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George Orwell and Emmanuel Levinas Introspective: Socialism and the Other

Introduction

George Orwell (1903 to 1950) and Emmanuel Levinas (1905 to 1995) were both engaged in the fight against fascism during the 20th century. Orwell, born in India but educated and resided in England, fought with the Popular Front, leftist government in Spain against the right-wing, military coup of Nationalists lead by General Francisco Franco. Orwell was shot in the neck and barely escaped with his life (Colls, 2014). Levinas, a Lithuanian, became a naturalized French citizen in 1931. He fought with the French and was captured by the Nazis where he remained a prisoner of war until the end of the war in 1945. His father and brothers died at the hands of the Nazi SS in Lithuania. Maurice Blanchot helped Levinas’ wife and daughter spend the war in a monastery (Emm). Both men understood the horror of war and made brilliant strides to wrestle with the absolute need for meaning in what appeared to be a meaningless world. They both described in very different ways the pitfalls of humanity and articulated with painful integrity and brilliance an avenue of hope in a hopeless world. For Orwell, with astute recognition of the weaknesses of socialism, nevertheless thought of socialism as the only possible hope for the disenfranchised and horrors of impoverishment in industrialized England. Levinas is not so easy to pin down with a political philosophy. Levinas warns us of the insidious nature of totalitarianism. In this way, his forebodings about the state have a kinship to Orwell’s critique of nationalism. While Levinas’ philosophy is deeply informed by the history of philosophy, his purpose is quite simple.

Sometimes, I think academic philosophy is its own worst enemy. Philosophy started out and literally means ‘love of wisdom’. Wisdom is not limited to the Aristotelian academy and its occidental linage. To the contrary, wisdom is widely available to every tradition, every culture, every human being. Personally, I also find wisdom in other animals besides humans. It seems the repetition which comes with age invites a certain sort of memory which allows the possibility for accommodation of difference and a sense of the profundity of love amid inevitable tragedies. This is not a given but a potential as Aristotle would suggest.

Perhaps, one way to think of the failure to make wisdom actual could be as a decline of our species, an evolutionary failure. However, even in this paradigm, individual evolutionary adaptation is always given as a possibility endemic to life. The downside of reducing wisdom to an evolutionary paradigm is to once again fall into the mode of totalizing objectivity which transforms the other to an ‘it’ of objectivity in the form of evolutionary taxonomy. In any case, the paradigm of evolution is not adequate in thinking about and desiring wisdom.

Levinas opens an alternative route to wisdom by putting a face on the other. He exposes convention which itself totalizes the other in the form of self-interest. In my estimation, anyone who follows the actual teachings of compassion and responsibility for the other, the stranger, the oppressed, the impoverished has achieved the goal, the telos (culmination, end) of Levinas’ monumental challenge – to help us see the face of the other for the very first time not obscured by the pitfalls of an already-assumed, historic situatedness cooked into language and tradition.

However, as each one of us carries our histories with us, we will eventually have to write a new history if the state is to be viable. This is the direction I am pointing towards in this post. Certainly, the kinds of historic changes I am thinking of takes hundreds of years. To the extent that academics bring the notions of Levinas and similar others to a wider audience is how they live the responsibility Levinas’ places on each of us. To the extent that academics puts up barriers of access to the wisdom of our responsibility to the other is once again reinforcing the barriers of totalitarianism. My goal is, to the best of my ability, to continue to open with others which proceeded me the historic way we came into totalitarianism and highlight the way out of the prison of self-interest to the he or she who faces us. In any case, let us remember the following which I will come back to later:

Language is the historic, cultural map that defines reality for us.

First, I would like to look at Orwell’s eyewitness chronicling of Europe’s devolution leading up to World War II with a view to his political solutions for the state. Today, we once again hear the rhyme of Orwell’s history. It seems we are always only condemned to repeat the past no matter what the state looks like although certainly some states seem better than others for delaying the inevitable. Levinas provides us with an especially needful alternative to the inability of the state to survive inevitable catastrophic failure and to deal effectively with planet wide threats from climate change and nuclear weapons. However, Levinas’ alternative requires a monumental change which probably represents more like a species type adaptation. It resides in the potential of wisdom if humans are to survive on this planet. To arrive at Levinas’ solution, we will need to look at how we arrived philosophically from ancient Greeks to modernity and what perpetually sabotages the state, any state.

Democratic democracies, communism, and science all arrived in the modern, occidental age from enlightened liberalism. Enlightenment also brings in the rise of capitalism and socialism. For once and for all lets please put this oxymoron to rest, there has never been a pure democracy or a pure socialism. Every democratic country, including the U.S., is a combination of both. Democracy is the will of the people. If the people vote for government run social programs like welfare and food stamps or government funded research and development, health care, retirement, industry regulation, and so forth, it is because private enterprise is unable or unwilling to address the human condition and suffering of its citizens. When people in a democracy vote for government owned and operated services, the people want the text-book definition of socialism. The U.S. is a democratic, capitalistic, socialist country like it or not. If democracy denies the vote of the people, democracy is plain and simple totalitarianism. If the state totally controls and owns every resource, that is not socialism it is communism. Communism clearly is nothing other than totalitarianism as history has shown.

In this post we will take a brief look at the beginning of modernity and British Enlightenment to orient us to the path we are traversing. This will also require a look at the ancient Greeks to situate how Enlightenment came about in the first place. After that, I will take the political, and necessarily philosophical, challenge Levinas presents us to prevent the fate of the totalitarian state. Levinas understood the necessity of the state and the conditions for which it could escape its failed history. For Orwell, socialism was the hope for resolving an inevitable fascist nationalism resulting in the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Orwell faced the impossibility of democratic change in 20th century England with the intractability of aristocracy and its self-interest in the face of Hitler’s fascism. He saw no other solution for England except revolution. For Levinas, the inevitability of state totalitarianism was due to how each person in the state was locked in a philosophical and historic leveling off, or totalizing, of the other to the same. For now, the ‘same’ here is meant as how we find ourselves always already caught up in a history, a language, a culture which levels off radical alterity (otherness, difference) and holds the state hostage to preconceptions doomed to violence.

Orwell Chronicles the Impossibility of Totalitarianism in the Histories of 20th Century States

One of the most alarming struggles of reality over illusion is chronicled in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 by an early thirty-year-old Eric Blair whose pen name was George Orwell. Orwell fought in the war with the Popular Front government Republicans against the Spanish revolutionary Nationalists. For Orwell nationalism was synonymous with fascism. Contrary to the propagandized illusions of Jonah Goldberg in his book “Liberal Fascism”, the history of fascism is the history of conservatism, aristocracy, and wealth. The Spanish Civil War is yet one more example of how corrosive nationalism will always pit the haves against the have nots. Orwell faced the autocracies of nationalism and extreme poverty in England. He traveled to Spain to fight for the Spanish Republicans, a left-leaning group, against the Nationalist fascists. As a life-long devoted socialist, Orwell’s greatest virtue was his devotion to the plight of impoverished and oppressed others and his undying willingness to critically question any ideology which undermined that quest, including the horrors of communism. He would even make fun of his own socialists in “Can Socialists Be Happy” (Freeman, 1943) written under the pseudonym John Freeman where he writes,

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness. This is the case even with a great writer like Swift, who can flay a bishop or a politician so neatly, but who, when he tries to create a superman, merely leaves one with the impression the very last he can have intended that the stinking Yahoos had in them more possibility of development than the enlightened Houyhnhnms.

The debate between those that believe Orwell was ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ in contemporary, U.S. politics is superficial. Most appropriately, Orwell was a painfully honest socialist. When the Franco fascists won the Spanish Civil War, Stalin and the Bolshevik communists who fought on the side of the socialists against fascism exterminated the socialists. Thus, we have Orwell’s hatred of communism illustrated in “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. However, the essential link between fascism and communism for Orwell was nationalism. In Orwell’s essay, Notes on Nationalism (Orwell, 1945), he lays this out very clearly. Nationalism is the eternal struggle between rotting protectionism, spoiled mana, violent conservation of wealth, consolidation of power and the resulting facts of human suffering. He writes,

It is also worth emphasizing once again that nationalist feeling can be purely negative. There are, for example, Trotskyists who have become simply enemies of the U.S.S.R. without developing a corresponding loyalty to any other unit. When one grasps the implications of this, the nature of what I mean by nationalism becomes a good deal clearer. A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist – that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating – but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the up-grade and some hated rival is on the down-grade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also – since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself – unshakeably certain of being in the right.

Indifference to Reality. All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts.

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should – in which, for example, the Spanish Armada was a success or the Russian Revolution was crushed in 1918 – and he will transfer fragments of this world to the history books whenever possible. Much of the propagandist writing of our time amounts to plain forgery. Material facts are suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed from their context and doctored so as to change their meaning. Events which, it is felt, ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied.

Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events.

Eerily, this reminds us of events in the U.S. today. In the buildup between the Spanish Civil War and the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, the aristocracy and conservatism of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in England from 1937 to 1940 was sympathetic to the other axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan of World War II. Orwell writes,

The British ruling class were not altogether wrong in thinking that Fascism was on their side. It is a fact that any rich man, unless he is a Jew, has less to fear from Fascism than from either Communism or democratic Socialism. One ought never to forget this, for nearly the whole of German and Italian propaganda is designed to cover it up. The natural instinct of men like Simon, Hoare, Chamberlain, etc. was to come to an agreement with Hitler. But – and here the peculiar feature of English life that I have spoken of, the deep sense of national solidarity, comes in – they could only do so by breaking up the Empire and selling their own people into semi-slavery. A truly corrupt class would have done this without hesitation, as in France. But things had not gone that distance in England. Politicians who would make cringing speeches about “the duty of loyalty to our conquerors” are hardly to be found in English public life. Tossed to and fro between their incomes and their principles, it was impossible that men like Chamberlain should do anything but make the worst of both worlds (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941).

While Orwell detested war with Germany he believed that war was a necessity despite the conservative leanings of Chamberlain to make peace with Hitler and avoid war,

If I had to defend my reasons for supporting the war, I believe I could do so. There is no real alternative between resisting Hitler and surrendering to him, and from a Socialist point of view I should say that it is better to resist; in any case I can see no argument for surrender that does not make nonsense of the Republican resistance in Spain, the Chinese resistance to Japan, etc. etc. But I don’t pretend that that is the emotional basis of my actions. What I knew in my dream that night was that the long drilling in patriotism which the middle classes go through had done its work, and that once England was in a serious jam it would be impossible for me to sabotage. But let no one mistake the meaning of this. Patriotism has nothing to do with conservatism. It is devotion to something that is changing but is felt to be mystically the same, like the devotion of the ex-White Bolshevik to Russia. To be loyal both to Chamberlain’s England and to the England of tomorrow might seem an impossibility, if one did not know it to be an everyday phenomenon. Only revolution can save England, that has been obvious for years, but now the revolution has started, and it may proceed quite quickly if only we can keep Hitler out. Within two years, maybe a year, if only we can hang on, we shall see changes that will surprise the idiots who have no foresight. I dare say the London gutters will have to run with blood. All right, let them, if it is necessary. But when the red militias are billeted in the Ritz I shall still feel that the England I was taught to love so long ago for such different reasons is somehow persisting. (Orwell, My Country Right or Left, 1940)

Orwell determined that inaction was the action of fascism and could not be tolerated. He also saw that the indifference of ‘democracies’ prior to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, some anarchists, pacifists, and those that did not have the will to actively oppose bourgeois fascism, were themselves an instrument of nationalism and thus, fascism.

‘It is nonsense to talk of opposing Fascism by bourgeois “democracy”. Bourgeois “democracy” is only another name for capitalism, and so is Fascism; to fight against Fascism on behalf of “democracy” is to fight against one form of capitalism on behalf of a second which is liable to turn into the first at any moment. The only real alternative to Fascism is workers’ control. If you set up any less goal than this, you will either hand the victory to Franco, or, at best, let in Fascism by the back door. Meanwhile the workers must cling to every scrap of what they have won; if they yield anything to the semi-bourgeois Government they can depend upon being cheated. The workers’ militias and police-forces must be preserved in their present form and every effort to “bourgeoisify” them must be resisted. If the workers do not control the armed forces, the armed forces will control the workers. The war and the revolution are inseparable.’ (Orwell, ‘Three Parties that Mattered’: Extract from Homage to Catalonia, 1938)

In any serious emergency the contradiction implied in the Popular Front is bound to make itself felt. For even when the worker and the bourgeois are both fighting against Fascism, they are not fighting for the same things; the bourgeois is fighting for bourgeois democracy, i.e., capitalism, the worker, in so far as he understands the issue, for Socialism. And in the early days of the revolution the Spanish workers understood the issue very well. In the areas where Fascism was defeated they did not content themselves with driving the rebellious troops out of the towns; they also took the opportunity of seizing land and factories and setting up the rough beginnings of a workers’ government by means of local committees, workers’ militias, police forces, and so forth. They made the mistake, however (possibly because most of the active revolutionaries were Anarchists with a mistrust of all parliaments), of leaving the Republican Government in nominal control. And, in spite of various changes in personnel, every subsequent Government had been of approximately the same bourgeois-reformist character. At the beginning this seemed not to matter, because the Government, especially in Cataloñia, was almost powerless and the bourgeoisie had to lie low or even (this was still happening when I reached Spain in December) to disguise themselves as workers. Later, as power slipped from the hands of the Anarchists into the hands of the Communists and right-wing Socialists, the Government was able to reassert itself, the bourgeoisie came out of hiding and the old division of society into rich and poor reappeared, not much modified. Henceforward every move, except a few dictated by military emergency, was directed towards undoing the work of the first few months of revolution. Out of the many illustrations I could choose, I will cite only one, the breaking-up of the old workers’ militias, which were organized on a genuinely democratic system, with officers and men receiving the same pay and mingling on terms of complete equality, and the substitution of the Popular Army (once again, in Communist jargon, “People’s Army”), modelled as far as possible on an ordinary bourgeois army, with a privileged officer-caste, immense differences of pay, etc., etc. Needless to say, this is given out as a military necessity, and almost certainly it does make for military efficiency, at least for a short period. But the undoubted purpose of the change was to strike a blow at equalitarianism. In every department the same policy has been followed, with the result that only a year after the outbreak of war and revolution you get what is in effect an ordinary bourgeois State, with, in addition, a reign of terror to preserve the status quo. (Orwell, ‘Spilling the Spanish Beans’: Extract from Homage to Catalonia, 1937)

But who are the pro-Fascists? The idea of a Hitler victory appeals to the very rich, to the Communists, to Mosley’s followers, to the pacifists, and to certain sections among the Catholics. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

Orwell would not tolerate apathy with the oncoming tidal waves of fascist autocracy in World War II. He believed that while socialism was flawed, it was the better than all the other alternatives, so much so that here was his plan to save England,

I suggest that the following six-point programme is the kind of thing we need. The first three points deal with England’s internal policy, the other three with the Empire and the world:–

I. Nationalization of land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.

II. Limitation of incomes, on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.

III. Reform of the educational system along democratic lines.

IV. Immediate Dominion status for India, with power to secede when the war is over.

V. Formation of an Imperial General Council, in which the coloured peoples are to be represented.

VI. Declaration of formal alliance with China, Abyssinia and all other victims of the Fascist powers.

The general tendency of this programme is unmistakable. It aims quite frankly at turning this war into a revolutionary war and England into a Socialist democracy. I have deliberately included in it nothing that the simplest person could not understand and see the reason for. In the form in which I have put it, it could be printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror. But for the purposes of this book a certain amount of amplification is needed. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

Immediately following this plan, he elaborates in detail on each point. I will only state the first one in the main text of this paper but will include the rest in the notes below. [1]  On the first point he writes,

I. Nationalization. One can “nationalize” industry by the stroke of a pen, but the actual process is slow and complicated. What is needed is that the ownership of all major industry shall be formally vested in the State, representing the common people. Once that is done it becomes possible to eliminate the class of mere owners who live not by virtue of anything they produce but by the possession of title-deeds and share certificates. State-ownership implies, therefore, that nobody shall live without working. How sudden a change in the conduct of industry it implies is less certain. In a country like England we cannot rip down the whole structure and build again from the bottom, least of all in time of war. Inevitably the majority of industrial concerns will continue with much the same personnel as before, the one-time owners or managing directors carrying on with their jobs as State-employees. There is reason to think that many of the smaller capitalists would actually welcome some such arrangement. The resistance will come from the big capitalists, the bankers, the landlords and the idle rich, roughly speaking the class with over £2,000 a year – and even if one counts in all their dependants there are not more than half a million of these people in England. Nationalization of agricultural land implies cutting out the landlord and the tithe-drawer, but not necessarily interfering with the farmer. It is difficult to imagine any reorganization of English agriculture that would not retain most of the existing farms as units, at any rate at the beginning. The farmer, when he is competent, will continue as a salaried manager. He is virtually that already, with the added disadvantage of having to make a profit and being permanently in debt to the bank. With certain kinds of petty trading, and even the small-scale ownership of land, the State will probably not interfere at all. It would be a great mistake to start by victimizing the smallholder class, for instance. These people are necessary, on the whole they are competent, and the amount of work they do depends on the feeling that they are “their own masters”. But the State will certainly impose an upward limit to the ownership of land (probably fifteen acres at the very most), and will never permit any ownership of land in town areas.

From the moment that all productive goods have been declared the property of the State, the common people will feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is themselves. They will be ready then to endure the sacrifices that are ahead of us, war or no war. And even if the face of England hardly seems to change, on the day that our main industries are formally nationalized the dominance of a single class will have been broken. From then onwards the emphasis will be shifted from ownership to management, from privilege to competence. It is quite possible that State-ownership will in itself bring about less social change than will be forced upon us by the common hardships of war. But it is the necessary first step without any real reconstruction is impossible. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

From our current vantage in the history in the United States, “bourgeois fascism” seems to many on the political right to be an impossibility. However, our state as a constitutionally based democracy is in tatters on the Republican right who are increasingly in favor of authoritarianism – the necessary step to fascism. Many conservative libertarians have also jettisoned the state as, at best, an example of anti-capitalism due to market regulation and at worse to make it so small we can drown it in the bathtub. While many of these folks have not acknowledged it, this really ranges from anarchism to pure market Darwinism. Certainly, all this would only play into the hands of those who would seek to protect their wealth and power not some anti-government ideology. In Orwell’s time the ‘state’ was not optional even with 20th century fascism and communism breathing down his throat. For Orwell, the state as “the common people” in socialism would make them “feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is themselves”. The proletariat would be promoted to co-owners of the state. Orwell did not see the oblivion of the state as a viable alternative. Certainly, the abolition of the state is not ‘viable’ in any sense of the word. However, for Orwell, the fatal flaw of any state was nationalism. He cited the rich English class as shining examples of decadent nationalism,

England is a family with the wrong members in control. Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into positions of command by right of birth. Few if any of these people are consciously treacherous, some of them are not even fools, but as a class they are quite incapable of leading us to victory. They could not do it, even if their material interests did not constantly trip them up. As I pointed out earlier, they have been artificially stupefied. Quite apart from anything else, the rule of money sees to it that we shall be governed largely by the old – that is, by people utterly unable to grasp what age they are living in or what enemy they are fighting. Nothing was more desolating at the beginning of this war than the way in which the whole of the older generation conspired to pretend that it was the war of 1914-18 over again. All the old duds were back on the job, twenty years older, with the skull plainer in their faces. Ian Hay was cheering up the troops, Belloc was writing articles on strategy, Maurois doing broadcasts, Bairnsfather drawing cartoons. It was like a tea-party of ghosts. And that state of affairs has barely altered. The shock of disaster brought a few able men like Bevin to the front, but in general we are still commanded by people who managed to live through the years 1931-9 without even discovering that Hitler was dangerous. A generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like a necklace of corpses. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

Orwell was a Democratic Socialist which is still the most prolific party in Europe today. There is no doubt that Jonah Goldberg was merely smoking the pot of bourgeois fascism when he fantasized the link between liberalism and fascism. Even now, in U.S. politics, the warnings and admonitions of Orwell ring true as QAnon regurgitates its radical conservative fantasies in praise of bourgeois fascism. Ironically, it is those that have the least to gain from bourgeois fascism that are its most ardent supporters. This exemplifies the extent to which history, language, culture, and marketing have eroded the hard-earned lessons from the past. It appears that the demons of Orwell’s era once again rise from the depths of Hades to conserve its dark domain in the twilight of mere mortals.

So, history certainly has a rhyme which beckons to us today. The reality of living in illusion in the U.S. is that the cat we see jumping on our lap to purr is really a very hungry old lion akin to the one in Nazi Germany. When the ancient notion of democracy is wholly abandoned by the ruling elites (e.g., white bred, wealthy capitalists) we find ourselves in Orwell’s chaotic world of ‘damned if we do’ and ‘damned if we don’t’, the hellacious necessity of impossible decision. For Orwell, the choice of every individual living in an illusory, anti-government, ‘free market’ with little or no state, was a ‘wish-fulfillment’ conservatism that must result in a dystopian nightmare. He was right. Let’s not forget that even Germany was required after World War I to be a republic, the Weimar Republic. These republics eventually erupted in the horrors of World War II. Orwell’s fight on the side of the proletariat, artists, and socialists in the Spanish Civil War against fascism failed and, to add insult to injury, the Stalinists communists took over much of what was left of the Republican resistance in Spain slaughtering the remaining socialists.

Orwell was a man who felt the pain of injustice in a time of mind-boggling, body-numbing dizziness requiring action but thriving on the meaninglessness of any action. When all ideals fail or fall into delusion, one must still find a way to live with meaning even if it has little hope of succeeding. However, unlike the delusions of the bourgeoisie, Orwell hung on to a version of the state that would be ‘owned’ by the people. Orwell was fully aware that that the communists were an abject failure just as the bourgeois capitalists were. However, his compass was to move towards egalitarianism, fairness, dignity, and income equality for the common folk. Even if this is yet another delusion, at least, it is based on a concern for the other which cannot dismiss the other or belittle the other in its delusional obsession with itself. If it is a delusion, it is a delusion which is centered on the same ideals the ancient Greeks envisioned in democracy as flawed as it was. So how did democracies and communism evolve from modernity? Through what lens does Levinas view the violence of 20th century states?

The Rise of the State in Modernity

For Levinas, traditional, enlightened liberalism is contaminated by a kind of obscurantism resulting in a more sedated but deadly predecessor to the endlessly repeated horrors of National Socialism or Nazi fascism. By ‘liberalism’ I do not mean the trite understanding in today’s U.S. politics. Hitherto, liberalism is meant as the enduring history from Kant to Hegel to British empiricism and enlightenment embodying all forms of democracy, capitalism, communism, and socialism. Enlightened liberalism is found upon the individual and its function as a collectivity. Both modern democracies and communism were offshoots of this tradition.

For 17th century English, Enlightenment thinkers Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke, the greater good was promoted by self-interest. Self-interest was necessarily tied to the ‘state of nature’ for these thinkers. In modern terms Hobbes is what we might call a pure materialist. Hobbes saw reasoning as merely a causal reaction to sensation. The world was full of objects which we bump into with our senses. We form images of them in our mind which remain there when we close our eyes. From this, similarities are recognized between things which give rise to signifiers. An example of a signifier could be a mark made on a stone which stands for some animal. The mark is a signifier. Signifiers can be abstracted in the mind and used in various applications. Signifiers give rise to ideas and knowledge is acquired from them. Ultimately, everything is material substance. Hobbes had a public disagreement with a contemporary of his time named Rene Descartes who believed that mind and body were two distinct substances so there could be a thinking thing which had no body. This was absurd for Hobbes who thought the only substance was in nature as a material body.

For Hobbes, it seems a certain insidious idea of ‘nature’ has been assigned to phenomenon as already known – as matter, as stuff, as thing called ‘substance’ which was self-evident. By ‘self-evident’ he did not mean ‘innate’. He meant how phenomena show itself to our sense. ‘Substance’ is a shorthand for showing of phenomena as material object, whether human, animals, or inanimate and nothing more. With this pre-understanding of phenomenon, relations are simply transactions. Generic signifiers such as matter, stuff, things can then be pragmatically taken as a common, radically reduced (regressus) assumption of all phenomena, as what really ‘is’ and nothing more. For example, a rock is an object. In turn, the assumed essence of a rock is simply its ‘thingness’, ‘object-ness’, its ‘stuff-ness’ or what in Latin we could call substance (substantia meaning ‘stand under’). By the way, in using the word ‘reduction’ I am not intending to evoke a true or false judgement. What I am referring to is a way of seeing, understanding, orienting oneself to our environing in the world. In a Kantian sense this kind of understanding would be stated as temporally a priori or a prior conditioning which makes a certain kind of sense possible. This is what I mean by ‘understanding’ as what rests under and guides our footing, our orientation, our standing. What stands under all phenomenon from Enlightenment is already understood from the ancient notion of substance.

Substantia is a controversial translation of the ancient Greek work ousia. A well-known 20th century phenomenologist philosopher Martin Heidegger takes issue with translating ousia as substance. Rather, Heidegger thinks the word should be translated as ‘being”. So, already in the translation from ancient Greece to Latin Christendom we have a change from being to what Heidegger tells us is present-at-hand. By present-at-hand he means a certain modality of being which privileges presence, a stark appearance of phenomena, over other ways or modalities of human beings in the world. For example, another way of human being in the world is when we are working with tools. When we are working with tools, we are not looking at the tool as an object present before us. The modality of “ready-to-hand” is how we work with tools because the tool disappears in use so we can focus on the work we are trying to accomplish with the tool. This modality can change if the tool breaks. In that case, the tool immediately becomes present-at-hand while we curse it out. I will come back to this a little further down. What I want to draw our attention back to is the modality of present-at-hand where substantia accurately describes a particular modality of human being in the world. In the case of present-at-hand, substantia is a particular appearing of how we are situated in phenomenon. When the Latin translation converts this modality of our being in the world into ‘essence’ we privilege a modality of human being in the world over other ways we are in the world. In this case, substantia refers to the verb ‘to be’. ‘Being’ here is thought as stark existence, as the privileged and myopic way in which we are situated in the modality of present-at-hand.

Once this historic reduction is made, all is reduced to mere materiality and control, ownership, and self-interest become front and center. The ancient Latin idea of res publica (republic) became a loose translation as the term ‘commonwealth’. Hobbes had a notion of the commonwealth that was based on rational self-interest which motivated each person’s compulsory entry into an implicit ‘social contract’ with a ‘sovereign authority’ to preserve his or her life. Certainly, this contract could be broken by the sovereign at any time, but the social contract was based on the devil you thought you knew. Let’s take a deeper dive into this and the idea of commonwealth with its ancient underpinnings.

The Cato Institute, a very conservative, libertarian think tank is sympathetic to the idea that the commonwealth was invented to protect private property. The idea of a commonwealth as self-interest rests on ancient metaphysics which can be traced back certainly to a Roman statesman named Cicero. Cicero was a major influencer of the founding fathers most notable, Thomas Jefferson. In an article on the Cato Institute’s web site Paul Meany tells us,

Cicero believed “political communities and commonwealths were established particularly so that people could hold on to their property.” He advised that the first and foremost duty of those who administer public affairs is to “see that everyone holds on to what is his, and that private men are never deprived of their goods by public acts.” Cicero accepts that no property is private by nature; however, “everything produced on the earth is created for the use of mankind.” Despite explaining the importance of the state’s protection of private property at great length, a glaring fault in Cicero’s writings is that he did not adequately explain how one can initially appropriate property justly. At best, he reasoned that convention, tradition, and harmony are adequate reasons for us to respect private property. (Paul Meany, 2021)

The notion of commonwealth was really a religious idea that Latin Christianity took from the ancient Hebrew account of Genesis where God says,

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:27 to 1:31)

So, the earth belongs to all humankind, but practicality requires private property. While Meany acknowledges commonwealth means literally what it says, he goes further to state Rome meant it to protect private property. Meany goes on to discuss how John Locke arrived at this conclusion as well. However, his reasoning does not follow the path of Locke’s reasoning as I will show a little later. For now, I want to dig deeper into what made such notions as private property and commonwealth even possible in the way they get articulated in the Enlightenment tradition especially. So, how does the idea of commonwealth play into the previous mentioned idea of substance?

In a review of Michael Krom’s book “The Limits of Reason in Hobbes’s Commonwealth”, the reviewer tells us,

In chapter 6, Krom moves to the role of philosophy in maintaining political stability. He distinguishes vain from true philosophy, and summarises Hobbes’s explanation of the origin of vain philosophy and how it leads to sedition through the pride of philosophers in thinking that they know better than the sovereign. In explaining the origin of vain philosophy, Krom focuses on the failure of philosophers to define their terms (Leviathan 8), and omits to mention the passage in Leviathan 46 (especially the Latin version), where Hobbes ingeniously diagnoses the ultimate source of vain philosophy as being the verb ‘to be’ when used as the copula and Greek and Latin. Aristotle assumed that there must be something in reality corresponding to every component of a true proposition. Since there is no material substance or quality corresponding to ‘is’, he invented the immaterial entity ‘being’, and hence the whole range of fictitious metaphysical entities integral to vain philosophy. Since it lacks the copula, the Hebrew language is not infected by meaningless abstractions or immaterialism, and the Old Testament contains a purer theology than that of Greek and Latin writers influenced by Aristotle. (Reviewed by George MacDonald Ross, 2011)

The notion of being in Aristotle as existence is disputed by a very renown Greek scholar named Charles Kahn is his work “The Greek Verb ‘To Be’ and the Problem of Being” (Kahn, 1965). He claims that the notion of existence or ‘is-ness’ is not in the ancient Greek language as a much later 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill claims. Mill was highly influenced by the Enlightenment philosophers we are discussing. Mill furthers Enlightenment in suggesting what matters is what is and leads him to utilitarianism which has been taken up by the analytic school of philosophy in the United States and some psychological branches of behaviorism. Kahn does believe that the Greeks used the verb einai translated as to-be more as a grammatical connector for a noun and a predicate or premise and conclusion of logic. Furthermore, Kahn tells us for the ancient Greeks, einai did not have anything to do with being or existence and later Latin notions of substance. Without even thinking about it, we use the term existence as a word which privileges the ‘real’ over illusion.

We think the practical world as ‘real’. Utility is more important because of what it does in ‘reality’. So, at a certain point in history we take what every child thinks when they ask us, “Why do we have money and why isn’t everything free?” We explain to them the notion of private property upon which they look at us puzzled and respond, “Oh, ok” as if it should be in a Monty Python skit. Could it be that the child, as many philosophers of the past, had not yet comprehended the history of ‘what is’ and ‘what is real’ and why it is exclusive? I am trying to elucidate here a valid question in language and history and how our answer came to color, before we even are aware of it, how we understand the nature of ‘reality’. Also, to avoid any confusion, I do not deny the need for money and private property. Certainly, it is a necessity from a practical point of view. I am simply trying to bring out how the notions of utility and practicality have been truncated from their origins. In so doing, the consequences of this negatively affects how we understand the world, other people, and our notions of state.

These distinctions are important because the phenomenologist philosopher, Martin Heidegger, claims to think that what comes to presence in the mode of present-at-hand does not, for example, account for how humans are spread across time from the past through the present to the future. We are not merely temporally located in a ‘now’ moment as a stone would be for instance. We are not locked in a present, ‘now’ moment where our senses are only perceiving matter as stark presence-at-hand. Our lived experience of time has a stretch. One example is how we experience time when we are depressed as slow or when we are on a roller coast and time flies by. Neither do we experience space as linear distance. We experience distance as what Heidegger thinks as the human capacity to dissever, bring closer and nearer, ‘regions’. For example, when we are looking at a glass of water through a pair of glasses the glasses may be closer to us in terms of linear distance, but our lived reality is that we inhabit the ‘space’ of the glass of water, the region of the glass of water that our attention is directed to, not the abstract, linear distance of the glasses on our face. This is how we experience time and space which comes ‘naturally’ with children as well. To think that clock time and linear space is the ‘practical reality’ we live is an abstraction based on a history of language and thought, not what actually ‘is’ as it shows itself. Additionally, science has well shown us that clock time and linear spatiality are highly relative – there is no absolute. Heidegger thought this reduction privileges the present due to an abstraction of history and grievously reduces the reality of how we experience and think about ‘what is’.

We do not process language in terms of a serial succession of words. It would be like walking down a hallway and calculating the spatial distance between each wall, floor, and ceiling before we take another step. We orient ourselves in a totally different way when it comes to space and time. Space and time are not a serial successions of linear spatial calculations or a consciousness of one ‘now’ moment after another. If that were so, we would be running into walls and moving very slowly in a way which would not make the survival of Homo sapiens possible. Similarly, ideas do not come to us as present-at-hand where each word comes to our consciousness before we process the next word. Our current digital computers process information in a serial fashion like this and only seem to ‘think’ in certain ways in which we think because they process data much faster. In my opinion, with very recent breakthroughs in the last few days, quantum computing we will be able to have androids which think like we do. Apparently, IBM already has a 127-qubit machine. [2]

Human consciousness or ideas as present-at-hand take around 150 to 300 milliseconds to come into a conscious idea. Athletes are able to process their movements much faster because they trained their motion to be reflexive after years of habitual training. When we are thinking an idea, we dissever the idea from the whole of language so that it becomes present-at-hand or visible as a particular conscious thought. Behavioral psychology is effective because it deals with our associative behavior without reference to language and ideas. Behaviorists work at the level of habituation and retrain associations more as reflexive embodiment. The ability we have to experience language as a whole rather than as pieces is what Kant, Heidegger, Chomsky, Jung, and many others have referred to as a priori. A priori means prior to our conscious, intentional ideas. Freuds notion of the unconscious is based on a priori. Now we can rewrite the sentence we used earlier in the introduction as this:

Language is the a priori historic, cultural map that defines reality for us.

The ancient Greeks did not have these historic shorthand ways to perceive the world that we take for granted. They had a much older and richer history and language which took account of a much fuller range of what we now think as ‘reality’ or existence.

Ancient Greeks and the Time Before Being

From my reading of the ancient Greeks, I find their notion of privation (steresis) and apeiron (infinite, unlimited, indefinite) might illustrate an unaccounted-for excess which has been lost through time. Steresis for the latter ancient Greek Aristotle (c. 384-c.322 BC) is opposition defined in terms of the absence to presence, negation to affirmation. Eidos (idea in Plato) is used by Plato (c. 428-c.348 BC) as his notion of the forms.

In much earlier Greek history, Eidos meant look or shape. Heraclitus (c. 535-c.475 BC) used the logos (word) to suggest order and speech. Here are some translations of some of the fragments from various sources that we have,

Though this Word [logos] is true evermore, yet men are as unable to understand it when they hear it for the first time as before they have heard it at all. For, though all things come to pass in accordance with this Word, men seem as if they had no experience of them, when they make trial of words and deeds such as I set forth, dividing each thing according to its kind and showing how it is what it is. But other men know not what they are doing when awake, even as they forget what they do in sleep.

Though the logos is common, the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.

things whole and not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and the discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.

On those who enter the same rivers, ever different waters flow.

Also, another source is translated as,

We step and do not step in to the same rivers; we are and are not. (DKBht)

Apeiron (without limit, peras) was a very ancient term associated with Hesiod’s idea of chaos as prior to the gods. I prefer to think about it as the fertile void from which form (peras) emerges. This is common to many cosmological myths including the Hebrew account in Genesis. Peras (end, limit, boundary) brings order and harmony as logos.

However, in earlier Greek thinking privation is thought as what cannot come to presence. It seems to me that, in varying degrees, not all could be brought into what is seen as a reduction to a negative idea (eidos). Other ancient Greek, pre-Socratic philosophers seem to go against privation as negative idea with various admonitions of Heraclitus, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Xenophanes, Pythagoreans, Eleatics by Melissus, the atomists, and Zeno. They do not write exclusively in such explicit bipolar, reductional oppositions.

Anaximander by Diogenes Laertius tells us this about apeiron,

Anaximander son of Praxiades, of Miletus: he said that the principle and element is the Indefinite, not distinguishing air or water or anything else… [Diogenes Laertius n, 1-2 (DKi2Ai])

We also have this account from Aristotle of the earlier Greek philosophers,

We cannot say that the apeiron has no effect, and the only effectiveness which we can ascribe to it is that of a principle. Everything is either a source or derived from a source. But there cannot be a source of the apeiron, for that would be a limit of it. Further, as it is a beginning, it is both uncreatable and indestructible. For there must be a point at which what has come to be reaches completion, and also a termination of all passing away. That is why, as we say, there is no principle of this, but it is this which is held to be the principle of other things, and to encompass all and to steer all, as those assert who do not recognize, alongside the infinite, other causes, such as Mind or Friendship. Further they identify it with the Divine, for it is ‘deathless and imperishable’ as Anaximander says, with the majority of the physicists. (Physics 3.4; 203b)

These accounts tend to disqualify apeiron as having an origin (archê) much less even an opposite as in propositional negation. It seems that for Anaximander chaos (χάος, yawning gap) and apeiron may have had some early similarity in the sense of indeterminate. This notion of apeiron would appear to add another hint of anarchy, no origin, and bring it closer to Hesiod’s notion of chaos. It could well be that Hesiod and perhaps Anaximander are telling us of a radical disjunction, a gap other than distinctions of whole/not whole, together/asunder, harmony/disharmony, and all things/one. (Dreher)

In this way of thinking, privation in early Greek thinking does not necessarily have elements as what comes to presence as mere negation, as the idea (eidos) of what is not. In the case of idea as negation, privation must always come to presence under the auspices of the showing of absence. Perhaps one might think the earlier ‘primitive’ Greek notions were inferior or under-developed with a view to latter developments. However, I understand this as, the early Greeks did not yet have, much less accept, such a reduction as a positive indication of the scope of their inquiries. As I previously discussed, Kahn makes the case that einai has nothing to do with being and existence. This would indicate that a reduction to being was not a given for Aristotle as Heidegger and Latin Christianity thought. I think the earlier notion of privation as an unaccounted-for excess, a radical rupture of what we think as ‘being’, was what Levinas would latter put a face on, the face of the other. In this case, Hesiod’s chaos has become a face.

