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The Primacy of the Rational Unconscious

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Some thoughts on the dangers of progressive intellectuals sometimes over-emphasizing the intellectual argument and denigrating the 'irrational'. Fits in with some IOPS discussions around the importance of our symbols, logos, music, creativity, fun and humour... Enjoy. Peter


The Primacy of the Rational ‘Unconscious’ over the Conscious and Rational

At least since the introduction of Calvinist capitalism and Descartes’ famous cogito ergo sum, the rationalist faith of the new bourgeois male individual, most progressively minded people have also tended to be rationalists in the tradition of the bourgeois Enlightenment, believing in the primacy of the rational intellect and the left brain (the ‘cogito’) over the allegedly murky world of the body/right brain and its instincts, feelings, dreams and desires. The latter was indiscriminately labelled ‘irrational’ and left to the conquered world of the pre-modern ‘primitives’, women, witches, religious superstition, ‘nature’, the lower classes. Enlightenment and Progress became synonymous with rationalism and reductionist science (or scientism).

The 19th century Romantic reaction to this dominant hierarchical binary then sought to defend the excluded and repressed and, later at its right-wing and even fascist worst, glorified the unconscious and ‘nature’ into a cult of the irrational which sought to reject the rational as ‘shallow’, ‘mechanical’ or ‘destructive of organic (hierarchical) community’. The Romantic reaction (cf. today’s deep green ‘primitivists’) in turn has tended to reinforce the rationalism and scientism of most progressively thinking people up to this day.

A pox on both your houses.

I would argue that neither the common people nor artists have ever fully come round to the rationalist viewpoint despite its dominance of the capitalist education system.  This is because it is a one-sided, and thus false and potentially oppressive, view of how humans work. Most common people still, for better or for worse, rely more on ‘gut feelings’ for basic decisions  than on abstract rationality or cost-benefit analysis. Despite the many attempts since Calvinism, the Catholic Counter-reformation, the Jacobins,  Victorian utilitarians, communist bureaucrats and other earnest wowsers and fundamentalists to stamp it out, they also have a continuing and stubborn interest in the ‘irrationalities’ and collective joys of the festive and carnivalesque.

Artists and poets, unless wedded to the bourgeois strictures of shallow realism, have never allowed this artificial and oppressive binary of ‘rationality’ versus ‘irrationality to interfere with the reality of their creative work. This is because, by definition, this work relies heavily upon all that condemned by shallow rationalism and scientism: the unconscious, the right brain, dreams, the communication between the intellectual neo-cortex and the older mammalian and brain-stem parts of the brain and body. All this can also be framed using less scientific notions such as mystery, magic, phantasy and the imagination. Anybody involved in creative work, including scholarly or scientific creativity, knows that both the unconscious and the conscious, right and left brain are needed, that most innovative ideas come from the former while the latter tidies up, analyses, consciously relates and connects, pushes forward into and beyond the boundaries of new cognitive territory.

My political argument is that rationalist and scientistic progressives denigrate and ignore the so-called ‘irrational’ at their own peril. This leaves this whole primary area of human experience to the manipulations of the right and the advertising industry.  It could be argued (as Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch did in the thirties) that one reason for fascism’s defeat of the working class movements was its superior connection with, and manipulation of, the so-called ‘irrational’, albeit in the form of highly regimented, hierarchical arranged and designed spectacles that precluded participation and creativity.

The great thing about modern science and rationality is how it tends to constantly reach the boundaries of its own reductionism and discover that reality works in ways that question that very reductionism. What happened in the world of quantum physics may now be happening in neuroscience and cognitive psychology.

It could be ironically argued that modern neuroscience and cognitive science have now even empirically shown that the so-called ‘irrational’ would actually be the unconscious source of rationalist progressives’ very own ideas, morality and rationality. In an apparent blow to naïve theories of rational education, science has now confirmed what most people probably already know: we accept certain ideas or values or even people over others not primarily because of their ‘rational cohesion’ or ‘rational persuasiveness’ (the latter possibly an oxymoron). The latter may come afterwards. Before an idea hits our intellects we have already accepted or rejected it on the basis of our ‘gut feeling’, i.e. our ‘adaptive unconscious’, our ‘intuition’. (Now even reductionist science has provided empirical physical evidence of the truth of ‘gut feeling’:  the digestive system actually does have a separate brain or ‘enteric nervous system’ with its own neuronal system; cf. appendix below.) Thus much rational thought may be little but a post-factum rationalisation of ‘gut feelings’. It may be worth trying to occasionally tune into those gut feelings before engaging in rational debate...

I would thus argue that teachers primarily make an impact by their personalities, passions and ways of being, and any intellectual persuasion comes because and top of that primary relationship. It is well known that at job interviews decisions are usually made about applicants not after long ‘rational decision-making’ but in the first few seconds of their entering and speaking. Neuroscience has verified that we acquire much more information ‘by osmosis’, ‘intuitively’, ‘unconsciously’ than we do consciously through our intellects as ‘pure thoughts’.  Thus the ‘irrational’, or what we might also call our ‘whole-body knowledge’, is our primary way of being in the world. It is a product of our evolutionary experience: faced by the strange, the unexpected, the new, we have to decide immediately whether to flee or fight, not first sit down and engage in abstract, rational, utilitarian thinking about it.

The logical consequence of all this for any radical activism is that we should not exclusively focus on  rational argument. We should be spending at least as much time and energy thinking about our ‘intuitive’ or ‘unconscious’ attractiveness, our ‘vibe’, our aesthetics, our art and poetry and music and symbols, our energy, drive, gestures, postures and rituals, the warmth and fun of our communities etc than we should be about our rational arguments, our pamphlets and tracts. Simply, we should be seeking no privileging of one or the other but rather a creative interplay of left and right brain, the rational and the unconscious. In the political reality of contemporary mass movements this is in fact already the case, for

whatever its shortcomings as a means of social change, protest movements keep reinventing carnival. […] The media often deride the carnival spirit of such protests, as if it were a self-indulgent distraction from the serious political point. But seasoned organizers know that gratification cannot be deferred until after ‘the revolution’. […] People must find, in their movement, the immediate joy of solidarity, if only because, in the face of overwhelming state and corporate power, solidarity is their sole source of strength. (Barbara Ehrenreich, Dancing in the Streets, 259)

I have appended passages form Wikipedia about the neuroscience of the unconscious.


(Wikipedia, Neuroscience of Free Will):

Relevant findings include the pioneering study by Benjamin Libet and its subsequent redesigns; these studies were able to detect activity related to a decision to move, and the activity appears to be occurring briefly before people become conscious of it.[3] Other studies try to predict a human action several seconds early.[4] Taken together, these various findings show that at least some actions - like moving a finger - are initiated unconsciously at first, and enter consciousness afterward.[5] The role of consciousness in decision making is also being clarified: some thinkers have suggested that it mostly serves to cancel certain actions initiated by the unconscious. […]

One significant finding of modern studies is that a person's brain seems to commit to certain decisions before the person becomes aware of having made them. Researchers have found delays of about half a second (discussed in sections below). With contemporary brain scanning technology, other scientists in 2008 were able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects would press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject became aware of having made that choice.[4] These and other findings have led some scientists, like Patrick Haggard, to reject some forms of "free will". To be clear, no single study would disprove all forms of free will. This is because the term "free will" can encapsulate different hypotheses, each of which must be considered in light of existing empirical evidence.

(Wikipedia, The Unconscious Mind):

Cognitive research has revealed that automatically, and clearly outside of conscious awareness, individuals register and acquire more information than what they can experience through their conscious thoughts. (See Augusto, 2010, for a recent comprehensive survey.)[42]

(Wikipedia, The Adaptive Unconscious):

The adaptive unconscious is a set of mental processes influencing judgment and decision making, in a way that is inaccessible to introspective awareness. This conception of the unconscious mind has emerged in cognitive psychology. It was influenced by, but different from, other views on the unconscious mind such as Sigmund Freud's.

The adaptive unconscious is distinguished from conscious processing in a number of ways, including being faster, effortless, more focused on the present, and less flexible.

In other theories of the mind, the unconscious is limited to "low-level" activity, such as carrying out goals which have been decided consciously. In contrast, the adaptive unconscious is thought to be involved in "high-level" cognition such as goal-setting as well.

According to Freud, the unconscious mind stored a lot of mental content which needs to be repressed. The term adaptive unconscious reflects the idea that much of what the unconscious does is beneficial to the organism; that its various processes have been streamlined by evolution to quickly evaluate and respond to patterns in an organism's environment.[1]

Although research suggests that much of our preferences, attitudes and ideas come from the adaptive unconscious, subjects themselves do not realise this: they are "unaware of their own unawareness".[2] They give verbal explanations of their own mental processes—for example why they chose one thing rather than another—as if they could directly introspect the causes of their ideas and choices

(Wikipedia, The Enteric Nervous System):

The enteric nervous system (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system is one of the main divisions of the autonomic nervous system and consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal system.[1]

The ENS is capable of autonomous functions[4] such as the coordination of reflexes; although it receives considerable innervation from the autonomic nervous system, it can and does operate independently of the brain and the spinal cord.

The enteric nervous system consists of some one hundred million neurons,[9] one thousandth of the number of neurons in the brain, and essentially equal to the one hundred million neurons in the spinal cord. [10] The enteric nervous system is embedded in the lining of the gastrointestinal system, beginning in the esophagus and extending down to the anus.

Discussion 76 Comments

  • Nathan Redding 8th Jan 2014

    Nice article! It drums well with the IOPS equity and diversity theme, and exposes the political backhanding of "common" folk by elite class members.

  • Jason 8th Jan 2014

    Great work. I’m right behind this call to arts! To add to Nathan’s observation, IOPS is well-positioned to process these ideas by its commitment to not privilege any one domain—economy, polity, culture, ecology—over another.

    There’s a psychiatrist, literary scholar bloke named Iain McGilchrist, who has a very compelling thesis about the roles of the brain hemispheres that mesh well with what Peter discusses here. He even correlates balances and imbalances between the hemispheres with rises and falls in cultural richness and depth throughout history. There’s an essay-review of McGilchrist’s book by the philosopher, Arran Gare, which I’d highly recommend. And a lecture by McGilchrist: On the Divided Brain's Impact on Our World [51 min].

    The talk of ‘the common people,’ reminds me of Chomsky’s response to a question about who he thought was the most important anarchist thinker: ‘Actually, probably the most important anarchist thinkers at least that I know of are poor, illiterate peasants in Aragon and Catalonia in 1936, who actually constructed a successful live anarchist society over a large area industrial and agricultural. Most of them were illiterate. They left documents so… there are some documents left which were extremely interesting. And it was not spontaneous, this had been after efforts that had been going for 70 years. Efforts that were attempts, crushed, try again, educational programs, all sorts of things.’

    I’m for ‘the carnival spirit’ and ‘the immediate joy of solidarity’ but my reservation with these is that I think they can take forms that get silly and self-indulgent, put people off, and confuse the message. Public activities done for the sake of in-group morale may have negative communicative consequences and that’ll need to be considered.

    • Lambert Meertens 9th Jan 2014

      Going by the review by Gare I see that McGilchrist's book offers interesting viewpoints and raises important issues, but I'm sceptical when the ills of today's society are explained by the malfunctioning of the Western corpus callosum. Here is a somewhat more critical review by the philosopher A. C. Grayling that appeared in Literary Review.

    • Jason 9th Jan 2014

      Hi Lambert, I don’t think McGilchrist is explaining in the sense of naming it as the source or cause of all society’s ills. Rather, he’s exploring the correlation between states of society and states in the brain, looking at how civilisation is reflected in our neurology.

      I must say I really hate Grayling’s work. In that review, he does to the book what McGilchrist is saying imbalanced brains do to our experience of the world—fragment, reduce, distort, narrow to certainties. E.g. ‘I do not mean to caricature McGilchrist's argument, but it does indeed come down to [a] straightforward claim.’ And he goes on about how limited the science is even though he knows McGilchrist knows that, and instead of being curious about that he just insists and dismisses. Analytic philosophy cannot handle speculation and metaphor.

    • LedSuit ' 10th Jan 2014

      Yeah, but my question is, is McGilchrist's argument the result of an imbalanced mind?

      And further, does the speculation require confirmation via some sort of, I assume, rational investigation?

      If not it just remains as something well, speculative. Fun to think about, but speculative.

      Although, I can see some sort of correlation between the history of the powerful moulding the world to suit themselves by developing, favouring, certain institutional structures that have debilitating effects on the psyches of the less powerful. Thereby, via these institutions like education which has to correlate with the institutional structures it supports and that support it (or co-reproduce each other) bringing about a neglect or underuse of more right brain capacities in favour of more left brain, which in turn corresponds to the required outlook one needs to get ahead in life. More an adaption by the masses (not so much the people who matter as they can do what they like whenever they like) for survival purposes. Just kind of like pushing like any those like nagging gut feelings, like intuitive creative ideas, empathetic like feelings into the background because they ain't like needed. So when someone indulges in some sort of creative pursuit in their garage or wherever, alone for their own pleasure and sanity, it's intrinsic value is immediately questioned when someone else says, after being shown whatever it is, "you know, you could sell that. You could make some money out of that. Have you thought of that? Have you? Well, if you haven't and don't, what's the point? Got anymore beer?"

      But still, I am having trouble grasping whether it is at all possible to actually use part of the brain less knowingly. If it's happening unconsciously, then how do we know? What sort of, dare I say it, rational research, or experimentation, or studies could be done to lessen the speculation?

