March 09, 2006

Tom Paine: Projecting the Future, Producing the USA


1. Common Sense
2. Virtual Involvement
3. Make Commerce, Not War
4. Positive Fictions
5. Dangerous Delusions

1. Common Sense

Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason. *

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Paine’s common sense was an attack on not thinking. It was not thinking that enabled monarchs and the aristocracy to maintain their hold and monopoly on power. Thinking about the basis and purpose of civil society triggered a process of enlightenment that showed custom and existing power structures to be, above all, indefensible. Human society had to justify itself under the aggressive glare of Reason.

Following Locke’s attack on absolute monarchy in The Second Treatise of Government, Paine’s pamphlets achieve a new pitch of lucid intensity. By exposing hereditary right to be an imposition having its roots and justification in a distant right of conquest, he disarms any monarchy and aristocracy at one fell swoop, leaving them nothing but appeals to tradition and/or repressive violence to fall back on. Kings and Lords have no rational arguments to justify their ‘rights’.

For common sense it is obvious that those living under a monarchy are deceived and enslaved:

... a race of conquerors arose, whose government, like that of William the Conqueror, was founded in power, and the sword assumed the name of a sceptre. Governments thus established last as long as the power to support them lasts; but that they might avail themselves of every engine in their favor, they united fraud to force, and set up an idol which they called Divine Right, and which, in imitation of the Pope, who affects to be spiritual and temporal, and in contradiction to the Founder of the Christian religion, twisted itself afterwards into an idol of another shape, called Church and State. The key of St. Peter and the key of the Treasury became quartered on one another, and the wondering cheated multitude worshipped the invention.

When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.*

Paine’s lucid ‘disgust’ with ‘those who are imposed upon’ is only matched by his contempt for those who would impose their cowardly acceptance of vassalage on future generations. This is his main beef with hereditary succession and with Burke in The Rights of Man.

Rather than seeing England’s ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 as a triumph of Parliament and the beginning of constitutional government, Paine saw it as a cowardly, expensive and irrational imposition on the future. The ‘revolution’ deposed a Catholic king only to import a Dutch aristocrat to take his place: it perpetuated the vassalage of government over the people.

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In The Rights of Man (1791), Paine fulminates against Burke for denying that the English had any right ‘to choose their own governors, cashier them for misconduct, or frame a government for themselves.’

... To prove this, he quotes a declaration made by Parliament about a hundred years ago, to William and Mary, in these words: "The Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, do, in the name of the people aforesaid" (meaning the people of England then living) "most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterities, for EVER." He quotes a clause of another Act of Parliament made in the same reign, the terms of which he says, "bind us" (meaning the people of their day), "our heirs and our posterity, to them, their heirs and posterity, to the end of time."

Mr. Burke conceives his point sufficiently established by producing those clauses, which he enforces by saying that they exclude the right of the nation for ever. And not yet content with making such declarations, repeated over and over again, he farther says, "that if the people of England possessed such a right before the Revolution" (which he acknowledges to have been the case, not only in England, but throughout Europe, at an early period), "yet that the English Nation did, at the time of the Revolution, most solemnly renounce and abdicate it, for themselves, and for all their posterity, for ever." *

While Burke harks melodramatically bark to a past protected from criticism by the rituals of custom and opacity of obscurantism, Paine is a fundamentally forward-looking thinker. One of the basic tenets of his thought is that the present generation has no right to shackle the future by tying posterity into contracts born of cowardice or expediency in the present.

As far as Paine is concerned, as long as the ‘tyrannies’ of monarchy and aristocracy are part and parcel of government, then government is not truly constitutional, i.e. it is not government of the people, and the administration of power is inevitably entangled in absurd contradictions. The argument in Common Sense which inspired the colonists to effect a complete break from the British government was one which attempted to pull the English government’s essential irrationality to pieces:

I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices, yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the English Constitution, we shall find them to be the base remains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new Republican materials.

First. — The remains of Monarchical tyranny in the person of the King.
Secondly. — The remains of Aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the Peers.
Thirdly. — The new Republican materials, in the persons of the Commons, on whose virtue depends the freedom of England.

The two first, by being hereditary, are independent of the People; wherefore in a CONSTITUTIONAL SENSE they contribute nothing towards the freedom of the State.

To say that the constitution of England is an UNION of three powers, reciprocally CHECKING each other, is farcical; either the words have no meaning, or they are flat contradictions.

First. — That the King it not to be trusted without being looked after; or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of monarchy.
Secondly. — That the Commons, by being appointed for that purpose, are either wiser or more worthy of confidence than the Crown.

But as the same constitution which gives the Commons a power to check the King by withholding the supplies, gives afterwards the King a power to check the Commons, by empowering him to reject their other bills; it again supposes that the King is wiser than those whom it has already supposed to be wiser than him. A mere absurdity!

There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of Monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required. The state of a king shuts him from the World, yet the business of a king requires him to know it thoroughly; wherefore the different parts, by unnaturally opposing and destroying each other, prove the whole character to be absurd and useless. *

As we shall see, this dismissal of the division of power as an absurdity is perhaps a bit hasty, but when Paine wrote speed was of the essence.


Paine’s common sense was Reason as War Machine: a self-taught mind taking on and fighting off the state at breakneck speed. Designed to be disseminated and processed rapidly, inflammatory and intense, his pamphlets were indispensable, hot-off-the-press weaponry for generals and diplomats. Common Sense and The Crisis are profound examples of thought and argument being instrumental in reality production.

In the colonies, the Enlightenment achieved it’s most compressed, intense expression, with lucidity on a breakaway line of flight far removed from the servile infatuation with authority and turgid philosophical tomes which characterized the Enlightenment in Europe.

Of course, the American Revolution came packaged with own contradictions and hypocrisy, with many of the authors of the high-minded, idealistic Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution being slave-owners. But in the unprecedented clarity that illuminated America at this time these contradictions were painfully clear. Paine, an outspoken advocate of the abolition of slavery, was first an foremost an inspiration: his thought spread enlightenment so quickly that society soon found its ideals to be out of time with its social and economic realities. With Paine, thought was ahead of its time, not enslaved to it.

Paine’s common sense provides proof that, fantastically ignorant as we may be when it comes to metaphysics and our own minds, the really big questions that affect us on a daily basis – Do you want to live under tyranny or not? What is the optimal basis and form of government? – can actually be answered and communicated clearly and concisely. It is the abandonment of common sense in favour of priestly absurdities such as dialectical materialism which lead human society back into ignorance, obscurity and vassalage.

2. Virtual Involvement

Norman Davies, in Europe, A History:

“Of course, no one in 1776 could possibly have foreseen the full potential of the USA. The thirteen colonies still looked to be very fragile ventures, surrounded by the uncontrolled forces of nature in a largely unexplored continent... At the time, the British government was blind to even the most immediate implications.” (p637)

Well, not quite no one. If it were reformulated as ‘no one in Europe’, then fair enough. Because the success of the American Revolution depended on people in those colonies having an inspirational premonition of the largely unexplored continent’s potential. The USA was a product of imaginative foresight; of seeing, seizing and laying claim to what could be:

The Sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a City, a County, a Province, or a Kingdom; but of a Continent — of at least one-eighth part of the habitable Globe. 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed-time of Continental union, faith and honour. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound would enlarge with the tree, and posterity read in it full grown characters. *

Common Sense and The Crisis (1776-7) invoke an inevitable future in order to steel resolve in the present. Of course it was possible to continue negotiations with the British government, to once again submit the neck to the yoke of ‘tyranny’, but this would have amounted to both a cowardly betrayal of the future and a deferral of the inevitable. At times, Paine resorts to cajolery:

I once felt all that kind of anger, which a man ought to feel, against the mean principles that are held by the Tories: a noted one, who kept a tavern at Amboy, was standing at his door, with as pretty a child in his hand, about eight or nine years old, as I ever saw, and after speaking his mind as freely as he thought was prudent, finished with this unfatherly expression, "Well! give me peace in my day." Not a man lives on the continent but fully believes that a separation must some time or other finally take place, and a generous parent should have said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;" and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty. Not a place upon earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade with them. A man can distinguish himself between temper and principle, and I am as confident, as I am that God governs the world, that America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion. Wars, without ceasing, will break out till that period arrives, and the continent must in the end be conqueror; for though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire. *

At times, he waxes almost mystical:

I HAVE never met with a man, either in England or America, who hath not confessed his opinion, that a separation between the countries would take place one time or other: And there is no instance in which we have shown less judgment, than in endeavoring to describe, what we call, the ripeness or fitness of the continent for independence.

As all men allow the measure, and vary only in their opinion of the time, let us, in order to remove mistakes, take a general survey of things, and endeavor if possible to find out the VERY time. But I need not go far, the inquiry ceases at once, for the TIME HATH FOUND US. The general concurrence, the glorious union of all things, proves the fact.

As is perhaps the case with all ‘successful’ revolutions, time was of the essence: the colonists pulled their revolution off chiefly because their ‘opinion of the time’ was superior to that of the myopic power they were trying to outwit and shake off.

Part of Paine’s persuasive power lay in his straightforward presentation of financial facts and calculations. He had no qualms about combining philosophical-political argument with the prices of ships:

For a ship of
100 guns...... 35,553 £
90 " .......... 29,886
80 " .......... 23,638
70 " .......... 17,785
60 " .......... 14,197
50 " .......... 10,606
40 " .......... 7,558
30 " .......... 5,846
20 " .......... 3,710 *

Crucially, neither did he have any qualms about making the future pay for the revolution. The future had to be literally indebted to the present:

Debts we have none: and whatever we may contract on this account will serve as a glorious memento of our virtue. Can we but leave posterity with a settled form of government, an independent constitution of its own, the purchase at any price will be cheap. But to expend millions for the sake of getting a few vile acts repealed, and routing the present ministry only, is unworthy the charge, and is using posterity with the utmost cruelty; because it is leaving them the great work to do, and a debt upon their backs from which they derive no advantage. Such a thought's unworthy a man of honour, and is the true characteristic of a narrow heart and a piddling politician.

The debt we may contract doth not deserve our regard if the work be but accomplished. No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance. Britain is oppressed with a debt of upwards of one hundred and forty millions sterling, for which she pays upwards of four millions interest. And as a compensation for her debt, she has a large navy; America is without a debt, and without a navy; yet for the twentieth part of the English national debt, could have a navy as large again. The navy of England is not worth at this time more than three millions and a half sterling. *

The American Revolution would not have been possible without a financial contribution from the future.

3. Make Commerce, Not War

Besides, what have we to do with setting the world at defiance? Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe; because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port. *

In all my publications, where the matter would admit, I have been an advocate for commerce, because I am a friend to its effects. It is a pacific system, operating to cordialise mankind, by rendering nations, as well as individuals, useful to each other. As to the mere theoretical reformation, I have never preached it up. The most effectual process is that of improving the condition of man by means of his interest; and it is on this ground that I take my stand. If commerce were permitted to act to the universal extent it is capable, it would extirpate the system of war, and produce a revolution in the uncivilised state of governments. The invention of commerce has arisen since those governments began, and is the greatest approach towards universal civilisation that has yet been made by any means not immediately flowing from moral principles. *

In Paine’s presentation, war is a tool used to tax and impoverish civil society. Tyrannical, uncivilized governments divert attention from their indefensible basis by engaging in wars which further the interest of government and hereditary rule, not society. There is a conflict of interest. War is in the interest of governments which reciprocally bolster each other’s grip by bleeding their societies dry. It is in the interest of individuals and society to trade. While the winners of war are governments, commerce is non-zero-sum exchange and benefits the whole of civilisation:

... the prosperity of any commercial nation is regulated by the prosperity of the rest. If they are poor she cannot be rich, and her condition, be what it may, is an index of the height of the commercial tide in other nations.

There can be no such thing as a nation flourishing alone in commerce: she can only participate; and the destruction of it in any part must necessarily affect all. When, therefore, governments are at war, the attack is made upon a common stock of commerce, and the consequence is the same as if each had attacked his own. The present increase of commerce is not to be attributed to ministers, or to any political contrivances, but to its own natural operation in consequence of peace...

...If a merchant in England sends an article of English manufacture abroad which costs him a shilling at home, and imports something which sells for two, he makes a balance of one shilling in his favour; but this is not gained out of the foreign nation or the foreign merchant, for he also does the same by the articles he receives, and neither has the advantage upon the other. The original value of the two articles in their proper countries was but two shillings; but by changing their places, they acquire a new idea of value, equal to double what they had first, and that increased value is equally divided. *

Paine loathed war and yet called for it against the British. His justification for war is eminently rational: civil society has to protect itself and its commerce from the depredations and encroachments of tyrannical government.

4. Positive Fictions

The concept of natural rights is central to Paine’s onslaught, and it goes hand in hand with his faith in Reason and his optimistic view of human nature. In a smooth mixture of Locke and Rousseau, Paine assumes ‘man’ to be born equal and endowed with certain natural rights, among which he stresses: intellectual rights and freedom of conscience; the right to trade freely; and the right to pursue comfort and happiness. In the state of nature, ‘man’ also has a right to judge and administer justice, but on entering the compact of civil society, ‘man’ gives up this right. *

In a schema which borrows heavily from Locke, society is drawn as positive, whilst government is cast as ‘a necessary evil’:

Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. *

In its optimal form, government functions solely to protect freedoms and provide security. In its worst form – i.e. absolute – government is the greatest disgrace and shame of humanity.

The closer society stays to ‘the laws of nature’ the better it functions.

Man, with respect to all those matters, is more a creature of consistency than he is aware, or than governments would wish him to believe. All the great laws of society are laws of nature. Those of trade and commerce, whether with respect to the intercourse of individuals or of nations, are laws of mutual and reciprocal interest. They are followed and obeyed, because it is the interest of the parties so to do, and not on account of any formal laws their governments may impose or interpose.

