Totalitarianism: It Can Happen Here by Paul Street

Dandelion Salad

by Paul Street
Dissident Voice
August 23rd, 2008

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism
By Sheldon Wolin
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0691135665
ISBN-13: 978-0691135663

Domesticated Democracy

It is by now commonplace to observe that democracy is in a weakened state in the United States. But could it be that the U.S. is no longer a democracy at all, if it ever truly was? According to Princeton emeritus political scientist Sheldon Wolin’s chilling new volume Democracy, Inc: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008), the United States is becoming a totalitarian state posing as a democracy. Under the rules of what Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” corporate and state power have become deeply “co-joined” and practically “unbridled.” The popular majority of the citizenry — the People — in whose name U.S. “democracy” purports to function is politically uninterested, infantilized, obedient, distracted, and divided. An increasingly spectator-ized and subordinate public is shepherded by the professional political class across a painfully narrow business- and Empire-friendly field of political, policy, and ideological “choices.” Those harshly limited options are presented in periodic superficial, candidate-centered and corporate-crafted elections that function as anti-democratic exercises in capitalist marketing and managerial control. These spectacular rolling extravaganzas privilege candidate image and other trivial matters over substantive questions of policy and ideology, with campaign consultants and advertisers selling candidates like they sell candy or cars. They help keep the interrelated issues of the ever-growing rich-poor gap, corporate power, and imperial militarism (the last two topics are taboo in “mainstream” U.S. political life) “off the table” of acceptable debate and public scrutiny even though they are of primary interest to most American citizens. By Wolin’s account:

The citizenry, supposedly the source of governmental power and authority as well as participant, has been replaced by the ‘electorate,’ that is, by voters who acquire a political life at election time. During the intervals between elections the political existence of the citizenry is relegated to a shadow-citizenship of virtual participation. Instead of participating in power, the virtual citizen is invited to have ‘opinions’: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them. (p. 59)

…In elections parties set out to mobilize the citizen-as-voter, to define political obligation as fulfilled by the casting of a vote. Afterwards, post-election politics of lobbying, repaying donors, and promoting corporate interests — the real players — takes over. The effect is to demobilize the citizenry, to teach them not to be involved or to ponder matters that are either settled or beyond their efficacy. (p. 205)

Dissident Voice : Totalitarianism: It Can Happen Here

4 thoughts on “Totalitarianism: It Can Happen Here by Paul Street

  1. Pingback: Is it possible to treat and cure this psychopath? « Dandelion Salad

  2. “Inverted totalitarianism’s” pacified, apathetic, ignorant, and deceived public is content to leave history to be made by supposedly wise and benevolent masters like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, James Baker, and Donald Rumsfeld, who follow in the Nazis’ footsteps by launching criminal and supposedly “preventive” wars of aggression sold on brazenly false pretexts that are dutifully advanced by dominant media, including the Orwellian claim to be exporting democracy through colonial conquest. Since the Few learned from Vietnam not to send a citizen’s army into bloody colonial “service,” today’s wars are fought by a safely segregated caste of mostly working class imperial mercenaries.

    We live today in a country that has invaded another country for no good reason. The reasons given by the administration for invasion have been shown to be definitively untrue, even likely to have been lies.

    Still the general American public to a large extent is patriotic and proud.

    Support today for American militaristic imperialism is roughly equal to German Nationalistic pride in 1939 following the invasion of Poland. Both invasions were justified by the governments and national medias as acts of defense, protecting fearful publics from attack.

    We invaded a foreign nation with no just cause, killing thousands to millions, and destroying infrastructure and uprooting and displacing millions. And yet there is today political discourse about victory and success in Iraq, and of troops coming home with honor. And our soldiers are called heroes; what is heroic about defeating a vastly inferior army seeking to defend its own homeland; what is heroic about unjustly invading a foreign sovereign nation?

    The invasion of Iraq was no act of defense, not at all. Any statement about winning a war of conquest ignores entirely any small measure of ethics. To frame decisions about bringing troops home around concepts of victory and honor is to ignore the reality of the unjust military invasion that began the occupation. The only factors of importance in troop withdrawal should be the minimization of troop casualties, and minimization of further harm done to Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi nation. Issues of pride and glory show a level of inhumanity that is all too present in the manipulation of American identity and values. Our troops should be brought home safely and quickly, and they should be given the greatest of care for their futures, for their health and education and overall well being. To care about the troops is to bring them safely home; to support the continued occupation of a nation, to continue to keep American soldiers in harms way for no good reason is to be arrogantly egotistical.

    Our nation’s military continues to increasingly benefit corporate wealth interests while having less and less impact directly upon the public. Haliburton, Blackwater Etc. are replacing public troops, with private interests. We are burdened with the costs of war, with financing a military that costs exponentially more than that of any other nation in the world. Our financial burden for the milotary is immense, while our economy is collapsing, like the soviet’s in the 80’s.

    The “safely segregated caste of mostly working class imperial mercenaries” is increasingly promoting public apathy as private interests enlist foreign mercenaries to replace the traditional American soldier. We are outsourcing our military, and in doing so, reducing troop pay and benefits, while increasing corporate profit and influence.

    As a public we have become so detatched from involvement in and responsiblility for our federal government. The conflation of nationalistic, militaristic, patriotism with apathetic misinformed awareness should be an embarrassment to us all.

    American democracy is dead. The American public is too stupid, apathetic and misinformed to make decisions even in its own interest. As individuals we struggle and compete to survive, while the wealth and resources that we could share are disributed upward to an immensely empowered few.

    As a public we have failed to take care of ourselves. We are brainwashed, incompetent fools. Our democracy is dead because we have given it away.

    The American dream has become a selfish pursuit of individual wealth and prosperity. We don’t care about one another. We try to take care of ourselves and in our selfish pursuit of individual well being we have lost community. Without community there is not democracy. We struggle against each other while our rulers work together to continue to further entrench their power.

    Our education and health care systems are inferior to most of the rest of the developed world. Our prison and justice systems are a mess and money and population.

    I am embarrassed to be an American. I am embarrassed to be part of a public that has chosen militaristic excess over general wellfare. I am embarrassed that my nation has unjustly invaded another nation seeking wealth, and continuing occupation seeking victory and pride. I am embarrassed mostly by the general apathy of the American public to it all.

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