From the latter Greek philosophers, logos seems to have been associated with speaking/words and strife as oppositions of whole/not whole, together/asunder, harmony/disharmony, and ‘all things’/one. I find this to have elements of the seen/unseen in Aristotle’s notion of privation. Aristotle thinks of logos as persuasive dialectics. When privation or steresis “becomes a kind of eidos“, it becomes a “thinking about being”. Eidos is in Heideggerian terminology is ‘what shows itself’ or what becomes present as coming to presence before us. Ontology is the study of being (Greek: ὄν, on; GEN. ὄντος, ontos, ‘being’ or ‘that which is’ and -logia (from logos, -λογία, ‘logical discourse).

“Heidegger says that the basic category of steresis dominates Aristotle’s ontology. Steresis means lack, privation. It can also mean loss or deprivation of something, as in the example of blindness, which is a loss of sight in one who by nature sees. Steresis can also mean confiscation, the violent appropriation of something for oneself that belongs to another (Met. 1022 b33). Finally, Aristotle often calls that which is held as other in an opposition of contraries a privation. Heidegger will point out in his later essay on Physics B1 that Aristotle understands this deprivation as itself a kind of eidos. Thus, steresis is the lack that belongs intrinsically to being. According to Heidegger, with the notion of steresis Aristotle reaches the pinnacle of his thinking about being. Heidegger even remarks that Hegel’s notion of negation needs to be returned to its dependency on Aristotle’s more primordial conception of the not.” (Brogan)

To suggest that – privation may be an excess to Heidegger’s notion of Being would be absurd to Heidegger. Heretofore, in keeping Macquarrie and Robinson translation of “Being and Time” I will capitalize ‘Sein’ to mean Being as the universal, ontological sense of all of Being and lower case ‘sein’ to mean ontic or individual beings. Heidegger discusses certain phenomenal ways of being as in anxiety when “all beings retreat” meaning there is no object, reason, cause as in the case of fear. He further states, “in anxiety, Dasein gets brought before itself through its own Being” (Being and Time, 184). In anxiety there is sheer and empty Being or Being as such. However, anxiety as an existentiell or situational way of being in the world casts privation more as a lack not as an exteriority to Being for Heidegger. Heidegger imputes on Aristotle an assumption that einai meant to-be. Kahn disputes this as a certain later development in which the notion of Being cannot, in Heidegger’s definition, exclude anything. If this definition is accepted, then of course any excess would be ‘thought’ as nonsense since the definition of Being cannot be limited for Heidegger. Heidegger thought human beings can have an inauthentic relation to Being. This is more like the negative of authenticity. Being cannot have an unaccounted excess as in the earlier Greek notion of privation. Or, as we shall see for Levinas, the other is exteriority, an excess to Being. For Levinas, ‘Being’ is a totalitarian retreat from radical alterity.

Let’s look at a notion of privation from G.W. Hegel (1770-1831). In Hegelian dialectical terms what is ‘seen’ of the idea of privation is its ‘not’ or negation. Hegel was highly influenced by Aristotle. Hegel is thought of as a German Idealist. Hegel earlier in his dialectic had derived the intuitive, abstract, universal, ideal concept of self from the plurality of individual selves. He then goes on to write that the self wants an external to itself. He calls this self-externalization. Since it is impossible, as no externality exists outside the self, self-externality negates itself and in so doing transforms (lifts up, sublates, German: aufheben) itself to a point. Self-externality wants to externalize itself as a point but again finds that impossible. So, self-externality negates itself to make another point. In so doing, self-externality wants to externalize itself again but since that is impossible, self-externalization negates multiple points and transforms itself to a line. As you might guess, self-externality as a line wants to externalize itself again. However, since that is impossible, self-externalizing transforms itself to a plane. When self-externalization wants to externalize itself as a plane, it also finds that impossible. Again, self-externalization negates itself as space and becomes time. Hegel thinks space and time are natural occurrences and intuitive phenomena. I think Antonio Wolf has a better explanation of how space and time come about in Hegel,

Space, Hegel tells us, is self-externality as such. To be external to itself is the concept of space. Immediate absolute space runs away infinitely from itself and never contains itself as it is always outside itself. Without determinacy, without distinctions of spatial or any other character, this self-externality fails to be self-external. It does not succeed in going outside itself and is immediately inside itself, and so space is itself revealed as non-spatial to itself, it is the zero-dimensional point. The point, however, is also the beginning of the success of space to be spatial, for a point is how space as outside itself appears as and relates to itself. From the standpoint of the absolute runaway expanse of immediate space, its encounter with another space which is outside it is the presence of that space as a point in relation to it. Mutually these two spaces are points to each other, but how can this be? In order to appear as points they must themselves be separated, they must be divided from each other by a third self-externality which enables them. One-dimensionality, or the line, is the self-externality of points. Two-dimensionality, or the plane, is the self-externality of lines. Three-dimensionality, or volume, is the self-externality of planes. (Wolf)

The reason I bring this up is to show how entrenched the notion of self was from an earlier period of Enlightenment. Hegel takes this notion to an absolute ideal as Concept. Hegel is still very popular in many kinds of philosophical circles. We can also see from Hegel how externality is thought vis-à-vis the self’s impossibility. Here privation is literally the concept of negation. As I previously wrote the notion of privation as the ‘idea’ of dialectical negation is found in the latter ancient Greek thinker, Aristotle. In this case, what is seen as privation is the negative of a positive premise of logic. Privation finds its utter dependence on the light or showing of what is seen as idea. Privation at this point in Greek thought has become a premise of logic. Nietzsche in his dissertation work that became the book “The Birth of Tragedy” sees this period in ancient Greece as the end of the greatness of the ancient Greeks which became ‘frozen’ as logic.

It seems to me the Greeks understood the notion of privation as a kind of excess which hid from experience but nevertheless was not nothing or emptiness. It was more like Heraclitus’ notion of a river which cannot be stepped into twice. The reduction we find beginning in Christian Rome and traversing through Descartes as ‘everything which could be doubted’ to his notion of perfection and infinity as overflowing itself to be proof of the existence of God, rests in the earliest beginnings of modernity with its prejudice for short-hand reductions to the purely negative. These reductions inevitably lead to private property, self-interest, ‘practicality’, ‘utility’ as found in Enlightenment. They get simply accepted as what is real, as what is true, and cannot be separated from the idea of the state. The negative makes the universal possible as it appears to polarize the opposition or contrary of a premise making any excess or difference to it reduced to its domain. The elimination of an excess or middle term gives it the appearance of a universal account. Could it be that the state, as long as it must live under the absolute terms of ‘Being’ or ‘Idea’ from the tradition of self-interested substantia is always doomed to fail? Isn’t there a kind of anesthetic circularity in these a priori, historic and linguistic assumptions?

Back to the Age of Enlightenment

In the reduction of all to ‘Being’ or the substantia of Enlightenment that philosophers call ontology we have a kind of circularity that always already sums up all possibilities of human experience. Even what ‘Being’ isn’t finds its negative idea and thus logical (logos) totality. This useless circularity elicits a certain orientation to everything we encounter as mere objects to which we now simply think or associate as pure practicality. Being and existence itself is more generically given as what stands under all; the rubric of ‘stuff’. This then is what Hobbes referred to as the state of “mere nature” which differed from John Locke in some ways we will explore further below.

As a side note, science has, in its own way, gone well beyond the Hobbesian reduction by looking much more closely at what makes up ‘stuff’, a planet, a universe, an atom, a sub-atomic ‘particle’. For science, the word ‘particle’ is a useful abstraction.

With any other object, the object’s properties depend on its physical makeup — ultimately, its constituent particles. But those particles’ properties derive not from constituents of their own but from mathematical patterns. As points of contact between mathematics and reality, particles straddle both worlds with an uncertain footing. (Editor) [3]

A ‘particle’ is a virtual ‘wave function’. It only becomes a ‘particle’ when the wave function collapses. Even then, the ‘particle’ is more like an ocean with wave-like currents. Particles are better thought as energy fields with wave crests and troughs. The crests and troughs have higher and lower concentrations of quantum energies. Quantum waves are thought to ‘pop in and out of existence’ according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. What do they mean by ‘popping in and out of existence’? Quantum physicists tell us ‘out of existence’ means ‘virtual particles’ which do not ‘exist’ except as a highly abstract mathematical function which includes all possibilities of matter. Virtual particles are an essential part of what we think as ‘existence’. Under certain circumstances these virtual particles are elicited to make such things as electrons, protons, etc. – matter. Virtual particles may also explain entangled particles and how they can react instantly over vast distances with no respect to time and the speed of light. What we think as ‘real’, as materiality, as what shows itself to the senses can never become merely an object to the senses. It can only exist as a yet unfinished mathematics. There is no absolute ‘is’ as an object present to the senses, no substance, to reality in the way Hobbes and Enlightenment perceived it. Similarly, philosophy from the ancient Greeks to modern science and, perhaps intuitively religion, perceives that our ‘understanding’ is what is lacking. I think our history is also what makes our notions of state condemned to perpetually push Sisyphus’ stone up the hill which must always roll down from the fascist state.

To review, Hobbes viewed absolute sovereignty as a collective decision where the ruled entered unwillingly into a social contract with the sovereign. The only alternative would be the chaotic ‘state of nature’ somehow ruled under the pure signification of random materiality. Hobbes viewed this state of nature as the war of all against all. In his book, Leviathan published in 1651, he writes on social contract theory. For Hobbes, “the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” Here, self-interest meant people willingly give up some things in the hope that the sovereign authority would let them live. The social contract theory gave them a sense of order, commerce, God – meaning for their “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short lives”. (Hobbes, Leviathan XIII.9)

Ironically, Hobbes did believe in God and gave a cosmological argument for the existence of God saying the only thing we can know about God is that he is the “first cause of all causes”, and therefore, exits. (Thomas Hobbes) Here we have God as a substance which is the first cause of ‘stuff’ and the rest must be left to agnosticism. He made no attempt to explain how the ‘first cause’ could be material without a prior cause.

So, what of the state and the mere ‘state of nature’ as our model?

Hobbes’s near descendant, John Locke, insisted in his Second Treatise of Government that the state of nature was indeed to be preferred to subjection to the arbitrary power of an absolute sovereign. But Hobbes famously argued that such a “dissolute condition of masterlesse men, without subjection to Lawes, and a coercive Power to tye their hands from rapine, and revenge” would make impossible all of the basic security upon which comfortable, sociable, civilized life depends. There would be “no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” If this is the state of nature, people have strong reasons to avoid it, which can be done only by submitting to some mutually recognized public authority, for “so long a man is in the condition of mere nature, (which is a condition of war,) as private appetite is the measure of good and evill.” (Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy)

As Orwell, John Locke was highly critical of authoritarianism both on an individual and institutional level. Individuals must use critical reason to make decisions for themselves based on facts not opinions or superstitions. On the institutional level there are legitimate and illegitimate functions. Reason should be used to maximize human flourishing “for the individual and society both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare”,

It shall suffice to my present Purpose, to consider the discerning Faculties of a Man, as they are employ’d about the Objects, which they have to do with: and I shall imagine that I have not wholly misimploy’d my self in the Thoughts I shall have on this Occasion, if in this Historical, Plain Method, I can give any Account of the Ways, whereby our Understanding comes to attain those Notions of Things, and can set down any Measure of the Certainty of our Knowledge…. (I.1.2, N: 43–4—the three numbers, are book, chapter and section numbers respectively, followed by the page number in the Nidditch edition)

The term ‘idea’, Locke tells us “…stands for whatsoever is the Object of the Understanding, when a man thinks” (I.1.8, N: 47). Experience is of two kinds, sensation and reflection. One of these—sensation—tells us about things and processes in the external world. The other—reflection—tells us about the operations of our own minds. Reflection is a sort of internal sense that makes us conscious of the mental processes we are engaged in. Some ideas we get only from sensation, some only from reflection and some from both. (John Locke)

Locke tells us that sovereignty lies in the people not an aristocrat. Neither Hobbes nor Locke believed in innate ideas as Plato did with his notion of memory. Descartes thought an innate idea was infinity which was placed in our mind by God and from which we get the idea of God. Locke believed we all start as blank tablets (tabula rasa) and, as Hobbes, believed all ideas comes from the senses but Locke broadens the senses from Hobbes to include reflection. Locke, as Hobbes, also believes in social contract theory. However, his conception of the state of nature necessarily includes “natural rights”. Like Hobbes, Locke tells us an idea signifies an “Object of Understanding” which must arise from the sensation of objects in the “external world”. However, unlike Hobbes, Locke tells us ideas arise from reflection. Reflection is not merely a signifier for an object which can be abstracted from material substance but another kind or type of idea which arises from the senses. While reflection arises from senses of the external world, Locke thinks of reflection as internal. In reflection, rationality is internally based not based on external objects. Rationality in reflection gives us access to another kind of ‘state of nature’ he calls “natural rights”.

For Locke ideas could start as simple ideas but the mind could put simple ideas together to make complex ideas. There were three kinds of actions the mind could perform:

1. Complex ideas were made up of two kinds he called ideas of substance and ideas of modes. Substances are independent existents like God, angels, humans, animals, plants, etc. Modes are dependent existents.

2. Complex ideas of relation where separate ideas could be thought in relation to each other.

3. Complex ideas could be made abstract so they could leave behind particularities from which they were derived. We might call these transformations today.

He also speculated that God could add ideas to matter with a kind of internal organization which mimicked the mind. This could lead Locke to think that the soul could trans-mutate from one body to another and there could even be bodies with multiple souls. From this, it could be that the soul was immortal.

In any case, the reflective mind could ascertain a law of nature he called natural rights and which the brute beast of Hobbes would not include. Locke tells us,

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions…. (Treatises II.2.6)

Since, natural law dictated the equivalent of the Golden Rule, social contract theory was called for so that mutual respect would guarantee these rights. According to Locke, this natural right entitled everyone to life, liberty, health, and property. The U.S. Declaration of Independence contains the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which is an indication of the sway Locke had on our Founding Fathers. Also, this natural right forbid war and slavery. However, if one side started a war unjustly then Locke would allow the offenders to be taken as slaves. This consideration seemed to conveniently be left out of the original U.S. Constitution which simply stated nothing about the injustice of slavery. Additionally, Locke believed,

God, who hath given the World to Men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of Life, and convenience. The Earth, and all that is therein, is given to Men for the Support and Comfort of their being. (Locke, 1689)

In the first U.S. Constitution written by John Adams entitled “Constitution of Massachusetts”, Adams starts with (Adams, 1780),

A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

In the U.S. ‘commonwealth’ is still the official description of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The immediate influence for John Adams in thinking of a new government came from England which was a ‘British Commonwealth’. The idea of a commonwealth was not just an idea of Locke but went all the way back to the Romans and Cicero as was previously mentioned. Locke had to jump through lots of hoops to justify private property. He thought of private property as a more of a practical necessity.

As much as anyone can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much by his labor he may fix a property in; whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.31)

and furthermore,

Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of land, by improving it, any prejudice to any other man, since there was still enough, and as good left; and more than the as yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less for others because of his inclosure for himself: for he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all. No body could consider himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good draught, who had a whole river of the same water left to quench his thirst: and the case of land and water, where there is enough, is perfectly the same. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.33)

which lead to the need for money,

… before the desire of having more than one needed had altered the intrinsic value of things, which depends only on their usefulness to the life of man; or had agreed, that a little piece of yellow metal, which would keep without wasting or decay, should be worth a great piece of flesh, or a whole heap of corn; though men had a right to appropriate by their labor, each one of himself, as much of the things of nature, as he could use; yet this could not be much, nor to the prejudice of others, where the same plenty was left to those who would use the same industry. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.37)

This partage of things in an inequality of private possessions, men have made practicable out of the bounds of society, and without compact, only by putting a value on gold and silver, and tacitly agreeing to the use of money: for in governments, the laws regulate the rights of property, and the possession of land is determined by positive constitutions. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.50)

From the commonwealth that God gave to all men, Locke’s reflection based on internal ideas lead to the notion of private property and the legitimacy of money. The importance of this discussion is that Locke recognized a higher level of ideas which synthesized simple ideas into complex ideas which did not rest simply on pure substance, the ‘stuff’ of Hobbes universe. Reflection could take on a level of complexity, transformations, relations, and dependence which was not merely external but internal. In this, Locke imperfectly conceived how a world could be internally mirrored in each person. However, it also introduced major problems like, how is it every person does not have to learn language from brute repetition and individual synthesis after we are born? Perhaps for Locke, it was the trans-mutation of the soul but that is more an idea of dogma than reflection. Also, how is it that ideas came already categorized such as quantity (unity, plurality, totality), quality (reality, negation, limitation), relation (inherence and subsistence (substance and accident), causality and dependence (cause and effect), community (reciprocity)), and modality (possibility, existence, necessity)? These are the categories of understanding which Kant tells us are a priori.

Kant’s monumental breakthrough in philosophy, the transcendental method, allowed him to fuse the salient objectives of rationalism and empiricism, the two integral yet distinct views of philosophy. Rationalism attributed intellectual intuition (i.e., innate ideas) to humans dispensing the notions of universality and necessary factual knowledge whereas empiricism accorded the sensible intuition, hindering the rationalist approach. Kant helped bridge this gap by agreeing with empiricists that all human factual knowledge begins with sensible intuition (the only kind we have), and by agreeing with rationalists that we bring something a priori to the knowing process. Factual knowledge, according to Kant, involves both sensory experiences, which provide its content, and a priori mental structures, which provide its form. It is insufficient to have one without the other. He famously writes, “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind”. There is nothing for us to know without empirical, sense content; nevertheless, without such a priori frameworks, we have no method of giving intelligible form to whatever content we may have. (Gupta)

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in the article entitled “Kant and Hume on Morality”, Kant tells us the individual is autonomous, from Greek meaning ‘self-rule’. By ‘autonomy’ Kant means,

the property of the will by which it is a law to itself (independently of any property of the objects of volition)” (G 4:440). According to Kant, the will of a moral agent is autonomous in that it both gives itself the moral law (is self-legislating) and can constrain or motivate itself to follow the law (is self-constraining or self-motivating). The source of the moral law is not in the agent’s feelings or inclinations, but in her “pure” rational will, which Kant identifies as the “proper self” (G 4:461). A heteronomous will, on the other hand, is governed by something other than itself, such as an external force or authority. (Wilson, 2022)

Enlightenment is built on the notion that the proper meaning of individual will is that it is a law unto itself. Enlightenment defines the ‘law unto itself’ as self-interest. Additionally, the improper will is heterogenous as it is governed by something other than itself. If individual will is interrupted by the radical alterity of the other or by an ethics not based on the social contract of self-interest the will is condemned to inauthenticity. Therefore, autonomy is based on rationality. Kant intended that ‘proper’ self-interest would give way to a universal law. The proper meaning is satisfied by Kant’s categorical imperative which states, “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal [moral] law”. While he may have envisioned a link of altruistic ethics based on the universal, the basis is derived from me, the individual. Many powerful people have reasoned that they are the ‘final solution’ to the ignorant masses of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short lives”. However, Kant also tells us not to treat people as a means but as an end. The ‘end’ for Kant is not just any end but an end which arrives at ethics. However, when ethics is based on rationality determined by self-interest, the history of the state has repeatedly shown that it can only rise to the façade of ethics. Only an end not based on me or ‘not me’ or its endless simulacrum but on the radical infinity of the face of the other can ‘end’ find ethics.

Capitalism as formulated by Adam Smith appears to satisfy the categorical imperative in that if all people act on self-interest, then the greatest satisfaction will be generated for the greatest amount of people meaning competition produces the greatest quality product for the cheapest price. However, self-interest promotes treating people as a means and not an end. The result of this is that Kant’s notion of the proper, autonomous individual was later overtaken by capitalistic democracies to be the Enlightenment notion of self-interested individual. The greater good had become subject to and defined by the greater self-interest. Capitalism encourages and rewards self-interest. In this way it can work to amalgamate self-interests into the hands of a few. Contrarily, the Founding Fathers believed the separation of powers in the structure of our government would prevent this kind of amalgamation.

Locke’s “state of nature has a law of nature to govern it” which “obliges everyone” that “reason which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”. However, when ‘equal’ right to vote is taken as ‘the election was rigged’ or ‘life’ means a woman’s individual autonomy is subject to the state so she cannot decide under any circumstances to abort a fetus or ‘possessions’ means the one with the most toys wins while the masses of the world are impoverished, then – ‘ethics’ becomes the sole domain of the bourgeoisie and once again plants the seeds of fascism. For Kant, we have a state of nature whose self-interest leads by rationality and founds a state in which somehow self-interest and the other live in harmony. Kant’s ‘proper self’ is motivated by pure rational will, people are treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to the self-interest of others. Our Founding Fathers were fully aware of the dangerous results of self-interest which were not guided by Locke and Kant’s rationality. They believed that the checks and balances of our Constitution was built to resist such attacks. When others are treated like a means to an end, transactionally, James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers how the balance of his government structure would prevent the consolidation of power into a few,

Having reviewed the general form of the proposed government, and the general mass of power allotted to it; I proceed to examine the particular structure of this government, and the distribution of this mass of power among its constituent parts.

One of the principal objections inculcated by the more respectable adversaries to the constitution, is its supposed violation of the political maxim, that the legislative, executive and judiciary departments ought to be separate and distinct. In the structure of the federal government, no regard, it is said, seems to have been paid to this essential precaution in favor of liberty. The several departments of power are distributed and blended in such a manner, as at once to destroy all symmetry and beauty of form; and to expose some of the essential parts of the edifice to the danger of being crushed by the disproportionate weight of other parts.

No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty, than that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal constitution therefore, really chargeable with this accumulation of power or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. I persuade myself however, that it will be made apparent to every one, that the charge cannot be supported, and that the maxim on which it relies, has been totally misconceived and misapplied. In order to form correct ideas on this important subject, it will be proper to investigate the sense, in which the preservation of liberty requires, that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct. (Madison, 1788)

In this structural balance of government powers, Madison thought the basic conflict which occurs from the pure self-interest of capitalism and the enlightened rational imperative to treat others as an end in themselves would be solved for the state. However, as we have seen, the Enlightenment path of rationalism was itself built partially on the self-evidence of the objectivity of the senses which adhered to social contract. For Enlightenment, this meant that the checks and balances of self-interest would prevent, for Locke, or at least resist, for Hobbes, tyranny. It turns out after Enlightenment the trial of history demonstrated by the Trump administration pointedly tells us that self-interest does not necessarily spawn social contracts that are guided by treating others equally. Furthermore, there are no governmental checks and balances which can perpetually forestall the consolidation of various branches of government like the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government. Under the insane and dangerous lies of Trump, the corruption of the Justice Department, decades of Congressional gerrymandering, and shameful radical right-wing loading of the Supreme Court clearly demonstrate to those paying attention that the practical reality of self-interest mitigated by social contract results in one more example of the failed history of state from liberal Enlightenment. Under Trump we could have very easily lost our democracy and the next time, there will be a next time, we may not be so fortunate.

We are all baptized in the tragic consequences of being “all too human” as Nietzsche reminds us. However, the daemon of wisdom and justice requires action even when action seems impossible. It is not possible to be true to oneself without being true to the other. The state is a collection of people who are bound together for better or worse. We are not nomadic. We only find an empty shell of existence if we live in narcissistic delusions that the state is optional or able to survive by mere self-interest of a few. For Orwell, the only way the state could be viable was for the ‘state to be themselves’. However, when ‘themselves’ is conditioned by unmitigated self-interest in the socialist state, it is also doomed to failure. Eventually, the history of Enlightenment must be replaced by a new history which points us in the direction of Levinas. The only way to be ‘ourselves’ is for us to be towards the other; to face the other with integrity and conscience. The poor, the disenfranchised the oppressed must have a stake in the state for the state to thrive. Self-interest does not and cannot provide a path forward and is only forever condemned to repeat the past. The history of self-interest continually shows the battle lines of protectionism are draw by the few to prohibit entry and conserve power at the expense of the many.

Foucault’s symbiotic necessity and fog of sanity and insanity in “Madness and Civilization” is the inevitable result of creating the world, the state, in our own image. The gaze of Medusa is the narcissism of state nationalism when protected by the few. The ‘one’ as state is made up of many ‘ones’. When ‘me’ is pronounced, the invocation of the state is already assured. The existential decision which reckons with the other to which I am essentially indebted, must by decision decry the illusory fictions of self-satisfaction at the expense of the other. To paraphrase a wise man, to lose one’s life for the sake of the other is to find life. The essence of life is the other, which cannot be the propositional negation of ‘not-me’. To abandon oneself to the nationalism of self-interest is to lose oneself in auto-fascination of a supplemented and marketed recreation of reality in certain one’s own image. When all one sees is pre-manufactured history of ‘oneself’, we call this dreaming while one is awake. When those among us mock the “Woke”, they put to death exteriority. The externality of the other recognizes indebtedness to the destitution and plight of the other. The prescription to be warm and filled by the bourgeoisie is like giving vinegar to a thirsty man dying on a Roman cross. Orwell recognized the monstrosity of the elite and the impending doom of the holocaust. He recognized the source as the unmitigated, protectionist strategies of the wealthy which pitted the other into a war of all against all, a Hobbesian Leviathan, a Machiavellian prince, a Donald Trump. Orwell also wrote about how even Catholicism, or I would add Christianity in general, has been sublimated in service to the nationalism of self-interest. Currently, in the U.S we are seeing the rise of Christian Nationalism. How will this be any different from what the Maga people call Sharia law?

Totalization of the Other Culminates in Nationalism of the State

From the perspective of the dominate occidental, philosophical history of ‘Being’ called ontology, the other is an idea, an eidos. This is fundamental to liberal Enlightenment as we have seen. The idea of the individual is universalized in the collectivity of self-interest under social contract theory. This is utilitarian transactionalism as the essence of the other. Transactionalism is only possible when the modality of the other is already, a priori, understood as eidos. The other becomes ‘presence’ as idea. This seems to me to take on the same reduction as substance which I discussed earlier. The other is substance as idea. Self-interest requires us to make use of the substance of the other who has become idea so we can acquire capital. To harken back to Heidegger and the idea of environment as standing reserve, we can also use the environment in the self-interest of capital acquisition. But what is the break between Heidegger and his ex-student Levinas?

Here is where the massive split between Levinas and Heidegger begins. For Heidegger, ‘Being’ (German: Sein) is a totality without excess. For Levinas, Heidegger’s ‘Being’ is a ‘nationalism’ of the highest order. Reinforcing Levinas’ claim is the fact that Heidegger committed himself to Nazism when he became the Rector of Freiberg University in 1933. While Levinas certainly understood Heidegger’s tact on the concrete facticity of lived human being in such acts as lived space and time, standing reserve of technology and the environment, the experience of art, etc., Levinas had a fundamental difference with the consignment of the other to Being. Additionally, Heidegger also discussed the everydayness of the ‘they-self’ (das man) as an inauthentic modality of being-in-the world. Wrathall writes this in his “Being-with (mitsein)” summary,

BEING-WITH is the character of DASEIN whereby it is always already structurally related to other Daseins (even when one is alone and others are actually absent). Mitsein (literally “being-with”) in everyday German simply means “togetherness” or “companionship,” but in Being and Time Heidegger gives the term a particular philosophical inflection. The everyday, public, cultural world of oneself among others is a “primary phenomenon” for Heidegger. Each one exists in a world saturated with others linked through shared social practices. (24. – Being-with (Mitsein), 2021)

For Heidegger, ‘being-with’ can fall into the inauthenticity of ‘everydayness’ he calls the ‘they-self’ (das man). Levinas found that such renditions of others reenforced a kind of totalism, or I would say a nationalism of Spirit, in the form of Being. Levinas asks us, are all experiences consumed by the totality of Being or are there concrete experiences which point towards an exteriority to Being? Certainly, as we have seen, concrete relations to others can take on transactional qualities but does that sum up our experiences of the other? The occidental history of metaphysics evolved from Aristotle’s inquiry into the physics of ‘first philosophy’, the study of being as being, to other ancient wisdom traditions to the advent of Christian metaphysics in Rome, and perhaps even from questions that loom in modern physics on the big bang (or big bounces) beg the question of first causes.

For Heidegger, metaphysics is ‘Being’ suspended over nothingness. He claims metaphysics asks the question, why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing? Jose Conrado A. Estafia tells us,

Science, with all its vastness, only deals with something. It accepts nothing of the nothing. For how can the nothing be tested or verified? We need not trouble about the nothing. “Science,” observes Heidegger, “wishes to know nothing of the nothing.” Science, in expressing its own proper essence, never calls upon the nothing for help. In the midst of this “controversy” the question begins to unfold and must be formulated explicitly: “How is it with nothing?” Such kind of inquiry may presuppose something. Thus we “posit the nothing in advance as something that ‘is’ such and such; we posit it as a being.” Our assumption is that nothing is something this or that. Hence Heidegger proceeds by saying that, with regard to the nothing, “question and answer alike are inherently absurd.” (Estafia, 2019)

However, for Heidegger, the metaphysical question brings us “for the first time before beings as such”. Estafia writes,

This is the reason why logic can never be of help in the original revelation of the truth of our existence. Heidegger’s declaration that logic is not primarily important for philosophy means that logic merely deals with the “surface phenomena of meaning – theoretical propositions.” The nothing is no object or any being at all. With nothing the manifestation of beings as such is possible. Heidegger believes that “in the being of beings the nihilation of the nothing occurs.” With this original nihilation of the nothing, Dasein is brought “for the first time before beings as such.” (Estafia, 2019)

For Levinas, metaphysics is the failed history of the radical alterity of the other. This can be demonstrated by many violent histories of theism. Additionally, instead of a face as Levinas would tell us, Heidegger finds the nothingness of metaphysics brings us before the question of Being as a whole. Heidegger writes,

Our inquiry concerning the nothing is to bring us face to face with metaphysics itself

….

Metaphysics is inquiry beyond or over beings that aims to recover them as such and as a whole for our grasp. In the question concerning the nothing such an inquiry beyond or over beings, beings as a whole, takes place. It proves thereby to be a “metaphysical” question. (Heidegger)

Levinas believes metaphysics historically lost its way from the root of metaphysics, which was always anchored in phenomenal, concrete experiences of radical alterity, the other. It is the question of exteriority with a face, a face of the he or she that we concretely experience. His inquiry asks, what was the metaphysical experience really always about? Do we get the notion of metaphysics from the question of nothingness which brings us before “beings as such” or does nothingness have a face? Is it possible that infinity is not just mathematical, not just a supposition of a mathematical singularity, or a Cartesian idea? Is it possible that the retreat from infinity which we face every day gets effaced by Being, by history and language as idea? If so, doesn’t this fundamentally change our orientation to ethics? Instead of ethics as social contract in the service of self-interest or some optional consideration of altruism, could it be that ethics points to a radical exteriority to all our lived experiences as mine (Heidegger, jemeinigkeit, “mineness”) or mitsein (literally “being-with”)? As we have seen, does the history of liberal Enlightenment level over the meta in our experience of the other? My question in this post is, if so, can we write an other history. Can we start a history more habitable for the planet and for each other?

If beings can only be understood in the framework of Being, the presentation of the other is already mediated into an authentic or inauthentic conception or experience of Being. However, the other which stands before me in his or her presentation is not always, already understood as a universal. The mode in which I actually encounter the other is not an assimilation or covering over of Being. Nor is it merely a repetitive simulacrum of some prefabricated mirage or phantasma of a face. Levinas goes even further to suggest that using the other as a means to an end has also become an end in itself – but not of the other, of the end as totalization. Totalization of the other is violent in its reduction. It is domination and slavery in the service of use-value to borrow a term of Karl Marx. Here, the exchange is human capital captivated by marketing in the useful object’s unknowing enslavement to artificial needs. The other has become a cog in a machine and as such is an end in itself – Levinas calls this murder.

The popular criticism of the ‘bad faith’ other (“othering me”) as the way others get objectified as an insufficient, evil, ignorant, weaker, inferior other is not the other at all. It is the idea of an other projected onto the other. It is the by-product of self-interest which totalizes the other, retreats from the face of the other as Levinas would tell us. It is the a priori historic, cultural map which defines reality and, in so doing, imprisons us in an internality without any reference to externality, the alterity of the other. The other in this sense is not the other at all but my own narcissistic face which gets taken as the other. If there is a hell, it is the one without another, my self-interest as ‘all there is’. In my estimation of Levinas, ontology is the totality of me without an other, without radical externality. Externality is not of the idea of God but externality has a face. The other does not inhabit my time, my space my universe as the totality of me. In Christian metaphysics, isn’t this the sin of vanity that cast the arch-angel Lucifer out of heaven into external hell – the sin of absolute narcissism? When a collectivity of self-interested ‘me-s’ create a state, it is inevitable that nationalism will doom the state to authoritarianism and fascism. Eventually, those who consolidate their self-interested power over others will create the Hobbesian state of Leviathan, the war of all against all. The war of all against all is fundamentally the absolute incongruity of one without the other.

Our history and language are not inconsequential as Enlightenment’s raw sense data would have us believe. Some might think it was fashioned for a reason, for survival. However, at the present time this tool which we employ has become a detriment to our planet and our survival. We need only look at the tragic failures of modernity to the present to understand that our time for adaptation to an essentially other history is now. Climate change informs us it can no longer be postponed. Ethics, altruism, self-interest, our major religions have all left us helpless to have a state which is survivable for us and the planet. The voice of Levinas offers a radical solution to start a history which does not retreat, deface, and totalize the other. What is needed is a recognition that the insufficiency of history itself gives no avenue for the other to be radically external other from the ‘me’ of history. This new history would be the call of responsibility to me to put away the historic narcissism of self-interested me-ism and recognize our limitations by allowing a radical alterity in the face of she or he. A history which allows exteriority is a history which fully realizes that we are not creators of reality. We have gifts freely given to us from the unknowing of birth which now must lead us to the recognition of externality – not just neutral, homogenized externality but externality which brings ‘me’ into fundamental question. For the first time the responsible choice to recognize radical externality of a he or she that is not a “not -me”, a negation of me, but a he or she, or they of the “third other” (mentioned below from Levinas’ latter work “Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence”). The externality of the other is not in my power, my history, or my freedom to comprehend. I think even the current state of modern physics should at least hint of the gravity of what we do not know.

The other that we stand before interrupts my deliberation of who she is. She is not called forth from my comprehension. She interrupts my monologue of her essence. Not only is she not contingent on me but she always breaks through the plastic caste I make of her face. She is not a derivative of my lived temporality or my lived space. She is a radical exteriority, a time not my time, a space not my space. I will never know her essence. Her ‘being’ is my radical reduction of her not who she is. My history, the history of Enlightenment has led me towards a totalization of her and not-her. She is not a moment of my freedom. I have no power over her. Therefore, I must recognize my powerlessness and my debt to her before my will and my power can define her. The only way to recognize her radical alterity which cannot be a not-me is in the responsibility of ethics. Ethics is the recognition of my inability before the infinitude of her or him. My politics required by this ethics is not based in some altruistic or benevolent concern. It is based on my debt to the stranger, the sojourner, the indigent, the oppressed that faces me.

In relation to beings in the opening of being, comprehension finds a signification for them on the basis of being. In this sense, it does not invoke these beings but only names them, thus accomplishing a violence and a negation. A partial negation which is violence. This partiality is indicated by the fact that, without disappearing, those beings are in my power. Partial negation, which is violence, denies the independence of being: it belongs to me. Possession is the mode whereby a being, while existing, is partially denied. It. is not only a question of the fact that the being is an instrument, a tool, that is to say, a means. It is an end also. As consumable, it is nourishment and in enjoyment, it offers itself, gives itself, belongs to me. To be sure vision measures my power over the object, but it is already enjoyment. The encounter with the other (autrui) consists in the fact that despite the extent of my domination and his slavery, I do not possess him. He does not enter entirely into the opening of being where I already stand, as in the field of my freedom. It is not starting from being in general that he comes to meet me. Everything which comes to me from the other (autrui) starting from being in general certainly offers itself to my comprehension and possession. I understand him in the framework of his history, his surroundings and habits. That which escapes comprehension in the other (autrui) is him, a being. I cannot negate him partially, in violence, in grasping him within the horizon of being in general and possessing him. The Other (Autrui) is the sole being whose negation can only announce itself as total: as murder. The Other (Autrui) is the sole being I can wish to kill. (Levinas)

I find Levinas’ remarks here to be almost eerily reminiscent of what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount.

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Mathew 5:21 (MBT)

This is also repeated in 1 John.

If you hate each other, you are murderers, and we know murderers do not have eternal life. 1 John 3:15 (CEV)

The retreat from the other which stands before us into the totalitarianism of history, of Being, is the inevitable leveling off the same as reduction to idea, to substance, to mere presence before the self-interested ‘me’. The other is simply the understood ‘not-me’. When the collection of ‘not-me-s’ become a state, this is the definition of nationalism and its certain demise into fascism. In view of this, how could the state work in a way which is habitable for the planet and us?

What would Levinas’ State Look Like?