But how often is the natural propensity to society disturbed or destroyed by the operations of government! When the latter, instead of being ingrafted on the principles of the former, assumes to exist for itself, and acts by partialities of favour and oppression, it becomes the cause of the mischiefs it ought to prevent. *

For Paine, human history has consisted of little more than an abuse of natural rights by governments, a tale of continual enslavement.

It might be helpful to ask a few questions at this point: What exactly are these natural rights? What’s the evidence for them?

... backtrack to Locke


In The Second Treatise of Government, Locke defines the state of nature for 'mankind' as:

...a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man. *

The state of nature is far from being a brutish free-for-all: it is bounded and governed by the laws of nature:

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.*


Being a prime example of pre-Darwinian, mind-before-matter thinking, the concept of natural rights comes packed with the following assumptions:

1. God designed nature.
2. Nature is subject to rational laws.
3. ‘Men’ were designed equal, in terms of their faculties and nature.

The conclusions drawn from these assumptions are:

1. The laws of nature oblige ‘mankind’ to treat each other equally and, where possible, to protect and serve the species.
2. Slavery breaks God’s laws and is therefore irrational.

In the state of nature, all ‘men’ have the natural right to administer their own justice in rational proportion to any offence committed against them or their property. On entering society, 'man' gives up his right to administer justice himself but retains all 'his' other natural rights:

MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature. When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest. *

Having laid down this premise, Locke draws a startlingly bold conclusion: If civil society requires consent and is governed by the will of the majority, then absolute monarchy is uncivilized: it is one individual administering their natural right to justice as they see fit, which is to say that absolute monarchy is not just like the state of nature – it is the state of nature, or rather the state of nature at its worst because under absolute monarchy other men are deprived of their natural right to administer justice. Society under absolute monarchy is slavery: the deprivation of natural rights. Since slavery is irrational and against the laws of God, man has a duty to rebel against absolute monarchy. Man is free to withhold consent and form new societies elsewhere:

The other objection I find urged against the beginning of polities, in the way I have mentioned, is this, viz.

Sec. 113. That all men being born under government, some or other, it is impossible any of them should ever be free, and at liberty to unite together, and begin a new one, or ever be able to erect a lawful government.

If this argument be good; I ask, how came so many lawful monarchies into the world? for if any body, upon this supposition, can shew me any one man in any age of the world free to begin a lawful monarchy, I will be bound to shew him ten other free men at liberty, at the same time to unite and begin a new government under a regal, or any other form; it being demonstration, that if any one, born under the dominion of another, may be so free as to have a right to command others in a new and distinct empire, every one that is born under the dominion of another may be so free too, and may become a ruler, or subject, of a distinct separate government.

... Sec. 115. For there are no examples so frequent in history, both sacred and profane, as those of men withdrawing themselves, and their obedience, from the jurisdiction they were born under, and the family or community they were bred up in, and setting up new governments in other places; from whence sprang all that number of petty commonwealths in the beginning of ages, and which always multiplied, as long as there was room enough, till the stronger, or more fortunate, swallowed the weaker; and those great ones again breaking to pieces, dissolved into lesser dominions. All which are so many testimonies against paternal sovereignty, and plainly prove, that it was not the natural right of the father descending to his heirs, that made governments in the beginning, since it was impossible, upon that ground, there should have been so many little kingdoms; all must have been but only one universal monarchy, if men had not been at liberty to separate themselves from their families, and the government, be it what it will, that was set up in it, and go and make distinct commonwealths and other governments, as they thought fit. *

The importance of these passages for the projection and production of the USA is obvious (but somehow can’t be stressed enough). The concept of natural rights triggered a train of thought which led directly to insurrection in the colonies and the production of a new country. Natural rights are the code at the core of the USA, given explicit expression in the Declaration of Independence and being implicit in the The Constitution. Whatever Locke’s personal hypocrisy with regard to slavery, the concept of natural rights was the concept which made the founding fathers squirm with discomfort, which ultimately led to the abolition of slavery, and which empowered the 60s Civil Rights movement.

From a certain point of view, it is largely irrelevant whether the concept of natural rights has any truth content. It is a pre-Darwinian, positive fiction. Even if humans are not born equal, civil society requires that they be treated as such.

5. Dangerous Delusions

Paine in footnote 28 of The Rights of Man:

During the suspension of the old governments in America, both prior to and at the breaking out of hostilities, I was struck with the order and decorum with which everything was conducted, and impressed with the idea that a little more than what society naturally performed was all the government that was necessary, and that monarchy and aristocracy were frauds and impositions upon mankind. On these principles I published the pamphlet Common Sense. *

This observation of society functioning in a perfectly civilized fashion without government was Paine’s chief inspiration for writing Common Sense. It also seemed to be empirical evidence which supported Locke and Rousseau’s idyllic descriptions of the state of nature.

It is one of the cruel ironies of history that Paine, the man who helped instigate the American Revolution and who supported the French Revolution so fervently and articulately, should have found himself awaiting execution at the hands of the Jacobins during the Reign of Terror in 1794. He only managed to avoid the guillotine through pure chance.


Though most of the scathing criticism with which Paine rips Burke to pieces is well-deserved and spot-on, there are a few points of prescient lucidity occasionally shining through Burke’s conservative old-fart ranting which Paine could have profited from paying a bit more heed to.


1. One of Burke’s most pertinent criticisms of The National Assembly is that there was no check upon its power:

The power, however, of the House of Commons, when least diminished, is as a drop of water in the ocean, compared to that residing in a settled majority of your National Assembly. That assembly, since the destruction of the orders, has no fundamental law, no strict convention, no respected usage to restrain it. Instead of finding themselves obliged to conform to a fixed constitution, they have a power to make a constitution which shall conform to their designs. Nothing in heaven or upon earth can serve as a control on them. (p45 Reflections, Oxford)

In the passage cited above from Common Sense, Paine dismissed the division of power in the English government, with its powers supposedly ‘reciprocally CHECKING each other’, as ‘farcical’ and ‘flat contradictions’. While the actual system may not have stood up to the scrutiny of reason in 1776, by rejecting the principle of a division of power, Paine thereby rejected the means by which constitutional government can be prevented from seizing, or being hijacked by, absolute power.

Back to Locke again:

... And because it may be too great a temptation to human frailty, apt to grasp at power, for the same persons, who have the power of making laws, to have also in their hands the power to execute them, whereby they may exempt themselves from obedience to the laws they make, and suit the law, both in its making, and execution, to their own private advantage, and thereby come to have a distinct interest from the rest of the community, contrary to the end of society and government: therefore in well ordered commonwealths, where the good of the whole is so considered, as it ought, the legislative power is put into the hands of divers persons, who duly assembled, have by themselves, or jointly with others, a power to make laws, which when they have done, being separated again, they are themselves subject to the laws they have made; which is a new and near tie upon them, to take care, that they make them for the public good. *

The division of power that Locke outlined in The Second Treatise of Government was conceived precisely to avoid the kind of law-making madness and tyranny the French Revolution hurtled into.

2. Burke took a dim view of human nature and recognized that base passions are at work behind even the most idealistic schemes; and so Burke’s only political recommendation is caution. In contrast, Paine saw no need for checks and balances in government because he had unbounded faith in human nature, once it had thrown off the evils of imposed government:

Who could have foreseen, or who could have believed, that a French National Assembly would ever have been a popular toast in England, or that a friendly alliance of the two nations should become the wish of either? It shows that man, were he not corrupted by governments, is naturally the friend of man, and that human nature is not of itself vicious. That spirit of jealousy and ferocity, which the governments of the two countries inspired, and which they rendered subservient to the purpose of taxation, is now yielding to the dictates of reason, interest, and humanity. *


Paine left America in 1787, the year before James Madison wrote The Federalist No. 51. as part of a project urging support for the United States Constitution. Another irony of history is that Paine, the man who coined the term ‘The United States of America’, wrote The Rights of Man seemingly oblivious to the more pessimistic thinking that characterized the rationale for the American Constitution. In this oft-quoted passage, James Madison justifies the checks and balances built into the American government with explicit reference to the ambitious and competitive nature of human beings:

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.


A bold simplification would have to say that the French Revolution descended into a bloodbath, dictatorship and pan-continental war simply because there were no efficient checks in place and because the noxious side of human nature was allowed free rein.

Paine’s anger with Burke for his having denied the future its natural rights seems to prevent him from seeing the significance of England’s so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688. It’s significance lies not in the Whigs importation of yet another foreign king, but in the decisive reduction of monarchical power in favour of Parliament.

Norman Davies describes the American Revolution as having been “wrested from a country which was one of the most free and best-governed of the day.” (Europe p638). Indeed, while the failings of the French Revolution can largely be blamed on the absence civil society preceding it, and on key figures in the revolution having an excessive trust in human nature, the successful production of the USA came directly from (the conceptualisation of) a cautious mixture of freedom and government in England. Absurd and pathetic as constitutional monarchy might be, in Paine's time it was actually the most fertile ground for truly productive revolt.

Posted by sd at March 9, 2006 10:18 PM | TrackBack





This seems one key point to me:
"Paine’s common sense provides proof that, fantastically ignorant as we may be when it comes to metaphysics and our own minds, the really big questions that affect us on a daily basis – Do you want to live under tyranny or not? What is the optimal basis and form of government? – can actually be answered and communicated clearly and concisely."

A remarkable element of 'liberal metaphysics' - for instance 'natural rights' and the ontology of freedom - is that, despite its deep philosophical implausibility to many sophisticates, its practical consequences are so unambiguously sensible. Is this mis-match itself an index of hyperstitional efficiency? Or to re-phrase: is 'liberty' itself the ultimate hyperstitional phenomenon, grounded only in its own autogenesis?

The general point can be pursued into your discussion of Paine and Burke, or Hobbes. There is no doubt that Hobbes is far more 'realistic' in a first-order respect than either Locke or Paine, yet perhaps this realism comes at the cost of excluding the hyperstitional potentialities of the (far) more liberal position. Does American history substitute for an absence of convincing ontological foundations, adopting 'shallow' (common sense) political principles rather than rigorously convincing philosophical principles, and by doing so harvesting an evolution of freedom that no (Badiou-style) 'politics of truth' can access?

Posted by: Nick at March 10, 2006 05:57 AM



Nick - in a nutshell, yes to your points, though I would stress that liberty emerged from very tight parameters: paradoxically, tight and specific constraints on liberty generate the most liberating (and successful) hyperstition. the string is tied to a bow, the constraint is tension used to propel (or something like that).

The other paradox (which you point out)is that humanity's resistance to unpalatable truth can actually be very k-positive and productive - this contextualizes 'common sense' within a deeply schizoid landscape, i.e. common sense might be extremely lucid, yet the dynamics it is enmeshed in are thoroughly mystifying.

It would be nice to hear something from the H. American contingent about Paine's status/position in the Founding Father mythology. In Europe Paine seems to be scandalously neglected - he's neatly summed up as being a supporter of the French Revolution and arch-enemy of Burke, and the American side of his operations is passed over (e.g. university courses which puport to analyze the French Revolution but make scant reference to the American Revolution).

There is also a lot of stuff in Paine that ought to be of great interest to the left - the last chapters of The Rights of Man present a coherent argument for a temporary welfare state (a re-allocation of taxes until the poor are educated and can stand on their own two feet), but Paine seems to be largely ignored by the left (maybe I'm wrong...)

Posted by: sd at March 10, 2006 08:57 AM



Very on-topic Paine invocations from Bill Frist (!):
(great remarks in fact)

Posted by: Nick at March 11, 2006 01:16 AM



haven't finished the article yet, but I can vouch for Tom Paine's continuing role in the University -- at least, in my (middle-to-upper-middle class public midwestern) university. I had a class on literature and revolution, and we read the 17th-18th century Anglo-French political canon -- Burke, Rousseau, Paine, Locke, Milton, etc. I think this was an unusual reading list for a lit class, but from what I know par for the course in the political science and history departments. A good class, though naturally the people you'd expect not to be very popular in discussion were not very popular in discussion.

I remember liking Burke though not agreeing with him much -- nice earlier piece on him, btw -- Paine I was always pretty well down with.

I WANT that Davies book --

Milton I think might be a good next choice if you want to continue this little founding thinkers of Western revolution series -- a step back history-wise but certainly relevant -- the way he activates the founding myths of Christianity while splicing in Greek classicism to advance the cause for liberal revolution is pretty striking even now and perhaps of greater hyperstitional interest than Paine and Locke's (stylistically) straightforward polemic. Even in that vein Milton has some good stuff: 'The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates' ( is a tour de force. Of particular interest is that while the text is a fairly pointed stab at Charles I, he never is mentioned by name. Key to his project is reconfiguring political violence as DEFENSE, a hyperstitional construct still very much in use by the western powers (and their liberal-politics-trained Islamic enemies as well).

I find that this site as it has gotten more enamored of a single political viewpoint (clearly fetishized just as much as the marxism of your nemesis at k-punk) has fallen deeper and deeper into doing its own reinstatement of the transcendent ego-self, which is what I used to come to this blog to avoid. All this talk of individual liberty and rational interests only leads to a circular near-tautology when combined with the realization that the entire ideology of classical liberalism, like any other, is more or less without foundation in the sense of one linear set of coherent justifications.

I feel that the old hyperstition blog would say that of course there is no justification for classical liberalism, neoliberalism, or any of it. Its justification is created from within, which is probably why it seems so 'eminently sensible' even though it doesn't really cohere if you try to analyze it. Ideologies, hyperstitions, are programs that carry their own internal logic -- forced into particular forms by a pre-existing hardware, of course, but otherwise determined more by compatibility issues and proprietary concerns. Once you've been programmed deeply enough, nothing else makes sense.

Isn't the task of hyperstitional 'research' to go beyond current programs, or if that's not possible/desirable, at least mutiliate them?

