Corps-etat: The Corporate State

State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it tells lies too; and this lie crawls out of its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” That is a lie! (Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra)

There is quite a lot of talk today about the “State” and the “Corporate State” specifically. Critiquing it mercilessly, Chris Hedges finally asks plaintively, “When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?” Let us gingerly explore the concepts of the State, the body-politic, and the Corporate State in some detail.

While the primal and intimate bonds of egalitarian kinship find their proper home at the cradle of human social organization, it is difficult accounting for the rather cold and calculating systems of hierarchy that firmly (yet often quietly) manage and manipulate our daily lives: from kinship, through kingship, to the modern State. Whether we consider the marketing marvel of American corporatocracy, the modern Islamic theocracy of Iran, the late Libyan dictatorship of Col. Gaddafi, or a host of other kleptocratic regimes now peopling the globe today – abuse, belligerence, control, corruption, and condescension seem to run rampant. Similar scenarios are repeated, more or less, in one international venue after another.  Whether it is revolution in Libya, protests in Syria, riots in Italy, Greece or England, Occupations in the USA, or a military coup in Egypt, the State appears in each case as a source of conflict demanding resolution.

The State (Etat), then, is our first and immediate concern – and yet not always such a clear and present danger. But, what exactly is this entity?  Most significantly for our present inquiry, the State is a mechanism dedicated to breaking down (destroying) the primary nurturing bonds of kinship (Plato), in order to replace them with new bonds of citizenship.  As Professor Marvin Bram observes,

[In a ‘post-kinship’ world] the nuclear family by itself cannot resist the impingements of modern political and economic institutions… In fact, those modern political and economic institutions could not have been created in the first place unless the original protective body of persons, the clan, was broken into its constituent and susceptible parts, its nuclear families. The first emergence of civilization in the Middle East, and all subsequent civilized nations, were constructed on the break-up of their pre-urban clans. (Recovery of the West)

Or, as Rousseau has suggested, the principal function of a the State (civil society) is deconstruction of the natural man in order to reconstitute him or her with a new nature.  In The Social Contract (II, 7), he writes:

[The Legislator must] so to speak change human nature, transform each individual, who by himself is a perfect and solitary whole, into part of a greater whole from which that individual as it were gets his life and his being; weaken man’s constitution to strengthen it; substitute a partial and moral existence for the physical and independent existence which we all have received from nature. He must, in a word, take man’s own forces away from him in order to give him forces which are foreign to him and which he cannot use without the help of others. The more the natural forces are dead and annihilated the greater and more lasting the acquired ones…

The reconstitution of the person in the image of a loyal and dependent citizen is the primary concern of the State.  Never forget your pledge of allegiance, folks.

Second, the State is itself a legal fiction, an entity given life by some presumed and often implied social contract or arrangement. Under the best of circumstances, such agreement might result in production of an actual document, perhaps one composed by the would-be legislators themselves. Witness the white-wigged, landed, aristocratic gentlemen-attorneys at the Constitutional Convention who founded of our own fair Republic and produced its social contract.

Finally, the State maintains a monopoly on the use of physical force, of police and military powers, to create public order while expanding its own authority and regime (empire).  As the principal executive power over the body-politic (corps-etat), the State alone has license to utilize force in achieving compliance with its demands, domestically or internationally. In this respect, it thrives on a condition of “permanent war and fear” (Hedges), leading to ongoing “conquest abroad and repression at home” (Diamond).

And what precisely is the body-politic?  While Rousseau, among others, has sometimes referred to the Sovereign or autocratic ruler as the body-politic, it is more appropriate in terms of our current discussion to understand the term as referring to the governed, the citizen-body of the State, the electorate, if you will.  Indeed, in key respects the nation itself has often been regarded as a “corporate entity” (OED3) — a corps or body — analogous in many respects to a human body, with the State Sovereign or Legislator as its head. It is the body (corpus) of citizenry comprising the State – “le corps-etat.” These citizens — persons legally subject to the controlling authority of the State — are parts of the body, obliged to perform according to its rule of law.  Moreover, as citizen-subjects these persons are educated/indoctrinated according to State curricula, insuring “ideological conformity” (Hedges) and harmonious performance as integrated members within the complex web of politically sanctioned relations. Accordingly, the citizen-subjects serve inadvertently to maintain the State, its legislative authority, as well as their own conditional bondage to the institutional, legalistic, and executive powers of the head.  But, as Stanley Diamond clearly notes, we must never confuse the rule of law with the primal authority of kinship-based custom:

[L]aw is symptomatic of the emergence of the State… and cannot be defined as the simple passage of custom into law. Passage…to the legal order represents a transition [radical break] from the primitive kinship-based communities to the class-structured polity. (In Search Of The Primitive: A Critique Of Civilization: 255 -260)

Quoting Paul Radin, Diamond concludes:

[C]ustoms are an integral part of the life of primitive peoples.  There is no compulsive submission to them.” (256)

This is a fundamental differentiator between the inherited values of a pre-civilized kinship-based egalitarian clan and those of the civilized State with their enforced imposition and legally binding demands upon a “corporate” body-politic.