      My guitar teacher used to tell me I was being too intellectual in my approach to improvising.That I needed to be more intuitive. I never really understood how he knew nor how I could know. To this day, I merely assume they both work at the same time or are always there at least. If I'm ignoring one side or the other, left or right, I wouldn't know. They still don't know why an organism with one of the simplest brains turns left instead of right. Fuck knows what's going on inside my goddamn brain!

    • Lambert Meertens 10th Jan 2014

      Quote from Jason Chaplin:

      "I don’t think McGilchrist is explaining in the sense of naming it as the source or cause of all society’s ills. Rather, he’s exploring the correlation between states of society and states in the brain, looking at how civilisation is reflected in our neurology."

      Gare writes, "McGilchrist has shown ... convincingly that there is a certain kind of brain malfunction that undermines civilization." This implies causation and not mere correlation. Perhaps he mischaracterizes McGilchrist's work, but the second part of the book is named "How the Brain Has Shaped Our World", which strongly suggests that McGilchrist indeed subscribes to a causal relationship and is not just exploring an intriguing metaphor.

      When people silence the voice of their hearts and manage to ignore its muffled outcries they risk becoming monsters – perhaps encouraged by what appears to be socially acceptable. It is irrelevant for this observation what the physical substrate for that voice is – your heart, the brain, or a cricket. In any case, I would not describe it as a heart malfunction, brain malfunction, or cricket malfunction.

    • Jason 11th Jan 2014

      Sure, it’s a cause but it’s the cause all. But maybe this isn’t what you meant—my apologies if so. A couple of pages later from Gare’s piece…

      “McGilchrist makes no claim to explaining the relationship between the evolution of culture and the development of malfunctioning brains, acknowledging the immense complexity of this. … To extend McGilchrist’s insights it is necessary to examine separately the impact on individuals and society of this brain malfunction (although it is a simplifying abstraction to separate the two).”

      Isn’t knowledge of the physical substrate valuable as a matter of awareness? Doesn’t it allow us to get a better grip on the nature of what we’re up against? Should an organ not be considered to be malfunctioning if it’s cutting people off from various states of well-being, let alone playing a decisive role in the survival of a species? A psychopath’s chances of functioning socially will be helped by them understanding how their frontal lobes are damaged.

    • Lambert Meertens 12th Jan 2014

      Maybe I misinterpret Gare's interpretation of McGilchrist, but I don't see the sentences you quote as contradicting the causality aspect of the relationship, but only as admitting that the mechanisms leading from one to the other need more work to be fully understood. Just before this, Gare writes: "But all the higher values, unless they can be reduced to utility, are vehemently rejected by the world that is brought into being by the left-hemisphere as an affront to its 'will-to-power'." [My underlining for emphasis. --L.] And elsewhere he writes: "To extend McGilchrist’s insights it is necessary to examine separately the impact on individuals and society of this brain malfunction (although it is a simplifying abstraction to separate the two)." Statements that malfunctioning brains are responsible for this or that undesirable phenomenon, from nihilism and reductionism to a pathological unability to appreciate the human condition, are pervasive throughout the review. And universities are held responsible for "the mass production of people with malfunctioning brains".

      If anything, I believe the mechanisms run the other way. When we are born into this world, we're born into a tyrannical system to which we have to adapt to survive. Some adapt too well, at the expense of their humanity, others don't do so well and join IOPS :).

      Apart from the question of causality, I have an issue with the use of the term "brain malfunction". Isn't this a reductionist explanation of what we're up against? Rather than offering a valuable clarification of the nature of the problem, I'm afraid it sends us barking up the wrong tree.

    • Jason 12th Jan 2014

      That’s all I meant, i.e. an interplay is described between the brain states and institutions.

      I guess whether it’s reductionistic depends on how all-encompassing the claims of the book are (which I’ll get around to reading at some stage). From what’s described in the lectures and the review, I think it can be taken as just another angle from which to view the problems. And the Master-Emissary metaphor seems powerful as a compelling framework for thinking the relationship between various cognitive functions and it what it means for them to be balanced.

    • Jason 11th Jan 2014

      Edit: ‘it’s [not] the cause [of] all [ills].’

  • Zane Hannan 8th Jan 2014

    Definitely gonna come back to this thread when I have time. Thanks, Peter!

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 8th Jan 2014

    Many thanks, you guys. And thanks for pointing out McGilchrist and Gare, Jason, hadn't heard of them and will read with interest. I agree with the reservations expressed in your last paragraph too.

  • LedSuit ' 9th Jan 2014

    Talk about the irrational.

    Picture this.

    I walk into Simon's garage with two amps, three guitars, a computer, extra speakers, a soundcard and an old suitcase full of shit and then spend the next hour setting things up around a whole heap of other shit. Tools, beer cans and crap. Simon pretty much doing the same thing. Off sorting out a ladder-table with electronic gadgetry, numerous mobile phones, drum machines and looping things, then arranging his bass, tenor and soprano saxophones at arms length only to further have to deal with organising microphones and setting up all the necessary recording apparatus.

    An hour or two later we're ready. After a break and a coffee for us both and a cigarette, joint or absinthe for Simon, we set ourselves to play. What we haven't a clue. For how long, who knows, who cares.

    My chair starts to creak and we're off. Levels have been sorted so now it's just myself and Simon. Fuck the world.

    The door of the garage is open so the neighbors of Sunshine get a blast. It gets loud sometimes, oh, and soft. It gets fucking rowdy, chaotic and sometimes gentle. Always nervous and calm at the same time. Always with intent yet uncertain.

    It all comes to an end whenever it does. We smile at each other and take a break. Coffee and cigarettes again. Maybe a joint but the absinthe is gone. We rewind to listen while we pack up, well mainly me. We smile and laugh at what we hear. Stop and gaze at one another with surprise. An hour or so later, I'm packed and head towards the car.

    A CD cover is worked out later, emails are exchanged and the music eventually mastered for upload onto the net-mainly Simon. He's the techno wizard. It's finally uploaded. There it is now for no-one to listen to. No-one to give two shits about. You can't whistle the melody on the way home on the tram. You can't tap your foot to it or even dance to it unless you're a maniac.

    So there's a whole day of creativity, of communication with an insane friend who so desperately wants to JUST be a musician, done with and brushed aside. An intimate hour of musical entanglement to last us for another year, until next time. For an homogenised world that doesn't give a shit. Music to sit in cyberspace, as a record of something that happened in Sunshine on some ordinary afternoon. To sit invisible to all, like in a black-hole. Music nobody wants.

    Hah! Fuck it. Off course we'll do it again. We can't not.

    That's irrationality in your face.

  • LedSuit ' 9th Jan 2014

    I'm also not sure how one would know whether they are privileging one side of the brain over another. Am I doing that now? There may be differences between the left and right sides of the brain that can be looked at, analysed, studied, sorted, categorised, theorised, poeticised, musicised, jokecised, ignorisised but can we know in any way shape or form how the interconnection between the two is travelling within individuals at any particular moment(a sixtieth of a finger snap for those who actually wish to quantify what the length of a moment is) over a life time without stopping someone and instantly looking inside to see what is happening? Like what Amy Farrah Fowler, neurobiologist and "girlfriend" of Sheldon Cooper PHD would love to do.

    Unless someone has been actually diagnosed with some sort of diagnosable brain malfunction or lesion of some sort, does not everyone by nature of being human operate using their whole brain all the time? To whatever degree their biological and genetic endowment allows?

    I mean can McGilchrist really make the assertion that from the industrial revolution we are standing too close? Left brain focused? And perhaps it is getting worse? Is that really possible? To make that claim? What does it actually mean. Is he missing something in his rational analysis?

    What bugs me is to make these types of claims without looking at the power structures outside. The institutional structures that homogenise things and herd populations, not because they can't sing, dance or love anymore, but because they are squeezed in such a way that they can only find those things in tiny cracks here and there and then they fucking die.

    The rich, powerful and wealthy are exhibiting or utilizing their capacities because they can. The wealthy can walk away from anything because the CAN. As Chomsky(only a left brain rationalist?) says, the corporate structure is a private tyranny. It forces people to behave like psychopaths. Outside of that environment they love their kids, sing, dance, laugh and all them things. they appear as nice ordinary people.

    It does make me think again of Chomsky and his discussions about our capacities and limitations as a human animal. He also understands that there is no longer a notion of the material. The physical. The mechanical. Newton destroyed that idea much to his own horror apparently. Action at a distance and now things like curved space time, quantum indeterminacy, strings and M theory have compounded the problem. Moved those studying things and looking for answers away from actual reality and to merely studying whether the theories about actual reality are good or perhaps elegant.

    Then there are people like Timothy Morton and Hyperobjects, constant referral to paradoxes, some of which McGilchrist mentions, talking of things that confuse, bewilder yet strangely attract me. But I often find myself running to the safety of the more easily understandable, the Chomsky's of the world. There is still plenty of creativity there.

    It makes me think of Buddhism. Notions of clarity and true seeing. Things spoken of by philandering alcoholics like Chogyam Trungpa and others like Sogyal Rinpoche, all under the camouflage of the crazy wisdom master. How is the ordinary to know? Easily duped by others who belong to long traditions of mystical "knowledge" trying to make sense of the world. Charlatans? Perhaps totally sincere in their own delusion? So we get the more rational, calm, considered western buddhist approach from Stephen Bachelor that still contains an element of rationalisation and excuse. This is not to mention buddhism's extreme sexism and hierarchical structures.

    Ah well, you live and learn, make mistakes, act the fool, troll with the devil, lack confidence on a level that is hidden by that on another level.

    The rational and the "irrational". More like the rational and everything else.

    Or maybe actually just everything or else!!

  • Dave Jones 11th Jan 2014

    The search for the Unified Theory of Spirit and Knowledge. The reason it is such a "razors edge" is because the fall off either side, the mystical or the rational, is so steep.

    Beware the clinical psychologists working for a pharmaceutical giant who come up with an Empathy Pill. The first one is free!

  • LedSuit ' 11th Jan 2014

    As far as unification goes I reckon it already is. I couldn't care less about a search for a 'theory" of unification. You'd just have to scientifically test it.

    The mind is what it is. I can't find my "spirit". All I find is sometimes I act or think in ways that people would agree is considered and reasoned and other times, probably most of the time, I act in ways that would be considered the opposite. Yes, it may be deemed irrational by some, but I'm not exactly sure what that means. Chomsky has a rather specific definition of holding two opposing views and considering both to be true or invading a country and using some obscure biblical text that no-one truly understands as part reason.

    There is always an emotional gut feel getting in the way of pretty much everything and I have no idea how to control it or defining it. I just have to deal with it.

    Any theory is not going to change the way people actually are.

    But I guess Peter may only be talking about the ability of activist movements to accommodate this diversity. Not ignore it no matter how it manifests. I think.

    • LedSuit ' 12th Jan 2014

      What I meant to say is that any theory of unification regarding spirit and knowledge isn't going to change how people behave in actual situations. That just happens in real time. A theory doesn't trump the "possibly" unknowable reality.

      What is it that draws tens of thousands of people to a music concert? What draws the same to one where heads are moving up and down, that gives one a migraine just looking at it?
      How does this compare to the relative unattractiveness of Marxian scholarship or theory? The relative unattractiveness of any social theory to large numbers of "average" people?

      Perhaps it something to do with the visceral.

      Frank Zappa for me was a rather left brain kind of dude (I know I know it's not totally true but bear with me). Very logical and rational. However in regards to his guitar style and the nature of it, comparatively speaking, Jason Chaplin and myself seem to agree that he refrained from what I called "practising it out". The "it" being that undefinable thing. This is why so many schooled, talented, and naturally gifted musicians I know, quite often are somewhat perplexed by his guitar playing. It "sounds" unrefined and as if he doesn't practise enough.

      However, Steve Via, an enormously gifted, schooled, highly skilled, ten hour a day practicer, describes Zappa's guitar playing as visceral. There is, without a doubt, something that goes beyond the left brain, the linear, the rational in his playing that transcends what most are used to. Brian May, Queen's guitarist, in a rather pithy statement that could be taken as dismissive, suggested one could do a wholethesis on FZ's style. A man with a Phd himself and who plays guitar in a very controlled, symmetrical way (still great though:)).

      Zappa always said that a solo should have the "finger". You know the middle one. Eyebrows! His solo from the Roxy and Elsewhere album, on the track Orange County Lumber Truck is a good example. Listen to the phrase that starts around 3min 8 sec and goes till about 3min 23 sec. It is bizarre yet typical of his style. That whole solo is an example of visceral.

      A better example is Yo Mama from Sheik Yerbouti. Two solos edited together from two different performances to create for me one of the great guitar solos of all time in three movements. Try and imagine during movement one, no drums, the US cavalry waking up, having breakfast, getting their gear together, preparing things and shit. It's actually a nice sunny day. Movement two, when the drums enter in a lose way, is them on the move heading ominously towards their destination. Movement three , the drums move into rhythm as the cavalry swoops down on the Cheyenne at Sand Creek. Killing and mutilating everything in sight. When I first heard this solo this is what went through my mind. I reckon the whole brain was fully functional at the time. It is still what I think of.

