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An old fascination

My fascination with the late 1920s and early 1930s is due to the potential for change that existed in that time. After reading the third installment of Hannah Arendt's Totalitarianism, I am beginning to understanding the mentality of the immediate post-WWI generation.

The First World War, unlike the Second World War, lead to a total collapse of an old order. The imperialistic, heavily class-based order of Europe, which Keynes had spoken of so fondly could no longer be salvaged. Although, the initial revolutionary spirit of 1919-1923 was not enough to take hold throughout Europe, and was suppressed rather brutally in the United States, known as the "Red Scare". What Arendt explained was the collapse of the class-system in much of continental Europe, particularly in Germany and Soviet Russia.
As Arendt wrote: "This generation remembered the war as the great prelude to the breakdown of classes and their transformation into masses. War, with its constant murderous arbitrariness, became the symbol for death, the 'great equalizer' and therefore the true father of a new world order" (27).

What was interesting was with the collapse of the class system, came about a nihilist mob system, that rejected the bourgeois ideologies and hypocrisies that maintained authority in the pre-war world. Although, the onset of Great Depression was the final straw that destroyed the mythologies of liberalism, and capitalism. She posits that the solution to this crisis was to reject the old order in its entirety, and to accept questionable ideologies that sought to explain everything in a immutable logic of history and/or nature, communism/racism.

"They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated to a major virtue because it contradicted society's humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy" (29)

The period of 1929-1933 was that period of time when that hypocrisy was exposed to the world. All around the world, the collapse of liberal democracy occurred as a rejection of the past, and the utilitarian assumptions of liberalism. The common assumption is that this happened only in places like Germany or Stalin taking over in the USSR. This happened in Japan with the end of their democracy and the ascension of the cult of the emperor, which was a creation of the post-1868 elite. Japan's coup was certainly reactionary, although I must say, I must re-read the book Hirohito to refresh my memory.

In Latin America the onset of the Great Depression ended the glory-age of lassiez-faire oligarchic classes, and the insertion of the state. One article I read discussed how due to the collapse of class hegemony in Latin American states, the state had to take over to fulfill the gap left by the end of hegemony, or Bonapartism. In Uruguay for instance, the most democratic state in the region, say its democracy collapse due to the pressures of the depression and a dispension of democratic government as ineffective.

The United States was not much different in the sense that under F.D.R. the state became the main foci for organization and growth in society. A little known fact that most American's forget is that there was a planned coup d'etat against FDR by corporate interests, especially DuPont, to replace FDR or to make FDR a figurehead leader. A proto-fascist movement, by using one of America's greatest generals, and symbolic leader of the veterans from WWI to organize like a SA.

The movie's and art of the era also suggest a modernist break with the past. The pre-code movies of the United States will full of heavy sexual innuendo, references to drug abuse, abuse, glorification of violence and gangsterism, the emancipation of women sexually and professionally. It was indeed a period of rejection of the past mores, and a drive to modernism, guided by the ideologies as Arednt argues, the tyranny of logic.

This was set in an era where a quarter of the American population was unemployed, and worldwide a similar percentage of people were left without means. A book entitled "A Commonwealth of Hope: The New Deal Response to Crisis", I believe gives a very good description of the state of America at the time. There are particularly telling passages in the book I wish to share:

"Less visible were the scavengers who haunted alleys behind restaurants or picked over garbage dumps in search of edible scraps. One observer who witnessed such scenes of desolation was especially struck by the elderly woman, formerly of means, who always took off her glasses so that she wouldn't see the maggots crawling over what she was eating" (Lawson 9).

Within that context it is hard to believe that a rejection of the liberal hegemony could not occur. The "free market" was destroying itself through its own internal contradictions. The disconnect between the reality and the theory was too great, it was the end of free marketism, and liberal traditional values. The ruling classes were delusional and so disconnected from the realities around them that J.P. Morgan himself discussed how maintaining the class inequalities were so fundamental to civilization:

"If you destroy the leisure destroy civilization'. When pressed about how to define the leisure class, Morgran said it would include all those who could afford a maid--about twenty-five to thirty million people, he supposed, until informed that there were only about two million servants in the whole country...Under scrutiny, those who had presided over the debacle and now sought to lead the nation back into the same old promised land showed how little they had troubled themselves to learn about eh society that had made them rich" (Lawson 15).