And what of the modern corporation? The word “corporation” also derives from the Latin corps (body); it too is a legal fiction, representing a “body” of persons authorized to act collectively as an individual vis-a-vis the State. This legal fiction embodies (corporare) and, hence, serves to protect those persons or actors hidden beneath the cloak of its corporatio, while providing them leeway within the world of the unincorporated masses. The modern corporation, then, is nothing more than an avatar, an apparent manifestation or incarnation of powers lurking behind the corporate veil and its logo, the visible symbol of the corpus or corporate body.

I would argue, however, that the modern corporation, in both its basic structure and functionality, was prefigured in the origins of the State and its relation to the body-politic; the grades of personnel on the corporate organization chart reflective of classes of citizens, and the degree of personal alienation among its employees reflected in the degree of specialization. The embracing of hierarchy, the status-based and largely top-down organizational structure, the focus on unambiguous institutionalization of corporate culture, the inculcation of personnel to the rules of corporate policy and procedure, the flow of ‘corporate politics,’ the re-socialization and full integration of employees as members of the corporate team (corps-etat); these are all elements derived originally from the State.

It is no wonder, then, that the State should now be seen as a corporate entity, in fact, the Corporate State may be the final flowering of its very nature, perhaps signaling the end of history itself, as Francis Fukuyama clearly celebrated in his book of that title.  Indeed, power and the accumulation of wealth have always been twin hallmarks of civilized political hierarchy. It only stands to reason that the eleventh-hour union of politics and capital in the creation of modern corporatocracy would take place, so that now the world’s most powerful State military would be clearly and unambiguously under the control of corporate money, doing the bidding of their commercial interests.

Furthermore, it is not so strange to consider corporations as artificial persons.  After all, as individual citizens of the State, we too are artificial persons – reconstituted subjects – created by diverse impersonal institutions of indoctrination and socialization. The real difference between “natural” citizens and “corporate” citizens is that the persons – egos and superegos – hiding within the corporate body have extraordinary protections from normal judicial and legal sanctions, just as do those who occupy our State Houses and our federal hierarchies. Us unincorporated members of the body-politic are not so advantaged.

Finally, in some respects, there may be a traceable resemblance between our uncritical allegiances to the modern corporation, the body-politic, or the State, and those more intimate relations obtaining between archaic humanity, their totems and clans. We tend to identify in some manner with corporate sponsors, employers, nation-states, or our favorite football teams, although perhaps not as comfortably as our progenitors once identified with their tribes, bands, and totem animals. Maybe these civilized associations are too abstract and, therefore, somewhat hollow replacements for the participatory relations that once held us comfortably and customarily within a kinship group of real consanguine and egalitarian relations. In any event, such associations seem to survive as remnant transformations of much more primitive conditions, providing us with some strange comfort in the current storm.  Go, Tim Tebow and the Broncos! LOL!

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60 Responses to Corps-etat: The Corporate State

  1. john patrick says:

    Is the State the mother ship of all corporations? Giving birth (and protection) to the children it spawns? The corp.

  2. murph says:

    IMO this is the key “I would argue, however, that the modern corporation, in both its basic structure and functionality, was prefigured in the origins of the State and its relation to the body-politic;” It was indeed built in our original social contract. They sure don’t teach anything even close in classes on government and economics.If we ever have a new social contract I wonder what it will look like. Just more of the same-o?

    • kulturcritic says:

      Social contracts are the death of human community and the birth of states!

      • Brutus says:

        While this point becomes more apparent with a long view of history and sociology, I can’t help but feel some remorse over the disappearance of all vestiges of a social contract to bind men (and women) to each other in mutual dependence and caring. Although we may be reaching its deplorable end end stage, the social contract did formerly function well to keep in the forefront of our minds obligations to others. Now that it’s gone and we’ve entered into a grasping, dog-eat-dog scramble for the spoils bordering on anarchy and complete lawlessness at the very top (but not yet below), it’s hard to embrace the lack of a social contract as a salutary development.