      It is almost as if Frank himself understood there was something in the automatic natural way he played, held and felt the guitar that went beyond merely practicing to be technically brilliant, which he was not. But he was technically unique, astonishing, surprising and alluring in a way that very very few guitar players are for me including, controversially, Hendrix!!!. He is not easily transcribeable. He is SO idiosyncratic. In the same way that Edgard Varese was and the great jazz guitarist Jim Hall.

      Can these sorts of visceral things, to be found in the "artistic" fields, be absorbed into left movements as more than some peripheral kind of entertainment before the real shit takes over. Because if I had the choice of wading through the wads of leftist intellectual material, particularly Marxian, and theory and listening to Steve Via's Get The Hell Out of Hear (see my last countertrolling post to Satan's The Future thread on the non-members forum) I'd go for the Via!!

      Geez, I don't know what I'm saying anymore. This post has me thinking faster than I normally do.

    • LedSuit ' 12th Jan 2014


  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 12th Jan 2014

    Go the Zapp. James: "Perhaps it [is] something to do with the visceral." Yep, precisely. Yagottit. All I'm trying to say really.

    NOT 'irrationalism' but merging the visceral and mind/intellect, but understanding that the former is primary, originary. Body language came/comes before verbal language.

    Mehrabian's research found the famous 93% NON-VERBAL (55% BODY LANGUAGE, 38% TONE OF VOICE), 7% WORDS formula for how people like/dislike someone talking about their feelings or attitudes. (Important for 'agitators'?) In general communication he's put the relativities of meaning/effect down to two thirds nonverbal, one third verbal. A 1970 study found nonverbal cues had 4.3 times the effect of verbal cues. Of course, all this empiricism depends on assumptions and methodologies used, but the general message of the primacy of the nonverbal comes through loud and clear.

    Relevance for the movement? James: "Can these sorts of visceral things, to be found in the "artistic" fields, be absorbed into left movements as more than some peripheral kind of entertainment before the real shit takes over." Precisely the Q I wanted to raise, on ya camerado. (Only I don't think it's just 'found in the artistic fields' but in absolutely everyone's common everyday life.)

    Maybe this might help: two anecdotes about why people may become politicised. A young black woman in the US south was asked why she joined the civil rights movement after the young students came down from the north. Her answer: "it was because of THEY WAY THEY MOVED." Not because she read a book or tract.

    That tallies with my own politicisation around 68. Here's an excerpt from an essay I wrote:

    "The next month, in May, I also watch the student riots in Paris on the TV news. Le joli mai, ‘The revolution will not be televised’. The poetry of May 68 is not visible on the screens. I attend some packed assemblies at university, a rally in the city. I am absorbing the subtly exciting atmosphere, the body language, the walking of the talk. One day there is student political street theatre near the university fountains in Ludwigstrasse: a guy with a beard in an academic gown sitting on a toilet seat shitting on some distasteful government university reform proposal or other. It’s not so much the content of the performance that makes the deep impression, it is the courage of the performer, the radically democratic effect of public satire, the transformation of dead public space and the everyday into a space for political comment and mind expansion.

    A first taste of real and direct democracy makes a lasting impression: mass discussion ('diskutieren' becomes one of the main verbs in a now finally truly democratised Germany for at least a decade), open voting, the smoke-filled lecture halls, the first black leather jackets, the first unkempt men with beards or longish hair, the more self-confident and interesting-looking women. I am still a virgin longing for defloration. The sublimated sexuality of it all is an important aspect of the excitement. There is something in the air, a vibration, a vague sense of some kind of excitement in the ether, something subtly shifting somewhere, collectively forming. Something both in us and larger than us.

    All this just seems to be ‘where the action is’, both literally and metaphorically. There is as yet, for me, no real ‘theory’, just the lived realities of throngs of people gathering, speakers speaking of public matters: war crimes in Vietnam, US Imperialism, Emergency Laws and the dangers of a new authoritarian society, the absence of parliamentary opposition, hierarchical, authoritarian and antiquated university structures ('Unter den Talaren, der Muff von Tausend Jahren' – ‘under the ceremonial gowns the reek of a thousand years’; students parade this banner in front of a ceremonial procession of university professors). The powers that be, the political and academic ‘establishment’, is clearly ossified and authoritarian. To any young person open to it, the powerful appeal of the APO ['ausserparlamentarische Opposition': extra-parliamentary opposition] lies mainly in its consciously and explicitly anti-authoritarian and radically democratic stance. Politics is not a party media spectacle, removed from all personal relevance. 'La politique se passe dans la rue': politics is now happening in the streets.

    The appeal of this kind of politics is not abstract, not merely theoretical. It is also sensuous and sensual. The student radicals are ‘walking their talk.’ As in good communication or good theatre, first the heart and body, then the mind. In a sense, I am unconsciously ‘conquered’ before all rational theory: 'Je suis venu, J’ai vu, J’ai cru' ('I came, I saw, I believed' – May 68 graffito at the Sorbonne in Paris).

    And, equally, there is this sense of standing at some edge, some threshold without quite knowing of what before it is actually expressed: 'J’ai quelque chose à dire mais je ne sais pas quoi' ('I have something to say but I don’t know what' – graffito at Censier). Something is trying to birth itself perhaps, a time of turning and revolt that, at its finest, sometimes takes on quite poetic and philosophical forms. Beyond all traditional (boring) politics this is the poetry of mass revolt … 'La poesie est dans la rue': not only politics, especially in Paris, even poetry is now in the streets and on the walls."

    In case anyone's interested, the full essay is in four parts (two positive, two negative) and the first part can be read here:


  • Dave Jones 13th Jan 2014

    I am in full agreement that the visceral is necessary and primary- I just don't believe it is sufficient for radical social change. (and I know Peter is not arguing this, nor is he espousing anti-intellectualism of any sort).

    I would argue that 9/11 was the most visceral, artistic and yes, even poetic expression since 68 and yet, lacking ideological coherence and theory, it will prove to be a mere historical moment, appropriated by capital, leaving Power unscathed. Yes, it fully engages one hemisphere of the brain, fully elicits biochemical RE-action and psychosocial affect. But lacking any rational linkage to egalitarian values, the smell, the sight, the noise and image are simply Spectacle, leaving only spectators in its horrific wake.

    As a child of the Flower Power/California counter-culture, and participant in decades of "anti-globalization" organizing, I also feel a duty to critique these "movements" as cultural expressions and effective vehicles for emancipation. What was achieved, what worked, what was counter-productive in terms of the spiritual currents, political actions/organizations and theoretical constructions? Only with that task confronted critically and openly, can we begin to talk about moving forward as a Left left with this new project. I appreciate Peter for his efforts here.

    The puppets of Seattle, the drums of Zucotti Park, the flash-mobs, the Theatre of the Oppressed and Yes Men antics, they all have a certain resonance and yet lack a unifying critique. Is this our role?

  • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014

    I think I would say I am in agreement with Dave. But I think from Dave's open statement, he is in agreement with Peter and Jason.

    However, as Peter pointed regarding my statement, "... I don't think it's just 'found in the artistic fields' but in absolutely everyone's common everyday life."

    Michael Albert has pointed to the elitist nature of the left. In the words of Jason Chaplin, "... you can’t spit on football and McDonald’s and expect everyday people to feel an affinity with you."

    So it is more than just "the carnival spirit". Many "ordinary" people can also be very suspect about those things too.

    I agree there needs to be some sort of "unifying critique" as well. But the "left" is incredibly fucked up in this area. Particularly among those of a more well read variety.

    I was suggesting to Jason the other day, to me, it seems "vision", for instance, is a very very divisive area within the left particularly among the more "educated" classes of it.

    In fact, with my extremely limited experience, I went as far as to say, most "activists" and the "left" in general can't stand it. Don't really want to deal with it. Too hard.

    Parecon, as an example, is, I went so far to say, the most detailed economic vision out there. I would put Inclusive Democracy, below it.

    Parecon is self-contained intellectually. One does not need to read wads and wads of literature to understand it. Inclusive Democracy is not. It is rooted in an academic type historical tradition which Fatopoulos alludes to and "outside" studies and work etc., for help.

    Parecon is value based, completely and unashamedly open to critique and revision and ACTUALLY attempts to bring forth a maximalist/minimalist vision that is well rooted in the libertarian socialist tradition (while not asking people to study up) and satisfy the maxim of from each according to ability to each according to need. Just about every other lesser detailed vision of more than just a vague outline, does not do that- at least for me.

    So where on earth is the unifying critique? If theory is to aide vision and vision to aide strategy, how on earth is this to be done? Just forget it, and we can argue till the death about reformist measures like a basic income or just single issue projects.

    Visceral can equal passion. There is passion out there. Have a read of Takis Fotopoulos's criticisms of ZNet and Michael Albert to get a sense of passion. There is an emotional element there which I think gets in the way of a fair minded critique of Parecon. It is somewhat hidden under an intellectual presentation, but it is there nonetheless. Why? And it gets in the way of moving forward.

    You can't tell people to NOT be emotional, or even irrational for that matter, whatever that is. You have to try and understand it. Criticizing someone for buying a coffee at MacDonalds will more likely see you wearing it than achieving some sort of positive result or victory.

    I can see bullshit in the bullshitty stupid things, but I still like many of them. Australian rule football for instance. But I am allowed to be irrational in that setting. Thank fucking god. I severely hate people, that is until they come over to MY club.

    As Jason pointed out to me, Chomsky alluded to the Spanish Revolution being brought about by predominantly illiterate people. One may need unifying critique but one needs a way to draw on the gut feel of the bewildered herd to get them rallying for the cause.

    The problem with the Spanish Revolution, often brought up by the "left" as an example, is it doesn't, I would go so far as to say it won't, attract many average folk into the fold. Most won't even read about it. It is too narrow. It is NOT all encompassing enough. It won't have those from modern techn-industrial social democracies thinking, "yeah, now there's a life style for me!"

    Parecon was a passion for me. A vision that I though spoke to me about something. A possible better way at organising, at the time, the world. Now I realise it is just this economy, fair enough, but bring it up and most people on the "left" would prefer not to talk about it.

    It is value based like IOPS. It is simple, not dependent AT ALL on reams of academic work and studies. (Like for instance the reform measure of a Basic Income absolutely is) Parecon, for me at least, is clear in its structure and , more than I can say for other visions, honest in outlining what will be required of the people, who have, through self-managed processes, brought it into being. That is because it is well thought through and maximalist enough.

    Values are NOT left brain. They are more than likely innate qualities locked into out malfunctioning brains much the language faculty.

    Maybe it is true that VISION is more important than we think and must deserve GREATER prominence on the homepage and elicit GREATWER discussion than many here feel. Unless of course there are others, value based and in accord with IOPS, that can also help bring about some sort of unifying critique or some sort of unifying strategy. Something like a Basic Income does not do this.

    Maybe the "left" just likes to argue with itself for right brain gut feel reasons. The same ones that made Hitchens not want to annihilate religion because it provided him with entertainment.

    I was "viscerally passionate" about Parecon for a while. Those feelings have been somewhat repressed lately, to the point that bringing it up feels stupid.

    I already know I'm fucking stupid, but I always felt Parecon was far from it, and I really don't like feeling stupid. It's depressing.

    • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014

      I have no idea whether what I wrote above is relevant to the blog. I just went GUT FEEL.

    • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014

      Aid, dickhead, not aide!

    • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014


      ...as Peter pointed [to] regarding my statement...

      ...to [aid] vision...to [aid] strategy...(dickhead)

      ...about by predominantly illiterate [peasants].

      ...from modern techn[o]-industrial social democracies...

      Now I realise it is [just an economic vision]...

      ...likely innate qualities locked into ou[r] malfunctioning brains much [like] the language faculty.

      ...that VISION is more important than we think and [one's like Parecon] deserve GREATER prominence on the homepage and elicit GREATER discussion...

    • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014

      Sorry Jason, I forgot that you mentioned the "illiterate peasant" thing in your post above.

  • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014

    There is an mock interview that Michael Albert did about Barak Obama some while back.Called An interview I'd Like to Read or something like that. In it, Albert creates a truly progressive Obama. Obviously using Obama as a proxy to outline a list of possible "reforms" that could be implemented and would lead society towards further reforms and on to a better world, for all.

    Real meaty visceral reforms that connected clearly with some possible future, some possible vision. No doubt this future accorded with Michael's own proclivities. A desire for a ParSoc and and a Pareconish type economy. Naturally.

    I sent it to a somewhat anti-capitalist radio jock here on 3RRR who had recently interviewed a hedge fund, right wing son of a dick about the financial crisis. It was total bullshit. If one wanted some ideas about what needs to be done, then get creative it thought. Don't interview some dick who just wants things back functioning as per usual. So I sent him the interview. I got shafted and publicly. "Yes James, I will read the 'lecture' when I get time." Said in a slow frustrated, sarcastic australian drawl.

    The thing I liked about the interview was that it was passionate. It was a heartfelt cry out. It related to vision. The ideas were headed somewhere, not just vaguely. The ideas-reforms- were strong and spelt out in ways anyone could understand, along with a degree of emotional and moral persuasiveness that anyone could understand and find hard to dispute.

    And it was written by someone who passed on the possibility of entering an intellectual academic (predominantly left brain?)career in the sciences to spend his life in the emotional roller-coaster world of revolutionary activism. Probably motivated more by gut feel than anything else. I'm guessing there but I do find that inspiring.

    Someone who felt vision was important, went and actually built one, and now spends most of his life trying to close the gap between it, theory and strategy.

    Driven by gut feel and passion.

    • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014


      ...get creative [I] thought.