Levinas has been thought from one political theorist as a kind of “inverted liberalism”. In Fred Alford’s words,

“Three propositions about the state define Levinas’ project: peace is impossible within the state; peace is possible only beyond the state; going beyond the state to find peace cannot mean leaving the state behind. All three propositions are reflected in the title of article published shortly after his death, “Beyond the State in the State.” (Alford, 2004)

This presents a very difficult challenge in trying to find a political strategy in Levinas. Alford tells us,

One way to take his challenge seriously is to demonstrate that Levinas’ thinking does not fit into any of the categories by which we ordinarily approach political theory. If one were forced to categorize Levinas’ political theory, the term inverted liberalism would come closest to the mark. As long, that is, as one emphasizes the term “inverted” over “liberalism.” Levinas’ defense of liberalism is likely the strangest defense the reader has encountered. We should, argues Levinas, foster and protect the individual because only the individual can see the tears of the other, the tears that even the just regime cannot see. The individual is to be fostered and protected for the sake of the other individual. (Alford, 2004)

From my understanding of Levinas, we encounter the other in an anarchical (without origin) infinity which cannot be temporally consumed. I think of it as a kind of awkward nakedness in which we are left bare until we can immediately cover ourselves with temporality, with history, with Being. Levinas refers us to radical alterity, an interruption of the face of the other. Being is the garb from which we hide from the other. We temporalize the other in existence as an ‘existent’, a being among other beings, a thing among other things. In other words, we retreat from the infinite face of the other into history as if from chaos. Even ‘chaos’ is already thought as origin in Hesiod. From chaos and dystopia, we already are determining and determined as universal, as retreat from the temporal determination of horror. The ‘fear of death’ becomes ground for retreat. In chapter 17 of Huxley’s “Brave New World”, Mustapha is extolling the virtues of the drug soma to John telling him,

And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears—that’s what soma is. (Huxley, 1932)

In Huxley’s book soma is a drug which makes Huxley’s futuristic, dystopia possible. The future is here for MAGA Republicans. We have finally seen a Christianity without tears. They envision a state where the traditional, ‘tried and true’ comes back in the form of Christian Nationalism’s ‘democratic autocracy’ and they blink. Autocracy here is guaranteed by the ‘true’ majority in which voting can only reflect their ‘trueness’.

For the first time social problems and the struggles between humans do not reveal the ultimate meaning of the real. This end of the world will lack the last judgement. The elements exceed the states that until now contained them. Reason no longer appears in political wisdom, but in the historically unconditioned truths announcing cosmic dangers. For politics is substituted a cosmo-politics that is a physics. (Caygill, 2000)

Reminiscent of Huxley’s ‘somatic’ futuristic virtues, Caygill points to a Baudrillardian nether world in which simulacra begets simulacra ad infinitum. Judgement has been replaced by titillation and ‘somatic’ delight. Marketing is the futuristic oracle of Apollo at Delphi where instead of the declaration that Socrates was “the most free, upright, and prudent of all people” we have the state is “the most free, upright, and prudent of all” states or Trump is “the most free, upright, and prudent of all people”. Truth is what Trump says. Contradiction itself has become the truth of non-sensical. In nationalism’s extreme, the Enlightenment tradition based on sense data gets given over to a ‘sense’ without externality. In all this we hear the echo of Nietzsche’s last man where absolute mediocrity wins the day. The state as totality levels off. Nationalism determines and is determined by the place of custom, tradition, manufactured reality. Marketing becomes the ‘physics’ of what is.

For Levinas, the totalitarian state is a vehicle that must always flee from my responsibility to the other. In the radical asymmetry and timelessness of the exteriority of the other we are held hostage, powerless to utilize the state, our state, in pure self-interest. We must retreat from an anarchical past which we never knew. We must temporalize the other to retreat from primal fear which has already brought the other into a symmetry, a relation, which mediates our fundamental angst. In our moment of horrific retreat, we envision Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. However, the other we shrink from is not the infinity of the other but the finitude of our phantom-sized proximity to the other. Proximity to the other which has lost the distance of infinity is our account, logos, of the other. On this account, proximity is the physics of space and time where people ‘things’ mingle. I am related to another in pre-determined ‘physics’ of the state unknowingly derived from the history of Being.

But unless there is an ‘I’ how can there even be an other? The ego must be, exist, to retreat from the face of the other. We must be temporally embodied as a condition for the encounter of the radical alterity of other. The ‘I’ is not extinguished by the other. Only in embodiment can the other face us. Fleeing from the face of the other is not an active choice. It is raw impulse inextricably wedded to the ‘there of being’ as Heidegger situates ‘mineness’ (jemeinigkeit). Furthermore, we are not alone. We encounter many others. The encounter of many others is what Levinas refers to as the “third other”.

When we retreat from the other, we retreat from many others. Here Frankenstein is no longer a monster but many monsters. This is the encounter of the evil others where violence to the other is taken up into justice. In the determinations of good and evil we efface all the others. Here we have the state. The state as composed of many others is the historic, cultural ground from which justice is required and to which it is invented without reference to the radical alterity of the other which faces ‘me’ with tears. To the degree that justice is ‘soma’, we level off the encounter with others as appeasement, as transactional. Justice becomes self-justification. Justice is ‘the election was rigged’. It is the mechanism which vindicates, sanctifies, and translates us into Lewis Carrol’s up is down and down is up. However, justice need not cover over shame. Shame is the essence of retreat from others. We hide ourselves from the nakedness of the face of others.

This is how we arrive at Alford’s notion of “inverted liberalism”. From the Enlightenment era of Hobbes and Locke, practicality as my embodiment is taken up as the liberal tradition of individuality. We are all individuals, single monads in a collectivity, in which we live and move and have our being in the day to day so how can there be a beyond the state? How can Alford tell us,

“Three propositions about the state define Levinas’ project: peace is impossible within the state; peace is possible only beyond the state; going beyond the state to find peace cannot mean leaving the state behind.” (Alford, 2004)

Apart from the seeming senseless riddle of this statement, how can the practical embodiment for individuals in the state be anything other than what it presents to us in the day to day? In view of my recent discussion, I would rather put Alford’s statement like this:

“peace is impossible within the state”

The face-to-face encounter with the other is impossible in ontology, totality, nationalism also known as the history of Being. The other must always be leveled off, comprehended, and totalized as a practical this or that which becomes the foundation of the state. Peace as decision to not level off the other cannot be achieved in the practicality of the enlightened state or any nationalism.

“peace is possible only beyond the state”

The determination that the stranger, the indigent, the disenfranchised are not simply refuse of the state cannot be achieved by a collectivity of enlightened individuals in the self-interested, totalitarian state. Only by a ‘beyond’ the state to a face-to-face encounter with alterity of the other can the state be viable. The viability of the state is only possible when the other is not reduced to mere existents, objects, cogs in a ‘being machine’ waiting for the lightning strike of animation. It turns out the day-to-day practicality of the state cannot produce a living human being but a disembodied human being which impossibly can never come to life except in the fictions of groupthink. Here groupthink goes well beyond Orwell’s critique of Stalin and penetrates the very fabric of occidental, democratic liberalism. Groupthink must inevitably produce monsters not others. To go beyond the state is to decide on a day-today basis to let groupthink go and let the other be other. The other is not simply a ‘not-me’, not simply substance, a thing, animated by the metaphysical lightning strike which magically makes life. There is no infinite regression into a ‘Huxleyian’ utopia which always mediates, codetermines, and thus, universalizes. Beyond the state is not deep philosophy but simple decision which in the day-to-day restrains itself from mediation in deference to the immediacy of radical alterity, of the he or she which faces me.

“going beyond the state to find peace cannot mean leaving the state behind”

In this then we come back to the state but ‘inverted’. I am no longer determined by the state but determine by decision my responsibility to the other which exceeds the state. I think Alford is correct in suggesting that Levinas comes back to liberal democracy but ‘inverted’ or as I would suggest, radical rupture which invigorates us by decision to help the poor, the stranger and the disenfranchised. Externally, we still look like a liberal democracy, but not by ‘self-interested enlightenment of the other’ – by my decision based on the radical, anarchic encounter with the face of the other which resists place and situatedness in my determinations. A state cannot see tears. Only I can see tears. Only I can decide I am responsible.

Conclusion

The impossibility Orwell faced in a meaningless world was not vanquished but simply receded into the simmering politics of post-World War II states. The liberal democracy in which Orwell envisioned in socialism was not utopian but the best form of dystopia. It can only find its dark promise in Huxley’s future. It can only repeat an Orwellian past in ebbs and flows from marketed, utilitarian determinations of the nationalistic state to apocalyptic nightmare. Here ‘meaning’ is subsumed by a Derridean ‘differance’ where endless deferment results in the trace which is,

not a presence but is rather the simulacrum of a presence that dislocates, displaces, and refers beyond itself. The trace has, properly speaking, no place, for effacement belongs to the very structure of the trace. (Derrida, 1973)

The trace never ends in my freedom. The trace is my infinite regression of one without the other. However, the trace is not an infinite regression as Baudrillard thought. Levinas tells us the choice which ends the infinite regression of trace is not the never-ending mediation of the face but the ethics of responsibility which interrupts history with the radical rupture of infinity; an infinity which was never mine but him or her.

The state cannot be a mediated field of ghastly dreams in which the passivity of nebulous nationalism is homogenized by mass marketing dressed up as truth values – an endless procession of a presence which never gets revealed. Passivity is death. Virtual reality is an oxymoron imbued as true. The simple face of she or he is not immediacy which begins or continues mediation as Hegel would have it. Its immediacy is anarchic, without origin, as Moses’ inability to look at the face of God without hiding in the cleft of the rock. Such analogies are meant to ask us, do we really know what we think we know. Are we really so sure that a face is merely a mediated idea of a face not dissimilar from a rock – a mere body of Concept or physics? Can we perhaps sense an encounter where ‘sense’ did not immediately cover over something raw, radically unknown, which felt infinite only to reflexively draw away back into something that felt more like home? Did you ever feel a glimpse of another as radical rupture which threw you back on yourself? And yet, you were stone cold sober. Isn’t love really the shadow of the otherness of the other where idea arrives too late? Levinas invites us to simply encounter the other as if we were the stranger to the one who cannot ‘know’, the eyes of whom we look. Perhaps, we are not alone in an assumed cosmic machine but have retreated away from the other which cannot ‘be’, cannot have origin, cannot be synchronously invested in me. Only when the political can be beyond ontology for ‘me’ can I find a state, can we find a state, which is found upon a history not yet written of state that brings forth the ethics of responsibility for the other and for environing which preserves and sustains environment as the cradle of incomprehensible others. While this seems like high-brow philosophy it is embodied in the simple face to face encounter with the other. It is not restricted to the domain of academic philosophy. It need only meet with humility as choice taken into responsibility to the other whom we do not know, who cries before us as if he or she was not in my thought, nor the wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but the “the still, small voice” saying but not ever captured in the said.

“My effort consists in showing that knowledge is in reality an immanence, and that there is no rupture of the isolation of being in knowledge; and on the other hand, that in communication of knowledge one is found beside the Other, not confronted with him, not in the rectitude of the in-front-of-him. But being in direct relation with the Other is not to thematize the Other and consider him in the same manner as one considers a known object, nor to communicate a knowledge to him. In reality, the fact of being is what is most private; existence is the sole thing I cannot communicate; I can tell about it, but I cannot share my existence. Solitude thus appears as the isolation which marks the very event of being. The social is beyond ontology.” (Levinas, Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Philippe Nemo, 1985)

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Further Reading Links:

https://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s3.html

https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/the-limits-of-reason-in-hobbes-s-commonwealth/

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heidegger/

https://orb.binghamton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1094&context=sagp

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/

https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/complicated-presence-heidegger-and-the-postmetaphysical-unity-of-being/

End Notes:

[1] More from Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius:

  1. Incomes. Limitation of incomes implies the fixing of a minimum wage, which implies a managed internal currency based simply on the amount of consumption-goods available. And this again implies a stricter rationing-scheme than is now in operation. It is no use at this stage of the world’s history to suggest that all human beings should have exactly equal incomes. It has been shown over and over again that without some kind of money reward there is no incentive to undertake certain jobs. On the other hand the money reward need not be very large. In practice it is impossible that earnings should be limited quite as rigidly as I have suggested. There will always be anomalies and evasions. But there is no reason why ten to one should not be the maximum normal variation. And within those limits some sense of equality is possible. A man with £3 a week and a man with £1,500 a year can feel themselves fellow-creatures, which the Duke of Westminster and the sleepers on the Embankment benches cannot.

III. Education. In wartime, educational reform must necessarily be promise rather than performance. At the moment we are not in a position to raise the school-leaving age or increase the teaching staffs of the Elementary Schools. But there are certain immediate steps that we could take towards a democratic educational system. We could start by abolishing the autonomy of the public schools and the older universities and flooding them with State-aided pupils chosen simply on grounds of ability. At present, public-school education is partly a training in class prejudice and partly a sort of tax that the middle classes pay to the upper class in return for the right to enter certain professions. It is true that that state of affairs is altering. The middle classes have begun to rebel against the expensiveness of education, and the war will bankrupt the majority of the public schools if it continues for another year or two. The evacuation is also producing certain minor changes. But there is a danger that some of the older schools, which will be able to weather the financial storm longest, will survive in some form or another as festering centres of snobbery. As for the 10,000 “private” schools that England possesses, the vast majority of them deserve nothing except suppression. They are simply commercial undertakings, and in many cases their educational level is actually lower than that of the Elementary Schools. They merely exist because of a widespread idea that there is something disgraceful in being educated by the public authorities. The State could quell this idea by declaring itself responsible for all education, even if at the start this were no more than a gesture. We need gestures, as well as actions. It is all too obvious that our talk of “defending democracy” is nonsense while it is a mere accident of birth that decides whether a gifted child shall or shall not get the education it deserves.

  1. India. What we must offer India is not “freedom”, which, I have said earlier, is impossible, but alliance, partnership – in a word, equality. But we must also tell the Indians that they are free to secede, if they want to. Without that there can be no equality of partnership, and our claim to be defending the coloured peoples against Fascism will never be believed. But it is a mistake to imagine that if the Indians were free to cut themselves adrift they would immediately do so. When a British government offers them unconditional independence, they will refuse it. For as soon as they have the power to secede the chief reasons for doing so will have disappeared.

A complete severance of the two countries would be a disaster for India no less than for England. Intelligent Indians know this. As things are at present, India not only cannot defend itself, it is hardly even capable of feeding itself. The whole administration of the country depends on a framework of experts (engineers, forest officers, railwaymen, soldiers, doctors) who are predominantly English and could not be replaced within five or ten years. Moreover, English is the chief lingua franca and nearly the whole of the Indian intelligentsia is deeply anglicised. Any transference to foreign rule – for if the British marched out of India the Japanese and other powers would immediately march in – would mean an immense dislocation. Neither the Japanese, the Russians, the Germans nor the Italians would be capable of administering India even at the low level of efficiency that is attained by the British. They do not possess the necessary supplies of technical experts or the knowledge of languages and local conditions, and they probably could not win the confidence of indispensable go-betweens such as the Eurasians. If India were simply “liberated”, i.e. deprived of British military protection, the first result would be a fresh foreign conquest, and the second a series of enormous famines which would kill millions of people within a few years.

What India needs is the power to work out its own constitution without British interference, but in some kind of partnership that ensures its military protection and technical advice. This is unthinkable until there is a Socialist government in England. For at least eighty years England has artificially prevented the development of India, partly from fear of trade competition if Indian industries were too highly developed, partly because backward peoples are more easily governed than civilized ones. It is a commonplace that the average Indian suffers far more from his own countrymen than from the British. The petty Indian capitalist exploits the town worker with the utmost ruthlessness, the peasant lives from birth to death in the grip of the moneylender. But all this is an indirect result of the British rule, which aims half-consciously at keeping India as backward as possible. The classes most loyal to Britain are the princes, the landowners and the business community – in general, the reactionary classes who are doing fairly well out of the status quo. The moment that England ceased to stand towards India in the relation of an exploiter, the balance of forces would be altered. No need then for the British to flatter the ridiculous Indian princes, with their gilded elephants and cardboard armies, to prevent the growth of the Indian Trade Unions, to play off Moslem against Hindu, to protect the worthless life of the moneylender, to receive the salaams of toadying minor officials, to prefer the half-barbarous Gurkha to the educated Bengali. Once check that stream of dividends that flows from the bodies of Indian coolies to the banking accounts of old ladies in Cheltenham, and the whole sahib-native nexus, with its haughty ignorance on one side and envy and servility on the other, can come to an end. Englishmen and Indians can work side by side for the development of India, and for the training of Indians in all the arts which, so far, they have been systematically prevented from learning. How many of the existing British personnel in India, commercial or official, would fall in with such an arrangement – which would mean ceasing once and for all to be “sahibs” – is a different question. But, broadly speaking, more is to be hoped from the younger men and from those officials (civil engineers, forestry and agriculture experts, doctors, educationists) who have been scientifically educated. The higher officials, the provincial governors, commissioners, judges, etc., are hopeless; but they are also the most easily replaceable.

That, roughly, is what would be meant by Dominion status if it were offered to India by a Socialist government. It is an offer of partnership on equal terms until such time as the world has ceased to be ruled by bombing planes. But we must add to it the unconditional right to secede. It is the only way of proving that we mean what we say. And what applies to India applies, mutatis mutandis, to Burma, Malaya and most of our African possessions.

V and VI explain themselves. They are the necessary preliminary to any claim that we are fighting this war for the protection of peaceful peoples against Fascist aggression.

Is it impossibly hopeful to think that such a policy as this could get a following in England? A year ago, even six months ago, it would have been, but not now. Moreover – and this is the peculiar opportunity of this moment – it could be given the necessary publicity. There is now a considerable weekly press, with a circulation of millions, which would be ready to popularize – if not exactly the programme I have sketched above, at any rate some policy along those lines. There are even three or four daily papers which would be prepared to give it a sympathetic hearing. That is the distance we have travelled in the last six months.

But is such a policy realizable? That depends entirely on ourselves.

Some of the points I have suggested are of the kind that could be carried out immediately, others would take years or decades and even then would not be perfectly achieved. No political programme is ever carried out in its entirety. But what matters is that that or something like it should be our declared policy. It is always the direction that counts. It is of course quite hopeless to expect the present government to pledge itself to any policy that implies turning this war into a revolutionary war. It is at best a government of compromise, with Churchill riding two horses like a circus acrobat. Before such measures as limitation of incomes become even thinkable, there will have to be complete shift of power away from the old ruling class. If during this winter the war settles into another stagnant period, we ought in my opinion to agitate for a General Election, a thing which the Tory Party machine will make frantic efforts to prevent. But even without an election we can get the government we want, provided that we want it urgently enough. A real shove from below will accomplish it. As to who will be in that government when it comes, I make no guess. I only know that the right men will be there when the people really want them, for it is movements that make leaders and not leaders movements.

Within a year, perhaps even within six months, if we are still unconquered, we shall see the rise of something that has never existed before, a specifically English Socialist movement. Hitherto there has been only the Labour Party, which was the creation of the working class but did not aim at any fundamental change, and Marxism, which was a German theory interpreted by Russians and unsuccessfully transplanted to England. There was nothing that really touched the heart of the English people. Throughout its entire history the English Socialist movement has never produced a song with a catchy tune – nothing like La Marseillaise or La Cucaracha, for instance. When a Socialist movement native to England appears, the Marxists, like all others with a vested interest in the past, will be its bitter enemies. Inevitably they will denounce it as ‘Fascism’. Already it is customary among the more soft-boiled intellectuals of the Left to declare that if we fight against Nazis we shall “go Nazi” ourselves. They might almost equally well say that if we fight Negroes we shall turn black. To “go Nazi” we should have to have the history of Germany behind us. Nations do not escape from their past merely by making a revolution. An English Socialist government will transform the nation from top to bottom, but it will still bear all over it the unmistakable marks of our own civilization, the peculiar civilization which I discussed earlier in this book.

It will not be doctrinaire, nor even logical. It will abolish the House of Lords, but quite probably will not abolish the Monarchy. It will leave anachronisms and loose ends everywhere, the judge in his ridiculous horsehair wig and the lion and the unicorn on the soldier’s cap-buttons. It will not set up any explicit class dictatorship. It will group itself round the old Labour Party and its mass following will be in the Trade Unions, but it will draw into it most of the middle class and many of the younger sons of the bourgeoisie. Most of its directing brains will come from the new indeterminate class of skilled workers, technical experts, airmen, scientists, architects and journalists, the people who feel at home in the radio and ferro-concrete age. But it will never lose touch with the tradition of compromise and the belief in a law that is above the State. It will shoot traitors, but it will give them a solemn trial beforehand, and occasionally it will acquit them. It will crush any open revolt promptly and cruelly, but it will interfere very little with the spoken and written word. Political parties with different names will still exist, revolutionary sects will still be publishing their newspapers and making as little impression as ever. It will disestablish the Church, but will not persecute religion. It will retain a vague reverence for the Christian moral code, and from time to time will refer to England as “a Christian country”. The Catholic Church will war against it, but the Nonconformist sects and the bulk of the Anglican Church will be able to come to terms with it. It will show a power of assimilating the past which will shock foreign observers and sometimes make them doubt whether any revolution has happened.

But all the same it will have done the essential thing. It will have nationalized industry, scaled down incomes, set up a classless educational system. Its real nature will be apparent from the hatred which the surviving rich men of the world will feel for it. It will aim not at disintegrating the Empire but at turning it into a federation of Socialist states, freed not so much from the British flag as from the moneylender, the dividend-drawer and the wooden-headed British official. Its war-strategy will be totally different from that of any property-ruled state, because it will not be afraid of the revolutionary after-effects when any existing régime is brought down. It will not have the smallest scruple about attacking hostile neutrals or stirring up native rebellion in enemy colonies. It will fight in such a way that even if it is beaten its memory will be dangerous to the victor, as the memory of the French Revolution was dangerous to Metternich’s Europe. The dictators will fear it as they could not fear the existing British régime, even if its military strength were ten times what it is.

But at this moment, when the drowsy life of England has barely altered, and the offensive contrast of wealth and poverty still exists everywhere, even amid the bombs, why do I dare to say that all these things “will” happen?

Because the time has come when one can predict the future in terms of an “either – or”. Either we turn this war into a revolutionary war (I do not say that our policy will be exactly what I have indicated above – merely that it will be along those general lines) or we lose it, and much more besides. Quite soon it will be possible to say definitely that our feet are set upon one path or the other. But at any rate it is certain that with our present social structure we cannot win. Our real forces, physical, moral or intellectual, cannot be mobilized.

[2] Additional Information:

https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/scientists-just-achieved-a-breakthrough-in-quantum-computing/, https://scitechdaily.com/quantum-breakthrough-researchers-demonstrate-full-control-of-a-three-qubit-system/, https://newsroom.ibm.com/2021-11-16-IBM-Unveils-Breakthrough-127-Qubit-Quantum-Processor

[3] Additional Information:

https://sites.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/teaching/HPS_0410/chapters/quantum_theory_waves/index.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-virtual-particles-rea/

https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/july-2009/60-seconds-virtual-particles

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Reviewed by George MacDonald Ross, U. o. (2011). The Limits of Reason in Hobbes’s Commonwealth. Notre Dame Philosphical Reviews. Retrieved from https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/the-limits-of-reason-in-hobbes-s-commonwealth/

(n.d.). Thomas Hobbes. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes/

Wilson, E. E. (2022). Kant and Hume on Morality. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Archive. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2022/entries/kant-hume-morality/

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Clashing Histories – Right Fright in the Light

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

Maya Angelou

I would turn Maya Angelou’s quote around and ask, if the Republicans have told us who we are for one hundred years, why didn’t we believe them the first time? They have been railing against Democrats and programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act as ‘socialism’ all this time. Trump parrots their historic rhyme as if it should strike fear in every red-blooded American. It seems as he and the Republican Party has conveniently forgot that they have had a long history of telling Democrats we are socialists and the country is socialists because of us. Now, once again, they threaten us all over again with the looming darkness of approaching socialism. Well, when are we going to believe them – we must already be socialists according to them and since we are a democracy, we must be Democratic Socialists, right?

In this post I would like to look at some of the history of the GOP’s political rhetoric starting in the 20th century. Socialism has been paying rent inside the heads for at least a century. What scares and feeds their negative fascination with socialism? Is it authoritarianism? Well, the Trumpsters have finally dispelled that myth. Authoritarianism is fine for them as long as the authoritarians are a ‘son of a bitch, but they are our son of a bitch’ and if it maintains a fevered, illusory pitch in right-wing favor. I would like to approach this topic in three major areas: a brief historic review of the GOP telling us the socialist sky is falling, the statistical facts history has told us about capitalism in the United States and, what often does not get reported, the ideological background that gives rise to these phantasms of the GOP’s obsession. First, a quick, relevant chronological perspective.

Coming out of the Renaissance Period it is hard to emphasize enough how much the Scientific Revolution from the 16th through the 18th century effected the world. It was generally thought to start with the Copernican Revolution beginning 1543. The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge was founded in 1660. It began with Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726) accomplishing major breakthroughs in mathematics and astronomy and continuing through Charles Darwin’s (1809 – 1882) “Origin of the Species “.

This period saw major changes in philosophy, art, and architecture with Renes Descartes (1596 – 1650) doubting everything which could doubted to rococo in art and architecture. Rococo had incredibly detailed, exuberant, and elaborate curves, counter-curves, undulations, and textures. The 19th century was a time of immense optimism, shall we say positivism, about science.

The Industrial Revolution lasted somewhere from 1750 to 1850. Philosophical schools like German Idealism were going strong in Germany in large part due to the philosopher G. W. Hegel (1770 – 1831). Positivism and naturalism met in August Comte (1798 – 1857) and Charles Darwin extoling scientific observation. This is also the time when economics held great promise for establishing itself as a serious science. Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) wrote his famous “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of the Nations” in 1776; the same year the Declaration of Independence was being adopted in this country. Interesting to note that over one hundred pages in Smith’s work contained banking regulations. (see my post: The Free Market: Capitalism and Socialism http://www.mixermuse.com/blog/capitalism-and-marxism/the-free-market-capitalism-and-socialism-2/) Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) lived during the Industrial Revolution and famously coined the term ‘capitalism’ during this period in England.

Karl Marx wrote his three-volume series “Das Kapital” from 1867 to his death in 1883. Marx was a German philosopher who was ethically Jewish but not religiously Jewish. Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895) worked with Marx to define what would later become Marxism. World War 1 occurred from 1914 to 1918 involving much of the world including Russia, Europe, England, and the United States. The Russian Revolution (1917 to 1923), long after Marx’ death, overthrew the Czarist monarchy. The authoritarian Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin (1870 – 1924) eventually won out over the Mensheviks, anarchists, and other counter-revolutionary groups of the day to establish the Communist Part of the Soviet Union.

The roaring 20s in the United States was a time of mass production for the mechanical horses (cars) and immense optimism about the promise of capitalism. I think Greenspan may have called that time a time of “irrational exuberance” as capitalists were given free reign and market safeguards withered away with the economic affluence of big industrialists. The Republican presidents Calvin Coolidge (president from 1923 to 1929) and Herbert Hoover (president from 1929 to 1933) were staunch capitalists. They made significant changes with banking regulation. The gold standard went away in 1933. The Great Depression stock market crash happened in 1929.

In the quotes below we can get a brief glimpse of this socialist ghost which has haunted us…

Republican Party Platform of 1908 (William Howard Taft Presidential Nomination)

The present tendencies of the two parties are even more marked by inherent differences. The trend of Democracy is toward socialism, while the Republican party stands for a wise and regulated individualism. Socialism would destroy wealth; Republicanism would prevent its abuse. Socialism would give to each an equal right to take; Republicanism would give to each an equal right to earn. Socialism would offer an equality of possession which would soon leave no one anything to possess. (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/republican-party-platform-1908)

William Howard Taft (27th President of the United States: 1909 1913 – Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination of the Republican Party)

In the ultimate analysis, I fear, the equal opportunity which is sought by many of those who proclaim the coming of so-called social justice involves a forced division of property, and that means socialism. In the abuses of the last two decades it is true that ill-gotten wealth has been concentrated in some undeserving hands, and if it were possible to redistribute it on any equitable principle to those from whom it was taken without adequate or proper compensation, it would be a good result to bring about. But this is obviously impossible and impracticable. (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-accepting-the-presidential-nomination-the-republican-party)

In 1933, the newly inaugurated Democratic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, facing the Great Depression, proposed the “New Deal” Social Security program. The American Liberty League, made up of wealthy Republican businessmen, started the “Stop Roosevelt” movement…

A key Liberty League charge was that Roosevelt and his advisers were secret socialists who sought to foist their alien program on the nation without the American people’s consent. Although Roosevelt had won the election in 1932, the League maintained that the American people had never supported the New Deal. They voted for Roosevelt because he promised voters to protect capitalism, not destroy it. It was only after the election that Roosevelt revealed his agenda of instituting European-style socialism upon an unsuspecting American public. Once the American people recognized what was happening-in the words of one Liberty League pamphlet, once they “awaken[ed] … to find the Roosevelt administration has virtually tricked them, and substituted the Socialist Party platform” for the Democratic Party platform-the people would surely vote Roosevelt out and restore Americanism.” Showing the American people, the truth about the New Deal was precisely what the Liberty League sought to do. (THE AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE AND THE RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL NATIONALISM, Jared A. Goldstein, https://docs.rwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1193&context=law_fac_fs)

Father Charles E. Coughlin, Defender of the Faith but Hater of Social Security

Another influence on Depression-era public policy was the Union for Social Justice movement led by a radio preacher by the name of Father Charles E. Coughlin. Father Coughlin had a weekly radio program with 35-40 million listeners which he used to mix a little religion with a lot of politics. His enemies, in addition to the devil himself, were Roosevelt, international bankers, communists, and labor unions, and he was not shy in describing them in interchangeable terms. At the height of his popularity, Father Coughlin had a greater share of the weekly broadcast audience than Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Harvey, and Larry King combined.

Although Father Coughlin’s main effort was to pillory his enemies, he did have a broad program of social reforms that included a deliberate inflation of the currency and the nationalization of all banks. He was also an anti-Semite and isolationist whose views were so extreme that the Catholic Church finally censured him and forced him to cease his political activities. In 1936, Coughlin, along with Townsend and the remnants of Huey Long’s Share the Wealth Movement, would join to form a third party to contest the presidential election in the hopes of preventing President Roosevelt from being re-elected. (Historical Background and Development of Social Security, Pre-Social Security Period, Traditional Sources of Economic Security, https://www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html)

Harry S. Truman (Democrat – 33rd President of the United States: 1945 ‐ 1953 – Address at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.)

Right now, the main problem of the Republican leaders seems to be to find some new scare words. They have not had much luck along that line, lately. They tried using the phrase “welfare state” as a scare word for a while, but they discovered that the people are in favor of a government that promotes their welfare. So they dropped that one as a scare slogan. Then they tried “statism.” But my good friend Governor Lehman took care of that one in the New York election–and so they had to drop it, too.

Now, the Republican leaders have to go back to an old standby. Frankly, I don’t think it’s as good as some of the others, but it appears to be the best they can think of. Their current scare word is “socialism.”

It’s perfectly safe to be against “socialism.” The difficult thing is to make the country believe that the Democratic Party stands for socialism. How in the world can the Republicans persuade people that all you Democrats at all these dinners are socialists? I just don’t believe they can do it.

From Joe McCarthy in the 50s…

The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.

Our job as Americans and as Republicans is to dislodge the traitors from every place where they’ve been sent to do their traitorous work.

“Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity.” https://www.azquotes.com/author/32863-Joseph_McCarthy

From Barry Goldwater in the 60s…

The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside it’s constitutional mandate – from social welfare programs, education, public power, agriculture public housing, urban development and all the other activities that can be better performed by lower levels of government or by private institutions or by individuals. (Barry Goldwater in The Conscience of a Conservative – 1960)

Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink.

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

it is Socialism that subordinates all other considerations to man’s material well-being. It is Conservatism that puts material things in their proper place— that has a structured view of the human being and of human society, in which economics plays only a subsidiary role.

John McCain (U.S. Senator from Arizona –
Interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday)

WALLACE: In your radio address yesterday, you raised the “S” word, socialism.

MCCAIN: Sure.

WALLACE: But you did it indirectly, so let me ask you for some straight talk. Do you think that Senator Obama is a socialist? Do you think that his plans are socialism?

MCCAIN: I think his plans are redistribution of the wealth. He said it himself, “We need to spread the wealth around.” Now, that’s one of…

WALLACE: Is that socialism?

MCCAIN: That’s one of the tenets of socialism. But it’s more the liberal left, which he’s always been on. He’s always been in the left lane of American politics.

That’s why he voted 94 times against any tax cuts or for tax increases. That’s why he voted for the Democratic resolution, budget resolution, that would impose taxes on — raise taxes on some individual who makes $42,000 a year.

That’s why he has the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate.

WALLACE: But, Senator, when we talk…

MCCAIN: So is one of the tenets of socialism redistribution of the wealth? Not just socialism — a lot of other liberal and left wing philosophies — redistribution of the wealth? I don’t believe in it. I believe in wealth creation by Joe the Plumber. (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/interview-with-chris-wallace-fox-news-sunday)

Finally, from “Think Progress” – A brief, 90-year history of Republicans calling Democrats ‘socialists’ This isn’t a new phenomenon.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Oveta Culp Hobby, denounced a Democratic plan to provide free polio vaccines to children as a “back door” leading to socialized medicine.

Similarly, when President Harry Truman proposed a national health-insurance program in 1945, the American Medical Association (AMA) condemned it as “socialized medicine” and labeled Truman’s White House staffers “followers of the Moscow party line.”

Ronald Reagan — as their spokesperson for a campaign called “Operation Coffee Cup.” Launched to fight Medicare, Operation Coffee Cup asked doctors’ wives to invite their friends over to drink coffee and listen to a recording called “Ronald Reagan speaks out against SOCIALIZED MEDICINE.”

Future Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) attacked President Bill Clinton’s health care plan as “socialism now or later” and claimed it was a plan to seize “control of the health care system and centralize power in Washington.” Claims that the Affordable Care Act is a “government takeover” of medicine were a mainstay of Republican opposition to the law. In an October op-ed criticizing Democratic proposals to expand Medicare to all Americans, President Trump echoed the hyperbolic rhetoric of Operation Coffee Cup. (https://archive.thinkprogress.org/a-history-of-republicans-calling-democrats-socialists-777bcd2b7a6d/)

So, what is the revisionist, regressive and reactive path they would take us back to? While there has been much discussion on causes for the Great Depression, we know for a fact that Republicans Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were president in the twenties and up until FDR took office in 1933 just after the onset of the Great Depression. The right and some historians have made arguments since then that their policies were not the cause of the Great Depression. They generally point to international issues as the root cause. However, when it comes to another resident Republican President, George W. Bush, and the Great Recession, we are told by the right that, in spite of six years of Republican control during the Bush administration, the Great Recession was caused by Clinton and fair housing regulations on the part of Fannie and Freddie Mac. They do not accept the bipartisan, more balanced conclusion of the Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission that:

…the crisis was avoidable and was caused by: Widespread failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve’s failure to stem the tide of toxic mortgages; Dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance including too many financial firms acting recklessly and taking on too much risk; An explosive mix of excessive borrowing and risk by households and Wall Street that put the financial system on a collision course with crisis; Key policy makers ill prepared for the crisis, lacking a full understanding of the financial system they oversaw; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels. (See my post: The Housing Crisis – Research Revisited at http://www.mixermuse.com/blog/politics/the-housing-crisis-research-revisted/)

Contrarily and conveniently, they do not blame the international community who suffered as much in the Great Recession as we did in the United States for the failure; only supposed Democratic policies. Are we to believe that our housing excesses caused a world-wide recession all by itself? How could that possibly happen without a massive lapse in financial regulation which opened the housing market up to world-wide investiture and set the standard for their financial markets?

So, what is the deal? Is capitalism all the right cracks it up to be and socialism the doom of all mankind?

Let’s get a few things cleared up right away. Most political scientists tell us there has never been a pure capitalistic state. Karl Marx first coined the term ‘capitalism’:

If the pure capitalism described by Marx ever existed, it has long since disappeared, as governments in the United States and many other countries have intervened in their economies to limit concentrations of power and address many of the social problems associated with unchecked private commercial interests. As a result, the American economy is perhaps better described as a “mixed” economy, with government playing an important role along with private enterprise.” (Moffatt, Mike. “America’s Capitalist Economy. ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, www.thoughtco.com/overview-of-americas-capitalist-economy-1147550)

Perhaps the Austrian Economists and the Mises Institute have articulated the purest theoretical formulation of capitalism. In their formulation, capitalism is absolutely self-regulating and can only be encumbered by government meddling in the form of regulations, cronyism, and corporatism. Mises considered himself to be a ‘liberal’ but not of the kind we generally think of today. Mises states in his work ‘Liberalism’:

The program of liberalism, therefore, if condensed into a single word, would have to read: property, that is, private ownership in the means of production. … All the other demands of liberalism result from this fundamental demand. (Mises, Liberalism, p. 19, emphasis in the original. See https://mises.org/library/mises-fascism-democracy-and-other-questions)

The notion of ‘property’ and the ‘individual’ are loaded words in the philosophy of the Austrian Economists. Let’s unpack them a little more. Mises writes,

It is always the individual who thinks. Society does not think any more than it eats or drinks. The evolution of human reasoning from the naive thinking of primitive man to the more subtle thinking of modern science took place within society. However, thinking itself is always an achievement of individuals. There is joint action, but no joint thinking. There is only tradition which preserves thoughts and communicates them to others as a stimulus to their thinking. However, man has no means of appropriating the thoughts of his precursors other than to think them over again. Then, of course, he is in a position to proceed farther on the basis of his forerunners’ thoughts. The foremost vehicle of tradition is the word. Thinking is linked up with language and vice versa. Concepts are embodied in terms. Language is a tool of thinking as it is a tool of social action.

