October 7, 2008


HANNAH ARENDT, “CHRISTAINITY AND REVOLUTION,” reprinted in Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954 edited by Jerome Kohn ((New York: & London: Harcourt Brace, 1994) at 151, 152.

Archer, Robin, Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States (Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives) (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007) (“The failure to establish a labor party had fundamental and wide-ranging consequences, not only for the political development of the United States, but also for its subsequent social and economic development. If a labor party had been established, it is highly likely that business interests would have had less influence over public policy, that income and wealth would have been more equally distributed, that trade unions, would have been stronger, and that a more comprehensive welfare state would have developed. This last point can be made with particular confidence. After more than two decades of comparative research, it is now widely accepted that there is an important causal link between the influence wielded by labor-based parties, and the extent, type, and timing of welfare state development. Indeed, this ‘working-class power resources’ or ‘social democratic’ model of welfare state development has become a kind of orthodoxy. Like all orthodoxies, it has its challengers, and its supporters accept the need for various revisions and modifications. But even after all due weight had been given to a range of additional factors, there is good evidence that the political influence of organized labor is a key part of the explanation for some of the most important variation in social and economic policy.” Id. at 1-2. “The American economy appears distinctive, not because of the prosperity it generated, but, rather, because of the weakness of union organizations in certain areas of the labor market. Despite the fact that the United States had one of the most industrialized economies in the world, new inclusive unions of unskilled and semi-skilled workers found it difficult to survive.” “American political institutions appear distinctive, not because of the precocious commitment to democracy that they embodied, but, rather, because of the extensive use of state repression. Representative institutions and the early expansion of manhood suffrage did give ordinary people real opportunities to exercise control over the actions of government. But judicial rulings, and police and military repression made it difficult or impossible for some groups to maintain organizations that could pursue their interests.” “American political culture appears distinctive, not because of the prevalence of liberal values, or the pervasive influence of racial hostility, but, rather, because of the strength and sway of religion.... Of course religion does play a role in the textbook account of the United States. But that account sees American political culture as a haven for religious minorities, rather than as a cauldron of religious conflicts.” Id. at 242.).

Ehrenreich, Barbara, This Land is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008) (This is standard Ehrenreich, social criticism at its best! "The 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives didn't have anything coherent to say about gender politics: Men are the oppressors? Women are the oppressors? Or maybe just Glenn Close? But it did play to the fantasy, more widespread than I'd realize, that if you were to rip off the face of the person sitting in the next cubicle, you'd find nothing by circuit boards underneath." "I trace the outbreak of droidlike conformity to the aftermath of 9/11, when groupthink became the official substitute for patriotism and we began to run our of surface for affixing American flags. Bill Maher lost his job for pointing our that, whatever else they were, the 9/11 terrorists weren't cowards, prompting press secretary Ari Fleischer to warn that Americans 'need to watch what they say.' Never mind that somewhere in his oeuvre, Sun Tzu [author of the Art of War], so beloved by the leadership industry, says that while it's soothing to underestimate the enemy, it's often fatal, too...." "Societies throughout history have recognized the hazards of group think and made arrangements to guard against it.... Because, while the capacity for groupthink is an endearing part of our legacy as social animals, it's also a common precondition for self-destruction. Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died because the CIA was so eager to go along with the emperor's delusion that he was actually wearing clothes." "Instead of honoring groupthink resisters, we subject them to insults and abuse.... As Fred Alford, a political scientist who studies the fate of whistle-blowers, put it: 'We need to understand in this 'land of the free and home of the brave' that most people are scared to death. About 50 percent of all whistle-blowers lose their jobs, about half of these lose their homes, and half of those people lose their families.'" "This nation was not founded by habitual groupthinkers. But it stands a fair chance of being destroyed by them." Id. at 214-215..).

Feldman, Noah, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2008).

Neiman, Susan, Moral Clarity: A Guide For Grown-Up Idealists (Orlando: Harcourt, 2008).

