezy acquisitions on borrowed money, that led to monopolies.

The reason is that the media tantrum is 1) the result of powerful monopolies, and 2) monopolies demand obedience.

Obedience creates an echo chamber into which we plebeians must fit. Inhabitants of echo chambers do not think; they regurgitate. They do not create; they copy. They do not question; they accept. They are good at following orders.

Rise of the Monopolists

Conversely, monopolists do not follow, but lead. Take for example, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. There is no question that Mr. Thiel’s innovations in several industrial and financial sectors have greatly benefited people. Most of us have made good use of PayPal or aspire to own an electric car, and businesses benefit from the data integration provided by Palantir. However, in spite of his obvious intellect, Mr. Thiel’s view of monopolies seems self serving. Here is an excerpt from an article discussing Peter Thiel’s book Three Cheers for Creative Monopolies.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel advocates the benefits of creative monopoly. That’s a company that is “so good at what it does that no other firm can offer a close substitute.” They give customers more choices “by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world.

He goes on to say, “All happy companies are different: Each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: They failed to escape competition.” He suggests entrepreneurs focus on “What valuable company is nobody building?”  The Balance, May 2018

A monopoly is a monopoly, creative or not, since causes and effects are the same no matter what one calls a monopoly. Today, the cause is barrels full of cash generated by cheap borrowing that enable vertical and horizontal acquisitions. The effect is concentration of products and services in a few gigantic companies, regulated or unregulated.

Sure the giants in their field offer consumers “choices,” as Peter Thiel says. But to what extent? You don’t like the way Facebook is treating you? Go to the competition! Oh wait, there isn’t any.

There Once Was the Model T

Ford Model T 2 - CopyOne might say that when Henry Ford perfected the assembly lines that produced the Model T, a car that dominated the market for its relative affordability and simplicity, his company earned the distinction of being so good that no other firm offered a close substitute. With the mass-produced Model T, the company also added an entirely new category of abundance to the world.

However, like today’s media giants, the Ford Motor Company had a strange way of offering consumer choices. Henry Ford famously said,

Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.

So, General Motors, who up until then catered to the moneyed class, started to make affordable cars that were not black, and had bells and whistles that the utilitarian Model T eschewed.

Good lesson on how to thwart a company’s dominance in a market!

It’s Their House

Private companies, including those that provide media services, should be free to run their businesses as they see fit. It’s their house.

It is up to consumers to do their due diligence so they understand what they are purchasing and how they are paying in one form or another for the products and services they buy. The cost might be a tacit agreement to tow the prescribed line of thinking. Or the cost might be sharing all your needs, wants, preferences, and ideals so you can be efficiently placed in the appropriate marketing and cultural category.

It is also up to consumers, as well as voters, to make choices. Some consumers now suffering from the whims of media might be tempted to clamor for government regulation, thereby exchanging one master for another.

Miracles do happen, and perhaps once enough consumers of media, especially social media, complain about their dissenting opinions being scrubbed from view, media companies will see the error of their ways and be inclusive (a favorite term of progressives). But if that miracle does not happen….

Be Creative!

Must you settle for being dependent on media, especially social media? How about creating your own mailing lists, reaching out to like-minded people and groups, supporting the endeavors of like-minded people in exchange for their support?

Might participating in the rise of creative alternative means of communication be a better choice than continuing to send out invisible tweets and posts?

Recommended Lecture on the Federal Reserve

Economics Lecture: The Historical Case Against the Federal Reserve – Regulatory Origins of American Banking and Financial Instability Before 1914

Monday, June 25, 2018   7:00 – 10:00 pm
Community Room (located behind the station building)
Richmond Police Station (between Geary Blvd. and Anza St.)
461 – 6th Avenue, San Francisco, California

Hosted by Golden Gate Liberty Revolution Meetup (fka the Ron Paul Meetup).  GGLR holds its meetings on the 4th Monday of the month. Meetings are free and open to the public.

After-meeting socials are around 10:00 pm at Overtime Sports Bar & Restaurant, 4134 Geary Blvd, San Francisco.

Details contributed by lecture presenter Chris Silber:

The Federal Reserve has received renewed criticism and scrutiny in the decade since the global financial crisis. Yet the Fed has large and powerful lobbies of apologists among the mainstream press, academics, and policymakers who have argued without the Fed the U.S. banking system would return to the more frequent and disruptive financial crises of the pre-Fed era.

While it’s true that the U.S suffered from frequent banking panics throughout the 19th century, was the absence of a central bank really the cause? And if so, why then during the same period did countries like Canada and Scotland experience remarkable financial stability without a central bank? Were in fact pernicious state and federal regulations the real source of the U.S. banking system’s fragility? And if so shouldn’t Fed apologists in academia and the mainstream press know better?

Chris Silber will discuss the regulatory history of U.S. banking including the real causes of frequent financial crises during the period: restrictive unit banking laws, America’s antebellum central banks, and the post-Civil War National Banking System. The similarly unstable English and contrasting sound Canadian and Scottish systems will also be examined.

Chris Silber previously presented at GGLR Meetup lectures on monetary history, business cycles, and the Great Depression.

RSVP: Golden Gate Liberty Revolution Meetup

Recommended site: The Atlas Society

AynRandHere is a website worth mentioning, The Atlas Society. The “Atlas” part refers to Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged. The website features lessons in Objectivism, readers’ tools to assist in the understanding of Rand’s books, commentary on a variety of subjects relating to the objectivist view, and events. Students and educators in conventional schools, as well as homeschoolers, could benefit from such information.

Objectivism, as presented by writer Ayn Rand, is not a household word these days, but should be at least understood. The Atlas Society describes objectivism as follows,

Objectivism is the philosophy of rational individualism founded by Ayn Rand (1905-1982). In novels such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand dramatized her ideal individual, the producer who lives by his own effort and does not give or receive the undeserved, who honors achievement and rejects envy. Rand laid out the details of her world-view in nonfiction books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

Today, politicians and advocates for a plethora of special interests continually call for greater taxation to support social programs and projects that for the most part discourage the practice of objectivism. Words like “equity,” “social justice,” and “inclusivity,” so prevalent in today’s vocabulary, would leave individualists like John Stuart Mill or Thomas Jefferson befuddled. Adam Smith, the father of free-market capitalism, would be equally perplexed with the terms “crony capitalism” or “corporate welfare.” Ayn Rand, were she alive today, would probably simply admonish us all with an “I told you so.”

However, just as big-government people worked to main stream their ideas, so can small-government, objectivist-leaning individualists work at spreading theirs. Returning the nation towards a path that encourages the self-directed true producer, not coddles the unhappy dependent, could easily start with just voting NO on proposals that “feed the beast” with workers’ hard-earned cash.