The history of thought and ideas is a discourse carried on from generation to generation. The thinking of later ages grows out of the thinking of earlier ages. Without the aid of this stimulation, intellectual progress would have been impossible. The continuity of human evolution, sowing for the offspring and harvesting on land cleared and tilled by the ancestors, manifests itself also in the history of science and ideas. We have inherited from our forefathers not only a stock of products of various orders of goods which is the source of our material wealth; we have no less inherited ideas and thoughts, theories and technologies to which our thinking owes its productivity.

But thinking is always a manifestation of individuals. (Individuals, Reason, and Action, 06/05/2017, Ludwig von Mises, https://mises.org/wire/individuals-reason-and-action)

In Mises understanding action is determinate and circumscribes thinking. Thinking is always an individual who thinks in the service of action. There is no ‘group think’. On the surface, this seems perfectly practical and reasonable. From Mises point of view, it seems that anything which diminishes the absolute supremacy of thinking as always ‘individual’ for the purpose of action is ‘unthinkable’. Mises definition of thinking is an individual thinking for the purpose of action. What we have here is what philosophers call a tautology. A tautology is absolutely true by definition. An example of a tautology is A = A. Without doubt, by definition this must be true. It must necessarily follow and thus may be called deductive reasoning. It must necessarily be true as A is the identity that is repeated in exact equivocation. Not all deductive reasoning is true as the premises could be wrong but the reasoning, deduction from the given premises, could necessarily be deduced from the faulty premises. The key phrase for a tautology is ‘by definition’. If the definition of thinking is a person thinking, not a group, for the purpose of action, we symbolically have: Individual Thinks, Individual is not Group; Therefore, Thinking is Not Group. Truly, the conclusion follows the premises in a deductive fashion. It would seem that the deduction is sound and the premises are obviously true so we must have a tautology. Do we?

Let’s look at what Mises himself further states. He tells us there is a progression of thinking which happens from ‘primitive man’ to ‘modern science’. Um, science cannot think so he must have meant ‘modern man’. Ok, just a metaphor. So, thinking is passed down by the repetition of an action. Learning is the ritual of repetition and therefore, action. We simply pass ideas down by ‘think[ing] them over again’. Progress is the thought passed down to the forerunner. Tradition is the foremost vehicle of the word. The word is ‘linked’ with language. We ‘inherit ideas and thoughts’ like we inherit ‘products of various orders of goods which is the source of our material wealth’. What we have here in Mises thinking is a mechanism, a machine as metaphor, where we simply see the parts, observe the connections, and understand the finality of the purpose of the machine, the action it produces. However, the question which gets eradicated by Mises answer is, how did we learn language? Did someone teach us every word and the connections to the words were simply plainly seen by the student upon the teacher speaking each word repetitively? This sounds to me more like incantation than laying open the mechanism of language. It is absurd to think of language in this naive atomist fashion. It is just as absurd as Mises observation that a group can think.

What Mises has done is a reductio ad absurdum. It is absurd to tell us that someone or some process repetitively taught us words which we linked together by virtue of some simple connection which need not be explained to form ideas and language. The fact is there are whole schools of linguistics and philosophy which have made much better progress explaining how language works and none are so naive as to look at words like railroad cars on a train which flies down the tracks of history with the train having to get recreated by every thinking human the words get passed down to. We really do not understand the mechanism of language but one thing we know for sure, we did not get born, have someone or some process start spitting out words which we magically connected together and now we have no memory of that tutelage. There is a way in which language comes to us more as a wholes than as parts denoted by words. Here is the reason I have taken this detour: The word ‘individual’ has been thought with the same type of negligence. We assume since we have an individual body which thinks connected words called language to produce actions that this ends the matter. Our inhabitation sensed as ego is essentially and inseparably circumscribed by dynamics which cannot fit under the rubric of isolation. Language is a perfect example of this type of phenomena. The accounting does not add up if you follow Mises prescription. I will not go into this at this point, but I will simply put forward the thought that an ‘individual’ as the Mises Institute wants to think it is equally a reductio ad absurdum. Also, I will deal further with philosophy and linguistics below.

Furthermore, ‘individual’ without some equally primary notion of collectivity is like words to language under the metaphor of connected parts of a machine which gets rebuilt upon every new individual born into the world. I alluded to collectivity in my previous post (Clashing Histories – A Prolegomenon) but will go further later in the present discussion. I will add one more thing. I think the ‘free market’ is not so free as the capitalists would have us believe. Neither is it so horrible either as some would have it in my estimation. But, to think of a ‘free market’ with no government regulation as a well-oiled machine is to not understand there will be a government; the only question is, do the capitalists make the rules or the people. Just as there is a circumscription to thinking and language beyond mere repetitive words; there is a circumscription to individuals better taken up as a collectivity; there is an excess to the market which demands an exteriority in the form of rules and regulations which not only make the market more effective but, more importantly, make it possible for there to be any such thing as a market. It is in the interest of some to magically incant the ‘free market’; have us walk away shaking our heads in cultist delight; and walk away with their pockets full of all our watches. So, what has individualism given us on the flip side?

Even as Marxism has left its extremist mark so has ‘individualism’ become the fodder engendering everything from major distrust of the state and almost no centralization of government to adoption by radical right ‘individualist anarchists’. The Austrian Economists find their anarchist meeting point in the capitalist writer Murray Rothbard. Rothbard explains his conversion from minimal government to no government this way:

Either you had to go over to anarchism and scrap government altogether, or else you had to become a liberal, and of course that was out of the question for me to become a liberal. That was it. That was my conversion. (How Murray Rothbard Became An Anarchist, see http://voluntaryist.com/anarchism/murray-rothbard-became-anarchist-not-voluntaryist/).

While the Mises Institute has spent much ink trying to separate themselves from the Nazis and equally disassociate the Austrian born Hitler from any relevance to the Austrian School, a few facts are clear. Mises wrote,

It cannot be denied that [Italian] Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. (Mises, Liberalism, p. 51. See https://mises.org/library/mises-fascism-democracy-and-other-questions)

Apparently, Mises thought the only antidote to the rampant collectivism of his day was fascism. Perry Anderson, an English Marxist critic writes:

There was no more outspoken champion of classical liberalism in the German-speaking world of the Twenties [than Mises]. Yet the Austrian political scene, dominated as it was by the conflict between a social-democratic Left and a clerical Right, left little room for this outlook. Here Mises had no hesitation; in the struggle against the labour movement, authoritarian rule might well be required. Looking across the border, he could see the virtues of Mussolini. The blackshirts had for the moment saved European civilisation for the principle of private property: “the merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history.” Advisor to Monsignor Seipel, the prelate who ran Austria in the late Twenties, Mises approved Dollfuss’s crushing of labour and democracy in the Thirties, blaming the repression of 1934 which installed a clerical dictatorship on the folly of the Social Democrats in contesting his alliance with Italy. Perry Anderson, “The Intransigent Right at the End of the Century,” London Review of Books, vol. 14, no. 18 (September 24, 1992), p. 8; translated and reprinted with footnotes in Anderson, “Die eiserne Rechte am Ende des Jahrhunderts. Über Michael Oakeshott, Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss und Friedrich von Hayek,” Freibeuter, No. 55 (1993), pp. 17–18. (I am grateful to Professor Anderson for this reference.) Anderson goes on to claim that Mises also attempted an “exculpation of Austria,” by incriminating only Germany in the deeds of the Nazis. Anderson quotes from Mises’s Erinnerungen, (with a foreword by Margit von Mises and introduction by Friedrich August von Hayek [Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer, 1978], p. 91, emphasis in original), where Mises writes of the Austrians that they were “‘the only people on the European continent who’ — in the days of the Heimwehr — ‘seriously resisted Hitler.'” (Cf. Ludwig von Mises, Notes and Recollections, foreword by Margit von Mises, Hans F. Sennholtz, trans. [South Holland, Ill.: Libertarian Press, 1978], p. 142). On this fairly trivial point, Mises can perhaps be forgiven his Austrian patriotism. On his implicit support for the Austrian government in suppressing the Social Democrats, it should be noted that Mises held, correctly, that Mussolini’s “was the only government ready to support Austria in her fight against a Nazi take-over” in 1934 (Notes and Recollections, p. 140), and that the Social Democrats’ violent opposition to the alliance with Mussolini threatened to lead to a Nazi absorption of Austria (Notes and Recollections, pp. 140–141). ()

It appears that centralized, authoritarian governments do serve a purpose when violently opposing other statist governments. In order to protect private property in radical individualism the competition of free markets may not be enough to overcome ‘socialist’ evils. In this case, the much-maligned collectivity known as ‘government’ must emerge as protector of individualism and its anarchist neighbors even if it comes in a Nazi uniform. I contend that the thought of any such thing as a ‘free market’ and ‘individualism’ that pertains to any number of humans more than one will essentially and necessarily conjure up a ‘government’. The centralization of power in government is nothing other than a centralization of power in economic capitalism. As Nietzsche said, if there was no god one would have to be created, I maintain that if the free market had no government, one would have to be created. And who do you think would be all too happy to step into this ‘shall not have been a government’s’ shoes – capitalists perhaps? It seems that the shoe would fit.

The Mises Institute tells us that the U.S. is already fascist and has been for quite a long time. On their site they plainly write, “This describes mainstream politics in America today”.

Fascism is the system of government that cartelizes the private sector, centrally plans the economy to subsidize producers, exalts the police state as the source of order, denies fundamental rights and liberties to individuals, and makes the executive state the unlimited master of society.

This describes mainstream politics in America today. And not just in America. It’s true in Europe, too. It is so much part of the mainstream that it is hardly noticed any more.

If fascism is invisible to us, it is truly the silent killer. It fastens a huge, violent, lumbering state on the free market that drains its capital and productivity like a deadly parasite on a host. This is why the fascist state has been called the vampire economy. It sucks the economic life out of a nation and brings about a slow death of a once-thriving economy. (What is Fascism?, Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., founder and chairman of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, https://mises.org/library/what-fascism-1)

In the above cited article, Rockwell clearly calls for an anti-fascist movement which he writes,

In the fight against fascism, there is no reason to be despairing. We must continue to fight with every bit of confidence that the future belongs to us and not them.

Their world is falling apart. Ours is just being built. Their world is based on bankrupt ideologies. Ours is rooted in the truth about freedom and reality. Their world can only look back to the glory days. Ours looks forward to the future we are building for ourselves.

Their world is rooted in the corpse of the nation-state. Our world draws on the energies and creativity of all peoples in the world, united in the great and noble project of creating a prospering civilization through peaceful human cooperation. We possess the only weapon that is truly immortal: the right idea. It is this that will lead to victory.

In view of such noble declarations, let’s see if we can find other rhymes in history which set the same tone. The Mises Institute is the early and insistent proponent of such modern, historic revisionists as Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”. (see my post here http://www.mixermuse.com/blog/politics/are-liberals-fascists-or-the-opportunity-for-fascism-to-flourish-you-decide/). They go to great effort to make Hitler a radical leftist. After all, they tell us, what else would “National Socialism” mean? Well if Hitler was a socialist it was only for the Aryan race and many of their closest fellow-founders did not make the cut if you know what I mean. And, oh yes, Nazi Germany did have private property which the government or Hitler could acquire or control like ’eminent domain’, the Defense Production Act and market collapse resulting in the foreclosure of ‘personal property’ in the United States. I do not know of any democracy in the world where ‘private property’ is considered ‘absolute’ and exempt from such provisions. As we saw in massive financial deregulation at the end of the Bush administration, the market can generate conditions under which massive home ownerships can go into default. What do the Austrian believers tells about market collapse, “buyer beware”. And now, we have seen how a virus can throw masses into unemployment and default on their property. We need to look further into the notion of the individual and property but for now let’s stay with our historic analysis. Far too often the web encourages facile and oversimplified explanations meant more for cathartic release instead of getting to the truth. Therefore, instead of throwing around accusations of Mussolini and Hitler as leftist, let’s look at the history in detail.

At the conclusion of World War 1, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the throne and Germany was immediately transformed from a constitutional monarchy to a republic in signing the Treaty of Versailles. The republic was called the Weimar Republic. It lasted from 1918 to 1933. The treaty imposed harsh economic penalties on the Germans. There were multiple political groups in the republic on both the left and the right. However, the right increasingly became more powerful as hardships got worse for the German people. Here is a quote concerning the ideological makeup of these groups and how they differed:

The parties on the left were strong supporters of progressive taxation, government social welfare programs, labor unions, equality and economic opportunity for women. They were less nationalistic, militaristic and antisemitic than the parties on the right. They favored greater government involvement in—and control of—business and industry and were to varying degrees anti-religious. Still, there were strong differences and major conflicts between the two major leftist parties. The Social Democrats were strong supporters of the Republic and democracy while the Communists were opposed to both, favoring a Russian style communist dictatorship. The parties on the right were strongly nationalistic and supported large military. They were opposed to social welfare programs, labor unions and progressive taxation. They favored an economy directed by industrialists and landowners with large estates. They were antisemitic and favored traditional roles for women. The Nationalists were a more traditional Conservative Party, while the National Socialists were a radical party wanting revolutionary change. Both parties publicly supported the Churches and the role of religion in society but some elements in the Nazi Party harbored hostility to traditional religion. (Weimar Party Politics, Professor Paul Bookbinder, University of Massachusetts Boston, https://www.facinghistory.org/weimar-republic-fragility-democracy/readings/weimar-political-parties) I highly recommend the previous link for a more concrete picture of Germany from the end of World War 1 to the rise of the Nazis.

Regarding private property in the Third Reich, here is an interesting academic paper on the role of private property in the Third Reich…

Abstract. Private property in the industry of the Third Reich is often considered a mere formal provision without much substance. However, that is not correct, because firms, despite the rationing and licensing activities of the state, still had ample scope to devise their own production and investment patterns. Even regarding war-related projects freedom of contract was generally respected and, instead of using power, the state offered firms a bundle of contract options to choose from. There were several motives behind this attitude of the regime, among them the conviction that private property provided important incentives for increasing efficiency. (The Role of Private Property in the Nazi Economy: The Case of Industry, Christoph Buchheim and Jonas Scherner, University of Mannheim, Germany, https://economics.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Workshops-Seminars/Economic-History/buchheim-041020.pdf)

All one needs to do is look at the historic rhyme we see going on in our country to understand why the Nazis had much more in common with the Republican Party in the U.S. than the Democratic Party.

For that matter, of course, there are still genuine fascists and proto-fascists with us today. They go by such names as the Aryan Nations, Christian Identity, or National Socialist Movement. And they’re all aligned, politically, to the far right. Their spinoffs, such as the Patriot/militia movement, were all right-leaning movements with substantial interaction with mainstream conservatism, as I’ve documented at length. Indeed, the militia movement’s own bastard brainchild — the Minutemen — is now being ardently adopted by a variety of supposedly mainstream Republicans. The ultimate Newspeak, (http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2005/10/ultimate-newspeak.html)

We should also add to the groups mentioned above the Atomwaffen Division (neo-Nazis), Thicc Boog Line, PATRIOT Wave and Boogaloo Nation all of which are cited in the Center For Strategic & International Studies brief cited further down (Right-Wing Terrorism, page 5). Yet, if you look on the web, the historic revisionists will have us believe that the Nazis were your average Democrat of our day. This brings up another important point. Socialism was popular and practiced in much of Europe at the time Hitler was coming to power. Here are some facts and actual statements from Hitler and Mussolini on the alleged ‘socialism’ of the Mises Institute fascists:

“Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere.” (Benito Mussolini, 1935, The Doctrine of Fascism, Firenze: Vallecchi Editore , p. 32)

Concerning the Dachau concentration camp:

One of the oldest Nazi concentration camps, Dachau is located approximately 15 km north west of Munich. Its establishment was announced by Heinrich Himmler on the 20th of March 1933, just under two months after the Nazis seized power. Two days later the first prisoners were brought to Dachau, mostly communists and social democrats. (https://www.holocaust.cz/en/history/concentration-camps-and-ghettos/dachau-2/)

Statements from Mussolini:

Fascism [is] the complete opposite of…Marxian Socialism, the materialist conception of history of human civilization can be explained simply through the conflict of interests among the various social groups and by the change and development in the means and instruments of production…. Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect. And if the economic conception of history be denied, according to which theory men are no more than puppets, carried to and for by the waves of chance, while the real directing forces are quite out of their control, it follows that the existence of an unchangeable and unchanging class-war is also denied – the natural progeny of the economic conception of history. And above all Fascism denies that class-war can be the preponderant force in the transformation of society….

The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual, of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality — thus it may be called the “ethic” State…. (In 1932 Mussolini wrote (with the help of Giovanni Gentile) and entry for the Italian Encyclopedia on the definition of fascism., Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.html

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power. (Benito Mussolini from Encyclopedia Italiana, Giovanni Gentile, editor)

In 1932 Mussolini declared that the 20th century would be the “Fascist century” by stating:

If it is admitted that the nineteenth century has been the century of Socialism, Liberalism and Democracy, it does not follow that the twentieth must also be the century of Liberalism, Socialism and Democracy. Political doctrines pass; peoples remain. It is to be expected that this century may be that of authority, a century of the “Right,” a Fascist century. (Mussolini, Doctrine of Fascism, 1932, http://www.historyguide.org/europe/duce.html)

Statements from Hitler:

National Socialism is what Marxism might have been if it could have broken its absurd and artificial ties with the democratic order. (Hitler to Rauschning, The Voice of Destruction, pg. 186)

Marx believed nationalism was an artifact of capitalism and the bourgeois state and not compatible with socialism. This is rather long diatribe by Hitler (sorry) but listen for the voice of modern-day right- and left-wing extremists in it and determine for yourself which one it reminds you of. Here are some excerpts from a speech in 1921 by Hitler:

And thus the Left is forced more and more to turn to Bolshevism. “In Bolshevism they see today the sole, the last possibility of preserving the present state of affairs. They realize quite accurately that the people is beaten so long as Brain and Hand can be kept apart. For alone neither Brain nor Hand can really oppose them. So long therefore as the Socialist idea is coined only by men who see in it a means for disintegrating a nation, so long can they rest in peace.

But it will be a sorry day for them when this Socialist idea is grasped by a Movement which unites with it the highest Nationalist pride, with Nationalist defiance, and thus places the Nation’s Brain, its intellectual workers, on this ground. Then this system will break up, and there would remain only one single means of salvation for its supporters: vis. to bring the catastrophe upon us before their own ruin, to destroy the Nation’s Brain, to bring it to the scaffold – to introduce Bolshevism.

So the Left neither can nor will help. On the contrary, their first lie compels them constantly to resort to new lies. There remains then the Right. And this party of the Right meant well, but it cannot do what it would because up to the present time it has failed to recognize a whole series of elementary principles.

In the first place the Right still fails to recognize the danger. These gentlemen still persist in believing that it is a question of being elected to a Landtag or of posts as minister or secretaries. They think that the decision of a people’s destiny would mean at worst nothing more than some damage to their so-called bourgeois-economic existence. They have never grasped the fact that this decision threatens their heads. They have never yet understood that it is not necessary to be an enemy of the Jew for him to drag you one day on the Russian model to the scaffold. They do not see that it is quite enough to have a head on your shoulders and not to be a Jew: that will secure the scaffold for you.

In consequence their whole action today is so petty, so limited, so hesitating and pusillanimous. They would like to – but they can never decide on any great deed, because they fail to realize the greatness of the whole period.

And then there is another fundamental error: they have never got it clear in their own minds that there is a difference or how great a difference there is between the conception ‘National’ and the word ‘dynastic’ or ‘monarchistic.’ They do not understand that today it is more than ever necessary in our thoughts as Nationalists to avoid anything which might perhaps cause the individual to think that the National Idea was identical with petty everyday political views. They ought day by day to din into the ears of the masses: ‘We want to bury all the petty differences and to bring out into the light the big things, the things we have in common which bind us to one another. That should weld and fuse together those who have still a German heart and a love for their people in the fight against the common hereditary foe of all Aryans. How afterward we divide up this State, friends – we have no wish to dispute over that! The form of a State results from the essential character of a people, results from necessities which are so elementary and powerful that in time every individual will realize them without any disputation when once all Germany is united and free.

And finally they all fail to understand that we must on principle free ourselves from any class standpoint. It is of course very easy to call out to those on the Left, ‘You must not be proletarians, leave your class-madness,’ while you yourselves continue to call yourself ‘bourgeois.’ They should learn that in a single State there is only one supreme citizen-right, one supreme citizen-honor, and that is the right and the honor of honest work. They should further learn that the social idea must be the essential foundation for any State, otherwise no State can permanently endure.

Certainly a government needs power, it needs strength. It must, I might almost say, with brutal ruthlessness press through the ideas which it has recognized to be right, trusting to the actual authority of its strength in the State. But even with the most ruthless brutality it can ultimately prevail only if what it seeks to restore does truly correspond to the welfare of a whole people.

That the so-called enlightened absolutism of a Frederick the Great was possible depended solely on the fact that, though this man could undoubtedly have decided ‘arbitrarily’ the destiny – for good or ill – of his so-called ‘subject,’ he did not do so, but made his decisions influenced and supported by one thought alone, the welfare of his Prussian people. it was this fact only that led the people to tolerate willingly, nay joyfully, the dictatorship of the great king.

And the Right has further completely forgotten that democracy is fundamentally no German: it is Jewish. It has completely forgotten that this Jewish democracy with its majority decisions has always been without exception only a means towards the destruction of any existing Aryan leadership. The Right does not understand that directly every small question of profit or loss is regularly put before so-called ‘public opinion,’ he who knows how most skillfully to make this ‘public opinion’ serve his own interests becomes forthwith master in the State. And that can be achieved by the man who can lie most artfully, most infamously; and in the last resort he is not the German, he is, in Schopenauer’s words, ‘the great master in the art of lying’ – the Jew.

And finally it has been forgotten that the condition which must precede every act is the will and the courage to speak the truth – and that we do not see today either in the Right or in the Left.

There are only two possibilities in Germany; do not imagine that the people will forever go with the middle party, the party of compromises; one day it will turn to those who have most consistently foretold the coming ruin and have sought to dissociate themselves from it. And that party is either the Left: and then God help us! for it will lead us to complete destruction – to Bolshevism, or else it is a party of the Right which at the last, when the people is in utter despair, when it has lost all its spirit and has no longer any faith in anything, is determined for its part ruthlessly to seize the reins of power – that is the beginning of resistance of which I spoke a few minutes ago. Here, too, there can be no compromise – there are only two possibilities: either victory of the Aryan or annihilation of the Aryan and the victory of the Jew.

It is from the recognition of this fact, from recognizing it, I would say, in utter, dead earnestness, that there resulted the formation of our Movement. There are two principles which, when we founded the Movement, we engraved upon our hearts: first, to base it on the most sober recognition of the facts and second, to proclaim these facts with the most ruthless sincerity.

And this recognition of the facts discloses at once a whole series of the most important fundamental principles which must guide this young Movement which, we hope, is destined one day for greatness:

1. ‘National’ and ‘social’ are two identical conceptions. It was only the Jew who succeeded, through falsifying the social idea and turning it into Marxism, not only in divorcing the social idea from the national, but in actually representing them as utterly contradictory. That aim he has in fact achieved. At the founding of this Movement we formed the decision that we would give expression to this idea of ours of the identity of the two conceptions: despite all warnings, on the basis of what we had come to believe, on the basis of the sincerity of our will, we christened it ‘National Socialist.’ We said to ourselves that to be ‘national’ means above everything to act with a boundless and all-embracing love for the people and, if necessary, eve to die for it. And similarly to be ‘social’ means so to build up the State and the community of the people that every individual acts in the interest of the community of the people and must be to such an extent convinced of the goodness, of the honorable straightforwardness of this community of the people as to be ready to die for it.

2. And then we said to ourselves: there are no such things as classes: they cannot be. Class means caste and caste means race. If there are castes in India, well and good; there it is possible, for there were formerly Aryans and dark aborigines. So it was in Egypt and Rome. But with us in Germany where everyone who is a German at all has the same blood, has the same eyes, and speaks the same language, here there can be no class, here there can be only a single people and beyond that nothing else. Certainly, we recognize, just as anyone must recognize, that there are different ‘occupations’ and ‘professions’ [Stände] – there is the Stand of the watchmakers, the Stand of the common laborers, the Stand of the painters or technicians, the Stand of the engineers, officials, etc. Stände there can be. But in the struggles which these Stände have amongst themselves for the equalization of their economic conditions, the conflict and the division must never be so great as to sunder the ties of race.

And if you say ‘But there must after all be a difference between honest creators and those who do nothing at all’ – certainly there must! That is the difference which lies in the performance of the conscientious work of the individual. Work must be the great connecting link, but at the same time the great factor which separates one man from another. The drone is the foe of us all. But the creators – it matters not whether they are brain workers or workers with the hand – they are the nobility of our State, they are the German people!

We understand under the term ‘work’ exclusively that activity which not only profits the individual but in no way harms the community, nay rather which contributes to for the community.

3. And in the third place it was clear to us that this particular view is based on an impulse which springs from our race and from our blood. We said to ourselves that race differs from race and, further, that each race in accordance with its fundamental demands shows externally certain specific tendencies, and these tendencies can perhaps be most clearly traced in their relation to the conception of work. The Aryan regards work as the foundation for the maintenance of the community of the people amongst its members. The Jew regards work as the means to the exploitation of other peoples. The Jew never works as a productive creator without the great aim of becoming the master. He works unproductively, using and enjoying other people’s work. And thus we understand the iron sentence which Mommsen once uttered: ‘The Jews is the ferment of decomposition in peoples,’ that means that the Jew destroys and must destroy because he completely lacks the conception of an activity which builds up the life of the community. And therefore it is beside the point whether the individual Jew is ‘decent’ or not. In himself he carries those characteristics which Nature has given him, and he cannot ever rid himself of those characteristics. And to us he is harmful. Whether he harms us consciously or unconsciously, that is not our affair. We have consciously to concern ourselves for the welfare of our own people.

4. And fourthly we were further persuaded that economic prosperity is inseparable from political freedom and that therefore that house of lies, ‘Internationalism,’ must immediately collapse. We recognized that freedom can eternally be only a consequence of power and that the source of power is the will. Consequently the will to power must be strengthened in a people with passionate ardor. And thus we realized, fifthly that …

5. We as National Socialists and members of the German Workers’ Party – a Party pledge to work – must be on principle the most fanatical Nationalists. We realized that the State can be for our people a paradise only if the people can hold sway therein freely as in a paradise: we realized that a slave state still never be a paradise, but only – always and for all time – a hell or a colony.

6. And then sixthly we grasped the fact that power in the last resort is possible only where there is strength, and that strength lies not in the dead weight of numbers but solely in energy. Even the smallest minority can achieve a might result if it is inspired by the most fiery, the most passionate will to act. World history has always been made by minorities. And lastly…

7. If one has realized a truth, that truth is valueless so long as there is lacking the indomitable will to turn this realization into action!

These were the foundations of our Movement – the truths on which it was based and which demonstrated its necessity.

For three years we have sought to realize these fundamental ideas. And of course a fight is and remains a fight. Stroking in very truth will not carry one far. Today the German people has been beaten by a quite other world, while in its domestic life it has lost all spirit; no longer has it any faith. But how will you give this people once more firm ground beneath its feet save by the passionate insistence on one definite, great, clear goal?

…thus we were the first to declare that this peace treaty was a crime. Then folk abused us as ‘agitators.’ We were the first to protest against the failure to present this treaty to the people before it was signed. Again we were called on the masses of the people not to surrender their arms, for the surrender of one’s arms would be nothing less than the beginning of enslavement. We were called, no, we were cried down as, ‘agitators.’ We were the first to say that this meant the loss of Upper Silesia. So it was, and still they called us ‘agitators.’ We declared at that time that compliance in the question of Upper Silesia must have as its consequence the awakening of a passionate greed which would demand the occupation of the Ruhr. We were cried down ceaselessly, again and again. And because we opposed the mad financial policy which today will lead to our collapse, what was it that we were called repeatedly once more? ‘Agitators.’ And today?

And finally we were also the first to point the people on any large scale to a danger which insinuated itself into our midst – a danger which millions failed to realize and which will nonetheless lead us all into ruin – the Jewish danger. And today people are saying yet again that we were ‘agitators.’

I would like here to appeal to a greater than I, Count Lerchenfeld. He said in the last session of the Landtag that his felling ‘as a man and a Christian; prevented him from being an anti-Semite. I say: my feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the Man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to the fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as sufferer but as fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through that passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and of adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have not duty to allow myself be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago – a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people.

Then indeed when Rome collapsed there were endless streams of new German bands flowing into the Empire from the North; but, if Germany collapses today, who is there to come after us? German blood upon this earth is on the way to gradual exhaustion unless we pull ourselves together and make ourselves free!

And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress which daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see it work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week it has only for its wage wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people is plundered and exploited.

And through the distress there is no doubt that the people has been aroused. Externally perhaps apathetic, but within there is ferment. And many may say, ‘It is an accursed crime to stir up passions in the people.’ And then I say to myself: Passion is already stirred through the rising tide of distress, and one day this passion will break out in one way or another: and now I would ask those who today call us ‘agitators’: ‘What then have you to give to the people as a faith to which it might cling?’

Nothing at all, for you yourselves have no faith in your own prescriptions.

That is the mightiest thing which our Movement must create: for these widespread, seeking and straying masses a new Faith which will not fail them in this hour of confusion, to which they can pledge themselves, on which they can build so that they may at least find once again a place which may bring calm to their hearts. (Adolf Hitler, Speech of April 12, 1921, http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/111hit1.html)

And of course, from Mein Kampf…

2. The danger to which Russia succumbed is always present for Germany. Only a bourgeois simpleton is capable of imagining that Bolshevism has been exorcised. With his superficial thinking he has no idea that this is an instinctive process; that is, the striving of the Jewish people for world domination, a process which is just as natural as the urge of the Anglo-Saxon to seize domination of the earth. And just as the Anglo-Saxon pursues this course in his own way and carries on the fight with his own weapons, likewise the Jew. He goes his way, the way of sneaking in among the nations and boring from within, and he fights with his weapons, with lies and slander, poison and corruption, intensifying the struggle to the point of bloodily exterminating his hated foes. In Russian Bolshevism we must see the attempt undertaken by the Jews in the twentieth century to achieve world domination. Just as in other epochs they strove to reach the same goal by other, though inwardly related processes. Their endeavor lies profoundly rooted in their essential nature. No more than another nation renounces of its own accord the pursuit of its impulse for the expansion of its power and way of life, but is compelled by outward circumstances or else succumbs to impotence due to the symptoms of old age, does the Jew break off his road to world dictatorship out of voluntary renunciation, or because he represses his eternal urge. He, too, will either be thrown back in his course by forces lying outside himself, or all his striving for world domination will be ended by his own dying out. But the impotence of nations, their own death from old age, arises from the abandonment of their blood purity. And this is a thing that the Jew preserves better than any other people on earth. And so he advances on his fatal road until another force comes forth to oppose him, and in a mighty struggle hurls the heaven-stormer back to Lucifer.

  Germany is today the next great war aim of Bolshevism. It requires all the force of a young missionary idea to raise our people up again, to free them from the snares of this international serpent, and to stop the inner contamination of our blood, in order that the forces of the nation thus set free can be thrown in to safeguard our nationality, and thus can prevent a repetition of the recent catastrophes down to the most distant future. If we pursue this aim, it is sheer lunacy to ally ourselves with a power whose master is the mortal enemy of our future. How can we expect to free our own people from the fetters of this poisonous embrace if we walk right into it? How shall we explain Bolshevism to the German worker as an accursed crime against humanity if we ally ourselves with the organizations of this spawn of hell, thus recognizing it in the larger sense? By what right shall we condemn a member of the broad masses for his sympathy with an outlook if the very leaders of the state choose the representatives of this outlook for allies?

  The fight against Jewish world Bolshevization requires a clear attitude toward Soviet Russia. thou cannot drive out the Devil with Beelsebub.
If today even folkish circles rave about an alliance with Russia, they should just look around them in Germany and see whose support they find in their efforts. Or have folkish men lately begun to view an activity as beneficial to the German people which is recommended and promoted by the international Marxist press? Since when do folkish men fight with armor held out to them by a Jewish squire?

  There is one main charge that could be raised against the old German Reich with regard to its alliance policy: not, however, that it failed to maintain good relations with Russia, but only that it ruined its relations with everyone by continuous shilly-shallying, in the pathological weakness of trying to preserve world peace at any price.

I openly confess that even in the pre-War period I would have thought it sounder if Germany, renouncing her senseless colonial policy and renouncing her merchant marine and war fleet, had concluded an alliance with England against Russia, thus passing from a feeble global policy to a determined European policy of territorial acquisition on the continent.” (Mein Kampf, 1926, http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/111hit1.html)

So, according to Rockwell and the Mises Institute the only thing that can save us from the “vampire economy” is vulture capitalism? What a choice! We are faced with the diabolical “executive state” as opposed to the capitalistic ‘market executive’. Apparently, the ‘true’ Antifa[ascism] is the ‘free market’ eerily reminiscent of fascism which is the true ‘socialism’. Does this mean the White Supremacists and Aryan Nation are secretly anti-fascists as they fight the “police state”, the attack on “fundamental rights and liberties to individuals”, the “parasite” which “centrally plans the economy to subsidize producers” (or did he mean Jews). Dizzying don’t you think; perhaps, that is the point. Let’s take a look at what, according to the Mises Institute, was formerly known as fascist right extremists but are now known to really be socialist left extremists, are doing to defend the faith.

The formerly known as right extremists would have us believe that leftist groups including leftist anarchists are responsible for most terror attacks. This is patently false. In June 2020, the Center for Strategic & International Studies released a brief detailing terrorist attacks from 1994 to the present. It finds that the majority of all terrorist attacks in the U.S. have been committed by right wing extremist groups.

The data show three notable trends. First, right-wing attacks and plots accounted for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994. In particular, they made up a large percentage of incidents in the 1990s and 2010s. Second, the total number of right-wing attacks and plots has grown substantially during the past six years. In 2019, for example, right-wing extremists perpetrated nearly two-thirds of the terrorist attacks and plots in the United States, and they committed over 90 percent of the attacks and plots between January 1 and May 8, 2020. Third, although religious extremists were responsible for the most fatalities because of the 9/11 attacks, right-wing perpetrators were responsible for more than half of all annual fatalities in 14 of the 21 years during which fatal attacks occurred. (Center For Strategic & International Studies, The Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States , page 2, https://www.csis.org/analysis/escalating-terrorism-problem-united-states)

From the charts contained in the report shown below, right wing and religious groups have been responsible for the vast majority of terrorism cases in the U.S. since 1994. As the Christian right so often reminds us, leftist tend to be atheists in these left-wing radical groups.

The Department of Homeland Security (DNS) has been sitting on a report at Trumps request which agrees with these findings. A whistle blower has released a draft of the report. From Politico:

The document discusses white supremacists in greater detail when introducing the section titled “The Terrorist Threat to the Homeland.” Once again, language in the earliest draft is slightly stronger than the language in the subsequent drafts. The earliest draft introduces the threat from terrorism this way:

“We judge that ideologically-motivated lone offenders and small groups will pose the greatest terrorist threat to the Homeland through 2021, with white supremacist extremists presenting the most lethal threat,” it reads.

None of the drafts POLITICO reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa, the loose cohort of militant left-leaning agitators who senior Trump administration officials have described as domestic terrorists. Two of the drafts refer to extremists trying to exploit the “social grievances” driving lawful protests. (Politico, “DHS draft document: White supremacists are greatest terror threat”, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/04/white-supremacists-terror-threat-dhs-409236)

And from GIZMODO:

So it’s similarly not much of a surprise that a federal whistleblower complaint obtained by the New York Times and CNN on Wednesday claims that the White House put pressure on the feds to turn a blind eye as well. According to the complaint, top Department of Homeland Security officials including its particularly pliable acting chief Chad Wolf ordered changes to intelligence reports that would parrot Trump’s lies that the anti-fascist movement is the largest existential threat to the survival of the country.

DHS brass ordered that reports be changed to downplay the threat of white supremacist terrorism and falsely portray antifa groups as a major terror threat, per the complaint. The document also alleges that DHS officials demanded evidence that large numbers of foreign “known or suspected terrorists” are entering the U.S. through the southern border and that former DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen lied to Congress that thousands had done so. (This is hot bullshit.) Orders also came down demanding the cessation of “intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference” in the 2020 elections, a sore spot for Trump. (GIZMODO, Whistleblower: DHS Goons Whitewashed Intel to Downplay White Supremacist Threat, https://gizmodo.com/whistleblower-dhs-goons-whitewashed-intel-to-downplay-1845006934#:~:text=The%20draft%20DHS%20report%20also%20makes%20clear%20that,from%202018%20to%202019%20by%20a%20massive%20margin.)

And recently from Chris Wray of the FBI:

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the agency has made about 100 domestic terrorism-related arrests since October, and the majority were tied to white supremacy.

“I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well,” Wray said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, referring to cases in fiscal 2019, which began Oct. 1. (The Hill, FBI’s Wray says most domestic terrorism arrests this year involve white supremacy, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/454338-fbis-wray-says-majority-of-domestic-terrorism-arrests-this-year)

Just stop and think about it from what you have seen and heard. Who are these guys standing around with long guns at the Black Lives Matter protests? Are they the gun toting liberal always talking about the 2nd Amendment and jamming the Supreme Court with gun friendly Justices? Have you seen Antifa standing around in black with cannons strapped around their neck? No, you haven’t. We all know who they are. They are the ‘Proud Boys’, Boogaloo, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters. And, if there were all these violent radical leftist groups causing all the problems in the riots, why aren’t there any ‘O.K. Coral’ style shootouts going on at those protests between the right and lift extremists? The simple and plain answer is there are no leftist militia groups at these protests. The President and his white, gun toting boys would have you believe Trump over you own eyes and ears. By the way, strap in because these right-wing nut jobs are planning on a civil war after the election. Ah, well maybe they are just standing around with guns to look pretty and get their picture taken with their manhood strapped around their chest.