      ...somewhere [definite], not just vaguely [presented]...

  • LedSuit ' 13th Jan 2014

    Here's the piece. Maybe someone could do it as a play. Tour the country as a theatre piece. I mean people sit for hours listening to Chomsky rap about the shittiness of the world. Get people sitting down in theatres, with a couple of wines in 'em, listening to possibilities. How things could be. Then see what sort of conversations start up when the leave the theatre.


  • Dave Jones 14th Jan 2014

    When I say unifying critique I just mean anti-capitalism. There is not even Left consensus on this simple point. Vision, especially Parecon/parsoc is a whole nother step. And i agree James, I have read critical theory from Adorno to Zizek but there is something just plain old down home CLEAR about Parecon. Not unlike good old American football rules, actually.

    I am inspired when I learn about how long the Spanish anarchists actually organized and how much time they spent on exactly these discussions before becoming autonomous. Or how long the Zapatistas sat around cook fires( a decade)eating tortillas and having exactly these discussions before they were ready to make their move. Shit has to be worked out, worked through.

    I think theatre is exactly the right blend of visceral and intellectual, like Augusto Boal's theatre of the oppressed. Hits you in the gut, the heart, and the brain. Bingo.

    • LedSuit ' 15th Jan 2014

      And anti-capitalist begs the question. So,...and....?

      If the question isn't dealt with clearly, and in some sense this would involve a standing back, not too close scenario, then most action will evolve around small things. Isolated things with not a great deal of connection or direction on a much wider basis. A too close scenario.

      In some ways the Spanish scenario is inspiring and in others it merely raises questions. Is it possible for something that arose out of decades of work among illiterate peasants to manifest among literate urbanites? Can what happened in rural Spain happen in urban and large techno-industrial societies? Yes the Spanish anarchists were crushed, powerfully and emphatically over seventy years ago, where are they now? Why not keep at it? Is Mondragon the extension? Is a Pluralist Commonwealth and Mondragon the only way for this sort of thing to occur in larger urban literate techno-industrial societies? Chomsky talks of the work of Alperovitz quite regularly lately with a degree of hope and positiveness.

      Are visions just outliers? Rogue intellectual red herrings? Introduced by isolated, deluded leftists? Do visions fly in the face of a more right brained empathetic natural evolution of a libertarian socialist society? Is that why they are conveniently pushed aside, the more detailed they are, in favour of lesser vaguer notions that seem to rely on, or wish to rely on, a more natural moral and value based direction? You know, from each to each is enough, people's natural goodness will get us there and once we're there, maintenance will be hard but taken care of due to some innate moral goodness?

      What's the point of reams and reams of critical theory that absorbs the valuable time of so many and is notoriously hard to understand, even among the more simple, creating dispute, confusion and no real unified anything, while a simple and clear vision commands little attention and when it does is usually easily brushed aside to be, well, forgotten?

      Can not a clear vision unify the two hemispheres in a way that balances the bifurcation of the big and the small? The standing back and standing close? The flow and the fragmented?

    • LedSuit ' 15th Jan 2014

      I meant to say "...even among the more simple theories..."

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 14th Jan 2014

    Dave: "The puppets of Seattle, the drums of Zucotti Park, the flash-mobs, the Theatre of the Oppressed and Yes Men antics, they all have a certain resonance and yet lack a unifying critique. Is this our role?"

    I'd say: well, yes and no. Yep, when the whole thing becomes non-committal balloons and hand-holding around nukes, for example (as I've done). Nope, if that means preaching any 'unifying critique' from the outside like a Leninist 'vanguard'. That stuff is hopefully well and truly 'dead left'.

    The core problem with this kind of viewpoint I reckon is its utilitarianism: its means/ends diremption, always looking at some extrinsic goal or reified thing to be possibly 'won' in the abstract future (liberated society, parsoc etc) and not at the possibly pleasurable dynamics of the present process, everybody's need for pleasure/liberation/meaning/solidarity/fun/participation NOW, even within the shit of capitalism and ecocide and struggle.

    After all, the present is really where we always live. Why leave these deep human needs to commercialised sporting events, commercialised raves, military marches and processions?

    So the question is not whether dancing and drums and music and celebration and puppets and humour are 'sufficient for social change' or present a 'unifying critique'. Of course they don't, nobody is saying they do. Their benefits are INTRINSIC to the individuals taking part AND to their group bonding, in us all as paleolithic/unconscious needs that IMO leftist intellectuals disregard at their peril. Here's Barbara Ehrenreich (Dancing in the Streets) again:

    "To submit, bodily, to the music through dance is to be incorporated into the community in a way far deeper than shared myth or common custom can achieve. In synchronous movement to music or chanting voices, the petty rivalries and factional differences that might divide a group could be transmuted into harmless competition over one's prowess as a dancer, or forgotten. 'Dance', as a neuroscientist put it, is 'the biotechnology of group formation.'"

    Thus maybe 'entrainment' and 'mirror neurons' are as important as words and tracts in our efforts to persuade, stimulate, facilitate, catalyse, network within active movements? Ehrenreich:

    "The answer may lie in the discovery of mirror neurons, nerve cells that fire both when an action is perceived [...] and when it is performed by the perceiver. In other words, the perception of an action is closely tied to the execution of the same action by the beholder. We cannot see a dancer, for example, without unconsciously starting up the neural processes that are the basis of our own participation in the dance. [...] 'Entraining with others into a shared rhythm - marching, chanting, dancing - may trigger a primitive sense of irrational and beguiling belonging, AND A SHARED MINDSET' (Marcel Kinsbourne quote)."

    I reckon these mirror neurons fire not just watching dancers but everywhere we watch closely and are engrossed: political speakers and comrades, poets, musicians playing, lovers, movies...

    IMO Dionysus, a democratic god of ecstasy much popular with the women of antiquity BTW, must be at our wide radical table as much as the clarity of Apollo. (Dionysus also known elsewhere as the Trickster, Pan, Baccus, Faunus, Priapus, Ammon, Osiris, Shiva).

    And Dionysus' anti-utilitarianism goes back a long way:

    "Dionysus [...] was not worshipped for ulterior reasons (to increase the crops or win the war) but FOR THE SHEER JOY OF HIS RITE ITSELF. Not only does he demand and instigate; he IS the ecstatic experience that, according to Durkheim, defines the sacred and sets it apart from daily life." (Ehrenreich, p. 39)

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 14th Jan 2014

    All the above I'm of course trying to say from the analytical Apollonian left brain. Let's try a touch of Dionysus too:

    Any Day Now, Any Day Now, We Shall Be Released
    por los indignados del mundo

    In order to pursue
    other opportunities

    spend more quality time
    with the family
    dvd or butterfly collection

    we have been

    let go like a bow string
    offered a package of canned laughter
    made redundant as reason

    retrenched, restructured
    rightsized, rationalised
    reshuffled, reconfigured

    relieved of duties & dollars
    dehired like a portaloo
    excessed like Michael Hutchence
    unassigned like an old hooker


    you heard right, uninstalled

    in a word fucked
    over & released

    yes, hallelujah
    by gosh & golly
    we have been

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 14th Jan 2014

    On that, Dylan and friends, end of an era:


    • LedSuit ' 15th Jan 2014

      1978. Saw Dylan twice at Myer Music Bowl. Saw the Last Waltz at Dendy theatre Brighton. Old organ rising up from under stage providing pre film entertainment. Had already bought album.

  • Dave Jones 16th Jan 2014

    All true, my fellow seekers, I spent many a night dancing to the Grateful Dead, all of us pretty "entrained" and sharing a mindset, together in our bliss. Neurons sparking like Haley's comet! We were in the moment, in our own counter-culture, Jupiter aligned with Mars. As old lefty Adorno put it: "All are free to dance and sing, just as they have been free, since the historical neutralisation of religion, to join any of the innumerable sects.."

    But when the sun came up we, like the young Turks of Gezi park, went back to our jobs or suburbs or schools. Of course I don't advocate for "old orthodox left" dogma or vanguardist primacy but let's remember that the name of the popular dance drug is "ecstacy" and capitalism loves it. Here is a quote from someone I know you, Peter, and Chomsky- and probably Albert- have little use for- Slajov Zizek speaking to Occupy Wall Street:

    "There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember, carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.”

    My deeper point being: intellectual work is demanding but so is much worthwhile endeavor. And there is a danger here of being condescending, of thinking the hoi polloi will never get anything abstract, just give em a drum, or chain them to a bulldozer. All of us need to reach a little intellectually, stretch it out even if it is just philosophy, theory,analysis, Logos. When Marcos went into the Lacandon jungle with his copy of Das Kapital, he soon found he needed to learn as much as to teach. But the indigenous people needed to learn as well as to teach. For years htey exchanged knowledge. And they are still learning. (and dancing)

    James: I think vision is crucial. A smart man once said: "Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler." He too was looking for a unified theory.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 16th Jan 2014

    Agreed, Dave. Often all a matter of nuance. Usually find myself providing the counter-balances wherever the gut-feeling is one-sided. Too much Apollo/head, I go for Dionysus/gut, too much Dionysus I go for Apollo. You've taken the latter counter-balance role to my Dionysus, so good on ya. The yin and yang are each half-right and together we can groove in complementarity (rather than get stuck in fruitless antagonism), conscious of making up the whole circle of tao together, if ya get me drift. The uses of practical taoism.

    Still don't like Daddy Zizek telling the youngsters to grow up. A gut thing towards him as much as intellectual difference. Strikes me as a little unpleasant, oily, maybe a necessary celebrity gadfly, but little sense of compassion, humanity, warmth, 'inner power'... but doesn't matter, should be judged by intellectual contents I know, and there haven't found much to inspire either... maybe haven't seen/read enough...)

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 16th Jan 2014

    Just happened on the following quote from Charles Eisenstein that seems to fit in with this thread. One could substitute 'environmentalist' for 'revolutionary/radical/anarchist' methinks.

    "I don’t know about you, but I didn’t become an environmentalist
    because someone made a rational argument that convinced me
    that the planet was in danger. I became an environmentalist out
    of love and pain: love for the world and its beauty and the grief of seeing it destroyed. It was only because I was in touch with these feelings that I had the ears to listen to evidence and reason and the eyes to see what is happening to our world.

    I believe that this love and this grief are latent in every human being. When they awaken, that person becomes an environmentalist.

    Now, I am not saying that a rational, evidence-based analysis of
    the situation and possible solutions is unimportant. It’s just that it will be compelling only with the animating spirit of reverence for our planet, born of the felt connection to the beauty and pain around us.

    Our present economic and industrial systems can only function
    to the extent that we insulate ourselves from our love and our
    pain. We insulate ourselves geographically by pushing the worst
    degradation onto far-away places. We insulate ourselves economically by using money to avoid the immediate consequences of
    that degradation, pushing it onto the world’s poor. We insulate
    ourselves perceptually by learning not to see or recognize the
    stress of the land and water around us and by forgetting what
    healthy forests, healthy streams and healthy skies look like. And
    we insulate ourselves ideologically by our trust in technological
    fixes and justifications like, “Well, we need fracking for energy
    independence, and besides it’s not that bad,” or “After all, this forest isn’t in an ecologically critical area.”

    The most potent form of ideological insulation though is the belief that the world isn’t really in pain, that nothing worse is happening than the manipulation of matter by machines, and that
    therefore as long as we can engineer some substitute for ‘ecosystem services,’ there need be no limit to what we do to nature."

    So, then the key question for 'strategy' from an eco-socialist/anarchist perspective may also become how do we tap into, facilitate, catalyse this unconscious, latent 'love and grief' in all, encourage/express this 'felt connection to the beauty and pain around us'...?

  • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

    Can't resist this. It's from the book by Iain McGilchrist, suggested by Jason. I am quite enjoying it.

    "We might think of music as an individualistic, even solitary experience, but that is rare in the history of the world. In more traditionally, structured societies, performance of music plays both an integral, and an integrative, role not only in celebration, religious festivals, and other rituals, but also in daily work and recreation; and it is above all a shared performance, not just something we listen to passively. It has a vital way of binding people together, helping them to be aware of shared humanity, shared feelings and experiences, and actively drawing them together. In our world, competition and specialisation have made music something compartmentalised, somewhere away from life's core. So Oliver Sacks writes:

    'This primal role of music is to some extent lost today, when we have a special class of composers and performers, and the rest of us are often reduced to passive listening. One has to go to a concert, or a church or a music festival, to recapture the collective excitement and bonding of music. In such a situation, there seems to be an actual binding of nervous systems...'('an actual binding of nervous systems' was in italics)

    But if it should turn out that music leads to language, rather than language to music, it helps us understand for the first time the otherwise baffling historical fact that poetry evolved before[italics] prose. Prose was at first known as pezos logos[italics], literally 'pedestrian, or walking, logos'[italics], as opposed to the usual dancing logos[italics] of poetry. In fact early poetry was sung: so the evolution of literary skill progresses, if that is the correct word, from right-hemisphere music (words that are sung), to right-hemisphere language (the metaphorical language of poetry), to left-hemisphere language (the referential language of prose).

    Music is likely to be the ancestor of language and it arose largely in the right hemisphere, where one would expect a means of communication with others, promoting social cohesion, to arise."

