Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 1, interviewed by Chris Hedges

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Dandelion Salad

Rest in peace, Sheldon Wolin, Oct. 21, 2015

All 8 Parts in one video:

Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Parts 1-8, interviewed by Chris Hedges

TheRealNews on Oct 21, 2014

Journalist Chris Hedges interviews political philosopher Sheldon Wolin, who says democracy cannot exist without continuous opposition and vigilance on the part of the citizenry.


Updated: Nov. 2, 2015

[All 8 Parts of the interview in one video]

Chris Hedges and Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Full Version

Peter Shev on Nov 20, 2014


From the archives

Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Parts 2-3, interviewed by Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 4, interviewed by Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 5, interviewed by Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 6, interviewed by Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 7, interviewed by Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 8, interviewed by Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges: The Disease of Imperialism + Transcript

Chris Hedges, Cornel West, Richard D. Wolff Respond to Thomas Paine’s Question: What Is To Be Done? by Jill Dalton

“Inverted Totalitarianism” by Guadamour

The Zero Point of Systemic Collapse by Chris Hedges

The Looming Collapse of the American Empire by Chris Hedges

37 thoughts on “Sheldon Wolin: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? Part 1, interviewed by Chris Hedges

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  5. I posted parts of the following comment on, as I found that there is a lot more discussion of such issues there. This was the first, and probably the last, time I posted anything there.

    I read several parts of Wolin’s book, “Democracy, Inc.”, after finding this on Dandelion Salad. This comment is based upon what I read in that book and in the article on Truthdig site. I have not listened to the interviews. It contains important and rather elaborate insights into the mass psychology of American demos (people) and the ruling elites, as well as relevant parts of political history. In the last chapter of his book, in addition to those, he also suggests ways-almost all of them idealistic and moralistic- to recover and renew democracy. However, in practical terms, these have no possibility. Imperialism and democracy have always dialectically interacted and conditioned each other, primarily on the objective level, and secondarily on the subjective level, both also interacting and conditioning each other. Wolin’s suggestions are confined within the system of capitalist-imperialist democracy, which he imagines can be reformed. His approach in these matters is subjective, that is, it consists of analyses of policies and mass psychologies, while excluding the law-governed processes of the development of capitalism and imperialism. This is no place to elaborate on this. However, the following statement of Lenin is relevant in this regard:

    “Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy; Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic.” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky).

    In his book, Wolin, like so many other stars of the left in this country, as well as the capitalists, imperialists, and their political stooges, slanders the Soviet system, without even any explanation or elaboration.

    He expresses passionate and genuine revulsions at the erosion of democracy and stultification of the demos (people). Even though these processes are more severe here, similar problems have also developed in other capitalist-imperialist countries. All of these are the result of law-governed processes and interactions between political economy, culture, mass psychology, and human nature, areas that are terra incognita, and therefore neither he nor anyone else has written about them. He also points out the increased influence of corporations on the state and politicians, which he attributes to his “Inverted Totalitarianism”. However, Lenin had described this phenomenon almost 100 years ago, using a different terminology, that is, “State-Monopoly Capitalism”.

    In his article on the Truthdig, Hedges has the following quotes from Wolin:

    “Unlike the Nazis, who made life uncertain for the wealthy and privileged while providing social programs for the working class and poor, inverted totalitarianism exploits the poor, reducing or weakening health programs and social services, regimenting mass education for an insecure workforce threatened by the importation of low-wage workers,”

    In classical totalitarian regimes, such as those of Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. But “under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

    Both are extremely misleading. Nazis were also closely tied to the big capital, both in Germany, as well as in the US. Mussolini had received important support from many American big corporations and business organizations, as well as from many American politicians. George Seldes had documented the specific facts in this regard in his various writings, including “Facts and Fascism”. One of the first actions after Hitler came to power was to demolish the workers unions. Employment situation in Germany got better because of the war economy and plundering and looting of the resources of occupied countries. Similarly, for a long time, American imperialism bribed and pacified the American working class by distributing a part of the enormous plunders and profits from its overseas operations. Nazi imperialism and US imperialism have a lot in common, in this regard.