At this point, with so many fallacious equivocations centered on the notion of socialism, I would like to focus attention on its historic content to see if we can get some further clarification on the topic. Outside the purely theoretical thinking of the Austrian Economists (for further information, see my series starting with this “Fundamentalism in Market Economy: The Austrian School and Regulation” here http://www.mixermuse.com/blog/politics/fundamentalism-in-market-economy-the-austrian-school-and-regulation-2/), I think the closest we ever came to a pure capitalistic economic system was during Karl Marx’s time in England. The frame from which he wrote was during the Industrial Revolution (1750 to 1850). He wrote towards the end of the period. During this period people lived in extreme poverty. Child labor laws were non-existent. Employers literally worked their employees to death in coal mines with extraordinarily little pay. Even apologists for Austrian Economic theory do not deny the deplorable conditions while trying to, yet again pin the blame on socialism and not on capitalism (“Child Labor and the British Industrial Revolution” https://www.mackinac.org/3879). Let’s remember that also during this period philosophers were highly influenced by the positivism of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. I do not think there was ever a period in the Occident after classic Greece where there was so much enthusiasm about reason. Many folks these days know little about Marx and the times he lived in when they make apocalyptic claims about Marx as if he were a contemporary. The fact is you cannot understand Marx without understanding his historic context. Since he was among the first to think in depth about the differences in capitalism and socialism, we should try to get a brief glimpse of his ideas in his context and then see how they may be applicable to our day.

Marx looked around and saw budding capitalism in the age of brutal feudalism. He did not see hope for a better future in capitalism. He saw massive human suffering and death at the hands of capitalists. He was alarmed by the potency of a system which held the potential to make brutal monarchs look like a bunch of bumbling idiots. Marx saw capital as a kind of Hegelian abstraction. Abstraction was not necessarily a good thing for Hegel or Marx. Hegel’s whole intended direction was towards making abstractions concrete; more relevant to its concept, its Idea (Begriff). Marx thought Hegel, in founding his philosophy on Idea, missed the concrete reality of labor. What Marx saw of capitalism was that it favored an abstraction of value as concrete Idea over the reality of value as the product of work. Monetary value was an abstraction which replaced the product of labor with an Idea, a denomination. Marx saw the real value of labor as what was necessarily, increasingly diminished over time by the capitalist, the bourgeoisie, in converting the labor of the worker (proletariat), vis-à-vis the abstraction of capital, into profit for the private owners of production (or means of production). In the horrors of industrial England at the time Marx saw no other outcome except that the proletariat would revolt against the bourgeoisie due to massive suffering and death of the workers. He saw this as a necessary result of the Idea as capital.

Marx, following the Hegelian tradition, described in great detail what he saw as a natural progression from capitalism to socialism to communism. Influenced by Hegelian dialectics, he believed he had shown the necessary and sufficient economic progression wherein a cultural, historic transformation over time would infuse human purpose and fulfillment from the product of their labor. Instead of laboring meaninglessly for a paycheck to pay debts which can never support a living wage, he thought the deepest human satisfaction came not from the product of a life-long, pre-occupation with merely selling their labor for mere survival but from the satisfaction of producing in a market economy. He idealized the barter system over the abstract system of capital because the product of the laborer was much closer to the output of his work. The laborer in a barter system was not at the mercy of a boss whose job was to realize a profit from the laborer. In capitalism, the owner of production set up an antagonistic system whereby the capitalist (boss) had complete control over the product of the laborer’s work – with one goal in mind, to capitalize labor into the personal gain of the owner. It was quite apparent in England at the time that this disadvantaged the laborer and condemned the laborer to a lifetime of discontent, dissatisfaction, suffering and early death. Marx called this outcome alienation.

Marx thought socialism would culminate in the last step, communism. In communism there would no longer be private property. A classless society and the people (the State for Marx) would own all means of production. Capital would be no more as communism would provide “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. He believed that after the proletariat overthrew the capitalist there would be a transitional period called socialism wherein there would be a mix of private and public ownership of the means of production. Inevitably, Marx thought this period could not be sustained and all ownership of the means of production would be public, owned by all. It is easy at this point to think of the public as a statist government. However, this is not how Marx conceived it. As we have seen, some in the Republican Party and the Mises Institute already believe that the United States is statist. However, many people in the United States still think of the U.S. Government as ‘by the people and for the people’. This notion is more akin to Marx’ idea of public ownership. Marx and Engels both thought that capitalism would not go willingly in certain cases and violence and revolution would be the natural result of ‘capitalist dictatorship’ as they deemed it.

At this point, let me say clearly and directly that I personally do not in any way advocate violence of any kind. I condemn anyone who advocates violence in the strongest possible terms. To the degree that Marx or Engels may have advocated and participated in violence as in the Revolutions of 1848 to overthrow brutal monarchies in Europe, I can only say that while I understand how desperation and violence begets other violence (as we saw in our own revolution with England), I think philosophy takes a wrong turn when it becomes so destitute as to prescribe ends justify means paradigms. Scholars have argued that Marx was simply describing an inevitable outcome of capitalism not advocating it. I do not believe the case is quite that clear in either the philosophical writings of Marx’ or his political involvements. Long after Marx’ death, the later darkness of Lenin and Stalin demonstrates how philosophy in the service of violent revolution can easily be adapted by despots into an absolute, apocalyptic nightmare. In this post I am simply trying to do the best I can to explicate a subject which has been used maliciously by extremists on both sides to justify violence and human suffering.

Philosophy has always been the scapegoat for human tragedy. Most people are not philosophers. When mass atrocities and injustice occur, it is not because people start reading Karl Marx and debating the academic subtleties of it. Historically, people who reach a certain level of suffering and injustice at the hands of the powerful react with violence as their last resort. Academics make terrible warriors (watch Monty Python if you doubt this). Philosophy may come in later as a justification for violence, but philosophy is not what drives violence. It is human suffering that drives violence. My argument to the radical individualists among us is that it is in their interest to support Welfare State policies as little as they can to keep their gravy train going. Stop debating the subtleties of Austrian Economics if you want what your version of the ‘free market’ means. Get on with the job of keeping others satiated enough not to interfere with your grand plan. I suppose the ‘radical individualists’ benefactors are already on to this. In any case, if people want something to fear it should be the devil we know, not the one we don’t know. Poverty, lack of education, income inequality, climate change, social, ethnic, and racial injustices are reaching critical mass and the right wants to have a discussion about the evils of socialism? Give me a break.

Nowadays, the workers, the proletariat, may ‘own’ property but interest-bearing mortgages always have the final say of who the property actually belongs to. In the Great Recession an out of control, world-wide free for all in financial derivatives resulted in the massive loss of ‘personal property’. Even as Hitler always had the power to take ownership of any property he desired, market excess and deregulation can and has resulted in massive property losses (shall we say, ‘the statist market’?). The transient nature of property in capitalism AKA, the ‘free market’, runs contrary to private ownership, as it is always contingent on market conditions. It is also subject to governmental policies such as ‘imminent domain’ and the Defense Production Act as previously stated. Every capitalistic country in the world has similar issues and policies. The simple fact is, there is no absolute guarantee of private property ownership in the ‘free market’. There is the illusion that a legal contract subject to various conditions in and out of your control make you a ‘property owner’. However, intrinsic powers to the ‘free market’, government and health can always make it possible for others to legally acquire your property. I maintain that even the ‘real’ property owners which own the ‘means of production, the bourgeoise as Marx deems it, are themselves also puppets of a market in which ‘risk’ can result in their demotion to the lower class. Certainly, there are no absolutes in existence. We are always on precipice of non-existence, angst, and insecurity. The government is not the answer to this as proponents on the right have slanderously accused it of being. The government can be just another insurance policy when other vehicles fail to keep society in somewhat equilibrium. Power, contingency and security are always necessarily present together in any social arrangement. Another way of saying this is that power congeals into contingent pockets. You can call these ‘pockets’ government, property owners, investors, autocrats, etc. The illusion that capitalists has propagated is the same as Hegel’s conception of the master-slave relation in which the slave is told, made to believe, that he is really the master and the master is really the slave. Let’s look at this further.

For Hegel, the master must always be in bondage to his mastery of the slave. The master was never truly free but by virtue of being the master, alienates himself from his engagement in the world, in work and production, in order to reap benefits from the labor of the slave in material goods. On the other hand, the slave did not have to spend all his time defending his position as a slave but was free to engage in the world of work, production, and satisfaction from accomplishment of his task. This meant the slave was free to be fully engaged and therefore not perpetually alienated from the world of labor and production. In this, the slave became free and the master became the slave. Marx thought that in the master-slave relationship capitalism did not enjoin the master to a dialectical lifetime of slavery and the slave to dialectical freedom from bondage as the bourgeois Hegel surmised. In actuality, the master was still the master and the slave was still the slave. It seems paramount to me to understand this Hegelian-Marxist riddle. It also gives insight into why many whites in our country do not understand why capitalism doesn’t pull minorities out of poverty and why minorities still think of themselves as victims of slavery. In modernity, the slave is told that they are the master; that he or she is the ‘potential’ property owner or the ‘potential’ owner of the means of production. The slave is perpetually immersed in a flood of marketing which promises all the benefits of mastery if only the slave works harder and longer for less pay to hold on to their ownership and virtual mastery. While this scheme is conceived of by both Marxists and Capitalists at times as static, it is really dynamic as ‘property’ is transferable under many market conditions, government conditions and health conditions. More importantly, it discounts the barriers to entry such as bias and ‘good ‘ol boy’ favoritism.

Marx saw how this dynamic introduced a third dynamic into the dialectic of the master and the slave which condemned both to an alien radical exteriority, a third nonhuman other, where neither master or slave could even possibly object to but simply play out whatever changing or non-changing roles they inherit. He called this impenetrable, intractable alien other ‘capitalism’. Both master and slave are helpless to extract themselves from it. In this historical, contextual, linguistic adherence to a non-present, neutral other (abstraction), all possibilities are preconditioned, subsumed, and extinguished without regard to such soothing and praising aphorisms as ‘free will’ or ‘free market’. While much has been written about this with regard to Mary Shelley’s work Frankenstein, I would renew this intentionally Marxist allegory of Shelley to encompass a somewhat altered conception (perhaps).

Instead of the monster being the proletariat what if we think of the monster as this alien, non-human other which dictates the behavior of bother the master, Victor and the slave, Igor. Both are consumed and held captive without any excess to the production of the monster. This third, alien other dictates any conditions and possibilities for the master and the slave without the slightest awareness that they are pawns in a dynamic they have no power over or even conception of. A neutrality, not a he or a she, determine both origin and fate in this sealed, hideously submerged, and intractably bond as Victor’s quest for the creation of life, or perhaps, the maximization of profit. When Prometheus, the monster is killed by Victor and Igor by stabbing him in his divided, two hearts both Victor and Igor go on their merry way as inseparably bound friends with a history of ever-changing roles, from master/slave to bourgeois friends. However, Igor still has the eyes of the dead man, the real Igor Straussman. Victor transforms the ‘going under’ of his ‘greatest creation’, Prometheus, into his ‘greatest creation’ Igor. The monster has, in Hegelian terms, been sublated (aufheben) in the happy union of Victor and Igor only to live on the dead eyes of Igor. In Marxists terms, the lifting up of the bourgeoisie results in the dead eyes of the proletariat while the beast, Prometheus, can never again come to presence but becomes the abstract (unseen) determinacy of both master and slave.

Marx thought that ownership of the means of production would provide release from illusional abstractions, from metaphysics, from the monster. The Austrians believe the individual absolutely released from collectivism will usher in the needed authenticity to ‘free’ individuals in the market to be their own origins in which all meaning and purpose (or what there is of it) are completed. However, both have proven time and again that the monster still remains. Shifting sands of time simply seal their fait au complet. The illusion of power may be the product of both the master, the property owner, and the slave, the virtual or disenfranchised owner. Satisfaction is always promised but never delivered. In this then, we see what both the Marxists and the Austrians detest – the Welfare State. First, let’s set up the background leading up to the Welfare State.

While Marx’s argument certainly rings true for many American workers it has undergone many permutations in history, state, and philosophy over the subsequent centuries. Socialism has taken many forms since Marx. Certainly, from Stalin and the Bolsheviks, socialism in its quest for a classless society became yet another tragic authoritarian, elitist class from which the monster devoured its prey. Whether you call fascism another form of socialism or not, it also clearly, has shown no mercy to its victims. Both strains certainly did end up in centralized statism, the ever-congealing, changing face of power. The metaphysic of the absolute individual promises freedom from collectivity, anarchism from power structures, as if one could finally be purified of the sin of power with the power of the ‘free market’. This monster may yet be the greatest Prometheus our economic science has ever created. In the baptismal water of the market, all power will find its rightful place, its Darwinian purity, in the survival of the fittest. The war of all against all will defeat all other wars. ‘Free market’ capitalism as the ultimate statement of metaphysical individualism will be the quantum mechanics of the quanta, underlying all time-space gravitation behemoths, collectivism, and usher in the background noise of quanta popping into and out of existence as absolute individuals declaring I am that I am, I was that I was. From this at least the individual can think, “I had the unfettered ability to sink or swim in an unbounded, universal ocean of potential where statist power can never be centralized into market killing, governmental land”. What a thrill – really?

Anyway, socialism encompasses widely divergent practices and beliefs. There are anarchist socialists on the left that do not believe in any form of centralization. There are market socialists which have little or no problem with private property. There are democratic socialists and authoritarian socialists. If you call yourself a democratic socialist, an essential part of the name is democratic. The people decide democratically what they socialize and what remains private (sound familiar?). Some have argued that Marx did not subscribe to an authoritarian version of socialism. Socialism was the first phase of a radical transformation of capitalism to the second phase which was called communism. Certainly, in Hegelian fashion, there are indications in Marx’ writings that he saw socialism as an evolutionary step in human development that was inevitable and could not be forced unnaturally. As Hegel perceived what he deemed as the emergence of subjectivity in Christianity to be a natural evolving and occurring epoch in history of Spirit so, Marx perceived socialism as a natural consequence of the ‘redistribution of wealth deemed as ‘free market’ capitalism’ favoring the bourgeoisie (the wealthy which own the product of its laborers) over the proletariat (the workers who’s labor is purchased for ever diminishing returns). The result of this stratification of wealth and labor was a class society. Critics of socialism decry it as a ‘redistribution of wealth’ as if it is something peculiar to socialism. This may serve their rhetorical purposes but actually, redistribution of wealth always occurs whether it be the ‘free market’, tax dollars, cronyism, or corporatism. Distribution of wealth is not static but dynamic as it is the concretion of ever re-congealing power structures. It is not a matter of the ‘free market’ OR redistribution of wealth. It is a matter of how it gets redistributed and by whom.

Power congeals whether it is the ‘free market’ or government. The most pertinent question is how does it congeal? Doing nothing to determine how power congeals is tantamount to giving carte blanche to whomever welds the biggest club. From the enlightenment optimism in democracy, we find the absolute and most fundamental axiom of democracy – the people decide whom wields power. Therefore, our Founding Fathers built checks and balances into the system. The tried to find a balance of federalist and states power to decide. They knew the executive, the judicial and the legislative were necessary and equal parts with no one part gaining power over the others. In that time, it was impractical for the whole country to be as involved in the process of democracy so they made our democracy a representative democracy where we elect the leaders which form the nucleus of the government. Part of the reason they did this is because they just did not have the mechanism to be more inclusive of the whole country. Now, with technology we do have the mechanism to be more expansive in how we select our government officials and the laws we need to protect it from threats within and without. We still have such antiquated electoral processes as the Electoral College which has become an encumbrance to fair democracy. We have been highly negligent to update some needed changes to Social Security which was always meant to be a supplement to income not a replacement. In 1939 social security checks were based on 40% of the first $10 of average salary plus 10% of the next $200 of average salaries. Many older people now use it for their main source of income which makes it exceedingly difficult to provide a livable wage. Older people often must choose between food and medications. When Social Security was first devised, the retirement age for full benefits was 65 which was within a year or two of life expectance. Life expectancy now is 77.9 years. We have made some particularly good changes such as the Supplemental Security Income for the disabled signed by Nixon in 1972. However, our democracy has been terribly slow to address urgent needs such as poverty, income inequality, gender, and racial inequalities. This is inexcusable. Why? Because a decay and rottenness in our checks and balances have let non-democratic interests determine our policies. This is call cronyism and corporatism.

When the people in a democracy forego their duty to preserve and protect the democracy, there are those which are far too willing to jump in and set their own agendas. One thing we should learn from the Trump presidency is that the checks and balances we all thought would protect us are outdated and ineffective now. When the Justice Department is under the Executive branch, it is ripe for being used as a mechanism for a police state under the Executive. When the CDC can be used for campaign purposes and not for controlling disease, we have a problem. When the Supreme Court can be changed ideologically for decades by ever changing rules in the Senate majority, we are in trouble. When intelligence can be compelled under the service of the executive to downplay threats for political purposes, we are in real danger. At the present time, democracy is teetering on the precipice of authoritarianism. We must acknowledge that check and balances are no longer working as designed so we can update and systemically change them to protect the choice of the people. As I stated before, power congeals. Without necessary protections, those with vested interests are all too willing to step in and milk the system for their own benefit. This is no different from the workings of the ‘free market’. If you genuinely want a ‘free market’, the checks and balances, regulations, must be employed wisely to prevent monopolies, price gouging, market manipulation and competitive barriers. The market Austrians would tell us to either make the government small enough to drown it in a bathtub or get rid of it altogether. They would have regulations be a thing of the past. What we would have is Machiavellian-styled government and Darwinian-styled markets. Survival of the fittest would not be the Austrian Economists but their benefactors. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that cronyism and corporatism decay our democracy, but they have found no will to change it because the American public has found no will to change it. It is estimated that 50% of eligible voters do not event vote in a presidential election much less a down the ballot election. We are on the verge of getting what we deserve unless activists, the American people, put a stop to it. The vacuum made by lack of public involvement is being filled not by the people but by vested interests. Let’s take a deeper dive into Mises philosophy.

Mises admittedly comes surprisingly from a Kantian background. Mises represents a school of philosophy called praxeology. From the Greek word it literally means the study of action. This is where we get such words as practice, practical and pragmatic. Praxeology is a school which came out of the analytic tradition of philosophy in the early 20th century. Analytic philosophy is immensely popular in the United States. The analytic philosophers gravitated heavily towards linguistics. Continental philosophy (meaning continental Europe) is the history of philosophy from classic Greece to the current day. Analytic philosophy grew out of continental philosophy. David Hume was a British philosopher in the late 18th century who reacted strongly to the idealist school of philosophy in England at the time. Hume was a close friend of Adam Smith. Hume admired Smith’s work on economics. Hume is known as an empiricist. Hume reacted vigorously to the history of philosophy. He thought continental philosophy was too occupied with theory. He thought philosophy needed to take the same road science took in observation, description, and behavior. Accordingly, he focused on impressions of sensations and impressions of reflection. He believed sensations were primary. As such, he thought there were relations of ideas and matters of fact. Ideas happened a priori, that is prior to the phenomenal world of sensations. He reasoned that casual relations were not based on a priori ideas but on experience. Therefore, cause and effect are rooted in experiences which are repeated and from which we draw the notion of cause and effect. This is empiricism, observation derived from sensations. This is similar to Mises notion that “It is always the individual who thinks” and that “thinking itself is always an achievement of individuals” and “man has no means of appropriating the thoughts of his precursors other than to think them over again”. “The foremost vehicle of tradition is the word. Thinking is linked up with language and vice versa.” “Language is a tool of thinking…” “The history of thought and ideas is a discourse carried on from generation to generation.” “But thinking is always a manifestation of individuals. the passing down of language is simply the repetition of learned words on the part of every human.” From the repetition of words linked into ideas we learn language and from experiences that are repeated we learn cause and effect. Hume was still doing continental philosophy, but many believe this was the early beginnings of analytic philosophy. One of the most significant philosophers in continental philosophy is Immanuel Kant. Kant tells us Hume rescued him from his dogmatic slumbers. Kant disagreed vehemently with Hume’s assessment that cause and effect were not a priori. Kant thought that Hume had lapsed into skepticism. Mises starts from Kant’s foundational work of apriority. Mises believes in apriority but founds apriority in action not understanding. Many Kantian scholars thought that Mises took a mistaken turn from Kant’s ground-breaking work. This discussion will require a much more involved rendering than the scope of this post. As such, I will save it for another upcoming post. However, I did want to allude to these beginnings in Austrian Economics. The topic of philosophy and linguistics in the analytic tradition is highly informative of Austrian Economics.

Jumping ahead, one thing I want to bring out from the previous discussion of philosophy is that praxeology is highly transactional. We have heard this word used in conjunction with Trump. However, it is certain he has no explicit awareness of praxeology. Transactional-ism is the reciprocating action of praxeology. The transactional practice reflects a long history of analytic philosophy. It has always been the intellectual foundation of Republican and right-wing politics. Transactional-ism is highly reactive. As such, it prioritizes the dynamic interaction of forces over the reflection on those forces. From this proceed the notion of the market where, what is primary, is the free interaction of market forces from which the Austrians want us to believe comes the greater good. They contend the market greater good is egalitarian left to its own devices. Perhaps it may also be Darwinian as the survival of the fittest (or most powerful marketeers). But perhaps, according to some of them, the greatest good is the survival of the fittest since species survive by better adaptations and go extinct by inferior adaptations. Therefore, the greater good from a purely praxeological perspective may be reduced to simply the survival of the fittest. If it applies to animals why not humans? So, in this free exchange of market power relations, the fittest are filtered from the inferior.

Starting with Hitler’s propaganda and modern technologies coupled with marketing science we have seen a fundamental shift in how power itself gets shaped. Now, power is not the more powerful clubbing someone over the head but shaping the world such that facts, cause and effect assumptions, meanings of words and ideas (like Hitler was a socialist or Democrat) are created a posteriori (contrasted with a priori), after the fact (e.g. from action, market action) by powerful benefactors. To borrow, perhaps steal is a better word, from a Hegelian metaphor which will be discussed further down, the slave is provided with a virtual reality from which the slave is not cognizant of his servitude but reasonably left to believe, from his synthesized virtual reality, a world of facts, cause and effects, meanings and ideas which supplement values adopted by the benefactors adherents. These values prop up the adherent’s faith in the ‘unfettered free market’ which promises to solve all social ills or at least deliver its prize to the fittest. In many cases, for those disenfranchised, it delivers life-long bondage to the masters of the market and the benefactors of propaganda and rhetorical power. From the far-right’s perspective of the rewards of their own action, this then would situate the slave’s rightful place. So, what we are left with is, “Is humanity ready for the next step, the work of thinking critically and acting accordingly or, is the right correct in its assessment that humanity is effectively at its best in servitude to the market fittest?” The left’s reaction to this cannot be back to larger clubs but to reality, education, scientific and historic facts coupled with critical thinking. How can socialism remedy this drive toward market absolutism and thought manipulation by the fittest to address the gaping holes of social dystopia?

As mentioned, today there are many versions of socialism which admittedly would not fit in the Marxist ideology. These socialist feel no need to claim ideological pureness with Marx as many on the right have falsely assumed. Nowadays, socialists can range from and subscribe to individualism over collectivism, private property over state owned property, decentralization over centralization, market socialism over state-controlled economies. It is purely the fictitious manipulations of Republicans to declare that all socialists have a hidden agenda to violently convert the U.S. for an atheistic, communist states.

Socialism is a rich tradition of political thought and practice, the history of which contains a vast number of views and theories, often differing in many of their conceptual, empirical, and normative commitments. In his 1924 Dictionary of Socialism, Angelo Rappoport canvassed no fewer than forty definitions of socialism, telling his readers in the book’s preface that “there are many mansions in the House of Socialism” (Rappoport 1924: v, 34–41). (Socialism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/socialism/)

Many countries all over the world, including the U.S., incorporate some form of socialism. Why? Because there are holes in capitalism which historically have not lived up to the hype and some other mechanism is needed to address human suffering and inequities. Let’s take a look at some of the problems capitalism has been unable to solve for decades despite the hype by those on the right. I am going to include a lot of the perennial problems which ‘free market’ capitalism has not been able to address below. The data is highly detailed with charts and sources. Therefore, I am going to finish my discussion before presenting these facts to make it easier for the reader.

Social Security, Welfare, Medicare, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance were not the result of Marxists. While many Republicans initially opposed them as socialism, these programs have received too much support from our democratic form of government for the political nay-sayers to speak too loudly these days. However, there is one thing Marxists and Republicans actually agree on – the evils of the Welfare State. We all know the blow back from Republicans on the ‘let ’em pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ rhetoric. However, Marxist have long since decried the Welfare State as a miserable condition resulting from bourgeois capitalism. They see the welfare state as an attempt to plug holes which can only be addressed by systemic change in economics.

The relationship between Marxism and the welfare state is complex. Since there is not one ‘true’ Marxism but many and since the experience of the welfare state under advanced capitalism has proved to be quite diverse, we should hardly expect to find a single and wholly consistent Marxist explanation of welfare state development. And so it proves. Some Marxists have seen the welfare state principally as a controlling agency of the ruling capitalist class. Others have seen it as the ‘Trojan Horse’ within which socialist principles can be carried into the very heartlands of capitalism. Again some Marxists have argued that the welfare state provides the indispensable underpinning for a market-based social and economic order, whilst others have seen it as incompatible with the long-run integrity of a capitalist economy. A number of Marxist and neo-Marxist commentators have managed to affirm all of these principles more or less simultaneously! At the same time, both Marxism and the welfare state have a history. It is clear that the welfare state as an object of Marxists’ inquiry has changed through time and so (often in response to these changes) has the intellectual apparatus with which they have sought to explain it. In this chapter, we try to make sense of this diversity of Marxist explanations and consider whether Marxism can still tell us anything useful about welfare states. (Pierson C. (1999) Marxism and the Welfare State. In: Gamble A., Marsh D., Tant T. (eds) Marxism and Social Science. Palgrave, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-27456-7_9).

There is no doubt that these programs have provided a necessary stopgap to human suffering and misery which capitalism, in itself, could not and cannot resolve. Republican advocates most effective response is to ignore that problems, strike terror in the hearts of Americans for attempting to address the problems, or sabotage and modify the programs so they can reenforce private market interests which make the programs more costly and inefficient. More costly and inefficient programs: 1) enrich private interests, 2) setup the program for ‘I told you so’ rhetoric when the programs fail. Two quick examples of how costs are raised because of this type of cronyism are the additional 12% cost of Medicare Advantage for many services already provided under standard Medicare. Medicare Advantage was setup by Republicans. Additionally, the requirement Republicans put on Medicare Part D – Prescription Drugs not to allow ‘free market’ tools to get costs down – lower negotiated costs from bulk purchasing. (see my post Problems with Medicare and Medicaid at http://www.mixermuse.com/blog/politics/problems-with-medicare-and-medicaid/) Who do you think benefits from this requirement and who suffers from it?

While Democrats have long heralded the need for social welfare programs, the Republicans have kept eerily silent about solutions or even critical about proposed solutions. We can see a contemporary, typical Republican reaction to ‘Obama Care’. The Republicans have tried to repeal it in the courts and change public opinions with their ‘socialist’ attacks. While they have promised a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, it has never surfaced. The fact is, as we all know, they do not have a replacement. The reality is they would prefer to go back to a time when health care was private, and cronyism and corporatism feed the jowls of pork feed politicians. See the discussion and charts below on for-profit prisons and education, gun lobbyists, and detention centers for immigrants to see some current situations which mirror the way capitalism incestuously feeds on government with private business.

For many of us that still have a conscience, we cannot sit idly by and watch these inadequacies in capitalism result in massive suffering and death. It is as simple as that. We are all too eager to see more cost-efficient solutions but repeating history without ever learning from it is not an option. If responding to the suffering of the other is ‘elitism’ as some on the right think, so be it. However, proponents of the necessary evil of a ‘Welfare State’ are caught between right-wing capitalists and the revolutionary left-wing communists. Both sides lob their missiles onto those of us in between. The communists may be right that we are only prolonging the misery of the bourgeois state. The right can call us socialists as if we haven’t heard that before. Call it what you will, it is a necessary and immediate response that is called for now. The ideological implications from both sides need to wait for a more fair-weather day if there is to be one after climate change has its season.

In the data below I detail issues which capitalism has not been able to successfully address. These include topics such as income inequality, poverty, minimum wage, health care, mental illness, homelessness, climate change, education, prisons, transportation and long-term research and development.

Income inequality is a direct result of ‘individualism’ which gets disproportionally elevated in capitalism. It is disproportional because it grossly exaggerates the worth of the executive over the workers. Executives also receive massive stock options as they gain ownership in their companies. In a democracy, the electorate sets the expectations and laws they would like to be governed under. As voters we are owners of our country. We have a vital interest in setting the standard by which we and the rest of the world judge ourselves. As of 2017 we had 40 million people living in poverty. The is over 12% of our population. Additionally, our federal poverty level reflects a much lower living standard than any of the other G7 countries. Even more so, since 2017, covid-19 has increased the number in poverty exponentially. Personally, I would not care how much a CEO makes as long as we were not neglecting the people which own the country, the voters. As shown in the data below, “From 1978 to 2018, CEO compensation grew by 1,007.5% (940.3% under the options-realized measure), far outstripping S&P stock market growth (706.7%) and the wage growth of very high earners (339.2%). In contrast, wages for the typical worker grew by just 11.9%.” I would think most people, most voters, would think this to be ludicrous. Why don’t we expect companies to make their employees part owners of the company they work for? Why don’t we expect all workers to have some share in company stocks? Especially, in light of massive social problems. Even the White House tells us “Falling consumer spending has major effects on overall GDP growth, as it accounts for roughly 68 percent of GDP.” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/articles/depth-look-covid-19s-early-effects-consumer-spending-gdp/) ‘Job creators’ may sound good but money spenders are the engine of our economy. Spreading the wealth stimulates spending and creates demand and therefore, jobs. The economy is made stronger when consumers spend money. There was time when unions were the instrument which gave employees a share of company profits. For years, unions have been in decline while executives have received exorbitant salaries, bonuses, and stock options. Why have we neglected the welfare of our country to reward the few? Simple, because we have allowed it.

We have been sold a bill of goods about how unregulated capitalism generates affluence for the masses. Well, where is it? The historic data certainly has not made a particularly good case for these claims. The Austrian types do not think we even have capitalism yet. They tell us going further away from regulation and free reign of the market will change the trend and finally, the promise of capitalism will arrive. How can anyone think power brokers, whether from the government or the market, would cease to seek more control at the expense of the weak and less powerful? This is an idealistic pipe dream which hides the true benefactors of such nonsense. Either we the people set the limits and expectations for the country and our markets or others will continue to do so at our expense.

The case for climate change has been solidly made by science. The market will not and cannot demand clean energy. It is powerless as carbon-based energy is far too entrenched in the market power structures. This is a clear case where we the people have our very survival at stake. Unless we, the shareholders of our country, demand change the market will leave our planet barren of life. If we do not vote change in government now and join the rest of those countries trying to hold back the tide of destruction, laissez faire will let the market decide to decimate the planet. Unbridled individualism means unbridled individuals will decide our fate. Does anyone really think that unrestrained capitalism as the highest expression of individualism will magically inspire environmentalism? Does anyone think Republicans will take up the banner?

I would like to draw attention to long term research and development briefly. Capitalism must exist by profit. The more capital expense there is to start a business, the harder it is for the business to succeed. The Washington Post recently reported that over 100,000 small businesses ‘have closed forever’ due to the pandemic. This demonstrates the short term need for businesses to make a profit. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/12/small-business-used-define-americas-economy-pandemic-could-end-that-forever/). From 1994 to 2015, the chart shown below in the data shows many companies go out of business within a few years. The market intrinsically favors short term profits as capital investment and long-term research makes it difficult to recover startup expenses and turn a profit in the short term. Scientific and academic research has historically been funded by grants given by the government. This has gone flat in recent years (see the chart in the data section). Social problems and science are major areas where capitalism has not been able to, in Adam Smith’s idea, address how market competition drives cost down and quality up. There are markets where capitalism works exceedingly well. It has succeeded in many areas that lend themselves to short term, higher profit margins. Certainly, a smaller number of longer-lived, multinational corporations have also been incredibly successful. However, as the chart shows, many of those corporations have a hard time making it past 20 years. The market has also helped many workers attain a higher standard of living without alienating them from the product of their labor. However, the results have been mixed with regard to other problems which simply cannot be addressed by the ‘free market’ alone. To realize this is not to say that all capitalism is bad which is ridiculous. However, we must allow ourselves to recognize its failures and find other ways to address these fundamental problems.

Socialism is nothing other than what has evolved in this country for over a hundred years. The Republicans are correct in telling us this. They just need to lose the sneer and quit trying to make it an all or nothing, capitalism or socialism, apocalyptic event. The rhetoric is too old to get a rise out of all but the most ardent devotees of their faith. Problem solving is quite different from power acquiring. We need to decide if we are going to solve problems or let the free acquirers of power decide for us. The problems we have will not simply go away. Climate change is one example where freewheeling, unbridled capitalism only exacerbates the problem and time is running out. Raking forest floors will not cut it. Clorox bleach and light will not make covid-19 go away. A never-ending promise for a health care plan will not get the job done. Absurdly varying Income disparity will not address poverty, gender bias and race relations which affects all our lives. The do-nothing approach is making these issues worse and worse over time. It has become abundantly clear with the Trump administration that democracy is in the balance and they are putting their fingers on the scale. We may not be revolutionary communists as the right would have it or pie in the sky capitalists but the need for concrete action should put all ideological differences in the rear view mirror until we can put hard work into addressing these issues.

Technology and marketing science have shaped our collective virtual reality so manufactured facts, cause and effect assumptions, twisted meanings of words and ideas no longer work in our best interest but against our desires for a better future and even our very existence on the planet. Individualism has become elitism and hero worship not for the many but for the few. If individuals do not rise up and take hold of our collective interests our future will disappear in the haze of apathy. Only involvement of the electorate and the work of critical, fact-based thinking on all out parts can change this. Socialism is not the root of all evil. Socialism is nothing other than what we as a collectivity demand – nothing more; nothing less. Next time someone comes up to you in the dark and says Boo! Socialism! …just turn on the light.

Data and Statistics Section

Prior to Social Security many elderly people suffered and died in utter destitution.

A woman in South Carolina scrawls a note to a man in Washington whom she addresses as “Dear Mr. President.” “I’m 72 years old and have no one to take care of me.” Another letter comes to the White House from Virginia. “I’m a 60 year-old widow greatly in need of medical aid, food and fuel, I pray that you would have pity on me.” Letters such as these came by the thousands from old folks across the country to the President, to Mrs. Roosevelt, to almost every one in Washington whose name was familiar to them.

Typical Letter to President Roosevelt, Appealing for Old-Age Pensions

(General Welfare Federation of America, https://www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html)

When Social Security was first devised the retirement age for full benefits was 65. This was almost exactly the life expectancy for that time. Life expectancy now is 77.9 years (National Center for Health Statistics).

The 1939 amendments made a seemingly subtle but, in reality, a fundamental change to the benefit formula. Retirement benefits were to be based on average wages, not cumulative wages. Specifically, they equaled 40 percent of the first $50 of average monthly wages (AMW) in covered employment, plus 10 percent of the next $200 of AMW. (1930s: Program Beginnings, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v66n1/v66n1p1.html)

Income Inequality has been around and growing from unchecked, unrestrained capitalism for decades. The AFL-CIO tells us,

CEO pay continues to outpace the pay of working people. In the past 10 years, CEO pay at S&P 500 companies increased more than $340,000 a year to an average of $14.8 million in 2019. Meanwhile, the average production and nonsupervisory worker saw a wage increase of $836 a year, earning on average just $41,442 in 2019. (https://aflcio.org/paywatch/highest-paid-ceos)

If you do not believe them search by company name or ticker or just look at the chart on the link above. Pew Research tells us,

Over the past 50 years, the highest-earning 20% of U.S. households have steadily brought in a larger share of the country’s total income. (Pew Research, 6 facts about economic inequality in the U.S., https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/07/6-facts-about-economic-inequality-in-the-u-s/)

Pew Research tells us the highest-earning 20% of families made more than half of all U.S. income in 2018. This increased from 43% in 1968 to 52% in 2018.

Pew also tells us the U.S. has the highest income inequality among G7 countries. From 1970 the income gap between blacks and whites is substantial as of the 2018 data Pew has shown. From 2007 to 2016 only the top fifth richest families have gained wealth. The rest has lost wealth. From 1970 to 2018 middle income groups have been going down a upper income groups have gone up.

Income inequality in the U.S. is the highest of all the G7 nations, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (Pew Research, 6 facts about economic inequality in the U.S., https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/07/6-facts-about-economic-inequality-in-the-u-s/)

Income disparities are so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent, according to data analyzed by UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez. Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher. They average over 39 times more income than the bottom 90 percent. But that gap pales in comparison to the divide between the nation’s top 0.1 percent and everyone else. Americans at this lofty level are taking in over 196 times the income of the bottom 90 percent. (Inequality.Org, Income Inequality in the United States, https://inequality.org/facts/income-inequality/)

And from Citi – Global Perspectives and Solutions a new report on income inequality for blacks tells us:

The analysis in the accompanying report shows if four key racial gaps for Blacks — wages, education, housing, and investment — were closed 20 years ago, $16 trillion could have been added to the U.S. economy. And if the gaps are closed today, $5 trillion can be added to U.S. GDP over the next five years.