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 11, 2006 06:19 AM



mutilate = perform surgery

Posted by: trtraxus4420 at March 11, 2006 06:20 AM



traxus4420 - sounds like you've had an exceptionally solid education :)
Digesting your wider (and critical) points, although - personally speaking - a lot of what might seem like ideological decision making boils down to sleep deprivation and attendant sinkage into empirical pyschology. Also seems quite hard to disentangle your substantive 'objections' ("the entire ideology of classical liberalism, like any other, is more or less without foundation in the sense of one linear set of coherent justifications") from the principle points made both in sd's piece and my immediately following comment.

But, for the sake of a little 'kettle logic' - your suggested equivalence between classical liberalism (tenets of the global process in motion) and Islamarxist reaction ('Make it stop!!') is highly unpersuasive IMHO. I'm enjoying the opportunity to reground common sense - however precariously - outside academic leftoid BS and in the immanent radicality of the historical process.

Posted by: Nick at March 11, 2006 09:03 AM



... but it's great to see you back, and I hope we can tack into your tradewinds enough to keep you around

Posted by: Nick at March 11, 2006 09:04 AM



hi traxus - you have been missed around here.

Your comments on Milton are very useful and I'll follow them up.

Some thoughts on your other comments.

'enamored of a single political viewpoint'

1. If you've actually read the Burke and Paine posts carefully, I think it would be hard to say that they come down heavily on the side of either conservatism or liberalism: Burke and Paine both have their useful weaponry and their achilles' heels. This blog seems to wander healthily between liberal and conservative territories. All I'm trying to do really is examine and assess the codes - you can't perform surgery until before an examination.

2. Paine shows, in no uncertain terms, that there are times when people have to make a choice. The alternative to 'a single political viewpoint' is political paralysis, which can often be equated with cowardice. Maybe this is facetious, but would there be any point in pointing out to Zubr in Belarus that they are 'enamored of a single political viewpoint'?

If there is 'a single viewpoint' operating on this blog, I don't think it would be fair to say that it is closed. If you have an alternative, mutilated viewpoint, then bring it on.

3. Why use my post to take wider potshots at the current state of the blog? Why can't we stick to the matter in hand? The two things that baffle me most about this blog is a) the amount of flak the blog gets as a blog per se b) how much time and energy the blog spends defining itself. From my (admittedly limited) experience of the blogosphere, this doesn't happen elsewhere - people just get on with it. If people really have something valid and interesting to say, then why don't they just say it, rather than this continual griping?

Posted by: sd at March 11, 2006 10:09 AM



sd - I think there's an important memetic complex behind all this, tied up with the cultural aesthetics of the bohemian bourgeoisie (which, let's face it, we're all at least partially infected by). Various forms of nihilistic nominal revolt are far more easily digested than anything that might imply complicity with the existing order of the world - compromise (and 'common sense') in particular is coded as deeply uncool. I agree with you that this can easily become lazy fence-sitting, but I can definitely see where it's affectively coming from. If everything here was all presented as a hyperperverse masochistic leftism ("we have to accept the capitalist machine is chewing us up, and this is exactly how") or an impotent ultracritique ("nothing except tentacle-face absolute freedom is worth an iota of support") it would pass the bobo aesthetic trial far more easily - at the expense of complete disengagement from the messy and profoundly suboptimal politics that actually moves stuff forwards.

Posted by: Nick at March 11, 2006 12:45 PM



traxxus, yes--and traxxus, I find it obnoxious that there is even the perception that 'this site is enamoured of a single political viewpoint.' It's not like I don't write here a lot too--if you think just because I posed with the head of Medusa in my hand and have no truck with down-freak commies like Arpege Chabert that I'm going to take on all the turbo-capitalism Nick offers? Now there are parts of this 'turbo-capitalism' I want, and I already got busy last night. Have you not left this bitch behind yourself? Because at least I have come that far. I'd go there only to strip her of even more privileges than I already have, although it looks like someone named Josef K. has started working on her at the lower 'intensive labour' level, i.e., sophistry level from which she has until now been able to operate fairly effective bullying techniques--and to secretly prove that the Politburo wives would have had a lot of expensive clothes if they had had any exposure to some decent role models (I recall that when we saw them throwing dirt into Brezhnev's and Andropov's graves, the commentator said that the names of many of the Politburo wives are not known. Andropov managed to live one full year as Premier or whatever it was called, and a NYT cover story did admit that he owned a 'fine television.' Not exactly rolling, but this is what all the Party leaders have always wanted--to be rich in a drab way--and that's all they've ever gotten. Nobody wants to hang out with them.)

I think the new Hyperstition is better than the old one, and it's because I freely disagree with the management on some things. I live with the fact that the non-Americans don't care what happens in domestic policy, but at least they're not pretending they're not capitalists, or pretending that they've had capitalism forced on them, so they can only alternate periods of expensive wine consumption with dumb blogging about how their currency trading is killing poor people, but no, 'I won't stop.'

And don't expect me to speak in an academic tone for you. It's you who have to make yourself worthy for the joy of Hyperstition. At this point, I still don't know quite what it is, but you are not going to talk about this as though the joint was just strict management and then theatrical pieces of fluff like me. That student stuff is what has to go. You have to realize that you come and go as you please, and prove yourself an asset, but I haven't yet seen that there is agreement on nearly every political stance (and not just disagreement from me) except that I think all of us don't support Islamic idiocies about mosques and such stuff. Northanger and I have both had to storm out in protest recently, but you'll find that concentration on long things occurs and divertissements can proliferate too. The problem with some of the old Hyperstition is a 'serious posture' that actually precludes what I think may be the essence of what is wanted (I do not mean silliness, although very small amounts won't get anybody thrown out. It's better than 'Survivor' or 'Big Brother' and you can even insist on offline life while doing it. I've already started making Kurzweil into a character for example. What do you think that is, some kind of occupational therapy or something? I still keep my antennae out, and use aggressive supplementation from his and Grossman's health book, but have since realized they are oppressive in some ways, and get an excellent pastry every single day.

I had to finish up over in that hellhole of blogs, although there are a couple that you can swoop into on the rare occasion. For example, the Weblog let me set up shop for 4 days while we put Mrs. Chabert into stocks, just like it was the office George Washington used during the American Revolution in the Jumel Mansion just above Central Harlem, where you can still see the Napoleonic furniture. However, you should realize that she has been put out of business, and you should remember that you said felt more intimidated by her than by this blog. You know why now, don't you? She is decidedly NOT a smoooooth oper-a-tuh....

Now, I haven't even had time to read the full Paine post, so I will do that today, but one doesn't always have to be one step ahead.

Posted by: puff adder at March 11, 2006 02:38 PM



nick. now i'm worried. puffy can throw down better than i can (aka, have a cow) & i fart to track wind. are you *sure* we shouldn't be talking Žižek since i've managed to straighten out that pesky háček thingy.

Posted by: northanger at March 11, 2006 02:54 PM



think the best analogy i can think of, responding to this excellent piece, is filmmaking (specifically, independent film). in a nutshell, primary concern of independent filmmaking (IF) is freedom of diversity where artistic expression not bounded by production codes & over-controlling studio systems. additionally, technological advances in digital media drives down production costs & international film festivals further spurring what David Rosen calls a "growing international culture industry"[1]. whenever film production rigidifies, IF continuously bifurcating & morphing generating enough velocity to escape controlling structures. IF refuses to be contained. its elasticity a good example of, what Tachi mentioned elsewhere, hyperstitional fluidity.

this is also a good place to challenge assumptions presented in Bennett's "Anglosphere Primer"[2]. i'm using two movies to illustrate some of the problems i see with the Anglosphere's hyperstitional framework — which, imho, sustains the very structures triggering diversifying bifurcations. in particular, i'm going to unpack one specific quote from Bennett:

"Anglosphere theorists promote more and stronger cooperative institutions, not to build some English-speaking superstate on the model of the European Union, or to annex Britain, Canada, or Australia to the United States, but rather to protect the English-speaking nations' common values from external threats and internal fantasies. Thus, Anglospherists call on all English-speaking nations to abandon Haushoferian fantasies of geographical blocs: on America to downgrade its hemispherist ambitions, on Britain to rethink its Europeanist illusions, and on Australia to reject its "Asian identity" fallacy."

specifically, what are Haushoferian fantasies, hemispherist ambitions, Europeanist illusions & "Asian identity" fallacies? also, what is the global reality of science & technology? but first, i've got to state my objection to the name itself, ANGLOSPHERE, which leaves many of us bifurcating into remedial Anglosphere apologetics. should be noted the term isn't "racial". however, "taken for granted" values certainly hard to swalllow when an unbalanced minority percentage incarcerated by a rule of law we're supposed to hold dear. how is this sustainable?

the two films are "The Birth of a Nation" (USA, released in 1915) & "Valley of the Wolves Iraq" (Turkey, released in 2006). i cannot think of two better films highlighting the cultural gap overlooked in the Anglosphere.

[1] Globalization Blowback: Part I: Globalization & the Culture Industry

[2] An Anglosphere Primer

[to be cont]

Posted by: northanger at March 11, 2006 03:00 PM



And Traxxus--another thing is that Nick and I disagree on Democrats and leftists not being the same thing. Does anybody really think billionaire Kerry, and the Clintons and Gore are anything but super-capitalists? OF COURSE they are not leftists, they all own many televisions, many of which they are not even aware. You see, I can say this freely because Nick brought up a horrifying image of 'Karl Rove wet dream' and that just sounds so awful no matter how you slice it, so that lines of demarcation were automatically drawn. This may prove Nick never had any characteristics that were covered in the Kinsey report, because sometimes anybody would separate esthetics from politics. You see, somehow Nick seems to have missed that all the hard left marxists think the Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same thing. They definitely have decided anything in the NYTimes, including Maureen Dowd's consistent critiques of the Bush regime, are all done only under the auspices of the Bush regime. If Nick wants me to give me a gastronomic tour of Red China, for example, he'll need to get some better images for 'the dark side' he's offering.

Northanger--interested in your points about the two films, but remember that 'Birth of a Nation' is a very special case, and needs to be seen as tied to its successor 'Intolerance', in which Griffith makes some of what he seems to be defending in 'Birth' somewhat less obvious. Griffith is a lot more complex than most people know, because he has never been surpassed as a moviemaker, makes Godard and Bergman pale by comparison. Anyway, that's probably tangential to the point you need to make, but useful to remember that 'Birth' was popular in LA and NYC at the time of its release too, not just in the super-racist South.

Posted by: puff adder at March 11, 2006 04:06 PM



SD--superb presentation. I've read through, but will re-read, I've gotten some of it though.

'A bold simplification would have to say that the French Revolution descended into a bloodbath, dictatorship and pan-continental war simply because there were no efficient checks in place and because the noxious side of human nature was allowed free rein.

Paine’s anger with Burke for his having denied the future its natural rights seems to prevent him from seeing the significance of England’s so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688. It’s significance lies not in the Whigs importation of yet another foreign king, but in the decisive reduction of monarchical power in favour of Parliament. '

Paine and Burke didn't live long enough to see it, but didn't the French Revolution actually succeed far more than the English Glorious Revolution in the long run? The blood bath was good, even though Proust's lower-downs were still complaining that they aborted the guillotine inflictions too soon, and the ancien regime descendants had set up shop in the Faubourg St.-Germain (they had). On the other hand, the British monarchy may be lower than Parliament, sure it is, but the one thing I am always suspicious of is those weekly meetings of the Prime Minister with the Queen. It doesn't look like much, maybe, but the fact that she knows more state secrets than any living Briton (since they've all died or gotten fired eventually over a 50-year period) has this weird pagan quality to it that does not exist in any other country.

Nick--what do you think of these weekly meetings? Do you think these commoners that have blasted their way into temporary power completely ignore the residue of Absolute Monarchy, or are they not probably seduced by that old white magic as the weeks turn into months and years? Nobody in France has to go to a Noailles for their classes in preserving old corruptions. I remember thinking that Mrs. Thatcher began to get a Windsor sheen herself shortly before she was fired.

Posted by: puff adder at March 11, 2006 04:38 PM



Everyone -- point taken

esp. PJM/puff adder -- I got you mixed up

One last off-topic and I'll do my best to contribute something else -- it seems to me that this constant redefinition 'suffered' by this blog is a logical consequence of what it is (trying to be) about -- that is, understanding what it means to be 'about' anything. Hyperstitional analysis/'intensification' isn't something you can 'just do,' at least if 'just do' means 'just ignore the existence of unquestioned assumptions.' It's just debugging, is what it is (though one must of course beware it doesn't itself become a bug).

Compromise = yes! This seems a necessary precondition to any hyperstitional working -- but compromise does not = common sense, at least not if you follow it to its conclusions. Anyone here read Bruno Latour? He gets an anti-science rap but his ideas of how communication and compromise must be understood as including non-humans and the inorganic seems key to grasping the consequences of a genuine practice of compromise.

Government and exchange are inextricably linked, at least in our world, which inevitably teams exchange with war, domination, exploitation, etc. It really cannot be coherently read as some empirical 'good,' at least not yet. As an eventual goal? But no, this is not compromise. The concept of authority is a kink that everyone is still trying to work out, almost if not already having outlived its usefulness. For what it's worth I do believe humanity has made some progress, but we can't assume that old specter is gone yet, even from stuff we like.

The instrumentalization of humanity that supposedly unfettered commerce implies is for example a concept easily infected by authority, hierarchy, and violence.

I also am in some serious doubt about the usefulness of this whole anglosphere construct, not even taking into account the ridiculous name. I'm not trying to equate 'islamo-marxism-fascism-whatever' with classical liberalism, only trying to point out how there is more interplay of concepts between the two than a rigid us-them dichotomy implied by 'anglosphere' and 'islamo-badness' would suggest. 'Free trade' obscures the monopolistic, statist elements that help constitute neoliberalism and 'Islamist' obscures the secular and even economic justifications held by the individual groups that make up the movement. They're political buzzwords -- hyperstitional constructs themselves, consciously used as weapons to advance various causes. Use them at your own risk.

sd - intrigued especially by the last 3 paragraphs of your Paine post -- will process later --

Dammit, I had the chance to pick up Birth of a Nation in China for something like a dollar but passed because I thought it was just an ad for the Klan (not being snarky here, I really want to see it now).