    McGilchrist goes on to say,

    "The predominance of language, and, above all, of the effects of the written word, may itself have contributed to the decline of music in our culture. (I hope in later chapters to show that the culture of the written word tends inevitably towards the predominantly left-hemisphere phenomenon of a competitive, specialised and compartmentalised world.) We may find it initially hard to accept THE PRIMACY OF MUSIC[my capitals], since we are trapped inside a culture that is so language-determined and language-dependent that we cannot imagine it being any other way."

    Can't give page references as I am using an electronic book!They are from the Language or Music: Which Came First and Communication Without Language sections of Chapter 3.

    I think the great Derek Bailey would have liked these ideas as well. I assume FZ too, considering he felt the entire universe stems from THE BIG NOTE. Think of string theory and vibrations of said strings!

    See if you can hear the "language" of Derek Bailey. He broke guitar playing into three basic parts. Stopped (fretted) notes, harmonics and open strings. He once said that the aim, or his, was to upset the expected timbrel and regular congruous (can't think of the right word-left hemisphere not familiar enough with it!!) flow of regular music making. This can be heard most simply and readily when playing basic scales. So Bailey often plays scales and tonalities but they are hidden behind timbrel disconnection and octave displacement (I am using the referential language of prose here). It creates the illusion of atonality at times, which Bailey's improvisations most definitely are not. Nor are they arhythmical. Enjoy. Two parts I think.

    "Everything in the universe is made of one element which is a note..." Around the twenty second mark.

  • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

    While The Big Note may be a more right hemisphere conception perhaps finding Higgs' boson, while supporting a more Standard Model of the universe and accounting for the mass of fundamental particles, will lend weight to a more scientistic and left hemisphere viewpoint.

    You know, just sayin'.

  • Lambert Meertens 18th Jan 2014

    "Most of us aren't thinking about what our brain is doing during a conversation. Yet a recent study shows that whatever we're saying or doing, it takes two sides to tango. In other words, both hemispheres of this organ are actively working during speech.

    Researchers at New York University said that they hoped to challenge the mainstream neurology theory that speech and language are 'lateralized'—meaning that only one side of the brain controls these actions. In this case, it was believed to be just the left side."

    Read more at Science World Report: Speak Up! Talking Takes Both Sides of the Brain.

    • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

      I think McGilchrist would agree, it's just each hemisphere is coming at it from a different place. One side appears less verbal and able to deal in metaphor etc., while the other is a little more narrow in its focus.

      It is certainly weird reading a book that talks about brain hemispheres like conscious beings, with personalities and desires. You almost feel one has to then go study the "mind" of each hemisphere and then again, ad infinitum? Reduction ad absurdum. The way McGilchrist uses language to describe the hemispheres gives me the impression of leading the reader to a place more accommodating of his thesis. Kind of like some sort of weird loop.

      Still, I am enjoying it.

    • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

      It's interesting Lambert, that the study concentrated on meaningless sounds. McGilchrist actually makes the point that a type of musilanguage may have preceded the verbal kind. Generating sounds, noises and rhythms used for communication or whatever, as the physical capacity for generating such sounds was there before language per se evolved. The more referential verbal prose like language seems to be left oriented. Yet both sides are used together most of the time for most things.

    • Lambert Meertens 18th Jan 2014

      Yes, I noticed that the pop-science article in Science World Report presents the claim in a much broader way ("speech and language") than the original scientific paper in Nature ("sensory-motor transformations for speech").

      I find Pinker's theory for the evolutionary origin of the human musical sense (a coincidental by-product of other evolutionary advantageous functions) extremely implausible, but I don't think much of any of the explanations I've seen proposed. My private pet theory is that music grew out of the need to synchronize repeated movement in joint labour, as when hauling a heavy log or pounding grains to flour.

    • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

      Yep fascinating area. McGilchrist mentions Pinkers dismissive theory of music,

      "Cheescake packs a sensual wallop umlike anything in the natural world because it is a brew of megadoses of agreeable stimuli which we concocted for the express purpose of pressing our pleasure buttons. Pornography is another pleasure technology. In this chapter I will suggest that the arts are a third...I suspect that music is auditory cheesecake." (The Meaning of Life,in Pinker,1997, pp 525-32)

      I guess there is a difference between "music" and the use of non-verbal sounds as a serious communication method. Musilanguage may not be music per se but have qualities that are closer to what we call music than referential verbal communication.

      Genetic endowment and subsequent mutations that expand or contract out capacities and limitations of which some are selected for advantage.

    • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

      I wonder what Noam would think?

    • Lambert Meertens 18th Jan 2014

      He'd think that the Western hemisphere has been dominant in exercising the functions of imperialism.

    • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

      Boom boom!

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 18th Jan 2014

    Lambert: "My private pet theory is that music grew out of the need to synchronize repeated movement in joint labour, as when hauling a heavy log or pounding grains to flour."

    This would be quite a Marxist/utilitarian hypothesis, n'est-ce pas, mon frere? Also seems to suggest there was no music before the neolithic growers (logs, grains)?

    Here's a bit of my three counter-arguments:

    1. Poetry happens wherever humans are overwhelmed by emotion and burst out in song, wherever speech spontaneously becomes strong and shifts out of the everyday prose.

    Take a hunter and gatherer expert, Eskimo hunter and song-maker Orpingalik (to Knud Rasmussen):

    ‘Songs are thoughts, sung out with the breath when people are moved by great forces and ordinary speech no longer suffices. Man is moved just like the ice-floe sailing here and there out in the current. His thoughts are driven by a flowing force when he feels joy, when he feels fear, when he feels sorrow. Thoughts can wash over him like a flood, making his breath come in gasps and his heart throb. […] it will happen that the words we need will come of themselves. When the words we want to use shoot up of themselves – we get a new song.’ (in C.M. Bowra, Primitive Song, p. 44).

    2. Also, perhaps another non-utilitarian argument re poetry/song/music:

    Poetry is primal in its playing with words, as we did, and do, in our beginnings before rational prose, and as we do as the collective creators of new language in the vernacular.

    Take First People’s Songs, Charms, Spells etc

    (a) Yamana (Tierra del Fuego, 1838) ‘meaningless’ friendship song, sung while jumping on spot:

    Ha ma la ha ma la ha ma la ha ma la
    O la la la la la la la la

    (b) Yamana women’s ‘meaningless’ song, sung while dancing:

    Ma-las-ta xai-na-sa ma-las-ta xai-na-sa

    (c) Edwin Morgan: Siesta of a Hungarian Snake

    s sz sz SZ sz SZ sz ZS zs ZS zs zs zs

    (d) Australian Kurnai charm for driving away pain:

    Show your belly to the moon

    (e) African Bushman charm for catching a blue crane (theory: the crane’s white feathered head looks like a splinter of stone and when it runs away it sings these same words to itself):

    A splinter of stone which is white

    3. I'll close with a third non-utilitarian perspective on poetry/song/music:

    Argument: Poetry/song/music matters, and doesn’t matter, because, like life or the universe, it is Nonsense.

    Just substitute ‘poetry’ for the word ‘life’ in the following text by Alan Watts on nonsense:

    "Life is a kind of nonsense in the same way that music is a kind of nonsense, because music isn’t usually supposed to mean anything other than itself. […] Sir Arthur Eddington, the physicist, said that no one is asking the question ‘What is an electron?’ anymore. ‘What we know’, he said, ‘is that something unknown is doing we don’t know what.’ I seem to have heard something like it before:

    ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogroves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!” […]

    (from Lewis Carroll, ‘Jabberwocky’ in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1896).

  • LedSuit ' 18th Jan 2014

    Probably apply to no.3


  • Dave Jones 19th Jan 2014

    Complimentarity, Peter. I appreciate your thoughtful perspective and look forward to winning a better world through the varied combinations of everyone's energy.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 19th Jan 2014

    Ha ma la ha ma la ha ma la ha ma la
    O la la la la la la la la

  • kapil bajaj 24th Jan 2014

    Hi all,

    This discussion and Arran Gare's review of McGilchrist's book (which I've only partially skimmed through) are illustrative, IMO, of the self-referential and self-absorbed nature of the fraud called 'Western civilization'; they also explain why, I suspect, those who are trapped in the delusory maze created by the 'Western civilization' can never put Humpty Dumpty (i.e. the wholeness of human-social life) together again without being helped by those who are as yet untrapped.

    1. The way out of this maze, in my view, can't be anything but basic 'common sense' -- (perhaps the same kind that "illiterate" Spanish folk might have employed in bringing about their revolution in the 1930s) -- and a reference to those societies that (thankfully) are still relatively unaffected by the plague of 'Western civilization'.

    So the way out ought to be much simpler than what the lost ones might actually believe.

    Transcending the endless 'binaries' (such as rational and irrational) and ‘isms’ imposed by the 'Western' intellectualism could be the first step. I do believe, however, that a ‘truth’ seeker will have to transcend the whole caboodle of the 'Western' tradition.

    2. So one must proceed with the basic common sense that everyone is endowed with.

    And it should help if one also proceeds with a desire -- or openness -- to understand the human condition (rather than to reach the ‘absolute’ Truth, which concept, as employed by the ‘Christian’ and ‘Western’ hegemons, has always been nothing but pure fraud and a weapon to attack common sense and non-‘Christian’/non-‘Western’ societies.)

    Since poor McGilchrist is caught up in the ‘binaries’ of the ‘Western’ mind, I don’t think he can ever be a helpful guide to the lost ones, but Gare’s review of his book does contain some excellent clues to what I believe is wrong with the “Western world”.

    (Why “Western world”? Why are McGilchrist and others of his ilk not ambitious enough to attempt to understand the making of the whole world – and not merely the “Western world”? They don’t believe they could abstract the ‘Western’ from the ‘world’; do they?)

    3. I think McGilchrist puts it rather well when he describes the “world” that “has come about” as “an increasingly mechanistic, fragmented, decontextualised world”.

    I agree with him, but need only common sense – not the left brain-right brain analysis or anything of that sort – to see how the ‘West’ and its knowledge system turn the world into “increasingly mechanistic, fragmented and decontextualised” one and how this process manifests itself.

    This common sense approach consists in looking at the world at two levels – conceptual and empirical – which simply means trying to get a conceptual understanding of the dominant categories/institutions and examining how those categories/institutions manifest themselves in the real world.

    4. Let me apply this common sense approach to examining two categories/institutions, namely ‘economic’ and ‘political’ both of which have come to dominate the world -- and fragment, decontextualise, mechanise it -- primarily through the ‘Western’ hegemony and ‘Western’ knowledge systems.

    The 'common sense' that one needs to be able to see through the two categories of 'economic' and 'political' consists primarily of the following.

    (a) An understanding of the language (how it is used and abused and a willingness to uncover the concepts in their pure and original forms)

    (b) An elementary understanding of the democratic theory (such as how simple models of direct and representative democracies function)

    (c) An eye on the way families, communities and societies actually function

    (d) A lot of factual information (news and commentary obtained through the media).

    5. So what do words, 'economic' and 'political', mean?

    If one reflects on this question, one would be hard pressed to reach any definitive senses – unless, of course, one invokes a ‘society’ (or ‘social’ – another category used along with the two in question).

    The two concepts (as represented by the words, ‘economic’ and ‘political’) have quite obviously been abstracted from ‘social’ (or social relations).

    So some aspects of ‘social relations’ have apparently been abstracted from ‘society’ and given the name ‘economic’ -- a purely mental and quite an arbitrary process.

    Similarly, some other aspects of relations seems to have been abstracted from ‘society’ and given the name ‘political’ – in another purely mental and arbitrary process.

    So while ‘society’ and ‘social’ is a real category – with real existence of individuals and their inter-relationships – ‘economic’ and ‘political’ are only arbitrary (and indeterminable) abstractions from the wholeness that ‘society’ or ‘social’ represents.

    In other words, 'economic' and 'political' have no real existence – i.e. they have no existence outside the mind; even within the mind they can’t be conceived without first imagining a society.

    Thus, 'economic' and 'political' are empty shells -- created solely to serve the interests of the powerful and filled inevitably by the powerful with whatever meanings that suit them.

    No meaning, however, can ever be given to 'economic' and 'political' that cannot simply be represented by some 'social' relation -- because there is absolutely nothing we are talking about here other than human society and social relations.

    6. The unrealness and arbitrariness of 'economic' and 'political' – I believe – are borne out not only by traditional communities, but also by the way a 'modern' family functions.

    Do the members of a family compartmentalize some aspects of their relationships into 'economic' and 'political'? Is it possible for us to separate the emotional support a mother provides her children from the material – or 'economic' – one?

    Likewise, a small rural/tribal community has absolutely no reason or need to divide and segregate its affairs into the compartments of 'economic' and 'political'.

    In fact, there is no evidence in studies of human communities through history that show that such a division is made. A community can do everything, including production and distribution, without ever inventing the word 'economic' and inventing anything resembling an 'economic' theory. 'Economic' (whatever it means) would just be inherent in its overall social relations.

    In fact, production and distribution have always been social and familial activities in traditional societies. The community can similarly run itself without ever creating a compartment called 'political'.

    Here is an extract from Karl Polanyi's book, 'The Great Transformation'.

    "The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man's economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets.

    He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end. Neither the process of production nor that of distribution is linked to specific economic interests attached to the possession of goods; but every single step in that process is geared to a number of social interests which eventually ensure that the required step be taken. these interests will be very different in a small hunting or fishing community from those in a vast despotic society, but in either case the economic system will be run on noneconomic motives."