These gaps exist based on systemic issues that caused and continue to cause discrimination against Blacks over the years. The gaps in many cases remain wide 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement. In some cases, including in homeownership rates and college degree attainment, the gaps are wider now than in the 1950’s and 1960’s. For each of the gaps faced by Blacks, we identify the degree of the gap between Blacks and whites in wages, labor segmentation, education, wealth, housing and investment and identify the impact closing each gap would have on the U.S. economy. Finally, we outline how we believe governments, corporations, and individuals can work together to eliminate these gaps for good. (Citi-GPS, Closing the Racial Inequality Gaps: The Economic Cost of Racial Inequality in the U.S., https://www.citivelocity.com/citigps/closing-the-racial-inequality-gaps/)

The Economic Policy Institute reports,

CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978

Typical worker compensation has risen only 12% during that time

The increased focus on growing inequality has led to an increased focus on CEO pay. Corporate boards running America’s largest public firms are giving top executives outsize compensation packages. Average pay of CEOs at the top 350 firms in 2018 was $17.2 million—or $14.0 million using a more conservative measure. (Stock options make up a big part of CEO pay packages, and the conservative measure values the options when granted, versus when cashed in, or “realized.”) CEO compensation is very high relative to typical worker compensation (by a ratio of 278-to-1 or 221-to-1). In contrast, the CEO-to-typical-worker compensation ratio (options realized) was 20-to-1 in 1965 and 58-to-1 in 1989. CEOs are even making a lot more—about five times as much—as other earners in the top 0.1%. From 1978 to 2018, CEO compensation grew by 1,007.5% (940.3% under the options-realized measure), far outstripping S&P stock market growth (706.7%) and the wage growth of very high earners (339.2%). In contrast, wages for the typical worker grew by just 11.9%. (Economic Policy Institute, https://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-compensation-2018/)

(https://bradfordtaxinstitute.com/Free_Resources/Federal-Income-Tax-Rates.aspx)

During the 1950s the wealthiest Americans were taxed at 91% over $200,000 ($2,000,000 in today’s dollars)

How could it be that the tax code of the 1950s had a top marginal tax rate of 91 percent, but resulted in an effective tax rate of only 42 percent on the wealthiest taxpayers? In fact, the situation is even stranger. The 42.0 percent tax rate on the top 1 percent takes into account all taxes levied by federal, state, and local governments, including: income, payroll, corporate, excise, property, and estate taxes. When we look at income taxes specifically, the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid an average effective rate of only 16.9 percent in income taxes during the 1950s.

The 91 percent bracket of 1950 only applied to households with income over $200,000 (or about $2 million in today’s dollars). Only a small number of taxpayers would have had enough income to fall into the top bracket – fewer than 10,000 households, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. Many households in the top 1 percent in the 1950s probably did not fall into the 91 percent bracket to begin with. (Tax Foundation, Taxes on the Rich Were Not That Much Higher in the 1950s, https://taxfoundation.org/taxes-on-the-rich-1950s-not-high/)

The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s

Over the next three decades, the top federal income tax rate remained high, never dipping below 70 percent.

The Census Bureau tells us that poverty went up dramatically during the Great Recession years and as of 2019 has come down to 12.3%.

(Poverty: 2018 and 2019, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/acs/acsbr20-04.html)
This trend will certainly go back up as the covid-19 virus is sure to have a cataclysmic effect on the poor. The poor are the most susceptible to downward changes to the economy. Crime statistics are already going up substantially as violent crimes continue to increase dramatically. The Wall Street journal reports that since January 1 of this year to August 2nd shooting victims in New York City were up 81% and shooting incidents were up 76%. (What’s Fueling New York City’s Rise in Violent Crime? There Are Several Theories, https://www.wsj.com/articles/whats-fueling-new-york-citys-rise-in-violent-crime-there-are-several-theories-11597064288) this trend has been reported in many large cities.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour (U.S. Department of Labor, Minimum Wage, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/minimum-wage#:~:text=The%20federal%20minimum%20wage%20provisions,employers%20must%20comply%20with%20both.)

For individual states, the minimum wage (MW) can vary:

Consolidated State Minimum Wage Update Table
(Effective Date: 09/01/2020)
Greater than federal MW Equals federal MW of $7.25 No MW Required
AK $10.19 CNMI AL
AR $10.00 GA LA
AZ $12.00 IA MS
CA $12.00 ID SC
CO $12.00 IN TN
CT $12.00 KS
DC $15.00 KY
DE $9.25 NC
FL $8.56 ND
HI $10.10 NH
IL $10.00 OK
MA $12.75 PA
MD $11.00 TX
ME $12.00 UT
MI $9.65 VA
MN $10.00 WI
MO $9.45 WY
MT $8.65 PR
NE $9.00
NJ $11.00
NM $9.00
NV $9.00/8.002
NY $11.80
OH $8.70
OR $12.00
RI $10.50
SD $9.30
VT $10.96
WA $13.50
WV $8.75
VI $10.50
GU $8.25
29 States + DC, GU, & VI 16 States + PR, CNMI 5 States

As of September 1, 2020, Consolidated Minimum Wage Table, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/mw-consolidated

Let’s relate this to the federal poverty level up to 1985:

(Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2017 [<1.0 MB], https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.html)

(Poverty Rates by Age: 1959 to 2017 [<1.0 MB], https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.html)

The federal poverty guidelines as of January 15, 2020 are:

Family Members 1 – $12,760 at $7.25 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $15,080 per year

Family Members 2 – $17,240 at $7.25 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $15,080 per year for one working full time, for both working full time 30,160 per year

Family Members 3 – $21.720 at $7.25 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $15,080 per year for one working full time, for two working full time 30,160 per year

Family Members 4 – $26, 200 at $7.25 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $15,080 per year for one working full time, for two working full time 30,160 per year

Does anyone believe the poverty levels support a living wage at federal minimum wage levels which 18 states and territories require?

Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee have the solution – no minimum wage at all required.

The 29 states which require higher minimum wages than the federal level average $10.58 per hour

Family Members 1 – $12,760 at $10.58 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $22,006 per year

Family Members 2 – $17,240 at $10.58 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $22,006 per year for one working full time, for both working full time 44,013 per year

Family Members 3 – $21.720 at $10.58 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $22,006 per year for one working full time, for two working full time 44,013 per year

Family Members 4 – $26, 200 at $10.58 per hour for one year 40 hours per week, 52 weeks in a year comes to $22,006 per year for one working full time, for two working full time 44,013 per year

Who’s earning the federal minimum wage? The food service industry has the highest proportion of workers earning the minimum wage. Two percent of food service workers earn the federal minimum wage, with another 12% earning below the federal minimum wage. Unlike other industries, more than half of these employees (servers, cooks, cashiers, etc.) are paid at an hourly rate. Personal care occupations, including manicurists, hairdressers, and cosmetologists, have the second largest proportion of workers at/below minimum wage (3%).

https://usafacts.org/articles/minimum-wage-america-how-many-people-are-earning-725-hour/

Health Care


(Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population, https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/total-population/?dataView=0&activeTab=graph&currentTimeframe=0&startTimeframe=10&selectedDistributions=uninsured&selectedRows=%7B%22wrapups%22:%7B%22united-states%22:%7B%7D%7D%7D&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D)

As of 2018, due to the Affordable Care Act there were 18.2 million fewer uninsured people in the U.S. In 2018 an estimated 30.4 million people in the U.S. still do not have health coverage. Uninsured working age adults are disproportionally low income, Latino under age 35. (Who Are the Remaining Uninsured, and Why Do They Lack Coverage? Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2018, https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2019/aug/who-are-remaining-uninsured-and-why-do-they-lack-coverage)

Among the public overall, 63% of U.S. adults say the government has the responsibility to provide health care coverage for all, up slightly from 59% last year. Roughly a third (37%) say this is not the responsibility of the federal government, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 27 to Aug. 2 among 11,001 adults. (Increasing share of Americans favor a single government program to provide health care coverage, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/29/increasing-share-of-americans-favor-a-single-government-program-to-provide-health-care-coverage/)

Mental Illness


(https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml)

Homelessness

The mortgage delinquency rate jumped nearly four percentage points to 8.22% during the second quarter of 2020, when the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic really began taking hold, a new report from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/08/18/mortgage-delinquencies-spike-due-to-covid-19-what-to-do-if-you-cant-pay-your-loan/#6cf8ef647fa7)


(THE COVID-19 EVICTION CRISIS: AN ESTIMATED 30-40 MILLION PEOPLE IN AMERICA ARE AT RISK, https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/The_Eviction_Crisis_080720.pdf)

Climate Change



To be clear, the study finds that temperatures in about a fifth of this historical period were higher than they are today. But the key, said lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University, is that temperatures are shooting through the roof faster than we’ve ever seen.

“What we found is that temperatures increased in the last hundred years as much as they had cooled in the last six or seven thousand,” he said. “In other words, the rate of change is much greater than anything we’ve seen in the whole Holocene,” referring to the current geologic time period, which began around 11,500 years ago. (The Atlantic, We’re Screwed: 11,000 Years’ Worth of Climate Data Prove It, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/03/were-screwed-11-000-years-worth-of-climate-data-prove-it/273870/)

Education

The morning after the 2016 general election ushered in the Donald Trump presidency and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, stocks of for-profit education companies spiked, and mere days later, investors on Wall Street declared “the cloud has lifted” on the prospects for investments in the for-profit college industry.

Concerns that these schools pushed desperate students into useless degree programs that led to massive debts and few prospects for jobs –all at taxpayer expense – had prompted the Obama administration to crackdown on for-profit colleges.

But by December, before Trump had uttered a single word of support for these schools, investors had already “poured hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to The Wall Street Journal, into large for-profits such as DeVry Education Group, Strayer Education, Bridgepoint Education, and Grand Canyon Education. (Why Republicans Are Rebooting the For-Profit College Industry, https://ourfuture.org/20171215/why-republicans-are-rebooting-the-for-profit-college-industry)

Guns


(Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/industries/summary?cycle=2019&id=q13)

Prisons and Immigration

From year 2000 to 2018 private, for profit prisons has had a 47% increase in the number of prisoners. In 2016 a Department of Justice Report found private prisons had a 28% higher inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults compared with federally run prisons. The problems were so bad that in 2016 the Obama administration began to phase out private prisons. From 2000 to 2016 immigrants detained in these facilities increased by 442%. When Trump got in office the administration began to robustly support private prisons again. A pro-Trump PAC, the presidents inaugural committee and the Trump family business benefited from these for-profit facilities. Is it any wonder that the Trump administration signed an executive order called “Enhancing Public Safety Interior of the United States” which massively increased the immigrant enforcement in the United States? Attorney General Bill Barr rescinded a decision which let immigrants bond out of these facilities until their hearings forcing them into unlimited detention in them. And for good measure a long-standing legal decision which limited immigrant children to be held in detention for no more 20 days was challenged by the Trump administration. Needless to say, the private prisons and detention centers have been huge contributors to Trump and Republican candidates. (my summary from this article – How Private Prisons Are Profiting Under the Trump Administration, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2019/08/30/473966/private-prisons-profiting-trump-administration/)

Transportation

Mass transportation in cities has long been funded by tax dollars…

Many states use common funding sources to support transit: motor fuel taxes, state transportation funds, general funds and automobile-related fees or taxes. (On Track: How States Fund and Support Public Transportation, https://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/on-track-how-states-fund-and-support-public-transportation.aspx#:~:text=Many%20states%20use%20common%20funding,automobile%2Drelated%20fees%20or%20taxes.&text=While%20the%20most%20common%20state,types%20of%20program%20support%20exist.)

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that public-private partnerships have accounted for 1 percent to 3 percent of spending for highway, transit, and water infrastructure since 1990. (Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation and Water Infrastructure, https://www.cbo.gov/publication/56044)

The federal government subsidizes intercity travel in various ways. For example, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation—or Amtrak—received appropriations of about $1.5 billion in 2017 and $1.9 billion in 2018 to subsidize intercity passenger rail services. The 2018 figure includes $650 million in grants for the Northeast Corridor and debt service and about $1.3 billion in grants for the national network that Amtrak operates. For comparison, Amtrak’s capital spending in 2017 was $1.6 billion and its operating expenses totaled $4.2 billion (including $0.8 billion in depreciation and amortization costs).

Another form of federal subsidy for intercity travel is the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which received $150 million in discretionary budget authority and $122 million in mandatory budget authority in 2017; the latter came from overflight fees that are charged to aircraft that fly through U.S. airspace but take off and land in other countries. As of September 2018, the EAS program—created by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 to maintain airline service in communities that had been covered by federally mandated service—subsidized air service in 63 communities in Alaska, 2 in Hawaii, 1 in Puerto Rico, and 108 in the continental United States (CONUS). Based on EAS data available for those CONUS communities, the federal subsidy per airline passenger in 2017 ranged from $14 in Joplin, Missouri, and Cody, Wyoming, to $536 in Alliance, Nebraska.( Eliminate Funding for Amtrak and the Essential Air Service Program, https://www.cbo.gov/budget-options/2018/54773)

Science and Long-Term Research

The federal government spent $116 billion on research and development (R&D) in 2017, an amount equal to about 0.6 percent of gross domestic product. That money funds basic scientific research, research that applies scientific understanding to achieve specific practical objectives even if those objectives might not have any predictable commercial appeal, and R&D that serves a governmental mission—such as securing national defense or maintaining public health. In addition to its intended purposes, CBO projects that federal spending for R&D increases macroeconomic output through its effect on private-sector productivity. (Estimating the Long-Term Effects of Federal R&D Spending: CBO’s Current Approach and Research Needs, https://www.cbo.gov/publication/54089)

(Bureau of Labor Statistics, Establishment survival, https://www.bls.gov/bdm/entrepreneurship/entrepreneurship.htm)

(Data check: U.S. government share of basic research funding falls below 50%, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/data-check-us-government-share-basic-research-funding-falls-below-50)

In our country we have coops in industries such as small farms where the workers actually do own the ‘means of production’. Some have tried to equate communism with the idea of a coop which certainly has some resemblance to socialism. However, for Marx, private property would not exist at some point during the transition from socialism to communism.

We also have labor unions. When they work best, they provide labor effectively partial ownership of the means of production.

Philosophy Series 14 – George Orwell and Emmanuel Levinas Introspective: Socialism and the Other

Philosophy Series 2 – Introduction

Philosophy Series 3 – Appendix A, Part 1

Philosophy Series 4 – The Pre-Socratics – Hesiod

Philosophy Series 5 – A Detour of Time

Philosophy Series 6 – The Origin

Philosophy Series 7 – Eros

Philosophy Series 8 – Thales

Philosophy Series 9 – An Interlude to Anaximander

Philosophy Series 10 – On the Way to Anaximander: Language and Proximity

Philosophy Series 11 – Aristotle and Modernity: The Eternal and Science

Philosophy Series 12 – Levinas and the Problem of Metaphysics

Philosophy Series 13 – On Origin

Philosophy Series 14 – George Orwell and Emmanuel Levinas Introspective: Socialism and the Other

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Philosophy Series 14

George Orwell and Emmanuel Levinas Introspective: Socialism and the Other

Introduction

George Orwell (1903 to 1950) and Emmanuel Levinas (1905 to 1995) were both engaged in the fight against fascism during the 20th century. Orwell, born in India but educated and resided in England, fought with the Popular Front, leftist government in Spain against the right-wing, military coup of Nationalists lead by General Francisco Franco. Orwell was shot in the neck and barely escaped with his life (Colls, 2014). Levinas, a Lithuanian, became a naturalized French citizen in 1931. He fought with the French and was captured by the Nazis where he remained a prisoner of war until the end of the war in 1945. His father and brothers died at the hands of the Nazi SS in Lithuania. Maurice Blanchot helped Levinas’ wife and daughter spend the war in a monastery (Emm). Both men understood the horror of war and made brilliant strides to wrestle with the absolute need for meaning in what appeared to be a meaningless world. They both described in very different ways the pitfalls of humanity and articulated with painful integrity and brilliance an avenue of hope in a hopeless world. For Orwell, with astute recognition of the weaknesses of socialism, nevertheless thought of socialism as the only possible hope for the disenfranchised and horrors of impoverishment in industrialized England. Levinas is not so easy to pin down with a political philosophy. Levinas warns us of the insidious nature of totalitarianism. In this way, his forebodings about the state have a kinship to Orwell’s critique of nationalism. While Levinas’ philosophy is deeply informed by the history of philosophy, his purpose is quite simple.

Sometimes, I think academic philosophy is its own worst enemy. Philosophy started out and literally means ‘love of wisdom’. Wisdom is not limited to the Aristotelian academy and its occidental linage. To the contrary, wisdom is widely available to every tradition, every culture, every human being. Personally, I also find wisdom in other animals besides humans. It seems the repetition which comes with age invites a certain sort of memory which allows the possibility for accommodation of difference and a sense of the profundity of love amid inevitable tragedies. This is not a given but a potential as Aristotle would suggest.

Perhaps, one way to think of the failure to make wisdom actual could be as a decline of our species, an evolutionary failure. However, even in this paradigm, individual evolutionary adaptation is always given as a possibility endemic to life. The downside of reducing wisdom to an evolutionary paradigm is to once again fall into the mode of totalizing objectivity which transforms the other to an ‘it’ of objectivity in the form of evolutionary taxonomy. In any case, the paradigm of evolution is not adequate in thinking about and desiring wisdom.

Levinas opens an alternative route to wisdom by putting a face on the other. He exposes convention which itself totalizes the other in the form of self-interest. In my estimation, anyone who follows the actual teachings of compassion and responsibility for the other, the stranger, the oppressed, the impoverished has achieved the goal, the telos (culmination, end) of Levinas’ monumental challenge – to help us see the face of the other for the very first time not obscured by the pitfalls of an already-assumed, historic situatedness cooked into language and tradition.

However, as each one of us carries our histories with us, we will eventually have to write a new history if the state is to be viable. This is the direction I am pointing towards in this post. Certainly, the kinds of historic changes I am thinking of takes hundreds of years. To the extent that academics bring the notions of Levinas and similar others to a wider audience is how they live the responsibility Levinas’ places on each of us. To the extent that academics puts up barriers of access to the wisdom of our responsibility to the other is once again reinforcing the barriers of totalitarianism. My goal is, to the best of my ability, to continue to open with others which proceeded me the historic way we came into totalitarianism and highlight the way out of the prison of self-interest to the he or she who faces us. In any case, let us remember the following which I will come back to later:

Language is the historic, cultural map that defines reality for us.

First, I would like to look at Orwell’s eyewitness chronicling of Europe’s devolution leading up to World War II with a view to his political solutions for the state. Today, we once again hear the rhyme of Orwell’s history. It seems we are always only condemned to repeat the past no matter what the state looks like although certainly some states seem better than others for delaying the inevitable. Levinas provides us with an especially needful alternative to the inability of the state to survive inevitable catastrophic failure and to deal effectively with planet wide threats from climate change and nuclear weapons. However, Levinas’ alternative requires a monumental change which probably represents more like a species type adaptation. It resides in the potential of wisdom if humans are to survive on this planet. To arrive at Levinas’ solution, we will need to look at how we arrived philosophically from ancient Greeks to modernity and what perpetually sabotages the state, any state.

Democratic democracies, communism, and science all arrived in the modern, occidental age from enlightened liberalism. Enlightenment also brings in the rise of capitalism and socialism. For once and for all lets please put this oxymoron to rest, there has never been a pure democracy or a pure socialism. Every democratic country, including the U.S., is a combination of both. Democracy is the will of the people. If the people vote for government run social programs like welfare and food stamps or government funded research and development, health care, retirement, industry regulation, and so forth, it is because private enterprise is unable or unwilling to address the human condition and suffering of its citizens. When people in a democracy vote for government owned and operated services, the people want the text-book definition of socialism. The U.S. is a democratic, capitalistic, socialist country like it or not. If democracy denies the vote of the people, democracy is plain and simple totalitarianism. If the state totally controls and owns every resource, that is not socialism it is communism. Communism clearly is nothing other than totalitarianism as history has shown.

In this post we will take a brief look at the beginning of modernity and British Enlightenment to orient us to the path we are traversing. This will also require a look at the ancient Greeks to situate how Enlightenment came about in the first place. After that, I will take the political, and necessarily philosophical, challenge Levinas presents us to prevent the fate of the totalitarian state. Levinas understood the necessity of the state and the conditions for which it could escape its failed history. For Orwell, socialism was the hope for resolving an inevitable fascist nationalism resulting in the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Orwell faced the impossibility of democratic change in 20th century England with the intractability of aristocracy and its self-interest in the face of Hitler’s fascism. He saw no other solution for England except revolution. For Levinas, the inevitability of state totalitarianism was due to how each person in the state was locked in a philosophical and historic leveling off, or totalizing, of the other to the same. For now, the ‘same’ here is meant as how we find ourselves always already caught up in a history, a language, a culture which levels off radical alterity (otherness, difference) and holds the state hostage to preconceptions doomed to violence.

Orwell Chronicles the Impossibility of Totalitarianism in the Histories of 20th Century States

One of the most alarming struggles of reality over illusion is chronicled in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 by an early thirty-year-old Eric Blair whose pen name was George Orwell. Orwell fought in the war with the Popular Front government Republicans against the Spanish revolutionary Nationalists. For Orwell nationalism was synonymous with fascism. Contrary to the propagandized illusions of Jonah Goldberg in his book “Liberal Fascism”, the history of fascism is the history of conservatism, aristocracy, and wealth. The Spanish Civil War is yet one more example of how corrosive nationalism will always pit the haves against the have nots. Orwell faced the autocracies of nationalism and extreme poverty in England. He traveled to Spain to fight for the Spanish Republicans, a left-leaning group, against the Nationalist fascists. As a life-long devoted socialist, Orwell’s greatest virtue was his devotion to the plight of impoverished and oppressed others and his undying willingness to critically question any ideology which undermined that quest, including the horrors of communism. He would even make fun of his own socialists in “Can Socialists Be Happy” (Freeman, 1943) written under the pseudonym John Freeman where he writes,

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness. This is the case even with a great writer like Swift, who can flay a bishop or a politician so neatly, but who, when he tries to create a superman, merely leaves one with the impression the very last he can have intended that the stinking Yahoos had in them more possibility of development than the enlightened Houyhnhnms.

The debate between those that believe Orwell was ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ in contemporary, U.S. politics is superficial. Most appropriately, Orwell was a painfully honest socialist. When the Franco fascists won the Spanish Civil War, Stalin and the Bolshevik communists who fought on the side of the socialists against fascism exterminated the socialists. Thus, we have Orwell’s hatred of communism illustrated in “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. However, the essential link between fascism and communism for Orwell was nationalism. In Orwell’s essay, Notes on Nationalism (Orwell, 1945), he lays this out very clearly. Nationalism is the eternal struggle between rotting protectionism, spoiled mana, violent conservation of wealth, consolidation of power and the resulting facts of human suffering. He writes,

It is also worth emphasizing once again that nationalist feeling can be purely negative. There are, for example, Trotskyists who have become simply enemies of the U.S.S.R. without developing a corresponding loyalty to any other unit. When one grasps the implications of this, the nature of what I mean by nationalism becomes a good deal clearer. A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist – that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating – but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the up-grade and some hated rival is on the down-grade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also – since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself – unshakeably certain of being in the right.

Indifference to Reality. All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts.

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should – in which, for example, the Spanish Armada was a success or the Russian Revolution was crushed in 1918 – and he will transfer fragments of this world to the history books whenever possible. Much of the propagandist writing of our time amounts to plain forgery. Material facts are suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed from their context and doctored so as to change their meaning. Events which, it is felt, ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied.

Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events.

Eerily, this reminds us of events in the U.S. today. In the buildup between the Spanish Civil War and the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, the aristocracy and conservatism of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in England from 1937 to 1940 was sympathetic to the other axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan of World War II. Orwell writes,

The British ruling class were not altogether wrong in thinking that Fascism was on their side. It is a fact that any rich man, unless he is a Jew, has less to fear from Fascism than from either Communism or democratic Socialism. One ought never to forget this, for nearly the whole of German and Italian propaganda is designed to cover it up. The natural instinct of men like Simon, Hoare, Chamberlain, etc. was to come to an agreement with Hitler. But – and here the peculiar feature of English life that I have spoken of, the deep sense of national solidarity, comes in – they could only do so by breaking up the Empire and selling their own people into semi-slavery. A truly corrupt class would have done this without hesitation, as in France. But things had not gone that distance in England. Politicians who would make cringing speeches about “the duty of loyalty to our conquerors” are hardly to be found in English public life. Tossed to and fro between their incomes and their principles, it was impossible that men like Chamberlain should do anything but make the worst of both worlds (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941).

While Orwell detested war with Germany he believed that war was a necessity despite the conservative leanings of Chamberlain to make peace with Hitler and avoid war,

If I had to defend my reasons for supporting the war, I believe I could do so. There is no real alternative between resisting Hitler and surrendering to him, and from a Socialist point of view I should say that it is better to resist; in any case I can see no argument for surrender that does not make nonsense of the Republican resistance in Spain, the Chinese resistance to Japan, etc. etc. But I don’t pretend that that is the emotional basis of my actions. What I knew in my dream that night was that the long drilling in patriotism which the middle classes go through had done its work, and that once England was in a serious jam it would be impossible for me to sabotage. But let no one mistake the meaning of this. Patriotism has nothing to do with conservatism. It is devotion to something that is changing but is felt to be mystically the same, like the devotion of the ex-White Bolshevik to Russia. To be loyal both to Chamberlain’s England and to the England of tomorrow might seem an impossibility, if one did not know it to be an everyday phenomenon. Only revolution can save England, that has been obvious for years, but now the revolution has started, and it may proceed quite quickly if only we can keep Hitler out. Within two years, maybe a year, if only we can hang on, we shall see changes that will surprise the idiots who have no foresight. I dare say the London gutters will have to run with blood. All right, let them, if it is necessary. But when the red militias are billeted in the Ritz I shall still feel that the England I was taught to love so long ago for such different reasons is somehow persisting. (Orwell, My Country Right or Left, 1940)

Orwell determined that inaction was the action of fascism and could not be tolerated. He also saw that the indifference of ‘democracies’ prior to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, some anarchists, pacifists, and those that did not have the will to actively oppose bourgeois fascism, were themselves an instrument of nationalism and thus, fascism.

‘It is nonsense to talk of opposing Fascism by bourgeois “democracy”. Bourgeois “democracy” is only another name for capitalism, and so is Fascism; to fight against Fascism on behalf of “democracy” is to fight against one form of capitalism on behalf of a second which is liable to turn into the first at any moment. The only real alternative to Fascism is workers’ control. If you set up any less goal than this, you will either hand the victory to Franco, or, at best, let in Fascism by the back door. Meanwhile the workers must cling to every scrap of what they have won; if they yield anything to the semi-bourgeois Government they can depend upon being cheated. The workers’ militias and police-forces must be preserved in their present form and every effort to “bourgeoisify” them must be resisted. If the workers do not control the armed forces, the armed forces will control the workers. The war and the revolution are inseparable.’ (Orwell, ‘Three Parties that Mattered’: Extract from Homage to Catalonia, 1938)

In any serious emergency the contradiction implied in the Popular Front is bound to make itself felt. For even when the worker and the bourgeois are both fighting against Fascism, they are not fighting for the same things; the bourgeois is fighting for bourgeois democracy, i.e., capitalism, the worker, in so far as he understands the issue, for Socialism. And in the early days of the revolution the Spanish workers understood the issue very well. In the areas where Fascism was defeated they did not content themselves with driving the rebellious troops out of the towns; they also took the opportunity of seizing land and factories and setting up the rough beginnings of a workers’ government by means of local committees, workers’ militias, police forces, and so forth. They made the mistake, however (possibly because most of the active revolutionaries were Anarchists with a mistrust of all parliaments), of leaving the Republican Government in nominal control. And, in spite of various changes in personnel, every subsequent Government had been of approximately the same bourgeois-reformist character. At the beginning this seemed not to matter, because the Government, especially in Cataloñia, was almost powerless and the bourgeoisie had to lie low or even (this was still happening when I reached Spain in December) to disguise themselves as workers. Later, as power slipped from the hands of the Anarchists into the hands of the Communists and right-wing Socialists, the Government was able to reassert itself, the bourgeoisie came out of hiding and the old division of society into rich and poor reappeared, not much modified. Henceforward every move, except a few dictated by military emergency, was directed towards undoing the work of the first few months of revolution. Out of the many illustrations I could choose, I will cite only one, the breaking-up of the old workers’ militias, which were organized on a genuinely democratic system, with officers and men receiving the same pay and mingling on terms of complete equality, and the substitution of the Popular Army (once again, in Communist jargon, “People’s Army”), modelled as far as possible on an ordinary bourgeois army, with a privileged officer-caste, immense differences of pay, etc., etc. Needless to say, this is given out as a military necessity, and almost certainly it does make for military efficiency, at least for a short period. But the undoubted purpose of the change was to strike a blow at equalitarianism. In every department the same policy has been followed, with the result that only a year after the outbreak of war and revolution you get what is in effect an ordinary bourgeois State, with, in addition, a reign of terror to preserve the status quo. (Orwell, ‘Spilling the Spanish Beans’: Extract from Homage to Catalonia, 1937)

But who are the pro-Fascists? The idea of a Hitler victory appeals to the very rich, to the Communists, to Mosley’s followers, to the pacifists, and to certain sections among the Catholics. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

Orwell would not tolerate apathy with the oncoming tidal waves of fascist autocracy in World War II. He believed that while socialism was flawed, it was the better than all the other alternatives, so much so that here was his plan to save England,

I suggest that the following six-point programme is the kind of thing we need. The first three points deal with England’s internal policy, the other three with the Empire and the world:–

I. Nationalization of land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.

II. Limitation of incomes, on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.

III. Reform of the educational system along democratic lines.

IV. Immediate Dominion status for India, with power to secede when the war is over.

V. Formation of an Imperial General Council, in which the coloured peoples are to be represented.

VI. Declaration of formal alliance with China, Abyssinia and all other victims of the Fascist powers.

The general tendency of this programme is unmistakable. It aims quite frankly at turning this war into a revolutionary war and England into a Socialist democracy. I have deliberately included in it nothing that the simplest person could not understand and see the reason for. In the form in which I have put it, it could be printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror. But for the purposes of this book a certain amount of amplification is needed. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

Immediately following this plan, he elaborates in detail on each point. I will only state the first one in the main text of this paper but will include the rest in the notes below. [1]  On the first point he writes,

I. Nationalization. One can “nationalize” industry by the stroke of a pen, but the actual process is slow and complicated. What is needed is that the ownership of all major industry shall be formally vested in the State, representing the common people. Once that is done it becomes possible to eliminate the class of mere owners who live not by virtue of anything they produce but by the possession of title-deeds and share certificates. State-ownership implies, therefore, that nobody shall live without working. How sudden a change in the conduct of industry it implies is less certain. In a country like England we cannot rip down the whole structure and build again from the bottom, least of all in time of war. Inevitably the majority of industrial concerns will continue with much the same personnel as before, the one-time owners or managing directors carrying on with their jobs as State-employees. There is reason to think that many of the smaller capitalists would actually welcome some such arrangement. The resistance will come from the big capitalists, the bankers, the landlords and the idle rich, roughly speaking the class with over £2,000 a year – and even if one counts in all their dependants there are not more than half a million of these people in England. Nationalization of agricultural land implies cutting out the landlord and the tithe-drawer, but not necessarily interfering with the farmer. It is difficult to imagine any reorganization of English agriculture that would not retain most of the existing farms as units, at any rate at the beginning. The farmer, when he is competent, will continue as a salaried manager. He is virtually that already, with the added disadvantage of having to make a profit and being permanently in debt to the bank. With certain kinds of petty trading, and even the small-scale ownership of land, the State will probably not interfere at all. It would be a great mistake to start by victimizing the smallholder class, for instance. These people are necessary, on the whole they are competent, and the amount of work they do depends on the feeling that they are “their own masters”. But the State will certainly impose an upward limit to the ownership of land (probably fifteen acres at the very most), and will never permit any ownership of land in town areas.

From the moment that all productive goods have been declared the property of the State, the common people will feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is themselves. They will be ready then to endure the sacrifices that are ahead of us, war or no war. And even if the face of England hardly seems to change, on the day that our main industries are formally nationalized the dominance of a single class will have been broken. From then onwards the emphasis will be shifted from ownership to management, from privilege to competence. It is quite possible that State-ownership will in itself bring about less social change than will be forced upon us by the common hardships of war. But it is the necessary first step without any real reconstruction is impossible. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

From our current vantage in the history in the United States, “bourgeois fascism” seems to many on the political right to be an impossibility. However, our state as a constitutionally based democracy is in tatters on the Republican right who are increasingly in favor of authoritarianism – the necessary step to fascism. Many conservative libertarians have also jettisoned the state as, at best, an example of anti-capitalism due to market regulation and at worse to make it so small we can drown it in the bathtub. While many of these folks have not acknowledged it, this really ranges from anarchism to pure market Darwinism. Certainly, all this would only play into the hands of those who would seek to protect their wealth and power not some anti-government ideology. In Orwell’s time the ‘state’ was not optional even with 20th century fascism and communism breathing down his throat. For Orwell, the state as “the common people” in socialism would make them “feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is themselves”. The proletariat would be promoted to co-owners of the state. Orwell did not see the oblivion of the state as a viable alternative. Certainly, the abolition of the state is not ‘viable’ in any sense of the word. However, for Orwell, the fatal flaw of any state was nationalism. He cited the rich English class as shining examples of decadent nationalism,

England is a family with the wrong members in control. Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into positions of command by right of birth. Few if any of these people are consciously treacherous, some of them are not even fools, but as a class they are quite incapable of leading us to victory. They could not do it, even if their material interests did not constantly trip them up. As I pointed out earlier, they have been artificially stupefied. Quite apart from anything else, the rule of money sees to it that we shall be governed largely by the old – that is, by people utterly unable to grasp what age they are living in or what enemy they are fighting. Nothing was more desolating at the beginning of this war than the way in which the whole of the older generation conspired to pretend that it was the war of 1914-18 over again. All the old duds were back on the job, twenty years older, with the skull plainer in their faces. Ian Hay was cheering up the troops, Belloc was writing articles on strategy, Maurois doing broadcasts, Bairnsfather drawing cartoons. It was like a tea-party of ghosts. And that state of affairs has barely altered. The shock of disaster brought a few able men like Bevin to the front, but in general we are still commanded by people who managed to live through the years 1931-9 without even discovering that Hitler was dangerous. A generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like a necklace of corpses. (Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, 1941)

Orwell was a Democratic Socialist which is still the most prolific party in Europe today. There is no doubt that Jonah Goldberg was merely smoking the pot of bourgeois fascism when he fantasized the link between liberalism and fascism. Even now, in U.S. politics, the warnings and admonitions of Orwell ring true as QAnon regurgitates its radical conservative fantasies in praise of bourgeois fascism. Ironically, it is those that have the least to gain from bourgeois fascism that are its most ardent supporters. This exemplifies the extent to which history, language, culture, and marketing have eroded the hard-earned lessons from the past. It appears that the demons of Orwell’s era once again rise from the depths of Hades to conserve its dark domain in the twilight of mere mortals.

So, history certainly has a rhyme which beckons to us today. The reality of living in illusion in the U.S. is that the cat we see jumping on our lap to purr is really a very hungry old lion akin to the one in Nazi Germany. When the ancient notion of democracy is wholly abandoned by the ruling elites (e.g., white bred, wealthy capitalists) we find ourselves in Orwell’s chaotic world of ‘damned if we do’ and ‘damned if we don’t’, the hellacious necessity of impossible decision. For Orwell, the choice of every individual living in an illusory, anti-government, ‘free market’ with little or no state, was a ‘wish-fulfillment’ conservatism that must result in a dystopian nightmare. He was right. Let’s not forget that even Germany was required after World War I to be a republic, the Weimar Republic. These republics eventually erupted in the horrors of World War II. Orwell’s fight on the side of the proletariat, artists, and socialists in the Spanish Civil War against fascism failed and, to add insult to injury, the Stalinists communists took over much of what was left of the Republican resistance in Spain slaughtering the remaining socialists.

Orwell was a man who felt the pain of injustice in a time of mind-boggling, body-numbing dizziness requiring action but thriving on the meaninglessness of any action. When all ideals fail or fall into delusion, one must still find a way to live with meaning even if it has little hope of succeeding. However, unlike the delusions of the bourgeoisie, Orwell hung on to a version of the state that would be ‘owned’ by the people. Orwell was fully aware that that the communists were an abject failure just as the bourgeois capitalists were. However, his compass was to move towards egalitarianism, fairness, dignity, and income equality for the common folk. Even if this is yet another delusion, at least, it is based on a concern for the other which cannot dismiss the other or belittle the other in its delusional obsession with itself. If it is a delusion, it is a delusion which is centered on the same ideals the ancient Greeks envisioned in democracy as flawed as it was. So how did democracies and communism evolve from modernity? Through what lens does Levinas view the violence of 20th century states?

The Rise of the State in Modernity

For Levinas, traditional, enlightened liberalism is contaminated by a kind of obscurantism resulting in a more sedated but deadly predecessor to the endlessly repeated horrors of National Socialism or Nazi fascism. By ‘liberalism’ I do not mean the trite understanding in today’s U.S. politics. Hitherto, liberalism is meant as the enduring history from Kant to Hegel to British empiricism and enlightenment embodying all forms of democracy, capitalism, communism, and socialism. Enlightened liberalism is found upon the individual and its function as a collectivity. Both modern democracies and communism were offshoots of this tradition.