I'll try to show up more instead of just cherry-pick -- you'll have to forgive me -- for a while back there I thought this blog was literally dead (i.e. no more posts)

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 11, 2006 06:51 PM



OK, too much here to deal with everything at once, but this from northanger, a citatation:
"Thus, Anglospherists call on all English-speaking nations to abandon Haushoferian fantasies of geographical blocs: on America to downgrade its hemispherist ambitions, on Britain to rethink its Europeanist illusions, and on Australia to reject its 'Asian identity' fallacy."
seems so indisputable to me I just don't get the problem. Obviously none of the geo-proximity relations will ever amount to anything more than
economic mutual advantage (which is fine as far as it goes). More specifically, with a major global war brewing up, does anyone think Belgians will get into the foxholes with Brits, Mexicans with Americans, or Filipinos with Australians? Wake up people! If there's any heavy-lifting to do the Anglosphere will be doing it and those who want to get in the way of that generally don't want the heavy lifting done in the first place - they want a Belgian 'solution' and that means the Islamarxists win.

Posted by: Nick at March 11, 2006 11:18 PM



PJM - "but didn't the French Revolution actually succeed far more than the English Glorious Revolution in the long run?"

Well, this is crude and from the hip, but...The French Revolution led to a Europe determined by (the whims of) Napoleonic megalomania, part and parcel of which was massive centralization and rampant nepotism. That's to say, the French Revolution merely swapped one form of authoritariansim for another, and France was basically under the sway of authoritarianism of instabilty up to the 1870s. The French Parliament was basically powerless under Napoleon III and it was only after the Franco-Prussian war that the Parliament had any real power. The Third Republic swapped authoritarianism for the other French speciality - instability - until it collapsed under the Nazi invasion. The French/Napoleonic penchant for centralisation and state authority reared its ugly head as soon as it had the chance after WWII, in the form of the EU. If I had the strength, a comparison between the French and British Empires might be instructive, but I'm more interested in US anti-authoritarianism than in highlighting the dubious virtues of the British Empire. So the answer to your question is a decisive 'No!'.

Posted by: sd at March 12, 2006 01:14 AM



SD--Thank you, that's very informative and doesn't answer all that much of what I'm interested in--but you need not bother further, although I hope Nick will answer about the weekly meetings of prime minister and monarch--about that I really want to know, if it is knowable. What I'm interested in is which elites have produced the most of what I live on. All the great powers have had elites and there seems little point in pretending one can do anything other than decide which results one prefers, since not a one of these is without enormous corruption, including all periods of the American. Your historical background is useful, though, makes one wonder whether Germany becoming a major power with the Franco-Prussian War didn't force France to realize it wasn't going to be able to run things the way it wanted. If American culture continues in the direction it has been going for the most part, and there is no way to pretend it won't, I am sure it will take Nick's 'global war on the horizon' to decide France didn't develop in a way that was uniquely extremely beneficial, brilliant and destructive. The same is true of Britain, Germany, and the U.S. Varying perspectives occur in direct proportion to how close one is to the carnage. I'm sure if I were Arab, I'd be a lot more likely to be pro-Muslim than I am being a New York Mullins. It's ultimately in culture production that a nation's historical strengths and weaknesses can be read when there is no sense of urgency and emergency; and France's tendency to centralization and the selfishness that that has implied undoubtedly paradoxically have produced that peculiar French brilliance which I think Cioran describes especially well while knowing he's Romanian and other things like 18th century hollowness in language in France, etc. Was it worth it? Yes and/or no. Personally (that again!), I am as yet unwilling to give up much of the past until forced, but there does seem to be a strange Renaissance in Hollywood film right now, I have no idea why. Then here and there, some other bright spot for no apparent reason. On the other hand, films like 'Cache' probably wouldn't have surfaced without French interference at GATT accords badk in the 90's. Okay, this is somewhat tangential but not entirely. I think French selfishness has a lot to offer still, and that all nations are becoming very transparent in their core beliefs and motives. It looks as though the French Revolution took 200 years to 'take,' maybe, but that's how it went. Incidentally, the British monarchy doesn't bother me from a distance either, just so I don't have to work for them.

Posted by: puff adder at March 12, 2006 03:14 AM



'makes one wonder whether Germany becoming a major power with the Franco-Prussian War didn't force France to realize it wasn't going to be able to run things the way it wanted.' should probably read that Germany delimited France's singular imperialism still further. After that, it went through many more delimitings, ending up less and less nationalistic. Interesting how much Germany has defined what France is.

Posted by: puff adder at March 12, 2006 03:39 AM



I'd be interested to know what you film buffs think of this:

and there's reasonably intelligent discussion of the film here:

'Birth of a Nation' is very much on topic for this post. Unfortunately I haven't seen it, for similar reasons to those given by traxus. I'll try to get hold of it by hook or by crook (more likely the latter).

Posted by: sd at March 12, 2006 08:19 AM



nick. hmm...."The Core and The Gap .... [and] the Core of the Core is the Anglosphere". anglosphere + heavy-lifting sounds like rebooting the white man's burden.

is the Anglosphere itself Haushoferian? Haushofer's Geopolitik formulation justified Nazi Germany's Lebensraum expansionist policies & a land-based empire. Haushofer defined Geopolitik as "the duty to safeguard the right to the soil, to the land in the widest sense, not only the land within the frontiers of the Reich, but the right to the more extensive Volk and cultural lands". additionally, Haushofer {a} specifically studied the relationship of war & empire to geography & {b} accepted Ratzel's organic conception of the state. Ratzel's "raum-motiv" (he also coined "Lebensraum") was the expansive spiritual force driving great cultures. his organic state was borderless; the state was always growing with the land itself being the spiritual bond of the people & their ability to expand reflecting the health of the state. Ratzel also said that existence was sustained from one identical law & that a nation should be in frequent struggle with those around it.

the US is dealing with a growing Latino population that has already surpassed African-Americans as the #1 minority. their presence has already reformulated black districts & cities. Latinos now virally terraforming white neighborhoods, possibly becoming america's #1 race around 2050. do enough Anglospherian-googling & you will find sites about preserving America's national identity.

for some reason, looking at a world map with highlighted anglosphere nations reminds me of gerrymandering. actually, ACLU views redistricting as a threat to minority voting rights. while Tom Delay indicted on other charges, recent New Yorker article says these charges can be traced to the 2003 GOP Texas' redistricting fight.

i used to live in New Rochelle & want to do justice to sd's hard work on this post & the companion piece on Burke (sd: suggest providing links to each). what seems indisputable to you nick doesn't make much common sense to me. especially considering sd's "Virtual Involvement" section: "invoke an inevitable future in order to steel resolve in the present". this may be the Anglosphere's nougaty center & certainly Murray's hold fast the gates of Rome. but how do we go beyond these abstract presentations & integrate them in our strategic processes & policies? (can't believe i'm saying this) how do we make theory & praxis seamlessly recursive when full existential engagement is lacking? imho, this is the main failure of the Anglosphere Challenge: who is Bennett's WE? who are the band of brothers holding fast the gates of Rome? i live in California now & the moment i (dare) say the word "anglo", somebody hears "gringo" before i can even get enough breath to say "sphere".

Posted by: northanger at March 12, 2006 09:44 AM



sd. thanx for mentioning Birth link. since i'm finding Badiou more hyperstitionally appealing at the moment, here's some links i was using to formulate my film analogy, hopefully using your breakout structure: 1. Common Sense; 2. Virtual Involvement; 3. Make Commerce, Not War; 4. Positive Fictions & 5. Dangerous Delusions.

Intolerance (film)
Crash? Crash!??!
thanks puffy for bringing up Intolerence & it is relevant. the film was more expensive to make than Birth, flopped at the box office & made Griffith bankrupt. i attended film school & we did view & discuss Birth of a Nation, primarily focusing on its technical achievements. haven't seen Crash yet & didn't know storyline. share cprobes reaction: "Crash is ultimately about them [Hollywood] and their failings. Nothing else *could* have won. Maybe this is their global cry for help". interesting thing about these two movies, Griffith wanted the characters in Intolerence "to be emblematic", therefore, none of the characters have names. difficult for an audience to emotionally engage with the emblematic — contrast Salter's (see link below, note #3) comments about Birth's Southern family, the Camerons:

—If the real story of the film is clearly indicated in the title, part of Griffith’s directorial genius was to tell that story through the lives of sympathetic characters. As Griffith’s biographer, Robert Henderson (1972, 158) has pointed out, “Griffith also demonstrated than an audience became most involved with the “truth” of a motion picture when they were involved with the lives of “real” people. The secret of The Birth of a Nation, perhaps, is that the audience cared about the Camerons.”
[key point: black filmmakers wondering whether the film needs to remain a scholarly topic of cinema history]
The Birth of a Nation was one of the most popular films of the silent era. Its innovative techniques made it an important silent film. However, the film glorified slavery, provided historical justification for segregation and disfranchisement of African American people. The film is highly controversial but also an influential and innovative silent film ... and has been credited with securing the future of feature length films (any film over an hour in length) as well as solidifying the codes of film language (techniques as deep focus, jump-cut, and facial close-up, which are now considered integral to the industry).

The Birth of a Nation as American Myth - Richard C. Salter [notes]
[key point: contrast anglosphere as myth production]
The Birth of a Nation was one of the most important films of all time, both for its technical and aesthetic achievements and for its enduring legacy of racism ... Birth serves as a paradigmatic story of American origins rooted in ideas of white supremacy. At the end of the article Oscar Micheaux’s work, Within our Gates, is used to briefly demonstrate filmic strategies for countering Birth as myth.
[key point: Turkey's most expensive film]
...strongly negative portrayal of the American military ... Filmed with a budget of $10 million U.S. dollars and released in 2006, Valley of the Wolves was the most expensive film ever made in Turkey.

Moviegoing Turks meet new enemy, and it is U.S.
[key point: american actors & international markets]

The Stars Realign in Japan,0,5032798.story?coll=la-home-headlines
"The mystique has faded," said Akihiko Sasamoto, who heads the Asian casting division of Hakuhodo, one of Japan's biggest advertising and marketing agencies.
[key point: cultural rifts must be understood]
Samuel Huntington — (main thesis) central political actors of the 21st century will be civilizations rather than nation-states.
[key point: Turkey's western-orientation]
Huntington refers to countries that are seeking to affiliate with another civilization as "torn countries." Turkey, whose political leadership has systematically tried to Westernize the country since the 1920s, is his chief example. Turkey's history, culture, and traditions are derived from Islamic civilization, but Turkey's Western-oriented elite imposed western institutions and dress, embraced the Latin alphabet, joined NATO, and is seeking to join the European Union.

Hollywood in the Era of Globalization - Allen J. Scott
[mentioned in Rosen article]
American films always garner at least half, and sometimes more than two-thirds, of total box-office receipts in major foreign countries (see Table 2). This level of success on export markets can be ascribed not only to the prowess of American multinational media corporations in disseminating the products of Hollywood across the globe, but also to their unique ability to make big-budget films that appeal powerfully to popular tastes in many different cultures.
Bollywood and the other major cinematic hubs (Tamil - Kollywood, Telugu - Tollywood, Bengali - also called Tollywood, Kannada, and Malayalam) constitute the broader Indian film industry, whose output is the largest in the world in terms of number of films produced and in number of tickets sold. Bollywood is a strong part of popular culture of not only India and the rest of the Indian subcontinent, but also of the Middle East, parts of Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, and among the South Asian diaspora worldwide.

Bollywood tackles Hollywood
[key points: power of Bolllywood's box office + Hollywood entering India's domestic market]
Last year saw Hindi films block Hollywood's invasion of the Indian Box Office ... After several years of letting Hollywood claim a bigger and bigger share of cinema ticket sales, Hindi filmmakers managed to reverse the trend with a spirited performance in 2005 ... Of course, India is by far the bigger producer of films in terms of volume, spooling out some 900 films every year, compared to just around 75 from Hollywood. The difference is of scale: Titanic, Spiderman and Jurassic Park were all made with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Posted by: northanger at March 12, 2006 11:18 AM



"the moment i (dare) say the word 'anglo', somebody hears 'gringo' before i can even get enough breath to say 'sphere'." - OK, and a phenomenon Bennett comments on specifically, but surely less than essential to the issue. I know 'Hispanic-Americans' will fight like fury for the free world - just as I know Mexicans won't. Now tell me why I'm wrong ...

Posted by: Nick at March 12, 2006 11:36 AM




Posted by: northanger at March 12, 2006 11:59 AM



dearest northanger - that response is not only preposterous in itself, it becomes doubly so from the fact you know your position in this respect is utterly untenable. You read the headline: "Mexico, Belgium and the Philippines sign anti-terror treaty" and you think, "wow! the terror monkeys are really going to be stacked up like cordwood now!" - I didn't think so ...

Posted by: Nick at March 12, 2006 12:23 PM



hey, did you know Costa Rica abolished their military? wow, wonder what kinda terror-treaty they'd scare up.

Posted by: northanger at March 12, 2006 12:38 PM



terror is big bizness in america, go ask halliburton.

Posted by: northanger at March 12, 2006 12:39 PM



northanger - we're getting somewhere now, you're thinking about the issue exactly like a Sandinista ...

Posted by: Nick at March 12, 2006 11:00 PM



anglospheric will and capacity to actually clout? have tendency to agree with nick on this. The power projection of the UK and USA presently place them at the top of the list making them and those allied the strongest power bloc, dare i say, of current times. Though this is often marred by criticisms in dealing with the action in Iraq and with the current indirect war against Iran - but that is precisely the reason why they are in there in the first place. Secure and hold vital resources etc. Worldwide placement of anglophonic countries gives them a distinct advantage - whether fighting for liberty or not - in at least maintaining some form of economic/military hegemony. The actual geoproximity problems (as opposed to geopolitical advantages of say a unified europe) will turn out imho to be an advantage in the sense of strategic location over time. The UKUSA community's ESCHALON system, which gives them unparallelled access to monitoring world telecommunications, the added strategic placement in the north-west pacific, and the preexistant ties of NATO and ANZUS adds some credence at least to the Anglosphericist's power analysis. The potential for future developments are also increased when you add the rough tradition of thought, shared cultural viruses and more recently similar cultural revolts, on a fast turnaround basis. Whilst inextricably bound, there also needs to be an 'outside' influence to keep us on our toes wherever that comes from, it constantly happily shifts.