    -- Chapter IV, Societies and Economic Systems; http://taodesigns.tripod.com/polyani/polyani44IV.html

    The same point can be inferred from 'The Gift', the book written by French philosopher Marcel Mauss in which he explains gift exchanges in traditional communities. (Even a ‘modern’ family continues to function on the lines of gift exchanges.)

    7. One might ask: What are business corporations and States if not 'economic' and 'political', respectively?

    It’s true that business corporations have been built on ‘economic’ – an artificial, arbitrary and unreal category – they can never achieve any of their ends without the wholeness of social relations, even while pretending otherwise. The same can be said about the States, which pretend to be 'political'. (They can only pretend because 'political' has no real existence.)

    Thus, in the real world, ‘economic’ and ‘political’ are what I would describe as the un-abstract-able abstractions – i.e. it is impossible to create institutions that can even remotely be described as purely ‘economic’ or ‘political’. In other words, it’s impossible to compartmentalize the wholeness of ‘society’ or ‘social relations’ into ‘economic’ and ‘political’.

    The pretense, however, continues in the real world – much like the myth of ‘homo economicus’ – with disastrous consequences.

    It’s easy to see how these two imposters, ‘economic’ and ‘political’, have been undermining ‘social’, right from family and small communities to the huge nation states.

    The ‘Western’ hegemons first created ‘economic’ and ‘political’ theories -- such as neo-classical economics whose ‘empirical’ basis lies in shambles, quite unsurprisingly -- and then turned them into rigid orthodoxies to be imposed on the entire world.

    (These hegemons are the same that carved out huge States out of much smaller human communities, thus reinforcing this unnatural process of abstraction.)

    Apply basic democratic theory to any community (or a large nation state) and it’s easy to see why they have no reason to accept anything other than their own collective and common-sensical judgement as to how they should conduct themselves -- rather than the fraudulent ‘economic’ or ‘political’ theories dispensed, a dime a dozen, and imposed on the world by the ‘Western’ hegemons.

    What is implied here that in any autonomous community (run on more or less democratic lines), the categories 'economic' and 'political' would have no existence because all decisions would simply be taken 'socially' and 'democratically' - rather than be straitjacketed or distorted by the narrow considerations/theories labelled 'economic' and 'political'. The larger implication is that ‘economics’ and ‘political science’ have no justification to continue to exist as academic disciplines; they need to be abolished and we should only have a holistic ‘social science’ discipline.

    8. I find it astonishing that no one in the ‘Western world’ –- not anyone that I am aware of, not even the IOPS ‘radicals’ who profess to be working for a ‘participatory society’ -- seems to be questioning and challenging the two obviously fraudulent categories of ‘economic’ and ‘political’.

    Far from questioning them, IOPS has been reinforcing these two categories through an association with and dissemination of the theories of participatory economics and politics.

    9. 'Abstraction', by the way, is a great tool to understand how the 'West' has long been committing what I call 'conceptual frauds', making for "an increasingly mechanistic, fragmented, decontextualised world".

    Arran Gare seems to agree with me.

    Witness: "To begin with, science abstracts from the rich diversity of the world a few abstract properties and takes this ‘columbarium of concepts, the graveyard of perceptions’ to be the true reality, portraying nature, as Whitehead put it, as ‘a dull affair, soundless, scentless, colourless; merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly."

    (I would simply replace the word "science" in the above para with 'the West'.)

    10. Depending on how this post is taken, I am going to take this forward with some thoughts on 'religion' – another fraudulent and unreal category fabricated by the 'West' and abstracted from 'culture'.

    • LedSuit ' 25th Jan 2014

      Hi Kapil,

      Yeah, not sure about what you say. I got a bit confused and tangled.

      I've been running on my common sense pretty much since the time I arrived on the planet. Trying to make sense of the whole thing. My existence, the point of it, my complete bamboozlement at pretty much everything. I reckon most people just battle on through you know. The thing is, commonsense can trip you up sometimes. It's pretty important in certain areas to defer to the expert. You know, check things out, see if your gut feel is actually right, or way off. Learn something.

      You quote Polyani and a French dude. Should I read them? Will I understand them? They're "westerners" no? Like McGilchrist. Why did you quote them if all we need is common sense?

      How do I know your not committing a conceptual fraud? Trust commonsense? Confidence in my own intellectual capacity? In certain spheres that is fine, in others, perhaps not so. Common sense and folk science. Great. Then there is the other more technical formal science. I say great too.

      No. Most people here, including the ones who have been have "...reinforcing these two categories [economic and political] through an association with and dissemination of the theories of participatory economics and politics", have all got good hearts. People do what they do and try their best. Can't do much more. I just don't agree with you regarding the 'fraudulent categories" of economics and politics. I understand what you are saying but the world, my gut tells me, works both small and big. Tiny and large. Analytic and synthetic. Fragmented and whole. Never one, Never always the other. We might be trying to somehow reach beyond what our capacities are and wanting some sort of perfect wholeness, with a myriad ways to proceed and no way to tell whether we will succeed or where we may end up, who knows? But those categories are helpful. But they don't tell you anything by themselves. You have to see who is using them and why. For what purpose. Good or evil.

      I honestly feel that sometimes when people start talking about the linear vs the holistic, or rational vs irrational or whatever the opposite is , or however one wants to put it, they start to forget about actual people who have actual power and how they actually go about holding onto it. The institutional structures that pervade our mental and physical lives, influence, foster and maintain the imbalances, inequities and injustices. And when you actually look around the world, west, east, south, north you'll find they are everywhere, supported by those who benefit from them. And many of those who benefit from maintaining and fostering these institutional structures, ones real high up, ones with real power and wealth, with real big guns, are all the fucking same no matter where you find them. Real capital A Arseholes.

      And the truth is, arseholes understand each other even when they are from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. The language of the powerful. The language of the arsehole. This should be the real main focus.

      Yeah, you can pull out quotes about what science has been doing for centuries making it look bad. And it has done or created some pretty bad things but it has done some bloody damn good and amazing wondrous things. In fact, science has made the world even more mysterious than it was before. More wondrous. More fucking absurd! You know, in the olden days when the world was in black and white, steam went up and the apple went down because that's where they were supposed to go! No mystery there. Well thank fucking supercreators for those who questioned that, the philosophers. The natural philosophers. And not ALL scientists are narrow minded, reductionist, fragmentwisted, materialists, who believe nature is a dull and soundless affair. In fact I would say most, from the little I have gleaned think the opposite. For every reductionist, narrow minded materialist there are just as many of the opposite persuasion. Perhaps more. The sorts of debates, conflicts, disagreements about how the world works, are just humans going about trying to understand things. They'd go on even in a more just and equitable world. And should. I have no problem with great thinkers going toe to toe with each other as long as it doesn't cause injury or a murder! It's entertaining.

      It's the power systems, the hierarchies, the warped instituional structures that create inequalities, injustices, etc., and the violent ways the arseholes who benefit from them maintain and foster them that should be our main concern.

      You might not like what you call fraudulent conceptual categories, but for some of us dummies, unfortunately born in the "west", they are actually helpful.

      I actually stumbled across Participatory Economics and it inspired me. No anarchist background, no intellectual background, no Marx, Polyani, Pannekoek, Castoriadis, Fotopoulos, no nothin'. Just my common sense and the perseverance to continue to read, because I could. And I think because I had no background, I saw the possibilities in it. I just saw it in its nakedness. You know, like when the junkie finally realizes what they are eating. They see it clearly. I saw Parecon, purely. Not through some leftist tinted glasses. I saw its purity. Now that's all fucked up.

      I also got held up in Buddhism for six years and while there are some qualities I like within it, there are some pretty "fraudulent concepts" in there as well. There are hierarchies and power games going on there as well and lots of bullshit. Guru yoga is a very suss concept. Karma sounds possible, but it's fraudulent. The "tulku". Zappa said Guru's can bite it and I should have listened. He was a mad scientist and I enjoy his output.

      This east west bullshit, this continental philosophy vs analytical bullshit, this art vs intellect bullshit, this rational vs whatever the opposite is bullshit doesn't get anywhere really. They're all just games. Entertainment. Competitions. Distractions. But there is a place for all of them.

      I can dance, sing, read some bullshit popular science, marvel at the thought of things tiny, marvel at things big. I can enjoy analysing, synthesising, improvising, whatever the opposite of improvising is (and it aint composing!),calculating, being stupid, being sensible, pissing people off, trolling Satan, being a dickhead, you name it (oh yeah, surfing, I wish I still surfed!!) and I love watching afl football. That's all I wanted to do when I was a kid.

      The "west" is a fraudulent concept. And so is the "east". They are convenient concepts at times but remain incoherent unless they are made clear what exactly is being referred to when the terms are used. North and south equally. Developed and undeveloped. If these concepts are defined and made clear then conversations can be had.

      Nup, not sure about what you are saying Kapil. Kind of get it but got a little tangled as there was quite a bit. Just thought I'd throw my gut at ya. Pretty much straight off the top of the dome. That's usually how I roll. But the intellect is always there. It never leaves. Operates along side all the other shit. How? Got no idea. Intuition without the intellect. Don't know what that is. Rational without the emotion, nup, never come across it myself. I know there are those with clearly definable pathologies, but I wouldn't know where I belong on the scale.

      The big one for me is small c confidence vs capital c Confidence. There is a difference my gut tells me. One you can deal with, change, improve, the other, more deep seated and, my gut tells me, much more closely aligned with ones genetic endowment. No proof, just my own gut feel.

      No, we need all the help we can get. What you call fraudulent concepts or crappy abstractions and the rest.

      Oh, and a lot of screaming. A LOT of fucking screaming. You know, NOISE.

    • kapil bajaj 25th Jan 2014

      Hi James,

      Not sure what I say?

      My fault if I have written such a load without being able to get across a simple point which, in simpler terms, is no more than what follows.

      'Society' or 'social' is a real category because it refers to something real, namely human life in all of its relationships with fellow humans.

      'Economic' and 'political' are false categories or have no real existence because they are merely abstracted from 'society' or the totality of 'social' relations. Even as abstractions, they have no well defined meanings. What ever meanings are assigned to 'economic' and 'political', these two abstractions can, at best, only inhere in - and cannot be separated from - social relations.

      While people may be able to be 'educated' to bend their minds to somehow make room for these two grotesque concepts, it is impossible to have some real and distilled existence of 'economic' and 'political' other than their inherence in the wholeness of social relations.

      (In other words, there is no such thing in human affairs as purely 'economic' or purely 'political' relation.)

      The unnatural, overwhelmingly coercive, concerted and insidiously gradual efforts to give a 'real' and distilled existence to 'economic' and 'political' have resulted in a disaster – namely an increasingly "fragmented, decontextualised and mechanistic" world; it has led to subordination of 'social' to the two false categories of 'economic' and 'political', which translates into growing enslavement of humanity.

      (That’s why it’s a problem and a massive one.)

      These perverse and fraudulent efforts include creation by the powerful of the cognate academic disciplines of 'political science' and 'economics' and insinuating their self-serving ideologies in being accepted gradually by the public as theories, laws, sciences, etc., by such measures as Nobel Prize for Economic Science.

      The societal fightback should include seeing through the false categories – and how mere mental abstractions can be turned into instruments for enslavement of humanity.

      It's not difficult to see that when 'society' (or 'social') asserts itself heartily enough, the two ghosts simply disappear – that is, 'economic' and 'political' simply dissolve or become nugatory in any community (imagine a small, close-knit one) that is run, more or less, democratically, simply because communal values like solidarity and emotional bonding become more important than the narrow considerations usually subsumed under the two false categories.

      Such small communities federate to become larger ones -- our 'participatory society', that is. Don’t they?

      So how can we afford not to try to see through the trap that the two categories represent?

      We don’t want to reproduce the world that we think has been a disaster; do we?

    • LedSuit ' 25th Jan 2014

      Yeah, I see a bit better now and you've dropped all the "west" equals fragmented linear whatever and talk of commonsense being the best path, I see.

      I still don't agree. Analysing things and looking at parts as self existing isolated wholes to study is fine and helpful. As long as one is aware that they actually don't exist in isolation and separately from the larger social context or whole.

      The big is to hard to grasp so we have no choice but to break it down and look sometimes.

      These modes of study haven't caused the problems in the world. Studying economics, politics, the sciences and abstracting things doesn't kill people. It's not the cause of the mess nor the reason the mess is still here. Institutional structures like those that make capitalism what it is weren't abstracted, studied and developed, isolated from the rest of society by western scientistic thinkers and then implemented as a replacement for feudalism. Capitalism evolved and grew as those who already had power and wealth saw opportunities arise. Most analysis comes after. Those on one side use analysis to rationalise their positions of power and make them safe against attack, while those on the other do so, hopefully to point out the folly and bullshit to make it better for the rest.

      They aren't false categories. It is in fact what humans naturally do and have been doing since the year dot. What is important is to use all the knowledge garnered via whatever means, left brain, right brain, false categories and real ones, rational and gut feel, from all sorts of cultures, outlooks and shit, in order to try and change things for the better.

      Parecon pertains to your false category of economics. That does not make it an abomination or useless or some mental abstraction that is going to lead us deeper into the mire. The authors are well aware of the inter connectivity of an economic system with society as a whole. It is just easier to isolate certain key institutional structures within an economic system to try and develop something that may be more equitable and just. They are a little easier to spot than those inside other areas. Politics a little easier as well.

      Abstracting from wider contexts is just something we do and should do. Learning from past mistakes is also something we should do. I'm never sure if I understand things correctly and probably why I am never concise and ramble all over the place but something in my gut tells me that what you are saying regarding these perverse, coercive, decontextualised fraudulent efforts in constructing false categories is both over the top and misdirected.