For 17th century English, Enlightenment thinkers Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke, the greater good was promoted by self-interest. Self-interest was necessarily tied to the ‘state of nature’ for these thinkers. In modern terms Hobbes is what we might call a pure materialist. Hobbes saw reasoning as merely a causal reaction to sensation. The world was full of objects which we bump into with our senses. We form images of them in our mind which remain there when we close our eyes. From this, similarities are recognized between things which give rise to signifiers. An example of a signifier could be a mark made on a stone which stands for some animal. The mark is a signifier. Signifiers can be abstracted in the mind and used in various applications. Signifiers give rise to ideas and knowledge is acquired from them. Ultimately, everything is material substance. Hobbes had a public disagreement with a contemporary of his time named Rene Descartes who believed that mind and body were two distinct substances so there could be a thinking thing which had no body. This was absurd for Hobbes who thought the only substance was in nature as a material body.

For Hobbes, it seems a certain insidious idea of ‘nature’ has been assigned to phenomenon as already known – as matter, as stuff, as thing called ‘substance’ which was self-evident. By ‘self-evident’ he did not mean ‘innate’. He meant how phenomena show itself to our sense. ‘Substance’ is a shorthand for showing of phenomena as material object, whether human, animals, or inanimate and nothing more. With this pre-understanding of phenomenon, relations are simply transactions. Generic signifiers such as matter, stuff, things can then be pragmatically taken as a common, radically reduced (regressus) assumption of all phenomena, as what really ‘is’ and nothing more. For example, a rock is an object. In turn, the assumed essence of a rock is simply its ‘thingness’, ‘object-ness’, its ‘stuff-ness’ or what in Latin we could call substance (substantia meaning ‘stand under’). By the way, in using the word ‘reduction’ I am not intending to evoke a true or false judgement. What I am referring to is a way of seeing, understanding, orienting oneself to our environing in the world. In a Kantian sense this kind of understanding would be stated as temporally a priori or a prior conditioning which makes a certain kind of sense possible. This is what I mean by ‘understanding’ as what rests under and guides our footing, our orientation, our standing. What stands under all phenomenon from Enlightenment is already understood from the ancient notion of substance.

Substantia is a controversial translation of the ancient Greek work ousia. A well-known 20th century phenomenologist philosopher Martin Heidegger takes issue with translating ousia as substance. Rather, Heidegger thinks the word should be translated as ‘being”. So, already in the translation from ancient Greece to Latin Christendom we have a change from being to what Heidegger tells us is present-at-hand. By present-at-hand he means a certain modality of being which privileges presence, a stark appearance of phenomena, over other ways or modalities of human beings in the world. For example, another way of human being in the world is when we are working with tools. When we are working with tools, we are not looking at the tool as an object present before us. The modality of “ready-to-hand” is how we work with tools because the tool disappears in use so we can focus on the work we are trying to accomplish with the tool. This modality can change if the tool breaks. In that case, the tool immediately becomes present-at-hand while we curse it out. I will come back to this a little further down. What I want to draw our attention back to is the modality of present-at-hand where substantia accurately describes a particular modality of human being in the world. In the case of present-at-hand, substantia is a particular appearing of how we are situated in phenomenon. When the Latin translation converts this modality of our being in the world into ‘essence’ we privilege a modality of human being in the world over other ways we are in the world. In this case, substantia refers to the verb ‘to be’. ‘Being’ here is thought as stark existence, as the privileged and myopic way in which we are situated in the modality of present-at-hand.

Once this historic reduction is made, all is reduced to mere materiality and control, ownership, and self-interest become front and center. The ancient Latin idea of res publica (republic) became a loose translation as the term ‘commonwealth’. Hobbes had a notion of the commonwealth that was based on rational self-interest which motivated each person’s compulsory entry into an implicit ‘social contract’ with a ‘sovereign authority’ to preserve his or her life. Certainly, this contract could be broken by the sovereign at any time, but the social contract was based on the devil you thought you knew. Let’s take a deeper dive into this and the idea of commonwealth with its ancient underpinnings.

The Cato Institute, a very conservative, libertarian think tank is sympathetic to the idea that the commonwealth was invented to protect private property. The idea of a commonwealth as self-interest rests on ancient metaphysics which can be traced back certainly to a Roman statesman named Cicero. Cicero was a major influencer of the founding fathers most notable, Thomas Jefferson. In an article on the Cato Institute’s web site Paul Meany tells us,

Cicero believed “political communities and commonwealths were established particularly so that people could hold on to their property.” He advised that the first and foremost duty of those who administer public affairs is to “see that everyone holds on to what is his, and that private men are never deprived of their goods by public acts.” Cicero accepts that no property is private by nature; however, “everything produced on the earth is created for the use of mankind.” Despite explaining the importance of the state’s protection of private property at great length, a glaring fault in Cicero’s writings is that he did not adequately explain how one can initially appropriate property justly. At best, he reasoned that convention, tradition, and harmony are adequate reasons for us to respect private property. (Paul Meany, 2021)

The notion of commonwealth was really a religious idea that Latin Christianity took from the ancient Hebrew account of Genesis where God says,

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:27 to 1:31)

So, the earth belongs to all humankind, but practicality requires private property. While Meany acknowledges commonwealth means literally what it says, he goes further to state Rome meant it to protect private property. Meany goes on to discuss how John Locke arrived at this conclusion as well. However, his reasoning does not follow the path of Locke’s reasoning as I will show a little later. For now, I want to dig deeper into what made such notions as private property and commonwealth even possible in the way they get articulated in the Enlightenment tradition especially. So, how does the idea of commonwealth play into the previous mentioned idea of substance?

In a review of Michael Krom’s book “The Limits of Reason in Hobbes’s Commonwealth”, the reviewer tells us,

In chapter 6, Krom moves to the role of philosophy in maintaining political stability. He distinguishes vain from true philosophy, and summarises Hobbes’s explanation of the origin of vain philosophy and how it leads to sedition through the pride of philosophers in thinking that they know better than the sovereign. In explaining the origin of vain philosophy, Krom focuses on the failure of philosophers to define their terms (Leviathan 8), and omits to mention the passage in Leviathan 46 (especially the Latin version), where Hobbes ingeniously diagnoses the ultimate source of vain philosophy as being the verb ‘to be’ when used as the copula and Greek and Latin. Aristotle assumed that there must be something in reality corresponding to every component of a true proposition. Since there is no material substance or quality corresponding to ‘is’, he invented the immaterial entity ‘being’, and hence the whole range of fictitious metaphysical entities integral to vain philosophy. Since it lacks the copula, the Hebrew language is not infected by meaningless abstractions or immaterialism, and the Old Testament contains a purer theology than that of Greek and Latin writers influenced by Aristotle. (Reviewed by George MacDonald Ross, 2011)

The notion of being in Aristotle as existence is disputed by a very renown Greek scholar named Charles Kahn is his work “The Greek Verb ‘To Be’ and the Problem of Being” (Kahn, 1965). He claims that the notion of existence or ‘is-ness’ is not in the ancient Greek language as a much later 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill claims. Mill was highly influenced by the Enlightenment philosophers we are discussing. Mill furthers Enlightenment in suggesting what matters is what is and leads him to utilitarianism which has been taken up by the analytic school of philosophy in the United States and some psychological branches of behaviorism. Kahn does believe that the Greeks used the verb einai translated as to-be more as a grammatical connector for a noun and a predicate or premise and conclusion of logic. Furthermore, Kahn tells us for the ancient Greeks, einai did not have anything to do with being or existence and later Latin notions of substance. Without even thinking about it, we use the term existence as a word which privileges the ‘real’ over illusion.

We think the practical world as ‘real’. Utility is more important because of what it does in ‘reality’. So, at a certain point in history we take what every child thinks when they ask us, “Why do we have money and why isn’t everything free?” We explain to them the notion of private property upon which they look at us puzzled and respond, “Oh, ok” as if it should be in a Monty Python skit. Could it be that the child, as many philosophers of the past, had not yet comprehended the history of ‘what is’ and ‘what is real’ and why it is exclusive? I am trying to elucidate here a valid question in language and history and how our answer came to color, before we even are aware of it, how we understand the nature of ‘reality’. Also, to avoid any confusion, I do not deny the need for money and private property. Certainly, it is a necessity from a practical point of view. I am simply trying to bring out how the notions of utility and practicality have been truncated from their origins. In so doing, the consequences of this negatively affects how we understand the world, other people, and our notions of state.

These distinctions are important because the phenomenologist philosopher, Martin Heidegger, claims to think that what comes to presence in the mode of present-at-hand does not, for example, account for how humans are spread across time from the past through the present to the future. We are not merely temporally located in a ‘now’ moment as a stone would be for instance. We are not locked in a present, ‘now’ moment where our senses are only perceiving matter as stark presence-at-hand. Our lived experience of time has a stretch. One example is how we experience time when we are depressed as slow or when we are on a roller coast and time flies by. Neither do we experience space as linear distance. We experience distance as what Heidegger thinks as the human capacity to dissever, bring closer and nearer, ‘regions’. For example, when we are looking at a glass of water through a pair of glasses the glasses may be closer to us in terms of linear distance, but our lived reality is that we inhabit the ‘space’ of the glass of water, the region of the glass of water that our attention is directed to, not the abstract, linear distance of the glasses on our face. This is how we experience time and space which comes ‘naturally’ with children as well. To think that clock time and linear space is the ‘practical reality’ we live is an abstraction based on a history of language and thought, not what actually ‘is’ as it shows itself. Additionally, science has well shown us that clock time and linear spatiality are highly relative – there is no absolute. Heidegger thought this reduction privileges the present due to an abstraction of history and grievously reduces the reality of how we experience and think about ‘what is’.

We do not process language in terms of a serial succession of words. It would be like walking down a hallway and calculating the spatial distance between each wall, floor, and ceiling before we take another step. We orient ourselves in a totally different way when it comes to space and time. Space and time are not a serial successions of linear spatial calculations or a consciousness of one ‘now’ moment after another. If that were so, we would be running into walls and moving very slowly in a way which would not make the survival of Homo sapiens possible. Similarly, ideas do not come to us as present-at-hand where each word comes to our consciousness before we process the next word. Our current digital computers process information in a serial fashion like this and only seem to ‘think’ in certain ways in which we think because they process data much faster. In my opinion, with very recent breakthroughs in the last few days, quantum computing we will be able to have androids which think like we do. Apparently, IBM already has a 127-qubit machine. [2]

Human consciousness or ideas as present-at-hand take around 150 to 300 milliseconds to come into a conscious idea. Athletes are able to process their movements much faster because they trained their motion to be reflexive after years of habitual training. When we are thinking an idea, we dissever the idea from the whole of language so that it becomes present-at-hand or visible as a particular conscious thought. Behavioral psychology is effective because it deals with our associative behavior without reference to language and ideas. Behaviorists work at the level of habituation and retrain associations more as reflexive embodiment. The ability we have to experience language as a whole rather than as pieces is what Kant, Heidegger, Chomsky, Jung, and many others have referred to as a priori. A priori means prior to our conscious, intentional ideas. Freuds notion of the unconscious is based on a priori. Now we can rewrite the sentence we used earlier in the introduction as this:

Language is the a priori historic, cultural map that defines reality for us.

The ancient Greeks did not have these historic shorthand ways to perceive the world that we take for granted. They had a much older and richer history and language which took account of a much fuller range of what we now think as ‘reality’ or existence.

Ancient Greeks and the Time Before Being

From my reading of the ancient Greeks, I find their notion of privation (steresis) and apeiron (infinite, unlimited, indefinite) might illustrate an unaccounted-for excess which has been lost through time. Steresis for the latter ancient Greek Aristotle (c. 384-c.322 BC) is opposition defined in terms of the absence to presence, negation to affirmation. Eidos (idea in Plato) is used by Plato (c. 428-c.348 BC) as his notion of the forms.

In much earlier Greek history, Eidos meant look or shape. Heraclitus (c. 535-c.475 BC) used the logos (word) to suggest order and speech. Here are some translations of some of the fragments from various sources that we have,

Though this Word [logos] is true evermore, yet men are as unable to understand it when they hear it for the first time as before they have heard it at all. For, though all things come to pass in accordance with this Word, men seem as if they had no experience of them, when they make trial of words and deeds such as I set forth, dividing each thing according to its kind and showing how it is what it is. But other men know not what they are doing when awake, even as they forget what they do in sleep.

Though the logos is common, the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.

things whole and not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and the discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.

On those who enter the same rivers, ever different waters flow.

Also, another source is translated as,

We step and do not step in to the same rivers; we are and are not. (DKBht)

Apeiron (without limit, peras) was a very ancient term associated with Hesiod’s idea of chaos as prior to the gods. I prefer to think about it as the fertile void from which form (peras) emerges. This is common to many cosmological myths including the Hebrew account in Genesis. Peras (end, limit, boundary) brings order and harmony as logos.

However, in earlier Greek thinking privation is thought as what cannot come to presence. It seems to me that, in varying degrees, not all could be brought into what is seen as a reduction to a negative idea (eidos). Other ancient Greek, pre-Socratic philosophers seem to go against privation as negative idea with various admonitions of Heraclitus, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Xenophanes, Pythagoreans, Eleatics by Melissus, the atomists, and Zeno. They do not write exclusively in such explicit bipolar, reductional oppositions.

Anaximander by Diogenes Laertius tells us this about apeiron,

Anaximander son of Praxiades, of Miletus: he said that the principle and element is the Indefinite, not distinguishing air or water or anything else… [Diogenes Laertius n, 1-2 (DKi2Ai])

We also have this account from Aristotle of the earlier Greek philosophers,

We cannot say that the apeiron has no effect, and the only effectiveness which we can ascribe to it is that of a principle. Everything is either a source or derived from a source. But there cannot be a source of the apeiron, for that would be a limit of it. Further, as it is a beginning, it is both uncreatable and indestructible. For there must be a point at which what has come to be reaches completion, and also a termination of all passing away. That is why, as we say, there is no principle of this, but it is this which is held to be the principle of other things, and to encompass all and to steer all, as those assert who do not recognize, alongside the infinite, other causes, such as Mind or Friendship. Further they identify it with the Divine, for it is ‘deathless and imperishable’ as Anaximander says, with the majority of the physicists. (Physics 3.4; 203b)

These accounts tend to disqualify apeiron as having an origin (archê) much less even an opposite as in propositional negation. It seems that for Anaximander chaos (χάος, yawning gap) and apeiron may have had some early similarity in the sense of indeterminate. This notion of apeiron would appear to add another hint of anarchy, no origin, and bring it closer to Hesiod’s notion of chaos. It could well be that Hesiod and perhaps Anaximander are telling us of a radical disjunction, a gap other than distinctions of whole/not whole, together/asunder, harmony/disharmony, and all things/one. (Dreher)

In this way of thinking, privation in early Greek thinking does not necessarily have elements as what comes to presence as mere negation, as the idea (eidos) of what is not. In the case of idea as negation, privation must always come to presence under the auspices of the showing of absence. Perhaps one might think the earlier ‘primitive’ Greek notions were inferior or under-developed with a view to latter developments. However, I understand this as, the early Greeks did not yet have, much less accept, such a reduction as a positive indication of the scope of their inquiries. As I previously discussed, Kahn makes the case that einai has nothing to do with being and existence. This would indicate that a reduction to being was not a given for Aristotle as Heidegger and Latin Christianity thought. I think the earlier notion of privation as an unaccounted-for excess, a radical rupture of what we think as ‘being’, was what Levinas would latter put a face on, the face of the other. In this case, Hesiod’s chaos has become a face.

From the latter Greek philosophers, logos seems to have been associated with speaking/words and strife as oppositions of whole/not whole, together/asunder, harmony/disharmony, and ‘all things’/one. I find this to have elements of the seen/unseen in Aristotle’s notion of privation. Aristotle thinks of logos as persuasive dialectics. When privation or steresis “becomes a kind of eidos“, it becomes a “thinking about being”. Eidos is in Heideggerian terminology is ‘what shows itself’ or what becomes present as coming to presence before us. Ontology is the study of being (Greek: ὄν, on; GEN. ὄντος, ontos, ‘being’ or ‘that which is’ and -logia (from logos, -λογία, ‘logical discourse).

“Heidegger says that the basic category of steresis dominates Aristotle’s ontology. Steresis means lack, privation. It can also mean loss or deprivation of something, as in the example of blindness, which is a loss of sight in one who by nature sees. Steresis can also mean confiscation, the violent appropriation of something for oneself that belongs to another (Met. 1022 b33). Finally, Aristotle often calls that which is held as other in an opposition of contraries a privation. Heidegger will point out in his later essay on Physics B1 that Aristotle understands this deprivation as itself a kind of eidos. Thus, steresis is the lack that belongs intrinsically to being. According to Heidegger, with the notion of steresis Aristotle reaches the pinnacle of his thinking about being. Heidegger even remarks that Hegel’s notion of negation needs to be returned to its dependency on Aristotle’s more primordial conception of the not.” (Brogan)

To suggest that – privation may be an excess to Heidegger’s notion of Being would be absurd to Heidegger. Heretofore, in keeping Macquarrie and Robinson translation of “Being and Time” I will capitalize ‘Sein’ to mean Being as the universal, ontological sense of all of Being and lower case ‘sein’ to mean ontic or individual beings. Heidegger discusses certain phenomenal ways of being as in anxiety when “all beings retreat” meaning there is no object, reason, cause as in the case of fear. He further states, “in anxiety, Dasein gets brought before itself through its own Being” (Being and Time, 184). In anxiety there is sheer and empty Being or Being as such. However, anxiety as an existentiell or situational way of being in the world casts privation more as a lack not as an exteriority to Being for Heidegger. Heidegger imputes on Aristotle an assumption that einai meant to-be. Kahn disputes this as a certain later development in which the notion of Being cannot, in Heidegger’s definition, exclude anything. If this definition is accepted, then of course any excess would be ‘thought’ as nonsense since the definition of Being cannot be limited for Heidegger. Heidegger thought human beings can have an inauthentic relation to Being. This is more like the negative of authenticity. Being cannot have an unaccounted excess as in the earlier Greek notion of privation. Or, as we shall see for Levinas, the other is exteriority, an excess to Being. For Levinas, ‘Being’ is a totalitarian retreat from radical alterity.

Let’s look at a notion of privation from G.W. Hegel (1770-1831). In Hegelian dialectical terms what is ‘seen’ of the idea of privation is its ‘not’ or negation. Hegel was highly influenced by Aristotle. Hegel is thought of as a German Idealist. Hegel earlier in his dialectic had derived the intuitive, abstract, universal, ideal concept of self from the plurality of individual selves. He then goes on to write that the self wants an external to itself. He calls this self-externalization. Since it is impossible, as no externality exists outside the self, self-externality negates itself and in so doing transforms (lifts up, sublates, German: aufheben) itself to a point. Self-externality wants to externalize itself as a point but again finds that impossible. So, self-externality negates itself to make another point. In so doing, self-externality wants to externalize itself again but since that is impossible, self-externalization negates multiple points and transforms itself to a line. As you might guess, self-externality as a line wants to externalize itself again. However, since that is impossible, self-externalizing transforms itself to a plane. When self-externalization wants to externalize itself as a plane, it also finds that impossible. Again, self-externalization negates itself as space and becomes time. Hegel thinks space and time are natural occurrences and intuitive phenomena. I think Antonio Wolf has a better explanation of how space and time come about in Hegel,

Space, Hegel tells us, is self-externality as such. To be external to itself is the concept of space. Immediate absolute space runs away infinitely from itself and never contains itself as it is always outside itself. Without determinacy, without distinctions of spatial or any other character, this self-externality fails to be self-external. It does not succeed in going outside itself and is immediately inside itself, and so space is itself revealed as non-spatial to itself, it is the zero-dimensional point. The point, however, is also the beginning of the success of space to be spatial, for a point is how space as outside itself appears as and relates to itself. From the standpoint of the absolute runaway expanse of immediate space, its encounter with another space which is outside it is the presence of that space as a point in relation to it. Mutually these two spaces are points to each other, but how can this be? In order to appear as points they must themselves be separated, they must be divided from each other by a third self-externality which enables them. One-dimensionality, or the line, is the self-externality of points. Two-dimensionality, or the plane, is the self-externality of lines. Three-dimensionality, or volume, is the self-externality of planes. (Wolf)

The reason I bring this up is to show how entrenched the notion of self was from an earlier period of Enlightenment. Hegel takes this notion to an absolute ideal as Concept. Hegel is still very popular in many kinds of philosophical circles. We can also see from Hegel how externality is thought vis-à-vis the self’s impossibility. Here privation is literally the concept of negation. As I previously wrote the notion of privation as the ‘idea’ of dialectical negation is found in the latter ancient Greek thinker, Aristotle. In this case, what is seen as privation is the negative of a positive premise of logic. Privation finds its utter dependence on the light or showing of what is seen as idea. Privation at this point in Greek thought has become a premise of logic. Nietzsche in his dissertation work that became the book “The Birth of Tragedy” sees this period in ancient Greece as the end of the greatness of the ancient Greeks which became ‘frozen’ as logic.

It seems to me the Greeks understood the notion of privation as a kind of excess which hid from experience but nevertheless was not nothing or emptiness. It was more like Heraclitus’ notion of a river which cannot be stepped into twice. The reduction we find beginning in Christian Rome and traversing through Descartes as ‘everything which could be doubted’ to his notion of perfection and infinity as overflowing itself to be proof of the existence of God, rests in the earliest beginnings of modernity with its prejudice for short-hand reductions to the purely negative. These reductions inevitably lead to private property, self-interest, ‘practicality’, ‘utility’ as found in Enlightenment. They get simply accepted as what is real, as what is true, and cannot be separated from the idea of the state. The negative makes the universal possible as it appears to polarize the opposition or contrary of a premise making any excess or difference to it reduced to its domain. The elimination of an excess or middle term gives it the appearance of a universal account. Could it be that the state, as long as it must live under the absolute terms of ‘Being’ or ‘Idea’ from the tradition of self-interested substantia is always doomed to fail? Isn’t there a kind of anesthetic circularity in these a priori, historic and linguistic assumptions?

Back to the Age of Enlightenment

In the reduction of all to ‘Being’ or the substantia of Enlightenment that philosophers call ontology we have a kind of circularity that always already sums up all possibilities of human experience. Even what ‘Being’ isn’t finds its negative idea and thus logical (logos) totality. This useless circularity elicits a certain orientation to everything we encounter as mere objects to which we now simply think or associate as pure practicality. Being and existence itself is more generically given as what stands under all; the rubric of ‘stuff’. This then is what Hobbes referred to as the state of “mere nature” which differed from John Locke in some ways we will explore further below.

As a side note, science has, in its own way, gone well beyond the Hobbesian reduction by looking much more closely at what makes up ‘stuff’, a planet, a universe, an atom, a sub-atomic ‘particle’. For science, the word ‘particle’ is a useful abstraction.

With any other object, the object’s properties depend on its physical makeup — ultimately, its constituent particles. But those particles’ properties derive not from constituents of their own but from mathematical patterns. As points of contact between mathematics and reality, particles straddle both worlds with an uncertain footing. (Editor) [3]

A ‘particle’ is a virtual ‘wave function’. It only becomes a ‘particle’ when the wave function collapses. Even then, the ‘particle’ is more like an ocean with wave-like currents. Particles are better thought as energy fields with wave crests and troughs. The crests and troughs have higher and lower concentrations of quantum energies. Quantum waves are thought to ‘pop in and out of existence’ according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. What do they mean by ‘popping in and out of existence’? Quantum physicists tell us ‘out of existence’ means ‘virtual particles’ which do not ‘exist’ except as a highly abstract mathematical function which includes all possibilities of matter. Virtual particles are an essential part of what we think as ‘existence’. Under certain circumstances these virtual particles are elicited to make such things as electrons, protons, etc. – matter. Virtual particles may also explain entangled particles and how they can react instantly over vast distances with no respect to time and the speed of light. What we think as ‘real’, as materiality, as what shows itself to the senses can never become merely an object to the senses. It can only exist as a yet unfinished mathematics. There is no absolute ‘is’ as an object present to the senses, no substance, to reality in the way Hobbes and Enlightenment perceived it. Similarly, philosophy from the ancient Greeks to modern science and, perhaps intuitively religion, perceives that our ‘understanding’ is what is lacking. I think our history is also what makes our notions of state condemned to perpetually push Sisyphus’ stone up the hill which must always roll down from the fascist state.

To review, Hobbes viewed absolute sovereignty as a collective decision where the ruled entered unwillingly into a social contract with the sovereign. The only alternative would be the chaotic ‘state of nature’ somehow ruled under the pure signification of random materiality. Hobbes viewed this state of nature as the war of all against all. In his book, Leviathan published in 1651, he writes on social contract theory. For Hobbes, “the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” Here, self-interest meant people willingly give up some things in the hope that the sovereign authority would let them live. The social contract theory gave them a sense of order, commerce, God – meaning for their “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short lives”. (Hobbes, Leviathan XIII.9)

Ironically, Hobbes did believe in God and gave a cosmological argument for the existence of God saying the only thing we can know about God is that he is the “first cause of all causes”, and therefore, exits. (Thomas Hobbes) Here we have God as a substance which is the first cause of ‘stuff’ and the rest must be left to agnosticism. He made no attempt to explain how the ‘first cause’ could be material without a prior cause.

So, what of the state and the mere ‘state of nature’ as our model?

Hobbes’s near descendant, John Locke, insisted in his Second Treatise of Government that the state of nature was indeed to be preferred to subjection to the arbitrary power of an absolute sovereign. But Hobbes famously argued that such a “dissolute condition of masterlesse men, without subjection to Lawes, and a coercive Power to tye their hands from rapine, and revenge” would make impossible all of the basic security upon which comfortable, sociable, civilized life depends. There would be “no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” If this is the state of nature, people have strong reasons to avoid it, which can be done only by submitting to some mutually recognized public authority, for “so long a man is in the condition of mere nature, (which is a condition of war,) as private appetite is the measure of good and evill.” (Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy)

As Orwell, John Locke was highly critical of authoritarianism both on an individual and institutional level. Individuals must use critical reason to make decisions for themselves based on facts not opinions or superstitions. On the institutional level there are legitimate and illegitimate functions. Reason should be used to maximize human flourishing “for the individual and society both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare”,

It shall suffice to my present Purpose, to consider the discerning Faculties of a Man, as they are employ’d about the Objects, which they have to do with: and I shall imagine that I have not wholly misimploy’d my self in the Thoughts I shall have on this Occasion, if in this Historical, Plain Method, I can give any Account of the Ways, whereby our Understanding comes to attain those Notions of Things, and can set down any Measure of the Certainty of our Knowledge…. (I.1.2, N: 43–4—the three numbers, are book, chapter and section numbers respectively, followed by the page number in the Nidditch edition)

The term ‘idea’, Locke tells us “…stands for whatsoever is the Object of the Understanding, when a man thinks” (I.1.8, N: 47). Experience is of two kinds, sensation and reflection. One of these—sensation—tells us about things and processes in the external world. The other—reflection—tells us about the operations of our own minds. Reflection is a sort of internal sense that makes us conscious of the mental processes we are engaged in. Some ideas we get only from sensation, some only from reflection and some from both. (John Locke)

Locke tells us that sovereignty lies in the people not an aristocrat. Neither Hobbes nor Locke believed in innate ideas as Plato did with his notion of memory. Descartes thought an innate idea was infinity which was placed in our mind by God and from which we get the idea of God. Locke believed we all start as blank tablets (tabula rasa) and, as Hobbes, believed all ideas comes from the senses but Locke broadens the senses from Hobbes to include reflection. Locke, as Hobbes, also believes in social contract theory. However, his conception of the state of nature necessarily includes “natural rights”. Like Hobbes, Locke tells us an idea signifies an “Object of Understanding” which must arise from the sensation of objects in the “external world”. However, unlike Hobbes, Locke tells us ideas arise from reflection. Reflection is not merely a signifier for an object which can be abstracted from material substance but another kind or type of idea which arises from the senses. While reflection arises from senses of the external world, Locke thinks of reflection as internal. In reflection, rationality is internally based not based on external objects. Rationality in reflection gives us access to another kind of ‘state of nature’ he calls “natural rights”.

For Locke ideas could start as simple ideas but the mind could put simple ideas together to make complex ideas. There were three kinds of actions the mind could perform:

1. Complex ideas were made up of two kinds he called ideas of substance and ideas of modes. Substances are independent existents like God, angels, humans, animals, plants, etc. Modes are dependent existents.

2. Complex ideas of relation where separate ideas could be thought in relation to each other.

3. Complex ideas could be made abstract so they could leave behind particularities from which they were derived. We might call these transformations today.

He also speculated that God could add ideas to matter with a kind of internal organization which mimicked the mind. This could lead Locke to think that the soul could trans-mutate from one body to another and there could even be bodies with multiple souls. From this, it could be that the soul was immortal.

In any case, the reflective mind could ascertain a law of nature he called natural rights and which the brute beast of Hobbes would not include. Locke tells us,

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions…. (Treatises II.2.6)

Since, natural law dictated the equivalent of the Golden Rule, social contract theory was called for so that mutual respect would guarantee these rights. According to Locke, this natural right entitled everyone to life, liberty, health, and property. The U.S. Declaration of Independence contains the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which is an indication of the sway Locke had on our Founding Fathers. Also, this natural right forbid war and slavery. However, if one side started a war unjustly then Locke would allow the offenders to be taken as slaves. This consideration seemed to conveniently be left out of the original U.S. Constitution which simply stated nothing about the injustice of slavery. Additionally, Locke believed,

God, who hath given the World to Men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of Life, and convenience. The Earth, and all that is therein, is given to Men for the Support and Comfort of their being. (Locke, 1689)

In the first U.S. Constitution written by John Adams entitled “Constitution of Massachusetts”, Adams starts with (Adams, 1780),

A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

In the U.S. ‘commonwealth’ is still the official description of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The immediate influence for John Adams in thinking of a new government came from England which was a ‘British Commonwealth’. The idea of a commonwealth was not just an idea of Locke but went all the way back to the Romans and Cicero as was previously mentioned. Locke had to jump through lots of hoops to justify private property. He thought of private property as a more of a practical necessity.

As much as anyone can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much by his labor he may fix a property in; whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.31)

and furthermore,

Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of land, by improving it, any prejudice to any other man, since there was still enough, and as good left; and more than the as yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less for others because of his inclosure for himself: for he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all. No body could consider himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good draught, who had a whole river of the same water left to quench his thirst: and the case of land and water, where there is enough, is perfectly the same. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.33)

which lead to the need for money,

… before the desire of having more than one needed had altered the intrinsic value of things, which depends only on their usefulness to the life of man; or had agreed, that a little piece of yellow metal, which would keep without wasting or decay, should be worth a great piece of flesh, or a whole heap of corn; though men had a right to appropriate by their labor, each one of himself, as much of the things of nature, as he could use; yet this could not be much, nor to the prejudice of others, where the same plenty was left to those who would use the same industry. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.37)

This partage of things in an inequality of private possessions, men have made practicable out of the bounds of society, and without compact, only by putting a value on gold and silver, and tacitly agreeing to the use of money: for in governments, the laws regulate the rights of property, and the possession of land is determined by positive constitutions. (Locke, 1689) (Treatises II.5.50)

From the commonwealth that God gave to all men, Locke’s reflection based on internal ideas lead to the notion of private property and the legitimacy of money. The importance of this discussion is that Locke recognized a higher level of ideas which synthesized simple ideas into complex ideas which did not rest simply on pure substance, the ‘stuff’ of Hobbes universe. Reflection could take on a level of complexity, transformations, relations, and dependence which was not merely external but internal. In this, Locke imperfectly conceived how a world could be internally mirrored in each person. However, it also introduced major problems like, how is it every person does not have to learn language from brute repetition and individual synthesis after we are born? Perhaps for Locke, it was the trans-mutation of the soul but that is more an idea of dogma than reflection. Also, how is it that ideas came already categorized such as quantity (unity, plurality, totality), quality (reality, negation, limitation), relation (inherence and subsistence (substance and accident), causality and dependence (cause and effect), community (reciprocity)), and modality (possibility, existence, necessity)? These are the categories of understanding which Kant tells us are a priori.

Kant’s monumental breakthrough in philosophy, the transcendental method, allowed him to fuse the salient objectives of rationalism and empiricism, the two integral yet distinct views of philosophy. Rationalism attributed intellectual intuition (i.e., innate ideas) to humans dispensing the notions of universality and necessary factual knowledge whereas empiricism accorded the sensible intuition, hindering the rationalist approach. Kant helped bridge this gap by agreeing with empiricists that all human factual knowledge begins with sensible intuition (the only kind we have), and by agreeing with rationalists that we bring something a priori to the knowing process. Factual knowledge, according to Kant, involves both sensory experiences, which provide its content, and a priori mental structures, which provide its form. It is insufficient to have one without the other. He famously writes, “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind”. There is nothing for us to know without empirical, sense content; nevertheless, without such a priori frameworks, we have no method of giving intelligible form to whatever content we may have. (Gupta)

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in the article entitled “Kant and Hume on Morality”, Kant tells us the individual is autonomous, from Greek meaning ‘self-rule’. By ‘autonomy’ Kant means,

the property of the will by which it is a law to itself (independently of any property of the objects of volition)” (G 4:440). According to Kant, the will of a moral agent is autonomous in that it both gives itself the moral law (is self-legislating) and can constrain or motivate itself to follow the law (is self-constraining or self-motivating). The source of the moral law is not in the agent’s feelings or inclinations, but in her “pure” rational will, which Kant identifies as the “proper self” (G 4:461). A heteronomous will, on the other hand, is governed by something other than itself, such as an external force or authority. (Wilson, 2022)

Enlightenment is built on the notion that the proper meaning of individual will is that it is a law unto itself. Enlightenment defines the ‘law unto itself’ as self-interest. Additionally, the improper will is heterogenous as it is governed by something other than itself. If individual will is interrupted by the radical alterity of the other or by an ethics not based on the social contract of self-interest the will is condemned to inauthenticity. Therefore, autonomy is based on rationality. Kant intended that ‘proper’ self-interest would give way to a universal law. The proper meaning is satisfied by Kant’s categorical imperative which states, “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal [moral] law”. While he may have envisioned a link of altruistic ethics based on the universal, the basis is derived from me, the individual. Many powerful people have reasoned that they are the ‘final solution’ to the ignorant masses of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short lives”. However, Kant also tells us not to treat people as a means but as an end. The ‘end’ for Kant is not just any end but an end which arrives at ethics. However, when ethics is based on rationality determined by self-interest, the history of the state has repeatedly shown that it can only rise to the façade of ethics. Only an end not based on me or ‘not me’ or its endless simulacrum but on the radical infinity of the face of the other can ‘end’ find ethics.

Capitalism as formulated by Adam Smith appears to satisfy the categorical imperative in that if all people act on self-interest, then the greatest satisfaction will be generated for the greatest amount of people meaning competition produces the greatest quality product for the cheapest price. However, self-interest promotes treating people as a means and not an end. The result of this is that Kant’s notion of the proper, autonomous individual was later overtaken by capitalistic democracies to be the Enlightenment notion of self-interested individual. The greater good had become subject to and defined by the greater self-interest. Capitalism encourages and rewards self-interest. In this way it can work to amalgamate self-interests into the hands of a few. Contrarily, the Founding Fathers believed the separation of powers in the structure of our government would prevent this kind of amalgamation.

Locke’s “state of nature has a law of nature to govern it” which “obliges everyone” that “reason which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”. However, when ‘equal’ right to vote is taken as ‘the election was rigged’ or ‘life’ means a woman’s individual autonomy is subject to the state so she cannot decide under any circumstances to abort a fetus or ‘possessions’ means the one with the most toys wins while the masses of the world are impoverished, then – ‘ethics’ becomes the sole domain of the bourgeoisie and once again plants the seeds of fascism. For Kant, we have a state of nature whose self-interest leads by rationality and founds a state in which somehow self-interest and the other live in harmony. Kant’s ‘proper self’ is motivated by pure rational will, people are treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to the self-interest of others. Our Founding Fathers were fully aware of the dangerous results of self-interest which were not guided by Locke and Kant’s rationality. They believed that the checks and balances of our Constitution was built to resist such attacks. When others are treated like a means to an end, transactionally, James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers how the balance of his government structure would prevent the consolidation of power into a few,

Having reviewed the general form of the proposed government, and the general mass of power allotted to it; I proceed to examine the particular structure of this government, and the distribution of this mass of power among its constituent parts.

One of the principal objections inculcated by the more respectable adversaries to the constitution, is its supposed violation of the political maxim, that the legislative, executive and judiciary departments ought to be separate and distinct. In the structure of the federal government, no regard, it is said, seems to have been paid to this essential precaution in favor of liberty. The several departments of power are distributed and blended in such a manner, as at once to destroy all symmetry and beauty of form; and to expose some of the essential parts of the edifice to the danger of being crushed by the disproportionate weight of other parts.

No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty, than that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal constitution therefore, really chargeable with this accumulation of power or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. I persuade myself however, that it will be made apparent to every one, that the charge cannot be supported, and that the maxim on which it relies, has been totally misconceived and misapplied. In order to form correct ideas on this important subject, it will be proper to investigate the sense, in which the preservation of liberty requires, that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct. (Madison, 1788)

In this structural balance of government powers, Madison thought the basic conflict which occurs from the pure self-interest of capitalism and the enlightened rational imperative to treat others as an end in themselves would be solved for the state. However, as we have seen, the Enlightenment path of rationalism was itself built partially on the self-evidence of the objectivity of the senses which adhered to social contract. For Enlightenment, this meant that the checks and balances of self-interest would prevent, for Locke, or at least resist, for Hobbes, tyranny. It turns out after Enlightenment the trial of history demonstrated by the Trump administration pointedly tells us that self-interest does not necessarily spawn social contracts that are guided by treating others equally. Furthermore, there are no governmental checks and balances which can perpetually forestall the consolidation of various branches of government like the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government. Under the insane and dangerous lies of Trump, the corruption of the Justice Department, decades of Congressional gerrymandering, and shameful radical right-wing loading of the Supreme Court clearly demonstrate to those paying attention that the practical reality of self-interest mitigated by social contract results in one more example of the failed history of state from liberal Enlightenment. Under Trump we could have very easily lost our democracy and the next time, there will be a next time, we may not be so fortunate.

