Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The dynamics of the hegemonic ideological life-cycle AKA Why we are fucked in the West

I wanted to quickly outline the dynamics at play in the US and UK, to show how the betrayal of the left by the Democrats and New Labour set us on this terrible path. Again, I do not speak as someone who identifies as left. I speak as someone who is anti-ideological hegemony (so it just comes across that I am far-Left sometimes), and who understands these dynamics as universal dynamics across all complex adaptive systems. This is merely written in the context of political economy..

When an ideology has cross party (or dictatorial) support for long enough, when that ideology is reflected in all shared cultural production at the expense of other identities, then it becomes hegemonic. Not just in power, but as part of peoples identities and their culture.

To give you an extreme example. The Nazi's took over all shared cultural production, from film to schools to public spaces.. everywhere was saturated with Nazi ideology. This feeds into people identity, either directly making them agree, making them ambivalent, or making them not disagree either through fear of some sort, or through thinking everyone else might agree. 

In the US and, to a lesser extent the UK, a handful of corporations own all shared cultural production via national media, and have done for over two generations (except BBC/NPR/PBS - but they tow the state line anyway). Both parties support (or supported, until Corbyn) the Neoliberal political economic regime: the FED, the World Bank, the EU, the IMF, Central Banks, the Washington Consensus, Neoclassical economics, global finance, etc. Every piece of shared culture is filtered and shaped through a myriad of conscious and subconscious forces to, if not reinforce neoliberal ideology, then to not oppose it.

Now, party politics only functions when you have a Left and a Right. You go one way for a while, then the other party takes a turn and goes the other, correcting the previous mistakes. And thus we move forward in a balanced way. But when Bill Clinton and Tony Blair embraced Neoliberalism, they turned their parties from the left to the anti-left, and thus broke the functioning of party politics.

When you have a hegemonic consensus, progress in governance doesn't happen. You simply keep moving in one direction, regardless of party. This creates what are known as path dependencies; the longer you go down said paths, the harder it is to reverse course.

So, what happens? Well, without any challenge to the hegemony, those involved do not see the root of the problem. Previously, religion acted as a moral challenge as in the Great Depression, but no more. Since government and institutions evolve at a much slower rate than the rest of society due to their doctrinal, ideological structure, tension begins to build. Like an earthquake.

This is where we are now. Power is in an ideological bubble, unable to see that it is their own ideological path dependencies and doctrine that are causing the tension. A growing number of people in society outside of that bubble do recognise it however, yet they are denied any route within the system by which to make reform.

And you know what JFK said about reform, right? Those that make peaceful revolution impossible and violent revolution inevitable. It's not just a slogan. It's real.

The only way that a hegemonic ideological structure can maintain itself in such a situation is to get more and more authoritarian. The hegemony doesn't evolve, society does, and so the tension grows and grows and grows until SNAP.

The way that these ideological hegemonies collapse is called a cascade event, or a transition. They happen quickly, suddenly, and unpredictably, and the violence (or energy) involved is determined by how much tension the ruling power has allowed to build. Not by those responding to it.

Voting Clinton or Owen Smith doesn't release the tension. It simply allows to keep building, because they are ideologically blind and unable to deal with the root causes of the tension, the root causes of why we have Trump. It doesn't make the threat of fascism go away with Trump losing, it makes the the eventual fascism likely to be even worse.

That's because the energy in the tension will be higher. Which direction the cascade event falls depends on which force outside of the hegemonic system triggers the cascade. If to the right, we move *even further* right, meaning unsustainable fascism. If to the Left, we return to the mean, and correct the mistakes that were made over the last 40 years.

Right now, the main priority should be in ensuring it breaks to the Left. I fear that should Clinton get in, the momentum from outside forces will come from the right; liberals won't mobilise in the same way if their own President is in. It could mean that come 2020, the insurgent challenger is on the Right once again, and the Left will once more be urging us to support the lesser evil. If Trump gets in, however fucked up that will be in the short-term, at least the Left will be the insurgent force, and the Neoliberal consensus will be well and truly shattered.

There is no happy ending here. At least in the UK we have managed, somehow, to repel the Neoliberal backlash and maintain an anti-neoliberal Labour leader. The US is a much bigger shit-show.

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