Is this the bloc of 'liberty' though? Can it maintain competititiveness levels with the rest of the world? Can it maintain its own levels of positive revolt without dissolving into the quaqmire of christian totalitarianism? I am not saying no, but I am sceptical to a degree, and healthy scepticism has generally been useful in ruputuring the transcendent order. Invoking an 'inevitable' future makes my stomach churn with fear, especially when notions of liberty are 'invoked' under the corporatist banner in a similar fashion to that of the Marxist revolutinary spirit prior to Khomeini's takeover. I smell double dupe bullshit to an extent, except one IS actually more progressive than t'other in terms of individual liberty. We know which one (well I do) at least, but then it is no basis for complacency. A possible future on the other hand, maybe, well, a proliferation of possible futures? proliferating fears? I fear an inevitable static power bias, if there is actually such a thing. This is actually what tempted me towards euro-centrism at one point, the complexity of arrangement etc. I still find the UK's involvement titillating, watching Blair last year dring the EU presidency was like watching someone having embarrasingly awful sex. Fear, threats, terror? often find these rather helpful motivations in pressuring myself into more liberty sometimes, but definitely find statist abuse of nightmarish threats abhorent, cant be fooled into a submissive continental doctrine or a rancid manifest 'anglospheric' destiny with bloody 'inevitable' futures...The gravitation towards various geopolitical climes is still going to be inevitable, the UK being drawn towards continental politics, and the USA towards the Latin culture of Mexico etc. Christ i'm beginning to talk like this is actually going to happen...

Posted by: bmr north at March 13, 2006 12:03 AM



damn! that came across as rather rabid sorry :(

Posted by: bmr north at March 13, 2006 12:10 AM



nick. coming from you, that doesn't sound like a good thing. but hey, to show how the "future pay[s] for the revolution" (& stay somewhat on topic), here's a "straightforward presentation of financial facts and calculations" about Iran's weapon profile. US supplied weapons, etc, to Iran from the 1960s to the 1980s (up to & past Shah's reign, including Irangate & Iran-Iraq war; also see pre-1960).

Nuclear Threat Initiative's Iran Weapon profile

Iran Missile Chronology 1960s-1984 [cached link]

Posted by: northanger at March 13, 2006 12:12 AM



>>power projection

eyah! ain't it great salting the earth & completely pwn3ding one's enemies in the morning? (Ede stercum meum et mori!).

Posted by: northanger at March 13, 2006 12:22 AM



bmr - USA survived FD Roosevelt and WWII without becoming a totalitarian society - I think it can cope with half-assed 'compassionate conservatism' and the Jihad at least as easily. As long as the 1st and 2nd amendments are in place, liberty has a refuge on this planet (and it isn't in Brussels or Caracas).

northanger - CNS not up-and-running enough yet to cope with a knight's move quite that drastic (I've still got you strumming the banjo to Bolivarian protest songs around a camp fire)

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 12:44 AM



puff adder - I'm ignoring your 'weekly meetings with the queen' q.s because I'm a republican permanent expat, which is surely sufficient to disqualify me from commenting.

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 12:46 AM



... and the prospect of Charles III is so repugnant its time people started musing radical alternatives ...

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 01:04 AM



puff adder -- I dig your reading of this situation -- "Varying perspectives occur in direct proportion to how close one is to the carnage"

putting one's enthusiastic support behind some existing ideology or other is simply following programming -- unless of course one can formulate a compromise position. But this is the tricky point -- what constitutes an effective compromise? Merely siding with the current most powerful group/system doesn't really seem sufficient to me...

The content of a position never really matters as much as partisans say it does, unless it contains the seeds of some future ecological or social catastrophe within itself (aka is out of touch with the as yet unchangeable elements of reality). Difficult to determine, of course. But what ideologies tend not to factor into their worldview is that there is no ideological vacuum supported only by neutral facts that these would-be messiahs can simply fill -- they exist in relation to other ideologies, each with their own supporters whose minds will not be changed. Compromise is a syntax, not a stance --

On the anglosphere: reading through the James Bennett primer, seeing an interesting bit of mythmaking but of course even if the facts are mostly 'right' no term such as this can be taken as merely neutral description. This is plainly identity politics, only different from feminism, postcolonial theory, and the multi-culti hordes in two ways: one, it's preaching from the standpoint of the winners instead of the losers. Anglos aren't 'oppressed' by anyone except powerless liberals, ragtag bands of terrorists (who have very few allies), and indigenous populations of half-starved 3rd world countries. How do you think the myth of the Anglosphere is going to be used except to provide a rationale for self-defense from all these nefarious splinter groups of EEEvil, aka war?

The second way it's different is that it's not identifying itself through any biological or religious category (though whiteness and maleness seem pretty implicit), but a cultural one. It's anticipating the increasing irrelevance of previous groupings by race, gender, etc. as western civil society becomes less and less openly discriminatory. What it is essentially doing is making the assertion of cultural authority less visible than say British imperialism. It takes a variety of policies, many very sensible, and brands them as 'Anglo.' Civil society as a proprietary interest of the U.S./British/Aussie/etc. conglomerate (which hardly exists in such a communitarian way as implied, obviously U.S. is top dawg). Again, whether or not members of Anglo culture actually spawned these practices doesn't matter, it's all in how the conclusions are applied. If you adopt these policies, you have joined up, are now honorary 'Anglo.' Congratulations and all that.

This is more than just semantics or harmless self-indulgent fantasizing because it reflects the actual practice of spreading capitalism and liberal values. If the purpose of the Anglosphere maneuver is to make the wondrous gifts of Western civilization available to all, so that all can benefit from everyone's success in the non-zero-sum game of global capitalism, it is sure to be a dismal failure. Success would only be achieved by de-branding so-called 'Anglospherian' policies and releasing them for 'free,'fully open source, no hidden costs, no monthly fee. But this wouldn't jive with actual U.S. policy, which involves, naturally enough to any American, securing the best deal for itself (or at least, in the case of Iraq and Vietnam, attempting to and succeeding occasionally).

I fucking love tihs line:
"Those who come to use the language and concepts of the Anglosphere (and further their evolution) are the memetic heirs of Magna Carta, the Bills of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation, whatever their genetic heritage. "Innocent until proven guilty" now belongs to Chang, Gonzales, and Singh, as well as Smith and Jones."

Condescending, reactionary shite. Why isn't this obvious?

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 13, 2006 01:23 AM



Nick--you're ignoring my question because you're a British parasite of the U.S. Bush administration which is going down the tubes, and also because you're British, but don't know the answer to what the Queen is doing and wish you did. Britain is by far the most parasitic of all Western nations. To hell with the ‘Anglosphere.’ Not even bigotry, just an attempt to keep the 13 colonies.

Anyway, you and SD don’t answer questions because you want to ‘keep your carriers hungry,’ and you know I discovered that.

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite! Vive la France!

Posted by: puff adder at March 13, 2006 01:32 AM



Traxxus--I'm a connoisseur of such trinities myself. Here's one from Didion's 'The White Album' with which she concludes after describing her 'atavistic rage' at Bishop Pike:

'When the man who started out a winner was lying dead in the desert his brother in law joined the search party, and prayed for the assistance of God, Jim Jr., and Edgar Cayce. I think I have never heard a more poignant trinity.'

I am fully aware that the Declaration of Independence was not included in the Anglospherian Trinity because then it wouldn't have been a trinity. On the other hand, there were such slobs writing, that you'll see that 'Chang, Gonzales, and Singh, as well as Smith and Jones' is also out of whack. You know how Anglospherians like 'symmetry.' They couldn't ever understand why culture began to shine as a result of immoral centralization in Paris, and that over-moneying Duke Ellington brought cabaret to dizzying heights of musical sensuality.

Posted by: puff adder at March 13, 2006 01:49 AM



'What it is essentially doing is making the assertion of cultural authority less visible than say British imperialism.'

Plus, as we see, the American Empire, while hardly as visible as the Old British Empire, is FAR more obvious to most people than the New British Empire, which is all stealth! You'll notice that an especial British characteristic when talking to us Amewican peopoow is to refuse to give out British details. After describing to me how he convinced 'the Americans' that he should be granted citizenship (I suppose due to piano tinkling at the Algonquin), Richard Rodney Bennett responded to my question (I was an anglophile at the time) 'and what about the other way around, you know, if I want to become a British citizen?' with a disdainful 'I have no idea' and a 'just who do you think you are?' look.

Posted by: puff adder at March 13, 2006 02:02 AM



Traxus4420, puff adder - you're probably not coming from exactly the same places, but you both seem utterly oblivious of the vast historical contingency of a broadly civilized (capitalist, secular and at least partially open) global order based on the willingness of Anglosphereans to get dirty and brutal when required to keep it that way - the only people who have since the Romans btw. The idea that snide PC objections to certain aspects of this liberal order somehow counter-balance the gargantuan benefits of this verges on the sophomoric. Try and imagine the Napoleonic, Teutonic or Russo-soviet alternatives if you doubt it. All the major Anglosphere powers are profoundly polyracial and for all practical purposes tolerant to a fault, the fact that they fall short of the (talk-is-cheap) ideals of a contemporary university arts department is only to their credit.
As for Cap'n puff's notion that I'm a parasite of the US - that's true insofar as the whole planet is, but not an iota further. And I literally don't give a %$#@ what the Queen is doing, or pretty much anything else about contemporary Britain except hoping they get the hell out of the EU and re-connect with the Anglosphere (although they're probably too far gone into welfarist decadence for that). My allegience is to Planetary Technocapitalism, and to anything else only when it functions as a machine-part thereof. $$$$

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 06:37 AM



PS. That might sound rabid, but actually I'm enjoying myself ... yours parasitically &C, $$$

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 06:50 AM



puff adder - "you and SD don’t answer questions because you want to ‘keep your carriers hungry,’"

Unfortunately, we are still imprisoned in human form, so processing is slow and cumbersome. I don't always answer questions because a) I am trying to run business in a very cutthroat environment b) I have 60 students to deal with, and c) my attention is constantly distracted by a baby that is either screaming or disarmingly cute.

With regard to Queen Elizabeth, I share Paine's disgust with a nation that allows itself to be imposed upon by such a frumpy and sub-intellectual monarch on a daily basis. The biggest argument in favour of debit cards and internet shopping is that citizens don't have to look at the Queen's ghastly features.

Plus some of the questions are impossible to answer quickly (e.g. northanger asked a question about Stalin and the left response to 'revisionist' history - it's a valid but immensely complex issue that will be dealt with, eventually, as unsatisfactory as it might be).

traxus -

'If the purpose of the Anglosphere maneuver is to make the wondrous gifts of Western civilization available to all, so that all can benefit from everyone's success in the non-zero-sum game of global capitalism, it is sure to be a dismal failure. Success would only be achieved by de-branding so-called 'Anglospherian' policies and releasing them for 'free,'fully open source, no hidden costs, no monthly fee. But this wouldn't jive with actual U.S. policy, which involves, naturally enough to any American, securing the best deal for itself'

I agree that the Anglosphere construct needs some repackaging (even the Albion's Seedlingss site looks awful, with those flags), but don't see how your conclusion follows from your premise here.

The U.S. does often export its values for free in the form of aid and various humanitarian programs, and this has backfired on the U.S. in several cases, and so goes against U.S. interest, if only in the short run, but not always (WWII is a case in point - supplying the Red Army with jeeps, clothing and food helped the U.S in the short term, but in enabling the construction of the Soviet Bloc it defnitely did not... The Berlin Blockade and the Marshall Plan are other examples of more successful U.S. self-interested generosity). U.S aid in Sotuh America may or may not pay off in the long run - it's a complex gamble. The media's role in this is central - we only ever hear about the amount of aid the U.S is pumping into other countries when the U.S. threatens to withdraw it, or is said to be threatening to withdraw it (and is accused of political blackmail).

The point being that sometimes it is in U.S interest not to charge 'a monthly fee'.

Anyway, are there any criticisms of the U.S. working primarily for its own interests which are not moralistic or representatives of conflicting interests?

Ultimately I really don't see why 'the non-zero-sum game of global capitalism' that Paine outlines is unrealistic - it's just common sense.

Posted by: sd at March 13, 2006 09:37 AM



Traxus-'Anglos aren't 'oppressed' by anyone except powerless liberals, ragtag bands of terrorists (who have very few allies), and indigenous populations of half-starved 3rd world countries.'

That's the part that's overemphasized too far to the other side, I think. The 'ragtag bands of terrorists' have a few too many allies for my taste at this point, even though brilliant U.S. Iraqi policy cultivated these and trots out Bin Laden tapes for mass consumption instead of catching him. No point in listening to Arpege Chabert and Co., though. None of those crows has any understanding that Iran, in particular, is very serious, including to their own bovine asses.

SD--appreciate the practical information on failure to obtain as many benefits of technocapitalism as Kurzweil has yet. You know, of course, these are always expensive at first, like computers were, and then become more affordable as they begin to work better,etc. Anyway, I realize constraints of time. You and Nick do answer questions, if quite often choosing which parts you want to answer in very much the partisan way traxus and I have indentified. As such, you both may have futures in part-time work as Hyperstitional carriers…

Nick--well, you see, even if you think it is impossible, I agree with only some of it, and will go no further into your pit of mere $$ when there may be $$$$$ without having to. All those Teutonics, Napoleonics, and Soviets were willing to get equally as dirty, although not in order to preserve the Anglospherean ideals. While I don't repudiate the Anglospherean ideals in general, since I must be a part of a good bit of it, it is not really to be expected that non-Anglospherean personnel would wish to get 'dirty and brutal'( college football...) in order to preserve the U.S. and dear, dear Britain. I mean, for chrissake, I hate the Muslim fanatics, but I don't expect they are going to start behaving all of a sudden. Commies are gauche by University Arts Department standards even, and they even ruined lives of danseur primeurs and ballerinas when practical, maoists broke pianists hands (Of course, this kind of 'high art' stuff has to be handed to you in this generalized form only); but I hardly ever expected them to fight for anything other than what they saw as their own interests.