      Abstracting is a natural thing. The big is too large for people to hold in their minds clearly for long periods. It will immobilise you. You can't do it and sustain it because it is too complex. You just go mad. People eventually have to stop and deal with the small. Breaking things down makes things easier to deal with but it certainly doesn't mean one automatically can't see the wider picture and the ramifications of neglecting society as a whole. It depends on the motivation and intention of the person. Good or evil. To maintain current societal relations and bullshit, or to try and change them for the greater good of all?

      Something like that. And then just start screaming out of frustration. Doesn't hurt.

    • kapil bajaj 26th Jan 2014

      1. (James Wilson quote): I still don’t agree. Analysing things and looking at parts as self existing isolated wholes to study is fine and helpful. As long as one is aware that they actually don't exist in isolation and separately from the larger social context or whole.
      The big is to hard to grasp so we have no choice but to break it down and look sometimes. (Unquote)

      Mental abstraction of ‘economic’ and ‘political’ from the wholeness of social relations and then gradually treating them as real and standalone categories, increasingly divorced from the realities of society – and backing by force a ‘knowledge’ system that imposes on the world these false categories and their specious rationalizations – is certainly NOT the same as breaking big things into their parts for convenient handling or understanding.

      Your “as long as…” introduces the key condition.

      Look around. Everyone – all those people across the world who’ve been ‘educated’ through the dominant ‘knowledge’ system, including even those who’d insist on seeing the larger social context – seems to act as if ‘economic’ and ‘political’ are real categories and are, for all practical purposes, actually divorced from the ‘social’.

      This divorce is clearly evident in widespread public ignorance of the prevailing ‘economic’ and ‘political’ theories and utter helplessness of the societies in being able to resist the imposition on them of those theories.

      Almost the entire world has been compelled into pretending as if those two are real categories (while they are not and never will be).

      So the process under discussion has made the world much “harder to grasp”.

      2. (James Wilson quote) These modes of study haven't caused the problems in the world. Studying economics, politics, the sciences and abstracting things doesn't kill people. It's not the cause of the mess nor the reason the mess is still here. (Unquote)

      Studying ‘economics’ and ‘politics’ as if they have real existence, divorced from the society, does cause massive and grievous problems and also contributes to violence and bloodshed. US-dictated imposition of neo-liberal capitalism – through ‘Chicago Boys’ for instance – in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and elsewhere in the Americas is a case in point.

      3. (James Wilson quote) They aren't false categories. It is in fact what humans naturally do and have been doing since the year dot. (Unquote)

      They certainly are false categories as they are impossible to be distilled from the wholeness of social relations without causing mass delusion which is the case in the world we inhabit currently – dictated and straitjacketed as it has been by the ‘West’.

      Pretending as if the mental abstractions of ‘economic’ and ‘political’ are really existent categories/realms is the most unnatural, the most artificial, the most coercive, the most delusive act there can be.

      No human culture – ever – does it naturally and without causing grievous consequences for the societies involved.

      Non-‘Western’ cultures must conceivably have created ‘political’ (primarily) and ‘economic’ realms with some degree of separation from the ‘social’.

      There is, however, absolutely no historical evidence that this process of abstraction, reification, rigescence and domination of the ‘economic’ and ‘political’ realms ever acquired the depth and world-wide magnitude (as it currently has) as anything other than as part of Western hegemony and Western-dictated ‘knowledge’ system.

      So, it is European colonialism and Western neocolonialism that is primarily responsible for giving rise to and sustaining the process of reification, rigescence and glorification of the ‘political’ and ‘economic’ – with the result that the ‘social’ has been pushed to a corner.

      4. (James Wilson quote) Parecon pertains to your false category of economics. That does not make it an abomination or useless or some mental abstraction that is going to lead us deeper into the mire. The authors are well aware of the inter connectivity of an economic system with society as a whole. It is just easier to isolate certain key institutional structures within an economic system to try and develop something that may be more equitable and just. They are a little easier to spot than those inside other areas. Politics a little easier as well. (Unquote)

      For people ‘educated’ into behaving as if human affairs have three primary categories – economic (false), political (false) and social (real) – and that the first two will largely determine the third, Parecon (along with Parpol and Parsoc) might serve as a temporary aid in being able to imagine a more desirable world.

      However, in so far as Parecon puts the cart before the horse and perpetuates the fallacy that ‘economic’ is anything other than some imagined aspect of what a participatory society does in conducting its affairs, it can only create confusion, like it did recently in the conversation (on the following link) between Mark Evans, Lambert Meertens and Peter Lach-Newinsky on whether Parecon would admit of unconditional basic income or imply full employment.


      It’s easy to understand. If you have a ‘society’ that’s participatory – you obviously don’t need any other category unless you mean a category that is not part of that ‘society’.

      By a ‘participatory society’ we don’t mean participatory in some aspects and not in others; do we? So why would we need any other category?

      5. (James Wilson quote) “Abstracting from wider contexts is just something we do and should do.” (Unquote)

      It’s conceivable and very likely that human beings do in their minds a lot of abstraction of the kind we’re discussing. That’s all.

      They never – never – start treating those mental abstractions as all-important categories with real existence and never – never – proceed madly to slice and dice their lives and the entire world on the Procrustean bed of stupid theories derived from those unreal and arbitrary categories, without an Empire-sized system of coercion and propaganda compelling or manipulating them to do so.

      6. (James Wilson quote) Abstracting is a natural thing. The big is too large for people to hold in their minds clearly for long periods. It will immobilise you. You can't do it and sustain it because it is too complex. You just go mad. People eventually have to stop and deal with the small. Breaking things down makes things easier to deal with but it certainly doesn't mean one automatically can't see the wider picture and the ramifications of neglecting society as a whole. It depends on the motivation and intention of the person. Good or evil. To maintain current societal relations and bullshit, or to try and change them for the greater good of all? (Unquote)

      As I said above, the process we’re discussing here is much, much more than a mere mental abstraction; it also involves manipulating and compelling the world into beginning to treat those abstractions as all-important categories. So this process is anything but natural and voluntary.

      (And even mental abstraction – let me repeat – is a process very different from breaking complex things down to their parts for ease of understanding.)

      Don’t just say “it depends on the motivation and intention of the person”. Take a look at the real world and then tell me what you think of the “motivations and intentions” of the persons who ascribe over-riding importance to ‘economic’ and ‘political’ – even at the cost of human and ‘social’ – and want everyone else to do the same.

    • LedSuit ' 26th Jan 2014

      Geez Kapil,

      I'm just an ordinary dude, you know. When it comes to the crunch, I would say you are complicating this thing far more than needs to be.

      That you don't think "economic" or "political" are REAL categories to me is just pointless. I'm not even sure what you mean by real in this sense. They are REAL: and have a use.

      I really don't know what you would like to see happen. Some sort of social osmosis that kind of happens automatically.

      People try things. That's all. You're trying something on now and I'm questioning it. That's all that we can do. Economic and political ARE REAL categories, things, entities, etc., that have REAL use and CAN be REAL useful for may people on the road towards making the world a better place. This is NOT an east-west thing or even a rational-irrational thing, nor a left brain-right brain thing. It's just a thing. People think and behave as they do. Can't do otherwise. You may think you can but you wouldn't bloody know. Is free will an illusion or not? If it is, what would be the difference between it and the real thing? You wouldn't bloody know. So we battle through all this intellectual and emotional shit and hope we come out the other side better for it. But you will never get people to not create ideas and theories, of all sorts, by breaking things down, separating them from context and then seeing if they may work when back in context. That's what we do. In some weird ironical sense that is what you are doing. You're analysing stuff, comparatively etc., and arriving at some point of view. (Sometimes when I get into these things Kapil I feel out of my intellectual league so I hope I'm making sense)

      Regarding Parecon, you say this.

      "For people ‘educated’ into behaving as if human affairs have three primary categories – economic (false), political (false) and social (real) – and that the first two will largely determine the third, Parecon (along with Parpol and Parsoc) might serve as a temporary aid in being able to imagine a more desirable world.

      However, in so far as Parecon puts the cart before the horse and perpetuates the fallacy that ‘economic’ is anything other than some imagined aspect of what a participatory society does in conducting its affairs, it can only create confusion, like it did recently in the conversation (on the following link) between Mark Evans, Lambert Meertens and Peter Lach-Newinsky on whether Parecon would admit of unconditional basic income or imply full employment"

      You seem to admit things like Parecon could be of benefit- a temporary aid. That's what it's for. Then you say it puts the cart before the horse and creates confusion and shit. So what. It's a helpful tool. I can't account for anyone's confusion, but I can discuss it and see if that confusion can be sorted out. That's what Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel try to do all around the world.

      Replying to you Kapil does my head in. I feel like you want to bail me up in a corner and change the way I think or understand things, even the world. I use all sorts things to help me understand shit. Not one, two or three. Studying or reading about REAL things like economic institutions, has been incredibly valuable in helping me understand things better.

      Further, intention and motivation are very important and I don't "just say it" flippantly either.

      Clarity is important too. People need it. Not just vague complex ideas of the whole. Creating REAL categories like economic and political is a natural thing, eastern or western. Understanding things that way is important and helpful, as is putting and seeing things in context, interconnected. Everything works together.

      I just don't buy into the idea that western compartmentalising is the reason the world is fucked up. People manipulate things for their own gain with devastating effects on others and we have to find ways to try and stop or at least minimise them as much as possible.

      So throw whatever you got into the pot and let's have a look.

      I'll have a go, gut feel and all.(Oh, and shit typing, grammar, spelling and a little swearing-definitely no concision)

  • Dave Jones 26th Jan 2014

    Kapil, "The social" asserting itself heartily sounds like a wish for a tribal socialism to me, perhaps workable at the family/clan level. But what happens when the federated tribes begin to trade or have border disputes? Don't you begin to have economic and political relations?
    Are there no disputes or is there some social process that replaces the political? (besides war) Would all exchange be gifting? Does the term social just naturally imply equanimity as well as fair and sustainable relations?

    I personally doubt the anthropological argument/evidence for this primitive arrangement (if that is how you come to it) and generally find this kind of anti-civilization position a nostalgia for what never was. But I am a Westerner from the Enlightenment tradition ( with all the baggage) so could be totally screwed up.

    James: I agree that abstracting comes as easily as thinking about a number or language system, signs and symbols and all that. Notes. Maps. Quite useful at times, like experimentation.

    • LedSuit ' 26th Jan 2014

      I tend to agree with you Dave.

      But I think abstracting is natural, not just easy. It's automatic. It's just one of the ways we try to understand things.

      Kapil makes his point, his way. I make mine, my way. You make yours, your way. Then we try to sort things out. No harm done.

      All shooting for the same thing.

      I'll raise you five longwinded rants,a million gut feels and left brain confusion, for greater concision, intellectual clarity, emotional stability and a better guitar technique.

    • kapil bajaj 26th Jan 2014

      Hi Dave,

      1. You say: (quote) But what happens when the federated tribes begin to trade or have border disputes? Don't you begin to have economic and political relations? (Unquote)

      What is there in doing trade and having border disputes that is anything but social? We do exchanging and disputing all the time in our families and local communities? Do we call them “economic and political relations”?

      I don’t mind you using any word you like; that won’t change anything. But I suspect, your mind continues to cleave to the fraud that ‘economic’ and ‘political’ ideologies/theories represent in the world we currently inhabit.

      The point is that communities can trade or get into disputes – even put in place rules for those things – but if they are truly free/autonomous and even moderately ‘democratic’ (which, IMO, would simply imply a natural social balance that comes with absence of unnatural inequality), they have no reason to do anything without reference to the ‘society’ in its wholeness – rather than doing things with reference to the ‘society’ in only its fraudulent and vague abstractions of ‘political’ and ‘economic’.

      There would be no externally imposed ‘political’ and ‘economic’ ideologies/theories in such as a world; therefore, ‘political’ and ‘economic’ would, at best, remain in use as mere labels inherited from a deceased world perhaps for certain kinds of activities and even those labels should progressively fall into disuse.

      (In other words, there is no such thing as ‘political’ and ‘economic’ without a hidden iron hand.)

      2. You say: (quote) Are there no disputes or is there some social process that replaces the political? (besides war) Would all exchange be gifting? Does the term social just naturally imply equanimity as well as fair and sustainable relations? (unquote)

      Here again you reveal the dichotomy between ‘social’ and ‘political’ that you carry in your mind. What is there in disputing or resolving a dispute that is anything but social? Why would you call it ‘political’ unless you mean something that somehow transcends the ‘social’?

      Do you mean to say that only exchange by gifting is ‘social’ and other kinds of exchange are something other than ‘social’. I think all exchange is ‘social’. If you stopped ‘trading’ today, you’d still be ‘exchanging’ ideas, emotions and stuff with people around you; won’t you?

      I won’t say that “social just naturally imply equanimity as well as fair and sustainable relations”, but I want you to name something real that brings about “equanimity as well as fair and sustainable relations”. I do hope you’d name something real and also explain whether or not that thing transcends the ‘social’.

      3. You say: (quote) I personally doubt the anthropological argument/evidence for this primitive arrangement (if that is how you come to it) and generally find this kind of anti-civilization position a nostalgia for what never was. But I am a Westerner from the Enlightenment tradition ( with all the baggage) so could be totally screwed up. (unquote)

      I notice your tendency – pretty ‘Western’, I suspect -- to sort ideas into boxes in your mind, like “anthropological argument”.