We are all baptized in the tragic consequences of being “all too human” as Nietzsche reminds us. However, the daemon of wisdom and justice requires action even when action seems impossible. It is not possible to be true to oneself without being true to the other. The state is a collection of people who are bound together for better or worse. We are not nomadic. We only find an empty shell of existence if we live in narcissistic delusions that the state is optional or able to survive by mere self-interest of a few. For Orwell, the only way the state could be viable was for the ‘state to be themselves’. However, when ‘themselves’ is conditioned by unmitigated self-interest in the socialist state, it is also doomed to failure. Eventually, the history of Enlightenment must be replaced by a new history which points us in the direction of Levinas. The only way to be ‘ourselves’ is for us to be towards the other; to face the other with integrity and conscience. The poor, the disenfranchised the oppressed must have a stake in the state for the state to thrive. Self-interest does not and cannot provide a path forward and is only forever condemned to repeat the past. The history of self-interest continually shows the battle lines of protectionism are draw by the few to prohibit entry and conserve power at the expense of the many.

Foucault’s symbiotic necessity and fog of sanity and insanity in “Madness and Civilization” is the inevitable result of creating the world, the state, in our own image. The gaze of Medusa is the narcissism of state nationalism when protected by the few. The ‘one’ as state is made up of many ‘ones’. When ‘me’ is pronounced, the invocation of the state is already assured. The existential decision which reckons with the other to which I am essentially indebted, must by decision decry the illusory fictions of self-satisfaction at the expense of the other. To paraphrase a wise man, to lose one’s life for the sake of the other is to find life. The essence of life is the other, which cannot be the propositional negation of ‘not-me’. To abandon oneself to the nationalism of self-interest is to lose oneself in auto-fascination of a supplemented and marketed recreation of reality in certain one’s own image. When all one sees is pre-manufactured history of ‘oneself’, we call this dreaming while one is awake. When those among us mock the “Woke”, they put to death exteriority. The externality of the other recognizes indebtedness to the destitution and plight of the other. The prescription to be warm and filled by the bourgeoisie is like giving vinegar to a thirsty man dying on a Roman cross. Orwell recognized the monstrosity of the elite and the impending doom of the holocaust. He recognized the source as the unmitigated, protectionist strategies of the wealthy which pitted the other into a war of all against all, a Hobbesian Leviathan, a Machiavellian prince, a Donald Trump. Orwell also wrote about how even Catholicism, or I would add Christianity in general, has been sublimated in service to the nationalism of self-interest. Currently, in the U.S we are seeing the rise of Christian Nationalism. How will this be any different from what the Maga people call Sharia law?

Totalization of the Other Culminates in Nationalism of the State

From the perspective of the dominate occidental, philosophical history of ‘Being’ called ontology, the other is an idea, an eidos. This is fundamental to liberal Enlightenment as we have seen. The idea of the individual is universalized in the collectivity of self-interest under social contract theory. This is utilitarian transactionalism as the essence of the other. Transactionalism is only possible when the modality of the other is already, a priori, understood as eidos. The other becomes ‘presence’ as idea. This seems to me to take on the same reduction as substance which I discussed earlier. The other is substance as idea. Self-interest requires us to make use of the substance of the other who has become idea so we can acquire capital. To harken back to Heidegger and the idea of environment as standing reserve, we can also use the environment in the self-interest of capital acquisition. But what is the break between Heidegger and his ex-student Levinas?

Here is where the massive split between Levinas and Heidegger begins. For Heidegger, ‘Being’ (German: Sein) is a totality without excess. For Levinas, Heidegger’s ‘Being’ is a ‘nationalism’ of the highest order. Reinforcing Levinas’ claim is the fact that Heidegger committed himself to Nazism when he became the Rector of Freiberg University in 1933. While Levinas certainly understood Heidegger’s tact on the concrete facticity of lived human being in such acts as lived space and time, standing reserve of technology and the environment, the experience of art, etc., Levinas had a fundamental difference with the consignment of the other to Being. Additionally, Heidegger also discussed the everydayness of the ‘they-self’ (das man) as an inauthentic modality of being-in-the world. Wrathall writes this in his “Being-with (mitsein)” summary,

BEING-WITH is the character of DASEIN whereby it is always already structurally related to other Daseins (even when one is alone and others are actually absent). Mitsein (literally “being-with”) in everyday German simply means “togetherness” or “companionship,” but in Being and Time Heidegger gives the term a particular philosophical inflection. The everyday, public, cultural world of oneself among others is a “primary phenomenon” for Heidegger. Each one exists in a world saturated with others linked through shared social practices. (24. – Being-with (Mitsein), 2021)

For Heidegger, ‘being-with’ can fall into the inauthenticity of ‘everydayness’ he calls the ‘they-self’ (das man). Levinas found that such renditions of others reenforced a kind of totalism, or I would say a nationalism of Spirit, in the form of Being. Levinas asks us, are all experiences consumed by the totality of Being or are there concrete experiences which point towards an exteriority to Being? Certainly, as we have seen, concrete relations to others can take on transactional qualities but does that sum up our experiences of the other? The occidental history of metaphysics evolved from Aristotle’s inquiry into the physics of ‘first philosophy’, the study of being as being, to other ancient wisdom traditions to the advent of Christian metaphysics in Rome, and perhaps even from questions that loom in modern physics on the big bang (or big bounces) beg the question of first causes.

For Heidegger, metaphysics is ‘Being’ suspended over nothingness. He claims metaphysics asks the question, why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing? Jose Conrado A. Estafia tells us,

Science, with all its vastness, only deals with something. It accepts nothing of the nothing. For how can the nothing be tested or verified? We need not trouble about the nothing. “Science,” observes Heidegger, “wishes to know nothing of the nothing.” Science, in expressing its own proper essence, never calls upon the nothing for help. In the midst of this “controversy” the question begins to unfold and must be formulated explicitly: “How is it with nothing?” Such kind of inquiry may presuppose something. Thus we “posit the nothing in advance as something that ‘is’ such and such; we posit it as a being.” Our assumption is that nothing is something this or that. Hence Heidegger proceeds by saying that, with regard to the nothing, “question and answer alike are inherently absurd.” (Estafia, 2019)

However, for Heidegger, the metaphysical question brings us “for the first time before beings as such”. Estafia writes,

This is the reason why logic can never be of help in the original revelation of the truth of our existence. Heidegger’s declaration that logic is not primarily important for philosophy means that logic merely deals with the “surface phenomena of meaning – theoretical propositions.” The nothing is no object or any being at all. With nothing the manifestation of beings as such is possible. Heidegger believes that “in the being of beings the nihilation of the nothing occurs.” With this original nihilation of the nothing, Dasein is brought “for the first time before beings as such.” (Estafia, 2019)

For Levinas, metaphysics is the failed history of the radical alterity of the other. This can be demonstrated by many violent histories of theism. Additionally, instead of a face as Levinas would tell us, Heidegger finds the nothingness of metaphysics brings us before the question of Being as a whole. Heidegger writes,

Our inquiry concerning the nothing is to bring us face to face with metaphysics itself

….

Metaphysics is inquiry beyond or over beings that aims to recover them as such and as a whole for our grasp. In the question concerning the nothing such an inquiry beyond or over beings, beings as a whole, takes place. It proves thereby to be a “metaphysical” question. (Heidegger)

Levinas believes metaphysics historically lost its way from the root of metaphysics, which was always anchored in phenomenal, concrete experiences of radical alterity, the other. It is the question of exteriority with a face, a face of the he or she that we concretely experience. His inquiry asks, what was the metaphysical experience really always about? Do we get the notion of metaphysics from the question of nothingness which brings us before “beings as such” or does nothingness have a face? Is it possible that infinity is not just mathematical, not just a supposition of a mathematical singularity, or a Cartesian idea? Is it possible that the retreat from infinity which we face every day gets effaced by Being, by history and language as idea? If so, doesn’t this fundamentally change our orientation to ethics? Instead of ethics as social contract in the service of self-interest or some optional consideration of altruism, could it be that ethics points to a radical exteriority to all our lived experiences as mine (Heidegger, jemeinigkeit, “mineness”) or mitsein (literally “being-with”)? As we have seen, does the history of liberal Enlightenment level over the meta in our experience of the other? My question in this post is, if so, can we write an other history. Can we start a history more habitable for the planet and for each other?

If beings can only be understood in the framework of Being, the presentation of the other is already mediated into an authentic or inauthentic conception or experience of Being. However, the other which stands before me in his or her presentation is not always, already understood as a universal. The mode in which I actually encounter the other is not an assimilation or covering over of Being. Nor is it merely a repetitive simulacrum of some prefabricated mirage or phantasma of a face. Levinas goes even further to suggest that using the other as a means to an end has also become an end in itself – but not of the other, of the end as totalization. Totalization of the other is violent in its reduction. It is domination and slavery in the service of use-value to borrow a term of Karl Marx. Here, the exchange is human capital captivated by marketing in the useful object’s unknowing enslavement to artificial needs. The other has become a cog in a machine and as such is an end in itself – Levinas calls this murder.

The popular criticism of the ‘bad faith’ other (“othering me”) as the way others get objectified as an insufficient, evil, ignorant, weaker, inferior other is not the other at all. It is the idea of an other projected onto the other. It is the by-product of self-interest which totalizes the other, retreats from the face of the other as Levinas would tell us. It is the a priori historic, cultural map which defines reality and, in so doing, imprisons us in an internality without any reference to externality, the alterity of the other. The other in this sense is not the other at all but my own narcissistic face which gets taken as the other. If there is a hell, it is the one without another, my self-interest as ‘all there is’. In my estimation of Levinas, ontology is the totality of me without an other, without radical externality. Externality is not of the idea of God but externality has a face. The other does not inhabit my time, my space my universe as the totality of me. In Christian metaphysics, isn’t this the sin of vanity that cast the arch-angel Lucifer out of heaven into external hell – the sin of absolute narcissism? When a collectivity of self-interested ‘me-s’ create a state, it is inevitable that nationalism will doom the state to authoritarianism and fascism. Eventually, those who consolidate their self-interested power over others will create the Hobbesian state of Leviathan, the war of all against all. The war of all against all is fundamentally the absolute incongruity of one without the other.

Our history and language are not inconsequential as Enlightenment’s raw sense data would have us believe. Some might think it was fashioned for a reason, for survival. However, at the present time this tool which we employ has become a detriment to our planet and our survival. We need only look at the tragic failures of modernity to the present to understand that our time for adaptation to an essentially other history is now. Climate change informs us it can no longer be postponed. Ethics, altruism, self-interest, our major religions have all left us helpless to have a state which is survivable for us and the planet. The voice of Levinas offers a radical solution to start a history which does not retreat, deface, and totalize the other. What is needed is a recognition that the insufficiency of history itself gives no avenue for the other to be radically external other from the ‘me’ of history. This new history would be the call of responsibility to me to put away the historic narcissism of self-interested me-ism and recognize our limitations by allowing a radical alterity in the face of she or he. A history which allows exteriority is a history which fully realizes that we are not creators of reality. We have gifts freely given to us from the unknowing of birth which now must lead us to the recognition of externality – not just neutral, homogenized externality but externality which brings ‘me’ into fundamental question. For the first time the responsible choice to recognize radical externality of a he or she that is not a “not -me”, a negation of me, but a he or she, or they of the “third other” (mentioned below from Levinas’ latter work “Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence”). The externality of the other is not in my power, my history, or my freedom to comprehend. I think even the current state of modern physics should at least hint of the gravity of what we do not know.

The other that we stand before interrupts my deliberation of who she is. She is not called forth from my comprehension. She interrupts my monologue of her essence. Not only is she not contingent on me but she always breaks through the plastic caste I make of her face. She is not a derivative of my lived temporality or my lived space. She is a radical exteriority, a time not my time, a space not my space. I will never know her essence. Her ‘being’ is my radical reduction of her not who she is. My history, the history of Enlightenment has led me towards a totalization of her and not-her. She is not a moment of my freedom. I have no power over her. Therefore, I must recognize my powerlessness and my debt to her before my will and my power can define her. The only way to recognize her radical alterity which cannot be a not-me is in the responsibility of ethics. Ethics is the recognition of my inability before the infinitude of her or him. My politics required by this ethics is not based in some altruistic or benevolent concern. It is based on my debt to the stranger, the sojourner, the indigent, the oppressed that faces me.

In relation to beings in the opening of being, comprehension finds a signification for them on the basis of being. In this sense, it does not invoke these beings but only names them, thus accomplishing a violence and a negation. A partial negation which is violence. This partiality is indicated by the fact that, without disappearing, those beings are in my power. Partial negation, which is violence, denies the independence of being: it belongs to me. Possession is the mode whereby a being, while existing, is partially denied. It. is not only a question of the fact that the being is an instrument, a tool, that is to say, a means. It is an end also. As consumable, it is nourishment and in enjoyment, it offers itself, gives itself, belongs to me. To be sure vision measures my power over the object, but it is already enjoyment. The encounter with the other (autrui) consists in the fact that despite the extent of my domination and his slavery, I do not possess him. He does not enter entirely into the opening of being where I already stand, as in the field of my freedom. It is not starting from being in general that he comes to meet me. Everything which comes to me from the other (autrui) starting from being in general certainly offers itself to my comprehension and possession. I understand him in the framework of his history, his surroundings and habits. That which escapes comprehension in the other (autrui) is him, a being. I cannot negate him partially, in violence, in grasping him within the horizon of being in general and possessing him. The Other (Autrui) is the sole being whose negation can only announce itself as total: as murder. The Other (Autrui) is the sole being I can wish to kill. (Levinas)

I find Levinas’ remarks here to be almost eerily reminiscent of what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount.

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Mathew 5:21 (MBT)

This is also repeated in 1 John.

If you hate each other, you are murderers, and we know murderers do not have eternal life. 1 John 3:15 (CEV)

The retreat from the other which stands before us into the totalitarianism of history, of Being, is the inevitable leveling off the same as reduction to idea, to substance, to mere presence before the self-interested ‘me’. The other is simply the understood ‘not-me’. When the collection of ‘not-me-s’ become a state, this is the definition of nationalism and its certain demise into fascism. In view of this, how could the state work in a way which is habitable for the planet and us?

What would Levinas’ State Look Like?

Levinas has been thought from one political theorist as a kind of “inverted liberalism”. In Fred Alford’s words,

“Three propositions about the state define Levinas’ project: peace is impossible within the state; peace is possible only beyond the state; going beyond the state to find peace cannot mean leaving the state behind. All three propositions are reflected in the title of article published shortly after his death, “Beyond the State in the State.” (Alford, 2004)

This presents a very difficult challenge in trying to find a political strategy in Levinas. Alford tells us,

One way to take his challenge seriously is to demonstrate that Levinas’ thinking does not fit into any of the categories by which we ordinarily approach political theory. If one were forced to categorize Levinas’ political theory, the term inverted liberalism would come closest to the mark. As long, that is, as one emphasizes the term “inverted” over “liberalism.” Levinas’ defense of liberalism is likely the strangest defense the reader has encountered. We should, argues Levinas, foster and protect the individual because only the individual can see the tears of the other, the tears that even the just regime cannot see. The individual is to be fostered and protected for the sake of the other individual. (Alford, 2004)

From my understanding of Levinas, we encounter the other in an anarchical (without origin) infinity which cannot be temporally consumed. I think of it as a kind of awkward nakedness in which we are left bare until we can immediately cover ourselves with temporality, with history, with Being. Levinas refers us to radical alterity, an interruption of the face of the other. Being is the garb from which we hide from the other. We temporalize the other in existence as an ‘existent’, a being among other beings, a thing among other things. In other words, we retreat from the infinite face of the other into history as if from chaos. Even ‘chaos’ is already thought as origin in Hesiod. From chaos and dystopia, we already are determining and determined as universal, as retreat from the temporal determination of horror. The ‘fear of death’ becomes ground for retreat. In chapter 17 of Huxley’s “Brave New World”, Mustapha is extolling the virtues of the drug soma to John telling him,

And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears—that’s what soma is. (Huxley, 1932)

In Huxley’s book soma is a drug which makes Huxley’s futuristic, dystopia possible. The future is here for MAGA Republicans. We have finally seen a Christianity without tears. They envision a state where the traditional, ‘tried and true’ comes back in the form of Christian Nationalism’s ‘democratic autocracy’ and they blink. Autocracy here is guaranteed by the ‘true’ majority in which voting can only reflect their ‘trueness’.

For the first time social problems and the struggles between humans do not reveal the ultimate meaning of the real. This end of the world will lack the last judgement. The elements exceed the states that until now contained them. Reason no longer appears in political wisdom, but in the historically unconditioned truths announcing cosmic dangers. For politics is substituted a cosmo-politics that is a physics. (Caygill, 2000)

Reminiscent of Huxley’s ‘somatic’ futuristic virtues, Caygill points to a Baudrillardian nether world in which simulacra begets simulacra ad infinitum. Judgement has been replaced by titillation and ‘somatic’ delight. Marketing is the futuristic oracle of Apollo at Delphi where instead of the declaration that Socrates was “the most free, upright, and prudent of all people” we have the state is “the most free, upright, and prudent of all” states or Trump is “the most free, upright, and prudent of all people”. Truth is what Trump says. Contradiction itself has become the truth of non-sensical. In nationalism’s extreme, the Enlightenment tradition based on sense data gets given over to a ‘sense’ without externality. In all this we hear the echo of Nietzsche’s last man where absolute mediocrity wins the day. The state as totality levels off. Nationalism determines and is determined by the place of custom, tradition, manufactured reality. Marketing becomes the ‘physics’ of what is.

For Levinas, the totalitarian state is a vehicle that must always flee from my responsibility to the other. In the radical asymmetry and timelessness of the exteriority of the other we are held hostage, powerless to utilize the state, our state, in pure self-interest. We must retreat from an anarchical past which we never knew. We must temporalize the other to retreat from primal fear which has already brought the other into a symmetry, a relation, which mediates our fundamental angst. In our moment of horrific retreat, we envision Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. However, the other we shrink from is not the infinity of the other but the finitude of our phantom-sized proximity to the other. Proximity to the other which has lost the distance of infinity is our account, logos, of the other. On this account, proximity is the physics of space and time where people ‘things’ mingle. I am related to another in pre-determined ‘physics’ of the state unknowingly derived from the history of Being.

But unless there is an ‘I’ how can there even be an other? The ego must be, exist, to retreat from the face of the other. We must be temporally embodied as a condition for the encounter of the radical alterity of other. The ‘I’ is not extinguished by the other. Only in embodiment can the other face us. Fleeing from the face of the other is not an active choice. It is raw impulse inextricably wedded to the ‘there of being’ as Heidegger situates ‘mineness’ (jemeinigkeit). Furthermore, we are not alone. We encounter many others. The encounter of many others is what Levinas refers to as the “third other”.

When we retreat from the other, we retreat from many others. Here Frankenstein is no longer a monster but many monsters. This is the encounter of the evil others where violence to the other is taken up into justice. In the determinations of good and evil we efface all the others. Here we have the state. The state as composed of many others is the historic, cultural ground from which justice is required and to which it is invented without reference to the radical alterity of the other which faces ‘me’ with tears. To the degree that justice is ‘soma’, we level off the encounter with others as appeasement, as transactional. Justice becomes self-justification. Justice is ‘the election was rigged’. It is the mechanism which vindicates, sanctifies, and translates us into Lewis Carrol’s up is down and down is up. However, justice need not cover over shame. Shame is the essence of retreat from others. We hide ourselves from the nakedness of the face of others.

This is how we arrive at Alford’s notion of “inverted liberalism”. From the Enlightenment era of Hobbes and Locke, practicality as my embodiment is taken up as the liberal tradition of individuality. We are all individuals, single monads in a collectivity, in which we live and move and have our being in the day to day so how can there be a beyond the state? How can Alford tell us,

“Three propositions about the state define Levinas’ project: peace is impossible within the state; peace is possible only beyond the state; going beyond the state to find peace cannot mean leaving the state behind.” (Alford, 2004)

Apart from the seeming senseless riddle of this statement, how can the practical embodiment for individuals in the state be anything other than what it presents to us in the day to day? In view of my recent discussion, I would rather put Alford’s statement like this:

“peace is impossible within the state”

The face-to-face encounter with the other is impossible in ontology, totality, nationalism also known as the history of Being. The other must always be leveled off, comprehended, and totalized as a practical this or that which becomes the foundation of the state. Peace as decision to not level off the other cannot be achieved in the practicality of the enlightened state or any nationalism.

“peace is possible only beyond the state”

The determination that the stranger, the indigent, the disenfranchised are not simply refuse of the state cannot be achieved by a collectivity of enlightened individuals in the self-interested, totalitarian state. Only by a ‘beyond’ the state to a face-to-face encounter with alterity of the other can the state be viable. The viability of the state is only possible when the other is not reduced to mere existents, objects, cogs in a ‘being machine’ waiting for the lightning strike of animation. It turns out the day-to-day practicality of the state cannot produce a living human being but a disembodied human being which impossibly can never come to life except in the fictions of groupthink. Here groupthink goes well beyond Orwell’s critique of Stalin and penetrates the very fabric of occidental, democratic liberalism. Groupthink must inevitably produce monsters not others. To go beyond the state is to decide on a day-today basis to let groupthink go and let the other be other. The other is not simply a ‘not-me’, not simply substance, a thing, animated by the metaphysical lightning strike which magically makes life. There is no infinite regression into a ‘Huxleyian’ utopia which always mediates, codetermines, and thus, universalizes. Beyond the state is not deep philosophy but simple decision which in the day-to-day restrains itself from mediation in deference to the immediacy of radical alterity, of the he or she which faces me.

“going beyond the state to find peace cannot mean leaving the state behind”

In this then we come back to the state but ‘inverted’. I am no longer determined by the state but determine by decision my responsibility to the other which exceeds the state. I think Alford is correct in suggesting that Levinas comes back to liberal democracy but ‘inverted’ or as I would suggest, radical rupture which invigorates us by decision to help the poor, the stranger and the disenfranchised. Externally, we still look like a liberal democracy, but not by ‘self-interested enlightenment of the other’ – by my decision based on the radical, anarchic encounter with the face of the other which resists place and situatedness in my determinations. A state cannot see tears. Only I can see tears. Only I can decide I am responsible.

Conclusion

The impossibility Orwell faced in a meaningless world was not vanquished but simply receded into the simmering politics of post-World War II states. The liberal democracy in which Orwell envisioned in socialism was not utopian but the best form of dystopia. It can only find its dark promise in Huxley’s future. It can only repeat an Orwellian past in ebbs and flows from marketed, utilitarian determinations of the nationalistic state to apocalyptic nightmare. Here ‘meaning’ is subsumed by a Derridean ‘differance’ where endless deferment results in the trace which is,

not a presence but is rather the simulacrum of a presence that dislocates, displaces, and refers beyond itself. The trace has, properly speaking, no place, for effacement belongs to the very structure of the trace. (Derrida, 1973)

The trace never ends in my freedom. The trace is my infinite regression of one without the other. However, the trace is not an infinite regression as Baudrillard thought. Levinas tells us the choice which ends the infinite regression of trace is not the never-ending mediation of the face but the ethics of responsibility which interrupts history with the radical rupture of infinity; an infinity which was never mine but him or her.

The state cannot be a mediated field of ghastly dreams in which the passivity of nebulous nationalism is homogenized by mass marketing dressed up as truth values – an endless procession of a presence which never gets revealed. Passivity is death. Virtual reality is an oxymoron imbued as true. The simple face of she or he is not immediacy which begins or continues mediation as Hegel would have it. Its immediacy is anarchic, without origin, as Moses’ inability to look at the face of God without hiding in the cleft of the rock. Such analogies are meant to ask us, do we really know what we think we know. Are we really so sure that a face is merely a mediated idea of a face not dissimilar from a rock – a mere body of Concept or physics? Can we perhaps sense an encounter where ‘sense’ did not immediately cover over something raw, radically unknown, which felt infinite only to reflexively draw away back into something that felt more like home? Did you ever feel a glimpse of another as radical rupture which threw you back on yourself? And yet, you were stone cold sober. Isn’t love really the shadow of the otherness of the other where idea arrives too late? Levinas invites us to simply encounter the other as if we were the stranger to the one who cannot ‘know’, the eyes of whom we look. Perhaps, we are not alone in an assumed cosmic machine but have retreated away from the other which cannot ‘be’, cannot have origin, cannot be synchronously invested in me. Only when the political can be beyond ontology for ‘me’ can I find a state, can we find a state, which is found upon a history not yet written of state that brings forth the ethics of responsibility for the other and for environing which preserves and sustains environment as the cradle of incomprehensible others. While this seems like high-brow philosophy it is embodied in the simple face to face encounter with the other. It is not restricted to the domain of academic philosophy. It need only meet with humility as choice taken into responsibility to the other whom we do not know, who cries before us as if he or she was not in my thought, nor the wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but the “the still, small voice” saying but not ever captured in the said.

“My effort consists in showing that knowledge is in reality an immanence, and that there is no rupture of the isolation of being in knowledge; and on the other hand, that in communication of knowledge one is found beside the Other, not confronted with him, not in the rectitude of the in-front-of-him. But being in direct relation with the Other is not to thematize the Other and consider him in the same manner as one considers a known object, nor to communicate a knowledge to him. In reality, the fact of being is what is most private; existence is the sole thing I cannot communicate; I can tell about it, but I cannot share my existence. Solitude thus appears as the isolation which marks the very event of being. The social is beyond ontology.” (Levinas, Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Philippe Nemo, 1985)

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Further Reading Links:

https://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s3.html
https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/the-limits-of-reason-in-hobbes-s-commonwealth/
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heidegger/
https://orb.binghamton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1094&context=sagp
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/
https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/complicated-presence-heidegger-and-the-postmetaphysical-unity-of-being/

End Notes:

[1] More from Orwell, The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius:

  1. Incomes. Limitation of incomes implies the fixing of a minimum wage, which implies a managed internal currency based simply on the amount of consumption-goods available. And this again implies a stricter rationing-scheme than is now in operation. It is no use at this stage of the world’s history to suggest that all human beings should have exactly equal incomes. It has been shown over and over again that without some kind of money reward there is no incentive to undertake certain jobs. On the other hand the money reward need not be very large. In practice it is impossible that earnings should be limited quite as rigidly as I have suggested. There will always be anomalies and evasions. But there is no reason why ten to one should not be the maximum normal variation. And within those limits some sense of equality is possible. A man with £3 a week and a man with £1,500 a year can feel themselves fellow-creatures, which the Duke of Westminster and the sleepers on the Embankment benches cannot.

III. Education. In wartime, educational reform must necessarily be promise rather than performance. At the moment we are not in a position to raise the school-leaving age or increase the teaching staffs of the Elementary Schools. But there are certain immediate steps that we could take towards a democratic educational system. We could start by abolishing the autonomy of the public schools and the older universities and flooding them with State-aided pupils chosen simply on grounds of ability. At present, public-school education is partly a training in class prejudice and partly a sort of tax that the middle classes pay to the upper class in return for the right to enter certain professions. It is true that that state of affairs is altering. The middle classes have begun to rebel against the expensiveness of education, and the war will bankrupt the majority of the public schools if it continues for another year or two. The evacuation is also producing certain minor changes. But there is a danger that some of the older schools, which will be able to weather the financial storm longest, will survive in some form or another as festering centres of snobbery. As for the 10,000 “private” schools that England possesses, the vast majority of them deserve nothing except suppression. They are simply commercial undertakings, and in many cases their educational level is actually lower than that of the Elementary Schools. They merely exist because of a widespread idea that there is something disgraceful in being educated by the public authorities. The State could quell this idea by declaring itself responsible for all education, even if at the start this were no more than a gesture. We need gestures, as well as actions. It is all too obvious that our talk of “defending democracy” is nonsense while it is a mere accident of birth that decides whether a gifted child shall or shall not get the education it deserves.

  1. India. What we must offer India is not “freedom”, which, I have said earlier, is impossible, but alliance, partnership – in a word, equality. But we must also tell the Indians that they are free to secede, if they want to. Without that there can be no equality of partnership, and our claim to be defending the coloured peoples against Fascism will never be believed. But it is a mistake to imagine that if the Indians were free to cut themselves adrift they would immediately do so. When a British government offers them unconditional independence, they will refuse it. For as soon as they have the power to secede the chief reasons for doing so will have disappeared.

A complete severance of the two countries would be a disaster for India no less than for England. Intelligent Indians know this. As things are at present, India not only cannot defend itself, it is hardly even capable of feeding itself. The whole administration of the country depends on a framework of experts (engineers, forest officers, railwaymen, soldiers, doctors) who are predominantly English and could not be replaced within five or ten years. Moreover, English is the chief lingua franca and nearly the whole of the Indian intelligentsia is deeply anglicised. Any transference to foreign rule – for if the British marched out of India the Japanese and other powers would immediately march in – would mean an immense dislocation. Neither the Japanese, the Russians, the Germans nor the Italians would be capable of administering India even at the low level of efficiency that is attained by the British. They do not possess the necessary supplies of technical experts or the knowledge of languages and local conditions, and they probably could not win the confidence of indispensable go-betweens such as the Eurasians. If India were simply “liberated”, i.e. deprived of British military protection, the first result would be a fresh foreign conquest, and the second a series of enormous famines which would kill millions of people within a few years.

What India needs is the power to work out its own constitution without British interference, but in some kind of partnership that ensures its military protection and technical advice. This is unthinkable until there is a Socialist government in England. For at least eighty years England has artificially prevented the development of India, partly from fear of trade competition if Indian industries were too highly developed, partly because backward peoples are more easily governed than civilized ones. It is a commonplace that the average Indian suffers far more from his own countrymen than from the British. The petty Indian capitalist exploits the town worker with the utmost ruthlessness, the peasant lives from birth to death in the grip of the moneylender. But all this is an indirect result of the British rule, which aims half-consciously at keeping India as backward as possible. The classes most loyal to Britain are the princes, the landowners and the business community – in general, the reactionary classes who are doing fairly well out of the status quo. The moment that England ceased to stand towards India in the relation of an exploiter, the balance of forces would be altered. No need then for the British to flatter the ridiculous Indian princes, with their gilded elephants and cardboard armies, to prevent the growth of the Indian Trade Unions, to play off Moslem against Hindu, to protect the worthless life of the moneylender, to receive the salaams of toadying minor officials, to prefer the half-barbarous Gurkha to the educated Bengali. Once check that stream of dividends that flows from the bodies of Indian coolies to the banking accounts of old ladies in Cheltenham, and the whole sahib-native nexus, with its haughty ignorance on one side and envy and servility on the other, can come to an end. Englishmen and Indians can work side by side for the development of India, and for the training of Indians in all the arts which, so far, they have been systematically prevented from learning. How many of the existing British personnel in India, commercial or official, would fall in with such an arrangement – which would mean ceasing once and for all to be “sahibs” – is a different question. But, broadly speaking, more is to be hoped from the younger men and from those officials (civil engineers, forestry and agriculture experts, doctors, educationists) who have been scientifically educated. The higher officials, the provincial governors, commissioners, judges, etc., are hopeless; but they are also the most easily replaceable.

That, roughly, is what would be meant by Dominion status if it were offered to India by a Socialist government. It is an offer of partnership on equal terms until such time as the world has ceased to be ruled by bombing planes. But we must add to it the unconditional right to secede. It is the only way of proving that we mean what we say. And what applies to India applies, mutatis mutandis, to Burma, Malaya and most of our African possessions.

V and VI explain themselves. They are the necessary preliminary to any claim that we are fighting this war for the protection of peaceful peoples against Fascist aggression.

Is it impossibly hopeful to think that such a policy as this could get a following in England? A year ago, even six months ago, it would have been, but not now. Moreover – and this is the peculiar opportunity of this moment – it could be given the necessary publicity. There is now a considerable weekly press, with a circulation of millions, which would be ready to popularize – if not exactly the programme I have sketched above, at any rate some policy along those lines. There are even three or four daily papers which would be prepared to give it a sympathetic hearing. That is the distance we have travelled in the last six months.

But is such a policy realizable? That depends entirely on ourselves.

Some of the points I have suggested are of the kind that could be carried out immediately, others would take years or decades and even then would not be perfectly achieved. No political programme is ever carried out in its entirety. But what matters is that that or something like it should be our declared policy. It is always the direction that counts. It is of course quite hopeless to expect the present government to pledge itself to any policy that implies turning this war into a revolutionary war. It is at best a government of compromise, with Churchill riding two horses like a circus acrobat. Before such measures as limitation of incomes become even thinkable, there will have to be complete shift of power away from the old ruling class. If during this winter the war settles into another stagnant period, we ought in my opinion to agitate for a General Election, a thing which the Tory Party machine will make frantic efforts to prevent. But even without an election we can get the government we want, provided that we want it urgently enough. A real shove from below will accomplish it. As to who will be in that government when it comes, I make no guess. I only know that the right men will be there when the people really want them, for it is movements that make leaders and not leaders movements.

Within a year, perhaps even within six months, if we are still unconquered, we shall see the rise of something that has never existed before, a specifically English Socialist movement. Hitherto there has been only the Labour Party, which was the creation of the working class but did not aim at any fundamental change, and Marxism, which was a German theory interpreted by Russians and unsuccessfully transplanted to England. There was nothing that really touched the heart of the English people. Throughout its entire history the English Socialist movement has never produced a song with a catchy tune – nothing like La Marseillaise or La Cucaracha, for instance. When a Socialist movement native to England appears, the Marxists, like all others with a vested interest in the past, will be its bitter enemies. Inevitably they will denounce it as ‘Fascism’. Already it is customary among the more soft-boiled intellectuals of the Left to declare that if we fight against Nazis we shall “go Nazi” ourselves. They might almost equally well say that if we fight Negroes we shall turn black. To “go Nazi” we should have to have the history of Germany behind us. Nations do not escape from their past merely by making a revolution. An English Socialist government will transform the nation from top to bottom, but it will still bear all over it the unmistakable marks of our own civilization, the peculiar civilization which I discussed earlier in this book.

It will not be doctrinaire, nor even logical. It will abolish the House of Lords, but quite probably will not abolish the Monarchy. It will leave anachronisms and loose ends everywhere, the judge in his ridiculous horsehair wig and the lion and the unicorn on the soldier’s cap-buttons. It will not set up any explicit class dictatorship. It will group itself round the old Labour Party and its mass following will be in the Trade Unions, but it will draw into it most of the middle class and many of the younger sons of the bourgeoisie. Most of its directing brains will come from the new indeterminate class of skilled workers, technical experts, airmen, scientists, architects and journalists, the people who feel at home in the radio and ferro-concrete age. But it will never lose touch with the tradition of compromise and the belief in a law that is above the State. It will shoot traitors, but it will give them a solemn trial beforehand, and occasionally it will acquit them. It will crush any open revolt promptly and cruelly, but it will interfere very little with the spoken and written word. Political parties with different names will still exist, revolutionary sects will still be publishing their newspapers and making as little impression as ever. It will disestablish the Church, but will not persecute religion. It will retain a vague reverence for the Christian moral code, and from time to time will refer to England as “a Christian country”. The Catholic Church will war against it, but the Nonconformist sects and the bulk of the Anglican Church will be able to come to terms with it. It will show a power of assimilating the past which will shock foreign observers and sometimes make them doubt whether any revolution has happened.

But all the same it will have done the essential thing. It will have nationalized industry, scaled down incomes, set up a classless educational system. Its real nature will be apparent from the hatred which the surviving rich men of the world will feel for it. It will aim not at disintegrating the Empire but at turning it into a federation of Socialist states, freed not so much from the British flag as from the moneylender, the dividend-drawer and the wooden-headed British official. Its war-strategy will be totally different from that of any property-ruled state, because it will not be afraid of the revolutionary after-effects when any existing régime is brought down. It will not have the smallest scruple about attacking hostile neutrals or stirring up native rebellion in enemy colonies. It will fight in such a way that even if it is beaten its memory will be dangerous to the victor, as the memory of the French Revolution was dangerous to Metternich’s Europe. The dictators will fear it as they could not fear the existing British régime, even if its military strength were ten times what it is.

But at this moment, when the drowsy life of England has barely altered, and the offensive contrast of wealth and poverty still exists everywhere, even amid the bombs, why do I dare to say that all these things “will” happen?

Because the time has come when one can predict the future in terms of an “either – or”. Either we turn this war into a revolutionary war (I do not say that our policy will be exactly what I have indicated above – merely that it will be along those general lines) or we lose it, and much more besides. Quite soon it will be possible to say definitely that our feet are set upon one path or the other. But at any rate it is certain that with our present social structure we cannot win. Our real forces, physical, moral or intellectual, cannot be mobilized.

[2] Additional Information:

https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/scientists-just-achieved-a-breakthrough-in-quantum-computing/, https://scitechdaily.com/quantum-breakthrough-researchers-demonstrate-full-control-of-a-three-qubit-system/, https://newsroom.ibm.com/2021-11-16-IBM-Unveils-Breakthrough-127-Qubit-Quantum-Processor

[3] Additional Information:

https://sites.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/teaching/HPS_0410/chapters/quantum_theory_waves/index.html
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-virtual-particles-rea/
https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/july-2009/60-seconds-virtual-particles

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