Technocapitalism of which you are a well-oiled machine part. Yes, I think that's advisable, I try to do a fair amount of that too. It's more a matter of degrees, I imagine. U.S. policy in Iraq has been so idiotic that I have no compunction of not supporting it, and we've been through this. As far as not being interested in anything that doesn't support technocapitalism as a machine part, I certainly don't support just any of it, because that sounds perilously like totalitarianism of a variety merely more Germanic than Soviet--in short, less drab but equally oppressive. In my moments of continuing within this physical sheath which I do not offer as a blood sacrifice to technocapitalism, I am quite willing to keep all of these treasures in reserve. Your project and China's is arresting, but better you than me. I am still going to do many things that you disapprove of, with the great hopes that this disapproval will but enhance the pleasure, as any lapsed religionist from the Deep South knows that 'sin is fun' (do not imagine that I am talking about 'it,' I am talking of much more important things, and these I shall now place off limits to Hyperstition blog management, they can fight, threaten and fire, little good will it do against the fire of brave New York Pervert).

We at New York Pervert are not convinced that modern Red China has come up with the best imaginable human product that can be found, even as it has proved to be a good processing and distribution center for British parasites as they learn to love life on the collective farm....oh! pardonnez-moi, workplace-office-full-of-computers, that is. For those of us with a clear conscience about the American part of the Anglosphere when it serves our own French-pretentious interests well, we now embrace the joy of individual choice on how one separates one's Hyperstional blog life from ??? I already told you, I'm not telling, because it's not a technocapital machine part, and you will have to do intensive loss of time sheet money to find out. And I won't even tell Northanger some of it, because I don't expect her to have to get brutal and dirty to protect the Puff Adder Way—a life of nobility to which Northanger has herself led me! but stalwart I shall be against all bombastic news, including talk of debit cards' beauty, when only last hyperstitional night, I dreamed that the Duke of Edinburgh told me that I'd need to use the term 'her majesty' the first time even in front of even him (after that 'ma'am' would suffice), but that I didn't have to do 'your royal highness' in order to refer to him, because 'I don't like it', said he. Little did he know I'd already had a private audience with 'her' and that later I'd talk to the palace staff, all of whom confessed to having had nervous wrecks due to the Queen's using plastic placemats as decorative additions on the stairways.

I will concede that the queen is a more successful capitalist than Joan of Arc, who had to be demoted in a rather serious way after her machine part became obsolete.

Posted by: puff adder at March 13, 2006 02:31 PM



Iraq's tricky, but it's going OK. Jeez, what's the reaction going to be if (when) things get really nasty? Clearing out the Pak. rats nests for instance, which I thought the OBL hunters were all in favour of?

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 03:27 PM



"I am still going to do many things that you disapprove of" - having already voted for Carter twice (!!) I really doubt there's anything much you could do to shock or outrage me now :)

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 03:50 PM



Nick--all in favour of clearing out the Pak rat nests, always said I was.

Agree Iraq is going magnificently, Dick Cheney said so, that means it's true. Of course we're all past that 'civil war' talk because only one symptom of bombs has occurred in the last 24 hours. Anyway, Bush is going to address the nation several times in the next few weeks to prove that Iraq is a 'total success' and that we may or may not be removing troops at some definite or indefinite date. It is my deepest hope that the whole administration is so turned to stone that all the planned and pre-written speeches will be delivered with no attention paid to any events actually occurring in Baghdad and elsewhere subsequent to last week.

It seems to me that not identifying Iran as the serious problem may have been based on the one letter's difference it has with 'Iraq.' Now we don't have the manpower to even finish up with Iraq, although John McCain, wishy-washy if ever a POW hero was, says we do.

Anything John McCain most recently said is true. In fact, that is the new truism--anything that is most recently said is true. And that really is true if the sayer is the stronger. There's no getting around the fact that 'the reason of the stronger is always right.' It's the strength that's being heavily questioned right now. ONCE AGAIN, even if I could tolerate Iraq policy somehow as you do, I can never excuse the disgraceful domestic policy in New Orleans which proved to actual Americans, not processed hard-working non-parasitic Britons, that Bush made the right choice not to go out for football. I would imagine that Red China must be somewhat exhausting to live in and is a good therapy for someone as smart but roguish as you. You remind me of Bill Clinton in a lot of ways--not only in the way both of you manage to hold your noses and keep quiet when Bush's English proves itself beyond irreparable.

Posted by: puff adder at March 13, 2006 06:22 PM



I should add that, even though the meetings with prime minister and monarch account for the single question worth asking in this vein, i.e., I am not concerned with Parker-Bowles weddings or what the idiot princes have for breakfast, there are obvious reasons why you should not be expected to answer it in any kind of detail.

However, it really is of interest, those meetings, because all prime ministers must be the same about them as was Mrs. Thatcher of 'INDTM'('I Nev-ah Disss-cusss The Mon-nahhch..') However, she did not mind being on the receiving end of such information: once she was informed that 'the sovereign has just passed gas,' and due to a whiskey or two, let out one of those slowly-modulated but full-chested Roastbeef Tory guffaws that go well beyond chortling, standing apart from chattering and giggling types, and are reserved for special occasions by special people.

I would imagine Tony Blair is also very INDTM, so I should not accuse you of that, even if it may be truer of you than of me.

This points to a privileging process that the monarch enjoys within herself that transcends even what she'd tell her own family, who only come second. As the only one who got holy oil in that tent back in the early 50's, she became the world's most powerful female onanist.

Posted by: puff adder at March 13, 2006 06:49 PM



power projection? a barren earth? Hyperinflammatory latin? Nah, i nearly died the last time I shite ate willingly. Probably something to do with the quality of parasitic crypt losers I associate with in the UK. please dont make me do a fifty Chirac post ;)

whilst im not one most lucid of posters - nor the most serious - there is no need to scoff at the use of the term 'power projection'. Are you tacitly implying that im a militarist? I was merely tacking-out the geopolitical reality of the anglosphere and its discontinuity becoming one of its binding strengths. Just trying to add a little political realism into my psychotic mindset and the general moralistic landscape that i'm encountering here. I'll probably get the Fiennian Fire for saying that. Is being a power bloc something that we should hang our heads in shame for? The technical capacity of the angloshpeir is enough for me to entertain some of the ideas put forward by Bennett. He does need to hone his ideas more, and does come across as condescending to a degree. I really think it is naivety in presentation rather any crypto-racism. Simply aligning similarities for mutal benefit does not mean that one is going to dealign with anything that is marginally external purely for the sake of it.

sd - my opinion is tht morality is a human curse needs to be flung right the window when dealing with any of the criticisms of the US, and for that matter, of anyone else.

anyway i found these rather interesting:

that last article contains an interesting link to a piece on a Reusable Launch Vehicle and its benefits for 'power projection'. Sorry but I am a young man and I tend to get excited over hardware and strategy northanger.

Posted by: bmr at March 13, 2006 06:53 PM



sd. humanitarian aid is big business. you think the US doesn't write it off? yes, it should be acknowledged the US gives a substantial portion of aid. but, lets be realistic ... why?

The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity, by Michael Maren

Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business, by Graham Hancock

Famine Crimes: Politics & the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa, by Alex de Waal

Posted by: northanger at March 13, 2006 08:40 PM



bmr- trust your intuitions. A sweeping aversion to power in the abstract is the reliable index of a leftoid halfwit.
Power under republican (note small 'r') sovereignty is the real foundation of freedom, and the more it projects the better for everybody else.

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 11:09 PM



... it's the final putrid harvest of christianity - a generation of moral retards who would rather be gang-raped by fascist savages than take their portion of responsibility for suboptimality, power and violence - in a single pathetic figure: Michel Foucault ("better Khomeini than an imperfect liberal democracy"). What twits.

Posted by: Nick at March 13, 2006 11:40 PM



So--Britain's troops will soon be 7,000 strong, down from 46,000 at the beginning of the Iraq War. Compared to the U.S.'s 135,000.

Explains a lot about Britain, fitted so neatly between one thing and another. Now the sense of suffocation and inertia that has characterized so much commentary about modern Britain begins to come clear.

Posted by: puff adder at March 14, 2006 03:02 AM



puff adder - if you're looking for a vigorous defence of contemporary Britain both sd and myself are likely to disappoint. We fled the gdd*mn place after all ...

Posted by: Nick at March 14, 2006 03:37 AM



No, I wasn't, of course. It's something I'm discovering that I find interesting. It's been one of the great, unique nations; and what has interested me is that its weird decline is also unique. I can't think of a single other major power that has always been so insular (Switzerland is as insular, but never has been a great power, and never has been a failure). There's a stinging kind of English anger that I would occasionally encounter there after uninterrupted politeness (unlike the pervasive Parisian rudeness practised internally as well as externally). I wondered if it became much more pronounced after WWII, and obviously comes from previous attitudes. Not at all like the cliched out-of-control Irish drunken thing.

No offense intended. I cannot stay interested in the same things you are all the time, and it is not altogether irrelevant that the British involvement in Iraq, with its lower profile, would eventually make its way to me, although not as much of interest to most Americans, probably. There are times that the U.S. seems to be the only nation that actually exists, with China beginning to define itself however with a potential for a similar kind of power. Maybe India, too, but I don't feel it yet. It's actually a relief to have been able to concentrate a bit on this, since one's perceptions are not nearly as universally shared as one imagines. I've usually had to travel to actually think anything of real buzz happens anywhere besides the U.S., and that is obviously not possible.

Posted by: puff adder at March 14, 2006 05:12 AM



The Brits have all left, over hundreds of years, leaving pretty much nothing except a vile Europeanized shell - if it wasn't for immigrants (the non-exploding kind) the UK - England for sure - would have culturally dessicated into a perverse nirvana of bitterly ironized tedium.
Everywhere outside Europe I've been has definitely seemed to "actually exist" though, largely through the vibrant market economies that are the greatest secret of the periphery (Europeans instinctively assume the rest of the world's 'poor people' spend their time sitting hopelessly in a drought-wrecked dust plain waiting for an aid donor to show up). What most struck me about the USA when I first visited it was that it's really part of the periphery too, a part that works and thus a model for everybody else. Nothing remotely like a European country in any case. Subtract Europe and there's just the periphery to varying degrees of intensity (and outright depotic suppression) - which is why the auto-subtraction of Europe, with a little help from our ullulating friends, is so intriguing to watch.

Posted by: Nick at March 14, 2006 05:53 AM



northanger - "it should be acknowledged the US gives a substantial portion of aid. but, lets be realistic ... why?"

Let me guess - because it is in US interest. Shock! Horror! How awful!

If the US hadn't come up with the Marshall Plan, Europe would have gone communist, or at least staggered around in economic backwardness for a few decades. Anti-American West Europeans, with their comfy homes and cars, their gadgets, cheap flights and internet shopping would do well to reflect that their prosperity (or at least the level of it) is largely due to US aid. Europe minus the Marshall plan is best seen by visiting former industrial stronghold towns in Eastern Europe and trying to imagine what they would have looked like without the Coca Cola ads that decorate them now. Any dictionary wanting to illustrate the terms 'grim' and 'soul-destroying' would just have to include pictures of these places.

this is unusually good:

The US also poured loads of money into Eastern Europe and Russia after 1989, some of which kick-started economies, some of which got swallowed by corruption.

US aid is incredibly complex and is distributed in many subprograms:

1. WoT funding
2. Promoting economic growth/reducing poverty
3. Combatting HIV/Aids
4. Fostering democracy, governance & stability
5. War on drugs

There are different types of aid. Aid which gets economies up and running (yes, so they can buy US goods and export to the US) is obviously better than chucking cash at corrupt African states.

As I've mentioned before, the future is in micro-financing. Bootstrapping aid.

Posted by: sd at March 14, 2006 08:09 AM



sd. what a relief knowing somebody's getting properly funded. if they got any spare change left over...

Posted by: northanger at March 14, 2006 08:32 AM



Nick - did Foucault really say that? I never could get into his writings...

Posted by: sd at March 14, 2006 08:32 AM



sd - it's a paraphrase, but not inaccurate. His support for the Khomeini revolution was euphoric and very public. But then his idea of a healthy society was one that would chain him to the wall to be screwed senseless by leather-clad Nazis ...

Posted by: Nick at March 14, 2006 08:38 AM



northanger - you've taken the ball and started playing in another ballpark.

Posted by: sd at March 14, 2006 08:41 AM



sd. well, this thread's got me thinking of engineering some type of Oankali Diaspora (blending together Butler, Egan & Paine), recognizing the anglospheric void of full existential engagement. it's my argument that the anglosphere structure hyperstitionally supports/prefers some genes over others. not a bad thing for most genetic blocks, but at what point does a suppressed genetic block recognize a bifurcating juncture (common sense)? let's say a genetic block experienced a diaspora that weakened its overall ability to exist on a planet. how can you append or bind together (horizontal gene transfer?) its strongest genetic strains & bootstrap a new trajectory?

Posted by: northanger at March 14, 2006 01:54 PM
"Vertically generated variation is necessarily highly restricted in character; it amounts to variations on a lineage's existing cellular themes. Horizontal transfer, on the other hand, can call on the diversity of the entire biosphere, molecules and systems that have evolved under all manner of conditions, in a great variety of different cellular environments. Thus, horizontally derived variation is the major, if not the sole, evolutionary source of true innovation: novel enzymatic pathways, novel membrane transporter capacities, novel energetics, etc."