      And why would call my pointing out the falsity of the two categories of ‘economic’ and ‘political’ as a “primitive” arrangement or “anti-civilization” position?

  • LedSuit ' 26th Jan 2014


    I won't interfere with Dave's right of reply so I will make some points regarding here.

    I do not believe anyone is saying that economic and political are somehow separate from the social. They are forms of social relations pertaining to specific types of institutions. In the same way you speak of family relations. Family relations pertain to a different set of institutional structures than economic relations, but they can both be subsumed under social relations. The complexity of social relations requires all kinds of analyses in order to understand them. Then we look at them and see if they are of use, or value.

    Marx is criticised by many for giving precedence to material production as the base of all social relations that make up the superstructure. It is just a way of looking at the world and history. That way of looking at the world is not the cause of all the shit. Critique it.

    Did capitalism arise because of false categories Ike economics or politics, or did it evolve out of feudalism, mercantilism, (other types of social relations) as some people looked for ways of getting an edge over others, as new discoveries and technology evolved? Did the Iroquois confederate out of some natural tendency towards it, an improvement on previous social relations, or was it to sure up defense against larger more powerful tribes like the Huron?

    Why were the Inca so imperialistic. False categories? Too much emphasis on the economic and political? Science?

    What of all the Chinese dynasties, the Mongols, etc..

    In small populations, social relations may be more easily managed and one can do away with categories. As things grow exponentially things become more problematic.

    One can try and study the language faculty as if it is an autonomous thing in itself for the purpose of understanding, like the visual system, or the digestive system, knowing full well, at the same time these things are part of a greater whole, not necessarily autonomous with clear boundaries. Science can study stuff by means of artificial simulations, experiments, to try and understand how bees navigate for instance, without using the real sun being involved at any time. That doesn't mean the explanation arrived at is invalid. But it has to be reviewed and critiqued.

    Understanding how institutional structures pertaining to areas of social relations is helpful in finding why they lead people to behave in the ways they do. The Procrustean nature of systems. Then we can come up with ways that may minimise, or rid ourselves completely, of the horrendous inequalities and injustices that exist. Ways to prohibit, restrict, or even stop, natural inequalities taking hold and reeking havoc. There is nothing wrong with this line of thinking. It is quite natural and can be of benefit, along side a plethora of other ways.

  • Lambert Meertens 27th Jan 2014

    My 2 cents. What I find most disturbing in the prevalent Western mode of thinking is the ubiquitous mindless reductionism. Yes, if you want to understand the whole it may help if you understand the parts, but it offers far from a guarantee. Instead, you may completely miss the greater picture. What makes this worse is the lazy but common switch of substituting an easily measured correlate of something of interest for the real thing, like genital enlargement for sexual attraction, in the process forgetting that this is only a poor surrogate. One Dutchman became kind of famous through his book We Are Our Brains. Someone asked me what I thought of it, and I quipped that I was working on a book entitled I Am My Digestive System.

    What is real, and in particular, what makes a category real? In the end, what we do or do not consider to be reality is a social construct. What is considered real is generally rather inconsistent. We are supposed to have no souls because that is metaphysical nonsense, but to have common sense is fine, even though no one can define it – but nevertheless everyone can easily diagnose the lack of said quality. There is no way to define reality without becoming circular. One of the tools we use to construct reality are categories. If we all agree to use the same categories, then by that act these categories become "real". But of course, like everything social, this is one of the arenas of social struggle; there is no consensual uncontended reality. The superrich live in a different reality from mine.

    Just like it is possible to distinguish the nervous system and the digestive system as subsystems mediating functions of an organism (communication, energy supply) it is possible to distinguish the political system and the economic system as subsystems mediating functions of a society. But understanding them in isolation does little to help us understand a society as a whole. There is a reason that doctors have to learn about the whole human body for several years before they can begin to specialize in neurology or gastroenterology. But students can immediately start studying political science or economics without a wider context, thereby creating and maintaining a popular consensus that these remain meaningful subjects even when robbed of the social context, and it is legitimate to question that and call it for the fraud it is. Central to Marx' concept of alienation is how a social relation is impoverished to a merely economic one, something that is essential to the exploitative functioning of capitalism and that (in my opinion) deserves more attention than the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalist.

    There is a saying that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Likewise, if the only categories you have in your toolbox are politics and economics, then every problem looks like a political or economic problem. I think that that is precisely one of the things IOPS is trying to break through – even if the efforts are not always equally convincing in all respects.

    • LedSuit ' 27th Jan 2014

      I somewhat agree with you too Lambert, in the same way I kind of see what Kapil is saying. The use of words like real and common sense is pretty loose. But they exist and there is need for them and people can if pressed explain them so they are not incoherent. Just takes a bit more time.

      I agree one can legitimately question and call economics and politics fraudulent concepts, but for me they are not. Yes, there are people who are ridiculously reductionist, and yes most learning centres around the world tend to follow methods, procedures, and processes that make for a great fit with other such things like capitalism.

      Maybe there is truth, pretty good truth, that economics and politics, as studied now in schools and universities does a pretty good reductionist job and serves the interests of those who run and benefit from the world as it is. But that in no way suggests that one cannot study these subsystems in the way you suggest or that it is stupid to do so? We use the word capitalism all the time as something that requires eradication. What is it? Can we define it, pull it apart, look at its parts, while at the same time being fully aware that it cannot in "reality" exist outside of the full extent of social relations.

      Is talking about gender, kinship, culture, and community a useless activity. No. Are they subsets? Yes. Do they exist isolated from the whole? No.

      Is it wrong to reduce economics to three components - production, allocation and consumption-for the purposes of study? No. Do all three institutions operate within a extraordinarily wider complex of social relations? Yes. Is it wise to keep that in mind? Of course. Is it possibly of greater importance? Yes.

      Common sense is hard to define but so is intuition. What is a colour? Why is blue blue? "That doesn't feel right to me, but shit, it is!"

      Chomsky suggested in an interview that the word reference required definition for it to become coherent when used philosophically in a technical sense. So, one does that. Takes the time, if needed to clarify its use. That is all that is needed.

      But when people start to talk of left brain, right brain, rational vs irrational, reductionism, holism and inter connectivity isolated from already prevalent institutional structures and power systems that pervade and direct social relations, then I tend to get lost. So far, McGilchrist has not mentioned the predominant inequitable and unjust power systems as a cause(still early and I am a slow reader) FOR the way we think. He has focused, it seems, on the way we think as the problem/cause. So we have to change the way we think. I'm no scholar or academic but I'm not buying it totally and the way he uses language is problematic for me.

      An aside. Can we try to understand language as a subsystem? Can we try to find a language faculty?

      We do what we do and then we try as well as we can to understand what it is we have found or learnt. There are those who will use stuff for their own benefit at the expense of others and those who won't. And many in between types. (Didn't want to reduce everything to two subsets only!) That is why IOPS type orgs develop. Like minded people coming together to discuss the value, merits, worth of whatever is out there in information world to see if we can help to bring about a better world. One world. Then organise and take appropriate actions to help bring it about.

      But I for one will not stop looking at subsets, fraudulent or not, even though I don't understand the full complexity of social relations, like a doc has to understand the whole body. I just can't wait that long. Nor do I have the capacity to even get remotely close to understanding social relations in there entirety. It's too much. The big is too much, and we need the small or we stop and are immobilised, in awe of the view. It happens naturally. We can't not do it.

      There are three basic institutions to an economic system. Allocation, production and consumption. And here's a few things we could do to make things a little better, knowing full well,.............

    • Jason 27th Jan 2014

      One thing… The talk has been about the rational and the so called ‘irrational’ (the unconscious, dreams, intuition, imagination, etc.). Also, the opposition concerning the brain hemispheres is between left-dominance and balance (right-dominant, left submissive). I like this bit:

      Is it wrong to reduce economics to three components - production, allocation and consumption-for the purposes of study? No. Do all three institutions operate within a extraordinarily wider complex of social relations? Yes. Is it wise to keep that in mind? Of course. Is it possibly of greater importance? Yes.

      Holism for wisdom, reductionism for gettin’ shit done.

    • LedSuit ' 28th Jan 2014

      Perhaps I should have just written that!

      For the sake of brevity!!

      But then, it wouldn't be me, would it Jason!?

    • Lambert Meertens 28th Jan 2014

      Quote from James Wilson:

      "The use of words like real and common sense is pretty loose. But they exist and there is need for them and people can if pressed explain them so they are not incoherent."

      Note that it was Kapil who appealed above to "basic 'common sense'". What we should not forget is that many ideas that once were considered "common sense" are now recognized for being common nonsense. I'm not against appeals to common sense, but nevertheless one should not loose sight of the fact that this, too, is socially constructed, and that, before you can appeal to common sense, you need to have established common grounds.

      One not only stupid but also harmful widely embraced "common sense" idea that has insufficiently been deprecated is that we make better decisions if we maintain rationality by ignoring our emotions.
      "Can we try to find a language faculty?"

      Many universities have a Department of Linguistics, including MIT, and you can probably find some language faculty there.

    • LedSuit ' 28th Jan 2014

      Yes, and I am laughing as well.

      Nice one Lambert!

    • kapil bajaj 29th Jan 2014

      James, you say: "But I for one will not stop looking at subsets, fraudulent or not, even though I don't understand the full complexity of social relations, like a doc has to understand the whole body. I just can't wait that long. Nor do I have the capacity to even get remotely close to understanding social relations in there entirety. It's too much. The big is too much, and we need the small or we stop and are immobilised, in awe of the view. It happens naturally. We can't not do it."

      You must continue to look at what you regard as "subsets" and use you own instinct to get a better understanding of the world.

      I find it interesting, however, that you repeatedly refer to the wholeness of social relations as full of "complexity" that overawes you and overwhelms your intellect, while regarding mere abstractions of those relations as providing better sense and certainty.

      It should be the other way round for most people I can imagine, who are not 'educated' in 'modern' ways. Social relations are simple, largely comprehensible in almost all their aspects, whereas abstractions like 'economic' and 'political' introduce immense, sometimes impenetrable, complexity.

      That's why I have come to believe that 'education' -- another institution that has been heavily influenced by the 'West' -- itself needs a very critical look. 'Education' must be responsible for creating many of the delusions that we labour under.

    • LedSuit ' 30th Jan 2014


      I just learn stuff any old how I can. If that be by studying up on "aspects" (your word) of social relations or sitting on a cushion quietly watching the breath(not anymore!), so be it. Or maybe it's by getting involved here, checking out what weird thoughts appear in my mind, stimulated by the discussion and trying to express them using "recursively generated hierarchically structured expressions" (regardless of there relevance to the initial post!). Which in some sense is a collapsing of the wave function. A reduction of something that was not, nor ever was, totally expressible through language. I know this because I feel it. I can feel the inadequacy of language to communicate my thoughts.

      I do not agree with you that social relations are simple, though they may be "largely comprehensible in all there aspects" at some point. I suppose one has to get down and dirty by looking into those "aspects" and how they relate to one another. You know, economics, politics, gender/kinship and culture/communal, ecology, international relations, to name a few. And if you want, bad old nasty, reductionist at times, science.

      There are some who make abstractions like economics and politics impenetrable for sure. So, I tend towards those who don't. Or I endeavour to transcend the complexities and understand them. Whether I can do that is an open question that depends on my capacities and limitations, which I think is beyond my limited capacity to ever know. Although I can hazard a pretty good guess that they are fairly average, maybe a little below!

      Sure, I can gaze at the whole kit and kaboodle in awe and amazement and wonder, quite easily. I can easily become immobilised, not knowing where to start,in order to comprehend the full complexity of social relations, or even whether I should. But at some point, usually, I collapse that wave function, and discover some place to begin.

      Those things don't necessarily bring certainty, perhaps never will, but they may introduce some clarity, where before there was fog.

      And yes, the education system, here, in my country for instance, is pretty fucked. It serves its function by providing the appropriate percentage of appropriate people to fill the appropriate positions that the institutional structure deems appropriate, appropriately! I'm not sure what being educated in modern ways really means. I have some idea that you are referring to some set of older traditional methods as opposed to newer ones.

      I often think of Vandana Shiva in this regard. Someone highly educated in bad old western science and considerably well endowed with knowledge of what, for want of a better term (or perhaps it's good enough),some would describe as a more traditional, cultural, communal, of the people, type. The best of both worlds. Even though there is in actuality, only one world!

      Of course we should be critical of the way we do things, whether they be done in this geographical location, that one, or all the myriad other places. Particularly if the results are destructive to the lives of many, a few or even one. That being said, I don't think it wise to restrict the avenues towards understanding.

      Economics, politics, science, folk science, commonsense, gut feel, emotions, music, poetry, visual arts, rationality, the rational unconscious, post modern fog, continental philosophy, analytic philosophy, mysticism, religion and what-the-fuck-ever, from where-the-fuck-ever, throw it into the pot and let's discuss it and see what happens.

      We probably won't all agree, but it could be fun!

  • Lambert Meertens 28th Jan 2014

    But I f***ed up the formatting again. Hopefully this &/i> will fix it.

    • LedSuit ' 28th Jan 2014

      Geez, didn't even notice.

      And leave the swearing to me!!

  • Lambert Meertens 28th Jan 2014

    I meant "fowled up", but I didn't want to use fowl language.