  3. Pēteris says:

    Humans are capable for overriding their instincts. Though, not all and not at the same time. This override comes with a price, inner conflict.
    Humans are meant to live in groups of 150-200 individuals or so; that is the “Dunbar’s number”, the limit of ties of informal relations one human is capable of placing in his head. These small communities are self-regulated by informal ‘laws’ and cultural norms. As one grows up in such a community, there is no conflict between his feeling of values or freedom and the one of his group. Therefore this form of living is optimal for societal stress, although can be hard from the survival standpoint. Small communities are informally self-regulating, because hierarchies are informal, leaders are approachable for discussions and everybody has some ability to shape the group’s decisions, or at least has an opportunity to be heard.
    State is an aggregation of individuals that mightily surpass in numbers that small natural community. Therefore self-regulating ties do not function as they should, many individuals have no impact on decisions and people high in hierarchy loose touch with the ones lower. Lost for power runs rampant because there are new, naturally unavailable ways for enforcement of power, that do not have functional regulating ties. American constitution was an attempt to replace natural regulation with man-made, and for some time it kind of worked.
    Unfortunately, humans have many inborn patterns of thinking and acting that are the main cause of absurdities in large societies. Humans still want to belong and to lead, so allegiance to states, football teams and corporations persist; humans still strive for high status, leading to tyrants erecting monuments for themselves as surrogates for genuine respect, after they have killed indiscriminately the opposition.
    In a way, it is not corporations or states per se to be blamed, as is the large societies overgrown in numbers. It is a wonder we can exist in this situation at all; probably it can be attributed to that god-like spark of human ingenuity, applied to himself.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Peteris, I like your analysis of the size of self-regulating groups. But, I think the US Constitution only worked insofar as the nation was young and the people grateful to be “self-determined” after the British rule. But, it was all an illusion, a sleight of hand, played by expert magicians in setting the trajectory of the present.

      • Pēteris says:

        Unfortunately, in the clouds of history we cannot surely say, if American constitution was an illusion from conception or was it a genuine attempt to create a more bearable model for the majority. Seems to me to be the latter, because a great majority of men and women are fairly decent and cooperative, though not ideal by any means.
        US Constitution worked so long as people were willing to nurture the tree of liberty by their own blood – that is, to resist the State risking with the dearest. In a way, it is a strong feedback restraining the people in power. Men are limited only by actions or threat of actions from other men. As violence is always risky event for the most skilled fighters, reasonable people avoid it. So the mutual formal conventions of men (the ‘laws’) are subverted by the help of cunning, but the aim remains the primordial – to achieve a high status, perceived as multitude in followers.
        The formality of large organizations and naturally limited knowledge of participants about other participants in them allow to circumvent the natural control system. Naturally, we do not trust untrustworthy to occupy positions of leadership, expressing this simply by disobedience. Formality of large organizations where feedback is very limited allows sociopaths and other scum to “lead” by enforcing unpopular, selfish and even absurd orders. Corporations, like State and laws, is just another name for shield from the feedback actions of dissatisfied.

        • kulturcritic says:

          “US Constitution worked so long as people were willing to nurture the tree of liberty by their own blood – that is, to resist the State…”

          Peteris:
          Liberty is incompatible with citizenship.

          The only act I see in our history remotely suggesting bloddy resistance was the Civil War. But, the effort must be couched in the memory that they just wanted to replace one State with another. Not sure how things are in Latvia; but the US is not filled with buckets of milk and honey, nor are the local milkmaids lined up to assist you. And those who do control the modes of production, the flow of funds, and the marketing machinery, control the masses. Liberty is a novel concept that only points to its irrelevance in the modern context. IMO I do agree with your assessment of State as a shield, certainly.

          • Pēteris says:

            There were also other acts, mainly as tax rebellions. For example, the whiskey rebellion. Tax is one of the ways that state uses citizens to support itself. It seems, that the Civil war also was a tax and money matter at its root.
            I can assure You, the milk and honey buckets here are seen even more sparsely 🙂 Fortunately for us, our state is rather weak, compared with USA, so there is not a TSA thug in every station and IRS is not (yet) so arbitrary in its decisions. Although it also means that western banks and corporations use the state as and agent for money collection to save the foreign banks and privatize what is yet left not privatized.
            I agree that Liberty is a concept that has no use when living in natural conditions, in small, self-sufficient communities.

  4. john patrick says:

    Thank you, Murph, Peteris, and KC, for the many good points.

    This is such a far-reaching topic, all the way back to the big bang and the subsequent organization of planetary systems.