Finally to make a link to Arednt's position on this whole hypocrisy:

"Since the bourgeoisie claimed to be the guardian of Western traditions and confounded all moral issues by parading publicly virtues which it not only did not possess in private and business life" (Arednt 32).

I hope the connections are being made in your mind...

Thus, understand why I am fascinated by that period, a very honest period.


Power relations

Changing the world has been one of the prerogatives of ordinary men to become extraordinary men. Changing the world to many men is not a question of making it better, but changing it in their image. However, does the changing the world require disempowerment, or the empowerment of the masses?

It is a question that I am only beginning to grapple with. I could be a complete cynic and argue that some men achieve power for the mere sake of power, but I do not believe that most men do this. Power is the most elemental, primal necessity of men. People seek power to fulfill a desire or a need to change themselves and/or the world around them. Although, power unto itself contains an appeal because it appeals to mankind's fascination with control and subduing nature/God.

All the social relations that are of any real significance, sex, business, and politics is based on the notion of power. Power does not only manifest itself through brute force, usually when it is manifested in such a manner it is indicative of the weakness of the person's power. Rather power is manifested through the manipulation of individual talents to maximum effect, and that manipulation is best confirmed by the acceptance by other's of that person's framing of reality. In order to be powerful one has to be cognizant and confident enough to recognize and use those talents.

There are instances, where what could be a person's most powerful asset, for example sex appeal, or greed becomes their greatest enemy. Simply because that power is not rationally harnessed by the individual. Rather, the individual sees these assets merely as ends to themselves, not means. When one pursues sex, or profit as the end and not out of the social implications of that relation they are weakened to the point whereby they can be manipulated to someone who is knowledgeable of their own power. The individual seeks to only submit to the will of the other. This is due to their own inability to admit or seek their own truth and power in fear of the implications of independence and responsibility.Those who are in power recognize these failing's and exploit the weaknesses in the other to their own benefit. The exploited, due to either self-interest,fear, or gullibility simply cannot compete especially when that one in power has set the agenda.

Sadly, in order for power to exist, these, people have to exist. These people who are unable to realize their own potential power, who are tramped on and who are gullible to power, enable the worst excesses of power to exist, needless to say they are usually the first victims in the wrath of power. Indeed, power is a function of exploitation and realization of the other's weakness real of perceived.

One of the problems with the notion of empowerment is that it destroys the basis of power, the asymmetrical relationship. Empowerment is not bringing people up, it is bringing people down. Is this a bad thing? Of course it is not, if everyone is brought to an equitable level of "power", which is a contradiction. Due to the natural inequalities of man, strength, knowledge would have to be conditioned out of the notions of power or they will be used to impose on the equal masses power once again. Thus, to empower the masses seems suspect at this point.

Bourgeois ideology?


Purpose of this blog

Dear Readers

Thank you for coming to my blog space, perspectivos. The purpose of this blog is to foster open discussion and alternative views of issues that affect all of our lives. Brining about counter-hegemonic, critical, and countercultural discourses is increasingly important in a world increasingly monopolized by a few corporations, especially controlling what we see through the mainstream media.

The other aspect of this blog is also to discuss more less controversial issues such as art, architecture, urban landscapes, sexuality and music. The exploration of culture is important to connect with our collective past, and to embrace the achievements of our forefathers. In addition, understanding and appreciation of more sophisticated forms of culture is becoming a rarity among the youth, this tendency to limit ones perspective to the immediate is a highly disturbing development.

This blog will also discuss the intersection between mass consumerism, capitalism, education, and even religion all come together to subordinate the mentality of millions. Many of us are victims of this intersection, and we constantly see the dehumanization and commodification of our thoughts and actions in our compatriots. Fetishism, mystification and commodification of our lives through hegemony of the system is something that should be and will be challenged.

About the author: I try never to talk about issues that I do not feel comfortable discussing, and I try never to go beyond my own limits intellectually. Although I challenge others to challenge themselves, and not to accept the status quo, and not to engage in self-pity. I am not a terribly out-going person, nor am I terribly charismatic, but I am a very thoughtful.
Thank You,



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Thank you for visiting Perspectivos, a blog that is dedicated to the exploration and elucidation of critical political theory and critical political economy. I would like to encourage you to write feedback to any of the my blogs and/or click on the "like", "don't like" or "unsure" buttons at the bottom of the blog posts. Lastly, if you like, you may subscribe to my blog at the bottom of the page. Once again, thank you and enjoy the blog.