Tag: Ideology

Philosophy

Pop-Stoicism as Ideology

Stoicism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 BC. Stoic philosophy consisted of logic, (meta-) physics, and ethics. There has been a bit of an upsurge of interest in stoicism recently among widely different segments of society, ranging from right-wing extremists and male supremacists to Secular Buddhists and self-help gurus. Typically, this resurgent “stoicism” ignores most of Stoic philosophy and focuses on a simplified version of selected ethical doctrines. (And that selection, moreover, depends on the interests of the group that does the selecting.) The most prominent doctrine of this “pop-stoicism” is the idea...
Climate Change

The New Denialism

The old denialism denied the reality of climate change. Funded by the fossil fuel industry it spouted disinformation and lies and fostered doubt. It changed climate change from an objectively observable fact into a political “opinion”. The old denialism is dead. Not even the fossil fuel industry denies climate change anymore. A new denialism has replaced it, however. The new denialism doesn’t deny climate change. In the contrary, it emphatically affirms it. The new denialism doesn’t deny that climate change is a serious problem either – it admits that too. What the new denialists deny is how big the crisis...
Philosophy

Uchiyama, Marx, and Gramsci on Ideological Superstitions

In 2019 typhoon Hagibis destroyed part of the railroad that leads to Hakone, a small town near a volcanic lake in Japan that has a long history as a resort town. One of the stops on the line that can no longer be reached by train is Ōhiradai. About fifty meter south of the station there is a small and inconspicuous temple named Rinsenji. In 1909, during the railroad’s construction, the police searched that temple. They found dynamite used for building the railroad that was temporarily stored there. They also found an illegal printing press under the main altar. That...
Climate ChangeSocial Issues

Lessons from the Ongoing Disaster (for the Next One)

Presumably, you are aware that we’re in the middle of a disaster. That’s unpleasant – to say the least – but it’s also quite instructive. There is much we can learn from the ongoing disaster and humanity’s responses to it. But whether we can use those lessons to avert the even bigger disaster looming on the horizon is questionable. Rather, it seems that the most important thing that we can learn from the corona crisis is that we as a species may very well be incapable of avoiding catastrophy. ignore and deny For months, the general attitude of most governments...
Climate Change

The Lesser Dystopia

(This is part 3 in the No Time for Utopia series.) In On the Fragility of Civilization, I argued that due to the slowly compounding effects of an increasing number of relatively localized “natural” disasters caused (directly or indirectly) by climate change, a vicious circle of failing disaster management, economic decline, civil unrest, and hunger will trigger a cascade of collapsing societies, eventually leading to global societal collapse in roughly 25 to 30 years from now (give or take a half decade). The world during and after collapse will be very different from what most of us have ever experienced,...
Social Issues

The Stories We Believe in

We all believe in stories. Stories about ourselves, stories about the world around us, about the societies and communities we are part of, about our histories, and so forth. We tend not to think of these stories as “stories”, however, because we hold them true – that’s what it means to believe something: to hold it true – and we tend to think of stories as untrue. But at least some of them are untrue. We don’t all believe the same things, so at least some of us must be wrong. Furthermore, many of the stories we believe in –...
Climate ChangePhilosophySocial Issues

No Time for Utopia

Most political thought is “ideal theory”: its arguments are based on an idealized world in which important aspects of reality are abstracted away. Abstraction isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in the contrary, it is often necessary in science – but it isn’t self-evident that the results of abstractions and idealizations are (always) applicable to the real world, and if theory doesn’t descend from the ideal world to reality it turns into an intellectual game without practical relevance; or worse, as the case of neoclassical economics illustrates. In that case abstraction and idealization resulted in a “theory” that explains nothing,...
Economics

Rent, Debt, and Power

In 2009 Rolling Stone published an article by Matt Taibbi about Goldman Sachs. Taibbi writes: “The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” The statement is rather unfair to vampire squids, but aside from that detail the characterization is quite appropriate and, moreover, equally applicable to the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector as a whole. In Killing the Host, Michael Hudson describes the FIRE sector as parasitic. He writes that “instead of creating a mutually beneficial symbiosis with...
Social Issues

Death, Masculinity, and Hegemony

“At the center of the symbolic order is the abhorrence of death,” writes Odile Strik in the conclusion of her short essay The Symbolic Order of Life and Manhood. The “symbolic order” of the title connects death and masculinity, and (supposedly) structures the way most people understand reality. The essay is terse and almost poetic, and only presents a rough sketch of this symbolic order, but it deals with a number of important themes – such as masculinity, life and death, and cultural hegemony – and it deserves credit for bringing those themes together. This article is a (long) commentary...
Social Issues

You Are a Zombie

For reasons that are somewhat mysterious to me, zombie movies remain fairly popular. There has been a notable change in the genre, however. A few decades ago, zombie movies were probably best classified as a sub-genre of horror, while nowadays they seem to be a variety of disaster movie – particularly, a variety of end-of-the-world disaster movie. Picking up on this subtle, but telling genre shift, Brad Evans and Henry Giroux write in Disposable Futures, a book on the role of (depictions of) violence in contemporary society, that the zombie figure “speaks to a future in which survival fully colonizes...
Social Issues

On “Populism”

A decade ago or so, a “populist” was someone who appealed to the supposed reactionary underbelly of the common folk to win votes and/or influence. “Populists” were usually found on the right of the political spectrum, often even the extreme right. But things have changed and nowadays so-called “populist” movements and parties are often better described as leftist than as right wing (or as mixtures of left-wing and right-wing views). “Populism” and “populist” are usually terms of abuse: they express disapproval and disdain. What provokes this disapproval and disdain is that the alleged populist(s) crosses the boundaries of acceptable political...
PhilosophySocial Issues

The (Self-) Corruption of Critique

This is a lightly edited excerpt from my book/pamphlet The Hegemony of Psychopathy. * * * Hegemony is the spread of ideas (such as values and beliefs) that support and maintain the socio-political status quo. Alternative sources of ideas can (at least in principle) undermine hegemony, but if hegemony is effective, then alternative ideas are often not taken seriously, or may even undermine themselves. If hegemony is effective, then the belief that there is no alternative becomes common sense, turning proposed alternatives (i.e. alternatives for common sense) into obvious non-sense. This is how hegemony undermines critique: by making it “irrational.”...