    The real totalitarianism consists of the Totalitarianism of Capital. Almost all reality, including human relations and human nature, are determined by the Totalitarianism of Capital and money in all the capitalist-imperialist society, and especially in this extremist capitalist-imperialist society. Hedges continues to slander communism by equating it with fascism. Wolin mischaracterizes the relation between politics and economics under fascism, US capitalism, and communism. His big blunder consists of the lack of class analysis in this regard. Both under fascism and US capitalism, political economy and its numerous institutions are dominated by representatives of the capitalist class and its allies, while, under communism, these were dominated by the representatives of the working class and its allies, which made it possible to provide full employment, free healthcare, free education at all levels, and housing for everyone in the socialist society. These are all facts that are well-documented in numerous truthful books on political economy. However, these are totally ignored and omitted from the “sophisticated” and big-wordy jargons of partial- and half-truthers, partial- and half-liars.

    Wolin takes the assertions and applications of various theorists of totalitarianism- who predominantly served the intellectual and propaganda interests of capitalist democracies- as applied to fascism and communism, for granted, and erects his castle of “Inverted Totalitarianism” on that basis, misrepresenting or excluding the most important politico-economic facts and data and substantial similarities between capitalism under fascism and capitalism under “democracy”-fascism being the continuation of capitalism under a different political form- or communism being the diametrically opposite politico-economic system of both fascism and capitalist democracy. As I wrote earlier, the real all-pervasive totalitarianism consists of the Totalitarianism of Capital in the capitalist and imperialist societies. The basic flaw of the theorists of totalitarianism is that they only reduce it to the political superstructures and exclude the economic bases of different politico-economic systems, on which the former arise and develop and which are inextricably related to and interactive with the latter, producing different outcomes, depending on the nature of the systems.

    • Great to hear from you, Fazal. Always enlightening words.

      Here’s the link to the article on Truthdig and its comment section:

      The comment section there is quite different than on Dandelion Salad, as it’s a huge website with lots of traffic, so probably not as moderated as it is here. Truthdig does censor/ban people as was mentioned by another person commenting, although I do not know on what grounds. On Dandelion Salad, I occasionally have to do the same thing.

      • Thank you Lo for putting the link to the Truthdig article. A commenter there tried to alert me that the site had censored and banned a woman because she was pointing out inadequacies in Chris Hedge’s articles. Unless one is rude or obnoxious, I am very much against such actions. I do not know what she was writing. Personally, it does not affect me as I seldom comment on any site.

        If one is writing in such fundamentally important areas like political economy or philosophy, it is most important to be as accurate and honest as possible, as dissemination of wrong knowledge and information can mislead people in the wrong directions. Therefore, when I see errors, contradictions, or dishonesty in such articles, and if I have the ability to correct these, I feel a sense of duty to do it.

        • I always appreciate your insights, Fazal. I’ve personally learned so much from your articles and comments.

          Generally rude commenters are not allowed on Dandelion Salad as it’s not productive for a conversation/discussion. If someone is name-calling someone else, either another person commenting or the writer of the article, it means that they have nothing to say. Those who only self-promote are also deleted as they aren’t adding to the conversation.

      • I agree Lo. Fazal insists we think rigorously about what are often no more than uncritical assumptions or conditioned prejudices. Whilst I understand & respect the points he is making here, I found the interviews extremely valuable, altho’ in the light of those criticisms, I am now compelled to reconsider and possibly listen again; I have not read Sheldon Wolin’s books, but I enjoyed hearing him speak so clearly at such an advanced age, before he finally left us.

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  19. The article by Daniel Estulin on is titled:

    “TransEvolution: The Age of Human Deconstruction”

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  21. Inversion is exactly the right idea. A great interview.

    The perverse butchers in the Black House are perpetually messing with public perceptions, dispensing media morals as perverted reality, endlessly promoting their oppressive, genocidal gobbledygook geopolitical agendas…peddling nothing but abject horror in the name of neo-liberal justice & capitalist supremacy.

    What justice?! Whatever happened to Karl Popper’s “open society?”

    Democracy has been so over-sold now, it is virtually reduced to a cliched Obama slogan. Hence the lurid appeal of the emergent radical right in Europe, for example.

    We definitely need to refresh our narrative with accurate and perspicuous language ~ expressing a symbolic calculus that articulates the empirical necessity of representative, unrestrictive and participatory government, tempered by the coherent rule of law…law that empowers due (institutional) processes that serve as a reflexive engine of society’s most intelligent needs.

    American power lust is self-evidently a lethal, pathological instrument of bigoted denial.