    Few thoughts come to mind as I wake up with coffee and a partner with the flu:

    Children desire protection and form to go forward into infinite reality. We create structures to assist/pursue larger imaginings (peace, prosperity, order, justice, etc..). But, once these machines are constructed using divine spark, with no pre-designed dissolution, they go on and on… until they crash into another system. A portion of the state is good for setting protective boundaries for “children.” But in time, due to our energizing it, it becomes a beast unwilling to let its children go free. Like a co-dependent mother.

    The State and other constructs, will not willingly give up the ghost. The idea of sacrificing itself for the greater good, “laying down its life for a friend” is not part of the original programming. And this idea will not evolve in a structure built of stone.

    We have the ability to go beyond the original invention. But, it involves death to the original contract/relationship. Even so, then what does oneself do to nurture life/relationship. Another realm/vision must exist for the runaway to venture to. The State does not nurture any realm beyond itself. So don’t expect it to be a role model. Give to the state/corp what belongs to it, after-all, we are complicit for its existence. But give to oneself, the authority/power to leave the construct behind. And the ability to create something anew. With boundary. And a little water in the glue so it doesn’t last too long…

    We have got to give up the idea of creating “perfect” things that last forever. It assumes the creator does not grow and change its mind… I dislike some of the things I said yesterday. And do not want to be ruled by a past-the-shelf life me.

    Good writeup and image, Sandy.

  5. John Bollig says:

    Sandy,

    Some interesting remarks and ideas. My experience leads to the question of if the coup has been already done, what if anything can we do about it ?
    As for the ideal population size for a self regulating community, I would agree that 200 is the top level for the self regulation of the community. I do understand what we are coming to as a society and the elite will be just as lost as the rest of us. If anything, the collapse of the civilization will allow for some pretty strange dynamics of the remaining core groups. I can see rural hill folk and suburbanites getting together and inner city gangstas and rural southerners forming alliances. The parasitical wall street class will simply vanish into the night. As for the rural midwesterner and high plains rancher/farmer class, I can see some sorts of alliances with residents of the Gulf coast and southwestern diaspora refugees which I am certain will come about when they can’t run the A/C in Phoenix or Las Vegas. These communities will drift back into what they should have been. Agricultural speciality areas where semitropical fruit and veggies are grown for the rest of the nation. LA, Phoenix and Vegas will suffer massive population loss and collapse of infastructure as they lose electrical power and mobility. Whole sections of large cities will become ghost towns where those too poor or too dimwitted to leave will fight it out among the collapsing skyscrapers. The west coast will also face some population loss as the unsupportable sprawl in LA and San Diego vanishes. The cerntral valley will do well as long as there is a water supply.

    The Euro is kaput, and all of the kings horses and all of the kings men could not put it together again. The only rational way the europeans can survive this impending cascade of doom is to revert to the gold standard and maybe massive reduction of the standard of living in most of southern and eastern europe and dumping the euro and the silly pretense of unity of east and western europe. The core of europe is the north european plain and stretches to austria and northern italy. IMHO, the europeans are screwed so many ways it is not funny. My feeling is that the sick man of europe is not Turkey but italy. Any default by italy and the whole game is over. S & P’s downgrades were a belated and long overdue realization of the true nature of the problem. The economic system that exists in the 20th and 21st century so far is no longer viable. In about three to five years, the power will devolve from the international to the national, then to the state and afterword to the local ad semifeudalist powers. I know that this is not what any of us wanted to hear or see. Like many of you, I like my imported stuff and really can’t live in a post industrial world without massive social supports. I can see the end and it does not look good. But, until then I shall fight and do the best that I can.

    • john patrick says:

      Kinda’ like going into battle. If one is prepared to die, it doesn’t matter who wins.

      It will be interesting, JB. And rather ironic when you ponder the dream of “unlimited” wealth/wonder we had on the way up (and how certain it was!) and how difficult it will be to describe things that no longer exist.

      Like poor old (dead) Uncle Harry. Just what is that guy doing, today? Nobody knows. We just move on without him.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Interesting analysis, John

    • Pēteris says:

      Reverting to gold will not help, as it is the INTEREST coupled with money issuance in debt that makes current economic system unsustainable. It is irrelevant what we use as backing for money if at all unless the interest remains. As all money is issued as debt and must be re payed with interest, there is always a shortage of money in circulation and we have a paradox when inflation (overproduction of money relative to values in circulation) is coupled with chronic lack of money. This leads to huge pressure on individuals to get money for whatever it costs, to a never-ending game of musical chairs with guaranteed number of “losers” and guaranteed winners (the most wealthy individuals and organizations acting as lenders). As a consequence, evolves a dog-eats-dog system the only thing that matters is money and all capital, whether natural, human or cultural, must be converted to money to gain value. Only profit generating modes of action are positively reinforced, all others are irrelevant at best.
      There really is an evil amongst us, and its name is interest. A very good explanation can be found at bibocurrency.org.
      Debate of money as debt versus money as gold is a distraction from the real problem, interest.
      Due to interest, the modern financial machine dies, if it does not expand. Therefore it is inimical to everything communal, not-for-profit and sustainable: what does not belong to the machine, is its potential fodder to be hunted down. It is profitable if people cling to inanimate things and status symbols instead of their children, honor and respect from the community.
      This year will be the final year of its expansion, as all exponential growth comes to an abrupt end. As elites will shift the blame to “losers”, expect more wars, enslavement and even genocide to eliminate “unproductive eaters”. The bright side is that there is always a way out, we can always do better. If only we believe that it can be done, and open our minds to freedom.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Peteris – your faith is encouraging, but I am cynical about the final outcome.

        • Pēteris says:

          Cynics did not believe that humans will fly someday. Yet they do 🙂
          And so on. Man will find solution to every problem if he believes that it can be done.

          There is a proverb about a 2 frogs in a bucket of cream. When they fell into it, one of the frogs said: oh, I will never get out! And drowned. The other frog kept trying to at least stay afloat. And with its legs whipped cream into butter and jumped out.

          Every conqueror will try its best to eradicate even the thought that the conquered could break free. If he succeeds, he has secured his position. If not, men will find solution to get freedom.

          • kulturcritic says:

            > > “Man will find solution to every problem if he believes that it can be done.”

            And this thinking is why we are currently FUCKED!! my friend.

            • Pēteris says:

              Why? Technological advances need to be viewed in the context of the financial system, that pushes people towards greater profits. Perhaps technology is one solution for greater profits. If someone has solved a problem how to make centralized profiteering system, some other will solve the problem of undoing it.

              The world is united and wholesome. We cannot view environmental, financial and societal problems as separate ones. They influence each other.

              • Brutus says:

                I agree that our problems are inseparable. However, it’s wishful thinking that we can get ourselves out of our dilemmas with the same tools, mechanisms, and thinking that got us in. More specifically, while technology is good for many things, it has sped up our collective ability to destroy ourselves and our habitat. Can’t fix either of those with more tech.

                One of the frequent themes in science fiction, which proposes knowledge, techniques, and gadgetry galore, is that despite the know-how, we have always lacked the know-why, which is to say, the emotional and cultural maturity to know when to step back, accept humility, and content ourselves with an ontological approach to life rather than to extend our dominion over everything within our grasp. That wisdom continues to elude us.

                • john patrick says:

                  “we have always lacked the know-why…” Brilliant.

                • kulturcritic says:

                  Correct Brutus. Anyone who believes technology is a solution completely misunderstands the nature of the problem. That individual is already symptomatic of the disease that infects this culture of sterility and death.

                • Pēteris says:

                  Most probably, that kind of self-limitation was not necessary as man was never too powerful, and the bigness of his ego was always relatively puny.
                  Technology is only one mode of action, only one kind of embedded knowledge. By saying “man will find solution” I did not state that the solution will be a technical one. It could as well be social or in some other way “asymmetrical” to the current belief systems.

                  • marsmcluen says:

                    There are different types of technology, (systematic treatment,’ from tekhnē ‘art, craft’ + -logia), such as the current crop of faceless corpo-earth destroying medusa, that is quite amazing in it’s sheer audacity. Or an earlier type, such as displayed by various clans around the globe; on the banks of the Amazon river, clearings of the savanna/gallery forests in the Upper Xingu, and Mesoamerican milpas. They all used bio-char, the burning of organic matter free of oxygen then amended the soil. It produced the richest soils the planet has known. This technology is being reintroduced with astonishing results.

                    So to say all technology is bad, I believe dismisses one of our most beautiful attributes. Our ability to conjoin with Gaia in our uniquely creative-cooperative ways to enhance her in healthy ways. It can be done, it has been done. All-be-it with much smaller groups, that’s for sure.

                    • kulturcritic says:

                      marsmcluen – Thanks for providing your voice. I do not disagree with your observations. Obviously, the techne-ology I have in mind is of a different order of magnitude, perhaps qualitatively different. Much like plow agriculture differs from the use of digging sticks.

      • john patrick says:

        Thanks, Peteris. I like your explanation.

  6. Brutus says:

    Adding to (not contending with) an excellent blog post, the metaphor of the political and corporate body extends to the notion that the state derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, which is another way of saying that the power of the the corporate state is a property that emerges from its citizen consumers/subscribers the same way that the fiat money system works so long as everyone agrees to value it. Ideas clearly have power, whether embodied as tangible things or existing as disembodied intellectual property (or some other instantiation), and I find it interesting that in the modern world the most powerful ideas have more to do with abstraction and aggregation than the more mundane rootedness of experience in the body and physical world.