Posted by: northanger at March 14, 2006 02:09 PM



ok! this was what i was trying to remember: Eshel Ben-Jacob.
In Tel-Aviv, Eshel Ben-Jacob also finds bacteria trading genes and discovers complex interactions between individuals and their communities. The genomes of individuals—defined as their full set of structural and regulatory genes—can and do alter their patterns in the interests of the bacterial community as a whole. He observes that bacteria signal each other chemically, calculate their own numbers in relation to food supplies, make decisions on how to behave accordingly to maximize community wellbeing and collectively change their environments to their communal benefit.

Bacterial communities thus create complex genetic and behavioral patterns specific to different environmental conditions. The genomes of individual bacteria alter their composition, arrangement and the pattern of which genes are turned on in response to changes in the environment or communal circumstances. This important information is coming from various research laboratories. Both Ben-Jacob and Costerton see individual bacteria gaining the benefits of group living by putting group interests ahead of their own. Ben-Jacob concludes that colonies form a kind of supermind genomic web of intelligent individual genomes. Such webs are capable of creative responses to the environment that bring about "cooperative self-improvement or cooperative evolution".

Posted by: northanger at March 14, 2006 02:22 PM



Creative Nets in the Precambrian Age
Eshel Ben Jacob, at the University of Tel Aviv, and James Shapiro at the University of Chicago have been studying bacterial colonies from a radically original perspective - and have emerged with surprising results. Their findings explain why the ripple effect is a mark of bacterial networking - and of much, much more. For generations bacteria have been thought of as lone cells, each making its own way in the world. Ben Jacob and Shapiro, on the other hand, have demonstrated that few, if any, bacteria are hermits. They are extremely social beasts. And undeveloped as their cellular structure might be, their social structure is a wonder. The ripple effect is one manifestation of a colony's coordinated tactics for mastering its environment. We could call it the probe and feast approach.

Posted by: northanger at March 14, 2006 02:37 PM



'his idea of a healthy society was one that would chain him to the wall to be screwed senseless by leather-clad Nazis ... '

Yes, and yet he also couldn't pull this off even for himself, because Genet had actually the single-mindedness to define and produce such a scene in its full pathology. Foucault's version, by comparison, was a sawed-off thing that could never be realized because he was a normalien. Little wonder he focusses on Plutarch's pronouncements of 'gracelessness,' because academics that go in for dirty sex succeed in getting it because they don't have any sense of line, and their greed makes them think they can have it both ways--graceless indeed. Anyway, I read some biography a few years (not terribly good--the author defends his 'mild interest' in continental philosophy by singling out Baudrillard for condemnation, tres typique..)
in which even his friends began to think his continued fixation on Sade was crazy, but I don't: It follows that he would find something in Sade that was forever inaccessible to him.

Posted by: puff adder at March 14, 2006 02:37 PM



This has got out of hand ... suddenly the wall flies have found their voices, though a familiar pattern emerges, orbiting around the demise of Europe, the vanguard of the USA, and combatting leftoid nonsense. Of course northanger will always take the ball to another court, throwing in random comments and off-tangent 'interesting' but irrelevant links, NIck will respond just enough to state his position though refrain from all out attack (I mean 'twits', come on), and it seems Piet, or a kindred spirit, will continually emerge with poetic nonsense to confuse and provoke. sd's post was an interesting one, though it seems this is another example of a trashed thread, with no respect for the time sd has put in. Nick, I am interested in how you can at once deride the UK and revel in your having 'fled' (sounds so romantically under seige) and regard the Anglosphere as the only entity holding the fort on the world stage. The UK either is a shit hole going down the pan or it is a significant contributor to (or constitiuent part of) the only hope for the 21st century. The spirit of this blog is lacking, I have to say; there is no will to connect and share, develop and push it forward. There have been some excellent posts, and some good rounds of discussoin, but in general I think this keeps stalling and disappointing. The format - a glorified bulletin board - hardly helps to stimulate genuine interaction. Sorry to be down about it, but its an effort to relate to much of what is spewed up here, though there are some excellent comments, mainly from Nick and sd, and sorry to say guys, but I think the others are using you to stimulate themselves. I mean, as if it is your fucking job to answer everyione's questions. These people are missing the point or there is some serious re-thinking for this blog to do.

Posted by: tachi at March 14, 2006 03:38 PM



why is everyone so scared of fucking management and true experimentation? change ... what can be done: the key issue.

Posted by: tachi at March 14, 2006 03:41 PM



Tachi wrote-

'Of course northanger will always take the ball to another court, throwing in random comments and off-tangent 'interesting' but irrelevant links, NIck will respond just enough to state his position though refrain from all out attack (I mean 'twits', come on), and it seems Piet, or a kindred spirit, will continually emerge with poetic nonsense to confuse and provoke. sd's post was an interesting one, though it seems this is another example of a trashed thread, with no respect for the time sd has put in.'

'but I think the others are using you to stimulate themselves. I mean, as if it is your fucking job to answer everyione's questions. These people are missing the point or there is some serious re-thinking for this blog to do.'

This blog has, if anything, been refreshed by us and proven that SD and Nick have their own agendas and very flexible minds and, in Nick's case, some very beautiful writing style from time to time. We did not trash this post, and we did respect it. If you want no dissonance here, then I for one will definitely leave you to the complete lack of contribution you have been making. The thing about Hyperstition that has been attractive is that it can be creative--and I mean that well beyond creative in merely the artistic sense.

You have no humour, added nothing whatsoever to the post or any other that I have seen, yet since you are considered part of management I will obviously have to go. Northanger and Piet can perhaps take your drill sergeant's bullshit, but I don't have to bother. Your comment is disgusting, insulting, and you are little different from some fucking commonplace policeman.

Nick's conflicting remarks about Britain are, in fact, extremely interesting and bring about dissemination of knowledge it wouldn't have been possible to obtain elsewhere. If there are any lacks in the 'Anglosphere' even in the obvious sense, it is that Canada and Ireland are rarely discussed.

What are you, anyway, the rich investor of the movie who gets to call himself the 'executive producer' as a perk?

I've been a little mystified why Robin and Reza couldn't work out there problems with Nick and SD, who actually allow much more freedom of dissent than I would have imagined from Robin's protests, but you are something else again--the pure authoritarian spirit who oversees all and contributes nothing but a rulebook.

Posted by: puff adder at March 14, 2006 05:31 PM



Tachi--I would imagine you can look to this blog as becoming an immediately dessicated place, which it already nearly was. It is you who have made the overtures to its destruction. People outside this blog have said they expected it to just gradually evaporate, and they are probably right.

Posted by: puff adder at March 14, 2006 05:42 PM



Tachi-I can't be sure, but I imagine traxus, who had returned after a long absence, will decide he's not interested in some fucking martial law police state either.

Posted by: puff adder at March 14, 2006 05:44 PM



tachi - The blog will take care of itself. Granted, some of the comments above do not develop the topic very well, but some of them do. There have been no mile long slabs of incomprehensible irrelevance purpose-designed to distract and madden - just some testing and teasing. This is not a lecture hall or a seminar - it's a chaotic, edgy and unpredictable space full of black holes and rare, productive lines that you won't find elsewhere. Navigate with a scroll, focus on what you see as worth focusing on, let the rest remain blurry. Chip in and change the flow - if you have something to say, then say it. Sniping from the sidelines and asking the occasional question is not the participation/communication you profess to crave. Griping is often less productive than trolling.

If the blog can't process the input it's currently getting then it would evaporate, but it can deal with it, so it won't. I'm not bogged down, distracted or discouraged. Quite the contrary.

Posted by: sd at March 14, 2006 09:41 PM



"this blog has been refreshed by us" LOL! You overestimate your own importance. Wow.

Posted by: tachi at March 15, 2006 12:53 AM



sd - points taken, I agree its not a lecture hall nor a seminar, though it does appear to be at times, with all and sundry hanging on to what you and Nick might think of X, Y and Z.

It is true that I have had very little to contribute of late, and me coming in like this, like a bull in a China shop, was a little stupid. By your best interests were at heart.

puff adder - you seem to have some feathers ruffled. I have to crack up at your blown up sense of self, though can agree I have not been 'contributing' much of late, as just mentioned. But I do not have to justify to anyone why I have been an infrequent contributor, the quantity of posts has nothing whatsoever to do with anything.

To be honest, part of it is that I am busy and part of it is that I would prefer not to say anything unless I think its worthwhile. Nick and sd's posts and comments, to be frank, are the only ones I can be bothered to read, but for me there is far too much noise to cope with in order to find relevant threads of 'discussion' than I have time for.

Sure, I was being snarky, though this is from a geninely felt concern for the blog, its content and is spirit. I do apologize if you have taken this all on board personally.

But no, I am not part of the Management, though I do believe in management, an issue which has been part of this blog long since before you rocked up. Believing in management does not make me a police officer, and management itself is a relevant and interesting issue in of itself. If this cannot be raised (albeit aggressively, I admit) then where is the true policing taking place?

And no, I do not profess any staff position, and nothing in my comments can reasonably be equated with the issuing of rules or policing. This kind of throwaway accusation is so passe. It reminds me of a certain academic crowd. I do not 'oversee all' - this is a particularly ridiculous statement. I have a view, just like anyone else.

In any case, I will try to be more productive and positive, though its hard at times.

Posted by: tachi at March 15, 2006 01:19 AM



puffy - "Nick's conflicting remarks about Britain are, in fact, extremely interesting and bring about dissemination of knowledge it wouldn't have been possible to obtain elsewhere. If there are any lacks in the 'Anglosphere' even in the obvious sense, it is that Canada and Ireland are rarely discussed."

Indeed. Agree. My comments to Nick, re his views on the UK as part of doomed Europe, and yet as part of the Anglosphere, saviour of the 21st century, are raised from a genuine interest in this issue. How can the UK at once be going down the pan and yet part of the valiant vanguard of human civilization? Genuine question.

Posted by: tachi at March 15, 2006 01:23 AM



tachi - on your specific question, which also connects with northanger's latest point (re genetic diffusion) - my attachment to the Anglosphere is precisely due to its high (unparalleled?) degree of 'deterritorialization' - this would almost be confirmed by the complete descent of 'historic Albion' into miserable irrelevance IMHO. The Anglosphere is intrinsically diasporic, hybrid and at every level (from molecular genes and memes to macroscale populations and social trends) migrant and dis-essentializing. So I'm actually highly unconvinced by n.'s claim that it "supports/prefers some genes over others" except in the almost tautological sense that any system involving selective forces will do so - my hope is that in the Anglospere case this selection would favour relatively nomad and even piratical (hyper-entrpreneurial) traits, but certainly not those of any determinate ethnicity (on the contrary, it seems to lap up the cream of the planet, from Guangdong, Central America, Africa and Eastern Europe, leaving the relatively dull-witted blood-and-soil types behind).

And tachi, I know your objections to the drift-fugues we get into here have the best of motives, but it's probably better to tolerate a wide range of inputs, just so long as occasional flashes of high-energy experimentation can flare up every now and again. Given the choice between industrious hyperstition + chat + miscellaneous probings on the one hand and rigorous dedication to a tight hyperstitional agends on the other, the former has a lot going for it IMHO. The answer to this recurring issue seems to be a secondary revision/seclection process, rather than an attempt to drastically filter input. Personally, I greatly appreciate northanger and Cap'n puff turning up here to share their latest - in fact, the only visitors I'm glad to see the back of are leftist hysterics and trolls.

Posted by: Nick at March 15, 2006 02:16 AM




"this blog has been refreshed by us" LOL! You overestimate your own importance. Wow.

Yes, we have added a lot to it, and I didn't mean just me. But definitely myself as well. Live with it.

Tachi wrote:

'puff adder - you seem to have some feathers ruffled. I have to crack up at your blown up sense of self,'

Tachi wrote:

'Nick and sd's posts and comments, to be frank, are the only ones I can be bothered to read, but for me there is far too much noise to cope with in order to find relevant threads of 'discussion' than I have time for.'

Well, I have found all the posts and comments interesting except for yours, and would adore it, with your precious time limits, if you continued you policy of 'contributing little,' as I have even less interest in what you have to say than you have in what I have to say. I can see you as little more than a General Jaruzelski clone from your boring disciplinary comments. Or maybe like some Singapore style supervisor (even though you're not 'part of the management.') Call my remarks reminiscent of a 'certain academic crowd' all you like, that makes it all the easier to call yours merely constipated and lacking in all resonance, unless one includes the cacophony of pedantry.

Tachi wrote:

'Sure, I was being snarky, though this is from a geninely felt concern for the blog, its content and is spirit. I do apologize if you have taken this all on board personally.'

This is all just more of the exact same nastiness put in different words. Oh, I don't take your fully admitted snarkiness personally at all; after all, 'at least you're honest about it,' as they say. Extraordinary you would be surprised I would take it personally to such point you would 'apologize' while poking in yet more insults, and quite as 'aggressively' as in your previous comment. Nevermind that 'sd's and nick's posts are the only ones you can be bothered to read', so 'you do kindly 'apologize,' but rather you apologize (and not at all 'kindly') for ME for having the gall to tell you just what it is very clear you are up to, which is an attempt to form the blog as you see fit, by telling SD and Nick that they are interesting but surely lax. Just how clever is it to say 'Sure, I was being snarky, though this is from a geninely felt concern for the blog, its content and is spirit. I do apologize if you have taken this all on board personally' when all it was was being snarky again under the guise of 'apologizing.'

Tachi wrote:

'If this cannot be raised (albeit aggressively, I admit) then where is the true policing taking place?'

I thought the idea of Hyperstition was to be self-policing until things really got out of hand. SD replied to you that 'the blog will take care of itself.' But in the above, you still seem to refer to the 'true policing taking place' in such a way as though you personally are the only one quite capable of seriously raising it, because clearly Hyperstition has degenerated into such a decadent place people actually talk about the DETAILS of the politics, details of issues clearly related to the posts even if they veer off somewhat part of the time. And you are here to remind SD and Nick that they have been slack in discipline.

