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Our 'popular religion' Part I

Chantal Mouffe wrote, “a hegemonic principle does not prevail by virtue of its intrinsic logical character but rather when it manages to become a ‘popular religion’ ” (309).

What does this mean? Well, in essence, what matters is not the logical/rational rationale behind an ideology, but rather whether or not it captures the popular imaginary of the population. In our society, the 'popular religion' is the belief that "rational" decisions dominate our lives; from the judiciary, business, legislature, and the broader technocracy. The foundation of our modern, liberal "democratic" society is founded on three "inherently rational" beliefs:

- Rule of Law
- Free Market
- Democracy

The 'war on terror' has undermined the belief in the rule of law, the bank bailouts undermined the belief in the free market, and democracy has constantly, however, increasingly undermined through the operation of state capture by dominant capital, via lobbying, corruption, etc. The facade that belies our modern society, "reason" has been losing its veneer over the past decade, and the power that operates behinds it is showing its ugly head.

The rule of law has been fundamentally undermined by the Bush and Obama administrations. The Bush administration by abandoning human rights in the interests of American corporatist interests-I am under no illusions, human rights also served American interests, but in a different guise. The Bush Administration's 'torture memos' that supposedly gave the administration the legal cover to engage in torture; this highlights how irrational a belief in the " cold rationality" of the law is, and how utterly useless the law can be when it can be so easily manipulated by opportunistic politicians and lawyers. Never-mind, that the Bush Administration also undermined the efficacy of international law by illegally invading Iraq on false pretenses. The 'popular religion' propping up the liberal system is based on the belief that we live in a system of laws that apply to everyone, regardless of power, and interest. Unfortunately-or-fortunately, that belief has been eroded by the corrosive power of raw, unbridled jingoistic-capitalist power.

The Obama Administration has accentuated the collapse of the rule of law, by denying the American people, and people of the world justice. Obama wants to "look forward, without looking back" or some nonsense akin to that statement. How can a nation, which prides itself on its constitutionalism, and its adherence to the rule of law, let criminals go free? A dangerous precedent is being set by the constitutional-scholar president, if you engage in illegal activity, and you are powerful enough, you will get away with it. The slippery slope towards tyranny has begun. What could be another motive for Obama doing this? Possibly to cover his own cards, see Obama has not actually changed much of the rules of the Bush Administration's 'war on terror' game. Obama may be scared that if he puts on trial the criminals in the former administration, he along with his advisors could be next-just because he is a Democrat does not mean he cannot be a criminal.

The free market is supposed to be the aspect of politics that cannot be fundamentally questioned in our new "consensus" democracy. Indeed, the very notion of the "Third Way" and of "consensus" is to denote that the capitalist-market society is hegemonic, and unquestionable. The free market and property, it is argued by "free market fundamentalists", is the foundation of our very civilization and our freedoms; to reduce the scope of the market, or constrain property is to lead to tyranny-a la Hayek.

September 11th, conservatives like to argue changed everything. It exposed that America was "asleep", and did not recognize that it was at war. This has a kernel of truth in it, it cannot be denied that Bush was on vacation at his Texas ranch-only seven months into his presidency-and was handed a memo explicitly warning that Al Qaeda wanted to attack inside the United States, and choose to ignore it. However, Katrina also changed everything. The real tyranny, the tyranny of free market capitalism, of a absent welfare state, the latent racism in American society manifested itself on the roofs of New Orleans, in the floating cadavers scattered across the city. For the first time Americans were exposed to the biting poverty of the "ghetto". The classist society-where freedom exists for the few, while real tyranny of poverty and hopelessness for the many-is the real result of "free market capitalism". The free market, left to its own devices reinforces already existing winners power, power begets power, and leaves the poor in a competitive struggle for scarce jobs, lower wages, and debt. Indeed, it should be of no surprise the United States is a much more unequal, and poorer society than it was in 1980. I understand that some will retort that is an outrageous statement, but the standard of living rising in the US since that time has been due, primarily, to consumer debt and not real income, which has been stagnant and even declining. September 11th was an aberration, Katrina is a manifestation of a daily tragedy.

Giovanni Arrighi argues that financialization of an economy signals its autumn period, and springtime for another economy. The Bush tax cuts, along with the Reagan tax cuts was supposed to increase investment in the economy. However, capital seeks the highest returns, and with so much extra cash they invest that extra income into the markets. It is forgotten that prior to the Great Depression, we also had a supply-side, Republican policy that lead to speculation on the markets. The endemic crisis inherent within capitalism began to grow ever-deeper under the Bush reign, underconsumption. However, it was a different form of crisis, unlike traditional crisis' of underconsumption and overproduction, the American consumer was still able to buy due to ample consumer credit, the importation of cheap Chinese goods and credit, and access to house equity. Under the Bush years the "ownership society" was becoming a reality, however, we now know how this was occurring-subprime.

By 2008, the deck of cards, the supposedly AAA derivatives that propped up the multi-trillion system began to collapse. The SEC was not doing its job, it lacked the laws, powers, but most importantly the will to investigate. The market was literally was allowed to go forth, however, this was the modern "free market" where corporations with massive power both economically and politically were able to manipulate and strong-arm everything in its path in the vainglorious path to riches. The banks cared only for profits, and it did not matter who it trampled on to get those profits. The bankers, traders, and other parasites became the new gods in our society. However, as my previous blogs show, on Veblen and Krugman, such a society was essentially a society that idolized the 'scam artist'. This idolization of the parasite can be seen with such guru-ideologies as Richard Florida's "Creative Class", and the celebrity-ization of anti-socialities on Donald Trumps "The apprentice". This accords with Veblen's argument that the labourer, the one who creates goods is looked down upon. Indeed, in the United States, the source of accumulation, the working class, is increasingly genderized and racialized. In addition, the belief that we have transcended the "class economy", or the "post-materialist" society is based on the debt economy based on the denial of a higher standard of living of people in the third world who send us the debt with their blood, sweat, and tears.

To be continued...

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