    • kulturcritic says:

      I would only add PRESUMED “consent of the governed”

      The power of the corporate state derives from the fact that indoctrination and marketing work, as do the technological toys and military equipment it produces.

      • derekthered says:

        i really like this essay, explains corporations in a new light. your comment here is very topical, this is the way inverted totalitarianism works, reminiscent of 1984 where with the destruction of language people would have no idea of what is happening, just an inchoate feeling, but no way to form the ideas.
        the state and it’s handmaidens, corporations, (or is it the other way around?) set the stage so to speak, controlling behavior thru punishment and reward (defining both carrot and stick), using experts wielding sophisticated techniques to mold the peoples minds.

        not very well stated, but i am beginning to understand where you are coming from on a deeper level.

  7. Multhus says:

    You have met all expectations and all I can say is: EXCELLENT Sandy, EXCELLENT.

  8. VyseLegend says:

    I’ve mentioned this before, but maybe I’m missing something here. If the overarching problem of the state is the fact that coercion is at the heart of it – that is, we don’t get to choose whether to be part of it, like an abusive family – then how can we be sure pre-historical tribal bonds are automatically based on ‘egalitarian kinship’ rather than equally on cercion, albeit of a smaller and more immediate variety.

    So isn’t the problem coercion and not the state or any particular social organization? My point is that historical practice or ‘our origins’ cannot serve to justify any type of social order, but morality alone can. After all, wouldn’t placing our better days in the past give an argument to the statists who would claim we are calling for an end to ‘progress?’ So morality must be ahistorical to function.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Coercion is only meaningful in a certain historical context. You are misappropriating terminology that has no meaning in the context where you seek to apply it. Sorry, but the State IS the origin of systematic and institutionalized coercion, and it has various means of enforcement: law, money, propaganda, military, police etc..

  9. xraymike79 says:

    Hey Sandy,
    Made this video recently. Like to know what you think:

    Graffiti Philosophy

  10. troutsky says:

    The social contract and capitalism cannot co-exist. As with democracy itself, they are mutually exclusive. Customs are reflections of social arrangements embedded in culture and evolve ( as does Nature) in a mutually re-enforcing fashion.State Ideology is just a symptom of this and itself is re-produced. In other words, cart and horse.

    I suggest looking at economic systems first and the constitutions, social relations, States , they spawn. ( new Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela perhaps?)

    • john patrick says:

      What dollar $ value can be placed on trust? Or care? Both required for a healthy family/community. It’s like trying to barter virtues…

    • Public goods have almost entirely been lost over the past thirty years in USA. Thanks in large part to the Reprivatean Party and their masters. Criticism of market capitalism and the primacy of private property rights have been “forbidden.” Richard Wolff, who I heard recently give a new speech, says America can do better than capitalism. Just as it was eventually decided that slavery and feudalism, which had their day (age), where no longer acceptable, the same will be recognized as regards capitalism. Capitalism being when a few individuals (major stockholders and boards of directors) are allowed to make decisions that have far-reaching effects and often destructive results on society as a whole. This is ignorant beyond belief. Empowerment is required, along with great patience, creativity, cooperation, integrity, and courage.
      What passes for authority must be questioned strongly without fear of impropriety or blasphemy.
      I think the cultural creatives among us need to question now the values, systemic perversions, concepts, and precepts rather than wait until Mother Earth and our suffering makes it painfully and unquestioningly clear.

      • Brutus says:

        My initial thought upon reading RG’s comment and Troutsky’s comment to which RG’s is a reply is that I don’t really possess the wherewithal to encapsulate and then condemn civilization and its structure(s) as a whole. But then, upon a moment’s reflection, I realized that this is indeed what we’ve all been doing all along. What happened next was an immediate recognition of the monstrous discontinuity between macrocosm and microcosm. All old hat to any thoughtful person, really.

        My yearning for a way forward amid so many conflicting prognostications of doom is as profound as the next person’s, but when it comes down to it, I suppose I’m really just seeking a way of preserving what worthwhile character I possess in the face of so much loss barreling at us — losses both individual and collective. What remains most curious to me is the notion that I (or any of us) can recognize and address detrimental changes of character at the societal level with any clarity. That’s our ongoing discussion.