So you don't like it that I'm a newbie and will not countenance the oppression of cat-o'-nine-tails tactics you freely dole out when things are in process of being explored and with abundant results. Tough shit. You're right, I do have a high opinion of myself. That's what's good about this blog: people that are taking part in it are smart, and they have a good opinion of themselves. Nobody else, though, tries to police, admittedly it may be annoying to ask questions, but it's supposed to be about learning, or so everyone else thinks.

Tachi wrote:

'How can the UK at once be going down the pan and yet part of the valiant vanguard of human civilization? Genuine question.'

That is up to Nick to decide whether it is a genuine question. Obviously, I'll never respond to any question of yours, genuine or false, since you 'can't be bothered' to read anything but SD and Nick, and furthermore, I do not give a fuck to read you either, nor to answer you in any direct way beyond your current spectacle. If refusing to accept and 'respect' your mean-spiritedness means I have to split, then I will most assuredly be losing less than nothing--because it would mean I was all wrong about what I thought was the intelligence of a blog that was strong enough to be free-wheeling.

Incredible you think you admitted 'me coming in like this, like a bull in a China shop, was a little stupid,' only to do it a second time.

Tachi wrote:

'In any case, I will try to be more productive and positive, though its hard at times.'

Do feel free to prove this, although I don't think anyone wants you to inconvenience yourself (God forbid you might feel COERCED!), despite your deep concern that the blog is going in the wrong direction. Nevermind that a good-humoured and easygoing spirit had been established (or so I thought anyway), which you seem with each new comment determined to wreck.

Posted by: puff adder at March 15, 2006 03:02 AM



Herding cats ...

Posted by: Nick at March 15, 2006 03:09 AM



nick. yes but, [cracking knuckles] somebody's gotta do it.

Posted by: northanger at March 15, 2006 04:05 AM




Posted by: Nick at March 15, 2006 04:36 AM



yea, gotta manage that testosterone level.

Posted by: northanger at March 15, 2006 04:51 AM



I thought this place ran on testosterone.

Denis Duclos believes that Americans are wedded to the Anglo-Saxon mythology of a beast within us all that must be kept under control. This 'Werewolf complex' is a distinct malady of Anglo-American culture, "an obsessive oscillation between uncontrolled savagery and political correctness, compulsive aggressiveness and hysterical expostulating."

A bit hysterical, but I read it not without some self-recognition. Part of the Western malaise is the 'inner self' that from the confines of a weak mortal shell yearns to drown the world in its effulgence -- or if thwarted, withdraws into itself, decorating a 'rich inner life' and/or stewing in a black pit of ressentiment. All old hat, but seems so easily forgotten --

This need to assert the self (taking for granted that the alleged self's existence is not obvious) seems the source of both great power and great sickness. Morality? Concentrated violence? Ambivalence toward authority? Snark-laden blog disputes?

I can't help but continue to think that this Anglo-thing is inherently ridden, not only with this complex, but with a particular identity that it must assert at all costs, even at the cost of submerging itself into different cultures, races, genders, etc, infecting them from the inside out. I'm extremely unconvinced that anything that wears its culturo-historical label so proudly is really 'dis-essentializing' anything except 'not-Anglo.' This observation can also be applied to all forms of multi-culti protective labeling -- African-American, Hispanic American, etc.

Common sense is just the light glistening sheen of thought floating on a sea of positive assumptions, like frosting on cupcakes. Really not much more than rhetoric. That said, I don't think such a program of worldwide open trade as you say sir Paine describes is a bad thing at all -- it seems more like what humans have been striving for for centuries -- utopian, even, though as you say, not unrealistic. But we're certainly not there yet, and though you may wish to put the entirety of the blame on poor backwards dictatorships, theocrats, and popular socializt governments, I prefer to spread accountability more 'liberally' so to speak. It would be NICE if the individuals in even open, liberal society 'entrusted' with power could be expected to behave responsibly (i.e. not appoint incompetents, not steal money from public funds, not berate protectionism abroad while secretly maintaining it at home, not clumsily prod minor dictatorships into civil war) but they prove again and again that they can not. And I haven't even gone into private corruption --

This is not necessarily a moral objection, though I doubt we can wish something like morality out of political and philosophical debate, including our own, regardless of how distasteful it may seem to the killer-rationalists around here -- morality runs deep, has serious hyperstitional potency to supercharge rationalist respect for contracts with genuine loyalty -- would the 'Anglosphere' have conquered so successfully without it? Isn't it even a compulsion inherent in our cultural logic, commensurate with brutality, rapacity, and competitiveness (the personality trait, not the evolutionary sense)?

Even if one does want to attempt a rational organization of society along the lines of open trade, consolidation of power must remain a serious concern, not something to brush off so lightly as 'well liberal democracy is imperfect, be tough like us and deal with it.' Winners (a qualitative term applied erroneously to quantitative data) create resentment by their mere presence -- losers create their own sort of tension. A winner must be declared as such, and gains certain privileges and powers thereby. I think this is something Paine is aware of in his critique of monarchy, though from the standpoint of a previous stage of de-authoritarian progress.

(Apologies for the length of my posts -- trying to make up for infrequency -- busy busy worker bee)

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 15, 2006 06:43 AM



traxus4420 - don't disagree (indeed, even agree!) with much of this, but think you'll find the polarizing forces presently at work in the world make your fence-sitting an increasingly uncomfortable posture. (Still, what's wrong with discomfort, damn fine protestant trait that it is ...)

PS. "clumsily prod minor dictatorships into civil war" - except for the 'clumsily', this basically seems a sound policy to me, certainly if they're hostile. North Korean civil war surely preferable to the current unchallenged loony anticapitalist regime.
Isn't this exactly the Reagan policy that won Latin America for democracy in the 1980s?

Posted by: Nick at March 15, 2006 07:47 AM



traxus4420 - 'Common sense is just the light glistening sheen of thought floating on a sea of positive assumptions, like frosting on cupcakes. Really not much more than rhetoric.'

This completely misses Paine (and the thrust of this post). It's the 'consciousness is froth' school of thought, best espoused by Marx and Freud, where what you think is perched on top of a huge sea of unconscious complexity which, suprise suprise, they have the key to and are therefore entitled to write huge intimidating books which purport to explain it.

Common sense is a fast, no bullshit assessment of a situation. Paine's assessment of monarchy is logical and it still stands: it deployed new assumptions to undermine fossilized assumptions. Paine's picture of governments and religions conspiring to deprive humanity of its common sense is also still valid - 'Intelligent Design' being a case in point. Take away common sense and you have nothing but paralysis of the mind: it is not 'frosting' - it is an essential tool.

Common sense is by definition near-instinctive. It would only have evolved and survived as a faculty because it a) works and b) confers an advantage, and c) because it is not too expensive (i.e. it does not require vast resources or interfere with other operating processes).

Common sense confers an advantage precisely because it rests on and utilizes assumptions acquired from the success of previous assessments: this is where it gets its speed from. If we analyzed all of our assumptions before doing anything we wouldn't even be able to drink a cup of coffee. But when it needs to, e.g. because of conflicting information or failure, common sense can analyze its assumptions and accommodate new data to the database (i.e. it adapts).

The computational model of the mind - as opposed to the hydraulic or factory models - would see common sense as a tried and tested processing-assessment program which is best left to its own devices until something breaks down or an entirely new situation is encountered.

[Regarding morality - yes of course it is important, and the US is full of holier-than-thou apple pie and it can be called to account, particularly in its hypocritical treatment of human rights, but moralistic criticism of the US along the lines of 'The US only helps out where its interests are served' is basically meaningless.... no time, sorry]

Posted by: sd at March 15, 2006 08:05 AM



This 'common sense' question obviously very interesting. There seem strong arguments both pro and con.
On the 'con' side, how is it possible to separate the positive powers of common sense from the dysfunctional legacies of primate evolution, for instance the 'intuitive' sciences Pinker describes (all common-sensical and instinctively convincing, all misleading and potentially diastrous)? Given that Pinker's 'intuitive economics' (based on Pleistocene hunter-gatherer reciprocity) provides the affective basis for almost all economic error and populist squalor, this is a serious issue IMHO.

Posted by: Nick at March 15, 2006 08:25 AM



nick. you appear to have, ahem, the tiger by the tail. how interesting. what are all the capitalist spheres we're allowed to play in?

Posted by: northanger at March 15, 2006 10:37 AM



ahem, can you rephrase stripping off the top 15 levels of irony and adding explanatory notes?

Posted by: Nick at March 15, 2006 10:59 AM



awcomeon, this is pretty straightforward.

Posted by: northanger at March 15, 2006 11:39 AM



Nick - thanks for throwing in the Pinker angle - now that's something to chew on. later.

Posted by: sd at March 15, 2006 12:15 PM




'It's the 'consciousness is froth' school of thought, best espoused by Marx and Freud, where what you think is perched on top of a huge sea of unconscious complexity which, suprise suprise, they have the key to and are therefore entitled to write huge intimidating books which purport to explain it.'

Damn, that's well said, and ought to solve all sorts of dilemmas people still have if they read it. I'm thinking primarily of Freud at the moment, even though Marx is equally valid, because their is this especially pompous vanity that always bewildered me as to why anybody thought such types could 'cure' you. It seems to have major component parts of a particularly barren snobbism and a magical element that is concealed from being the purely pagan thing it really is, and also a deep consecration of inaction, which is revealed in the incredibly tiny symptoms that are focussed on in high-strung upper-middle-class Europeans. That people would talk about Schreber and Dora and the Rat Man endlessly (still!) is stunning. Then the pomposity is translated into a sneaky 'gentle' capitalism in which the 'fee' is described as part of the magic. Well, I never bought that crap. And you go ahead and get more testosterone as a result. Who says testosterone is not necessary? Freud would secretly whisper that the castration complex is preferable, and if you'll but pay for it, you can even maintain the complex. You can even have socialized testosterone levels if you will just behave within the given social mores, so if that's all one requires, who needs some psychiatrist to tell you something that's already forced on you anyway. Definitely think Jung had something, though. Sylvia Brinton Pereira's 'The Scapegoat Complex' is so potent you can jumpstart yourself with it, in other words you can translate any scapegoating you may have encountered into fierce individuality, which is far better than translating it into furtherance of castration complexes that endless Freudian sessions ensure (along with that 'mask look' that the overanalyzed get.)

Posted by: puff adder at March 15, 2006 03:57 PM



At work right now, so can't really get much into things, but I'd just like to head off this line of criticism by saying that I in no way am attempting to defend psychoanalysis!

I'm seeing what looks to me like a very weak defense of common sense, and kind of bewildering.

'It's the 'consciousness is froth' school of thought, best espoused by Marx and Freud, where what you think is perched on top of a huge sea of unconscious complexity which, suprise suprise, they have the key to and are therefore entitled to write huge intimidating books which purport to explain it.'

Doesn't that just describe cognitive science, evolutionary theory, good journalism, all philosophy, and really anything attempting to explain something that people take for granted or believe false things about (give or take the 'intimidating' part)?

Isn't 'de-subjectification,' one of hyperstition's recurrent themes, profoundly non-common sensical?

Common sense is only adaptive if the structures it is predicated on are a) accurate and b) relatively constant. How one arrives at a thought is enormously complex and understanding it enormously time-consuming (and not very compatible with partisanship, btw), which tends to create the, I think pretty reasonable, divide between theorist/researchers and practitioners.

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 15, 2006 08:33 PM



Attempting pursue both to their fullest potentials seems irreducibly schizoid, don't you think?

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 15, 2006 08:34 PM



and if we're NOT pursuing the process of thought-and-belief construction to its fullest potential, what are we doing?

Speaking of thought-construction, there is some serious catching up I am in the process of doing on posts I missed that should probably be finished before continuing to comment on this blog (in this vein, anyway) -- apologies if I've made anyone repeat themselves too terribly much.

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 15, 2006 08:44 PM



traxus4420 - maybe I latched to hard on your 'frosting on cupcakes' image. agree it’s got a bit muddled and unsatisfactory down here, but maybe usefully so. the schizophrenic context for the operations of common sense was highlighted in the first comments, btw. anyway, I’ve got to get some sleep. should have something more coherent some time tomorrow.

Posted by: sd at March 15, 2006 11:51 PM



It might be instructive to think of common sense as more like a syntax than a distinct set of thoughts and actions -- though prior to such a linguistic metaphor -- sub-mathematical, more like. "If a, then b" is already going too far.

I take my cues from the Tao on this -- practical philosophy par excellance. From the point of view of traditional or utilitarian thinking, Taoism completely lacks content. This is because the constant it keeps referring to is before categorical distinctions and so-called concrete situations, so to use examples (even symbolic, mathematical ones) is a misstep -- and yet if one can figure out application, there can be no more mistakes. The 'figuring out' is not exactly cognitive -- in the sense of developing a coherent ontology or ethical doctrine (though the activity of doing such a thing isn't necessarily unhelpful) -- but more like working out -- varied exercizes that lack immediate benefit but gradually restructure the brain to handle a simpler and more powerful way of thinking. Hence an equal use for rigorous logic and so-called 'obscurantist' poetics and abstruse theoretical speculations. Memorization would be the least helpful way of developing this sensibility, while being the most helpful tool for actually applying it.

Zhuangzi in particular is a great source of inspiration for developing hyperstitional carriers -- even in the pieces of his corpus which we SUSPECT he wrote he refuses to write as 'himself,' or any coherent self, for that matter.

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 16, 2006 03:42 AM



Oh, and I keep meaning to apologize to puff adder for my school boy tone. Experimental, fluid style seems a natural choice for fiction, but in the futile spasms of trying to develop arguments I get too fixated on what I keep hoping is the content to think much about how I'm writing. This is just what comes out.

Posted by: traxus4420 at March 16, 2006 03:45 AM



'Futile spasm' is useful, though.

Posted by: puff adder at March 16, 2006 04:49 AM



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