    When is this “US” exceptionalist circus going to admit its despicable crimes? The whole world knows its sinister and contemptible “family” history! We have witnessed the villainous, contagious greed and grave afflictions of its compulsive addiction to cosmetically disguised abuse, its love of bloody lucre, demolition of ancient heritage and self-aggrandisement.

    The real war in my view, is a universal wake-up call to spiritual duty (proper “Jihad”) ~ a call to prevail against this profane abomination & reactionary abuse of the sacred.

    Vulgar bigotry, broadcast self-importance, displays of grotesque criminal habit and ideological obtuseness that defile the purity of all ethical human intent, it is all a colossal imposture. Whether we call it “IS” the caliphate or Israel, or “free-trade” or whatever ~ the only social status that has enduring value is the spiritual estate.

    The problem is how to frame and communicate authentic concepts of sanctity, because the sacred needs to be experienced not merely imagined, & therefore invariably polluted by heritable procrustean dogmas and poisonous prejudice…

    The role of imagination as I see it, is to educate our humanity in the pragmatic evolutionary processes of legitimate insight and initiation.

    It is this essential quest for universal knowledge, lucid understanding and comprehensive meaning that constitutes our true and abiding gravitational destiny, as intelligent vehicles of indestructible living energy ~ stewards of life in all its diversity.

    These arcane processes are almost entirely unconscious and instinctive, and only become truly conscious when they generate tangible creative, empirical results.

    So “America” would do well to reflect upon its indigenous spiritual roots, not just pay lip-service to caricatures or gross misrepresentations of critical matters of profound cultural significance.

    The same is true of all regions of the world, but is particularly acutely needed in the US, where the crisis of moral authority and the desperate need for a pure and incorruptible vision is so urgently in evidence.

    The triumphalist, reactionary capitalist establishment has a clear choice ~ either desperately struggle to keep the lid on through enforced martial containment and all of the terrible explosive social consequences this inevitably implies, or parley for innovative and constructive change.

    • Great commentary, David. It is up to us to chose the spiritual way and resist the “dark side”.

      Sorry for the lack of responses from me last week, my keyboard stopped working properly so I couldn’t type much at all. (missing letters and punctuations and adding extra letters; very strange)

    • David, You couldn’t have said it any better! KPFA ( had done some good program on Sheldon Wolin’s “inverted totalitarianism” concept, which, as you well know, is being more refined and more of a threat to humanity than ever before.

      Did you read Daniel Estulin’s article from New Dawn magazine, which picked up? It is an ominous sign of things to come, to say the least.

        • …a very adequate & challenging discussion, Frank.

          In truth, this conversation could elicit a book-length response, so I can only condense a considered response…

          The prominent British neuro-surgeon Sir Henry Marsh, was speaking with wry humour on BBC Radio 4 a few days ago; quizzed about his recent book “Do No Harm,” he said ~

          ‘…thought is physical…and (although some find this diminishes the idea of the soul) it actually elevates matter…consciousness is an electro-chemical process produced by brain cells…but (despite our lofty scientific achievements in so many complex fields) we haven’t a clue how that happens…so I find this massive ignorance very reassuring…’

          This is the problem with precocious gadgetry and the presumptuous gimmickries of applied science, it is all far too arrogant and premature…it also attracts & justifies corrupt motives. Artefacts of the mind require a moral compass, minds that feed on specious ideas will inspire perverse abuses. As A C Clarke famously said, any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. So we should study this “magic,” by referring conscientiously to the annals of esoteric discourse, that we used to call classical learning.

          All human ingenuity is the product of organic biological processes; to operate on the premise that an engine should be in total control of a vehicle is irrational, irresponsible and ultimately impossible, because there always must be someone (a mind) or some directed force to initiate any train of mechanical events.

          Opportunist elites will always seek to maximize their advantage. When the appetite for power exceeds the capacity for wisdom, disaster ensues. A money-driven addiction to tyranny by default is, in my opinion, technological (magical) imagination way out of order ~ running amok… “out of control.”

          Imagination needs to be tempered and educated, as Northrop Frye advised wisely. If crazy geeks and greedy goons and exploitative interests are left to tinker and toy with the “levers” of life, we shall find ourselves shipwrecked on the rocks of ignorance without a doubt, & without a future ~ not to mention absent a prayer.

          So here’s my two-bits worth of Tuesday dogma: “economy” enslaves, ecology liberates…

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