        • RG – critiques (questioning the values) of civ, industrial society and capitalism have been ongoing for centuries (civ) and decades (ind soc/cap).
          Brutus – the challenge is not recognizing societal changes in character; but trying to determine if, at this late juncture, there is a way through the morass we currently inhabit.
          JP – Capitalism seems to barter virtues regularly. LOL
          Trotsky – European based models of the social contract were virtually all based upon pre-capitalist (mercantilist) and capitalist economic systems and the idea of private property. I agree that in such large groupings as nations and States, one needs a contract to keep things in order (if you will). My beef is with such large organizations (States) that therefore require legally binding contracts in order to function Having said that the new Bolivarian Constitution looks better than what we have here. (see below)

          “Major changes are made to the structure of Venezuela’s government and responsibilities, while a much greater number of human rights are enshrined in the document as guaranteed to all Venezuelans – including free education up to tertiary level, free quality health care, access to a clean environment, right of minorities (especially indigenous peoples) to uphold their own traditional cultures, religions, and languages, among others. The 1999 Constitution, with 350 articles, is among the world’s longest, most complicated, and most comprehensive constitutions.” (From Wikpedia)

          • john patrick says:

            Playing the devil’s advocate here… but is the State necessary to achieve higher forms of complex civilization? Is a State-less society more sustainable? Proof?

            As you, I abhor the evils that are done in the name of the State. But I wonder, are we kicking at sand. Is the State inevitable? Just pondering here… And on a much, much longer timeframe, the Earth is not guaranteed to stay a paradise if we just “get-a-long” with each other. Eventually, I think, we have to overcome universal forces, ice age, sun expansion, etc.. (extreme, I know) . Is the little Mom/Pop hamlet capable of dealing with much larger forces that have nothing to do with finance?

            Once the perfect little community is achieved, then what? (as teenagers will surely challenge)

            We may be able to say we lived greatly, and turned to dust. But perhaps, deep inside, we know that we have to rise to a greater complexity to deal with forces that are way beyond our current control. IF we face something that requires great global participation, how is this achieved in a horse/buggy world?

            Is progress, and greater complexity, inevitable? Particularly looking at the bio-evolutionary sphere. Where in nature do we see de-evolution to simplicity? (besides dinosaurs turning into oil) And if it is inevitable, then it seems the path is one of careful wrestling of acceptance.

            Just curious. I have no answer.

            • kulturcritic says:

              Stop assuming an anthropocentric world and your dilemma disappears.

            • Brutus says:

              I appreciate the devil’s advocacy. Much as I hate to be an apologist for the State, since that’s what under discussion here, but hierarchical social organization clearly enables lots of good things to develop at the same time it represents a scourge from the philosophical perspective of our blog host. (I share that perspective in many respects, but I’m not inclined to romanticize suffering and hardship for their own sake, which is what many survivalists seem to do.)

              Evolution operates on both biological and cultural levels, but I don’t know that seemingly inevitable though gradual refinements are necessarily salutary, though they often are mistaken as such. For instance, the earth used to be home to a variety of megafauna, whose sheer size made then less vulnerable to many sorts of predation. But survival pressures shifted and most of them lost out in the end. Another shift is now underway where the fantastic, unbridled success of our species and its institutions becomes the source of our own failure. So yeah, improved farming techniques, energy efficiency, and information control systems have improved the material quality of life and increased human population precipitously.

              Can such bloated gigantism be sustained for humans (in aggregate) any better than the lost megafauna? Clearly not. But had we stayed more humbly situated in the former horse-and-buggy world (or as many now argue, the Stone Age) and eschewed many of our technological developments in favor of a more spiritually sophisticated engagement with the world, we mightn’t have had to face our downfall after such brief dominion over all. However, that alternate reality is not altogether assured.

              • john patrick says:

                I think the key is “careful” change with a willingness to pull back and abandon where necessary. The problem may be that once millions/billions are invested in the change, there is a great reluctance to give up the ghost on a now-foolish endeavor.

          • The oligarchic character of the modern English commonwealth does not rest, like many oligarchies, on the cruelties of the rich to the poor. It does not even rest on the kindness of the rich to the poor. It rests on the perennial and unfailing kindness of poor to the rich. -G.K. Chesterson, 1905

            All down History, nine-tenthsof mankind have been grinding corn for the remaining one-tenth, been paid with the husks–and bidden to thank God they had the husks. – David Lloyd George, 1968

            Advocates of catpitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim. The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate. – Bertrand Russel. 1928

  11. Des Carne says:

    Ortega y Gasset’s essay “The Sportive Origin of the State” makes interesting reading in this regard. It is a speculative anthropological account of the origin of the state, which notwithstanding Ortega y Gasset’s generally optimistic view of the future of a world organised by states (give him a go, he died in 1955), shows remarkable insight not lost on us today who are see such a future as catastrophic.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Sorry Des Carnes,