Offer, Avner, The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950 (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2006) ("Affluence breeds impatience, and impatience undermines well-being. This is the core of my argument.... Since the Second World War, the markets of Western Europe and the United States have delivered a flow of novel and compelling opportunities, services, and goods. North America and Western Europe are about three times as rich as they were in 1950. I call that affluence. But abundance and novelty cause harm as well. They displace and devalue the stock of pre-existing possessions, virtues, relations, and values. Enticing rewards have mutated into unwelcome consequences. 'I'd walk a mile for a Camel' declared an early cigarette ad. By 1955, some three-quarters of men in Britain were smoking, and 40 percent of women. From the emergence of cheap cigarettes early in the century, five or six decades had to go by before it emerged that smoking is easy to start, hard to give up, and kills prematurely and painfully. For decades the pleasures of smoking screened out potential damage to health. But tobacco continues to be indulged in by smokers, and defended by venders. It exemplifies a pervasive dilemma: how to balance immediate desires against the interests of the future?" Id. at 1-2. "The paradox of affluence and its challenge is that the flow of new rewards can undermine the capacity to enjoy them. All experiences are ultimately in the mind. They all demand attention and time. Attention can be taken as the universal currency of well-being, At any given moment, we can 'consume' it, by focusing in one or more pleasant or enjoyable activities. Or we can 'invest' in some activity which holds out promise of more satisfaction in the future. A young student ponders whether to spend the evening revising at her desk, or to go our with friends.... Bet marks mean better prospects, but dancing and drink are attractive too. How much to sacrifice tonight for a remote future? When to stop having fun, but also, when to stop being serious?" Id. at 2. ""Well- being is not measured merely in terms of the abundance of goods and services. It requires a personal capacity for commitment. Call this capacity 'prudence'. Prudence is not easy. It takes an effort.... The resources and strategies of self-control. both cognitive and social, take time to develop, When persist, they form durable cultures and norms." Id. at 4.).

Wolin, Richard, Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism: (Princeton: & Oxford Princeton U. Press, 2008) (A very worthwhile read! “What is typically meant by ‘totalitarianism? First and foremost, it is the attempt to realize an ideological, idealized conception of a society as a systematically ordered whole, where the ‘part’ (family, churches, education, intellectual and cultural life, economy, recreation, politics, state bureaucracy) are premeditatedly, even forcibly if necessary, coordinated to support and further the purposes of the regime. The formulation of those purposes is monopolized by the leadership. In classical totalitarian regimes it was assumed that total power demanded that the entirety of society’s institutions, practices, and beliefs had to be dictated from above and conditioned (gleichgeschaltet), that total power was achievable only through the control of everything from the top….” “Inverted totalitarianism works differently. It reflects the belief that the world can be changed to accord with a limited range of objectives, such as ensuring that its own energy needs will be met, that ‘free markets’ will be established, that military supremacy will be maintained, and the ‘friendly regimes’ will be in place in those parts of the world considered vital to its own security and economic needs. Inverted totalitarianism also trumpets the cause of democracy worldwide… ‘[D]emocracy” is understood as ‘managed democracy,’ a political form in which governments are legitimized by elections that they have learned to control, the most recent example being the presidential election in Egypt in September 2005. President Mubarak, who had served for more than two decades, easily triumphed over a dozen rivals, Intimidation, corruption, unequal access to the media, and similar tactics reportedly were widespread.” Id. at 46-47. “The United States has the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world, a prison system with brutalizing conditions, and one that has been significantly privatized. Equally striking, a disproportionately high percentage of the imprisoned are African Americans. Assuming that most of the imprisoned African Americans have committed some crime, their incarceration would appear to contrast with the Nazi policies that herded millions of Jews, Gypsies, homosexual, political opponents, and Slavs into slave labor camps for no other reason than to satisfy irrational ideological beliefs (‘racial identity’) and obtain ‘free’ labor. Or do the high incarceration rates among blacks reflect not only old-fashioned racism but inverted totalitarianism’s fear of political dissidence?” “The significance of the African American prison population is political. What is notable about the African American population generally is that it is highly sophisticated politically and by far the one group that throughout the twentieth century kept alive a spirit of resistance and rebelliousness. In that context, criminal justice is as much a strategy of political neutralization as it is a channel of instinctive racism” Id. at 57-59. “The lesson of Hobbes and Tocqueville can be boiled down to a brief but chilling dictum: concentrated power, whether of Leviathan, a benevolent despotism, or a superpower, is impossible without the support of a complicitous citizenry that willingly signs on to the covenant, or acquiesces, or clicks the ‘mute button.’ Id. at 81. “An inverted totalitarian regime, precisely because of its inverted character, emerges, not as an abrupt regime change or dramatic rupture but as evolutionary, as evolving out of a continuing and increasingly unequal struggle between an unrealized democracy and an antidemocracy that dare not speak its name. Consequently while we recognize familiar elements of the system--popular elections, free political parties, the three branches of government, a bill or fights—if we re-cognize, invert, we see its actual operations as different from its formal structure. Its elements have antecedents but no precedents, a confluence of tendencies and pragmatic choices made with scant concern for long-term consequences.” Id. at 213.).