      I have trouble buying the argument (even speculatively) that the State (hierarchy, law, murder, war, enslavement,etc) has its origin in playfully hunting out ‘pisdochka’ from a neighboring horde. LOL But, I do admire Ortega y Gasset’s Meditation on Hunting. best, sandy

      • Des Carne says:

        Hi Sandy,
        Good to know you appreciate Ortega y Gasset’s flamboyant, characteristically Spanish style. As I had to hunt to feed my once many indigenous step-children, not to mention satisfy my adoptive kinship obligations to their adult relatives, it’s pleasing to know someone who appreciates the place of hunting in the social and economic life of subsistence communities. Although I fully agree with those who oppose industrialized meat production for human health and animal cruelty reasons, I’ve never had time for the pietistic rationalizations or moralizing chauvinism of vegetarian or vegan ideologues, which have as much salience as compact fluorescent light bulbs do to planetary climate change. I would imagine that in both village and migratory steppe or taiga communities hunting is not a contentious issue.
        In my view Ortega’s speculative anthropology is no less naïve than Engels’ theory of the origin of the family, private property and the state – not a patch on the Marxist economic anthropology of the likes of Godelier or Maquet, who at least justified their analyses on the basis of real field work. Notwithstanding Ortega’s depiction of rapine in entertaining rather than realistic terms to make his point, to reduce his argument to the provenance of all things evil from the (hardly ‘playful’) exogamous impulse is in my view a vast oversimplification.
        Ortega’s argument rests on his (structural/ontological rather than genealogical) theory of intergenerational relations as the engine of social or historical change. The idea that politics and the state could arise from the social dynamic of secret male fraternities in their martial proving years is not to be lightly dismissed. As an observer of indigenous Australians for much of my life (I was 9 years married to an indigenous partner and raised 8 of her children and grandchildren, although in a purely economic rather than ceremonial role), I learnt that age set male fraternities are or were once managed by older men with martial rigor and authority, intended to divert to culturally productive and constructive ends what is otherwise, in cultures that do not so consciously manage male life stage development in this way, socially dysfunctional, criminal, and outlaw rapine. In mass or state societies the alternatives are domestication by incorporation into the economic system, or the military or prison systems – pretty much the latter only for indigenous youth in Australia. The age of the religious or monastic seclusion solution has largely passed.
        Such management ultimately relies/relied for its success on the politics of tribal identity, in-group loyalty, and how external relations are managed with neighboring tribes or nations. That indigenous Australians lived more or less pacifically with each other over 50-60,000 years before colonization by my ancestors no doubt has much to do with the evolution of reciprocal obligations, formalized through ritual, ceremony and recapitulation of the songline narratives that spanned the continent, that limited what any group could do within its own territory – the rights of traditional ownership were limited by the ‘manager’ (kurtungurlu) rights of their neighbours.
        Notwithstanding the “Heisenberg effect” of being a post catastrophe observer, the idea there was ever a halcyon pre-colonial natural state of the “primal and intimate bonds of egalitarian kinship” seems to me a romantic illusion. This is not to deny the realization or experience of such bonds, but they are only ever partially and momentarily realized, in what Victor Turner calls the social processes of movement from structure to communitas, mediated by ceremony or ritual. Indeed the attainment of such affective states seems to me to be the primary purpose of all religion, shamanism, ethnobotanical experimentation, festival, pilgrimage, art, literature and intellectual enquiry.
        On a related topic, Dan Everett’s Pirahã exceptionalism is disputed (Nevins, Pesetsky & Rodriguez 2007), it appears to me because of the social purpose of Everett’s personal enlightenment narrative, which like Ortega’s theorizing, is pitched in a colorful populist style. I reject neither – they cast light on the mysterious processes which release the monstrous passions of fratricide and their hypostasis as “hierarchy, law, murder, war, enslavement, etc” and those which enable us to tame and subordinate these impulses to pacific ends.
        Little attention has been given in speculation on survival in the post collapse world on what form of organization best replaces the state for social defense from those who do not share or participate the rituals evoking the “primal and intimate bonds of egalitarian kinship”, both within and without, much less how the social forces of life stage development, being made men and women, are to be managed. There are numerous indigenous examples, many of which, wisely in my view, separate the worlds of men and women. Methinks Everett presents an incomplete picture.

  12. Bret Simpson says:

    Three things are obsolete…war,religion(organized),and crapitalism…and to add,the “modern” lifestyle.These things are not going down any time soon…came to this awareness in ’74. Didn’t make the rules, just forced to play the game.

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