Monday, March 19, 2012

Progressive spheres

In our continuing IPS discussion of Sloterdijk's philosophy and politics I highlight the following:

Balder: I agree with your points, Ed, and agree with Honneth that it would be both important and helpful for him to situate his views on this vis-a-vis the ill-gotten gains of many speculators and other financial elites (and cooperating government players) who are gaming the system at our, and our future generations', expense.  My only caveat is that we should probably read his comments in the context of the German situation, where (I believe, based on a Wikipedia search) the taxation rate of the wealthiest members is at 45%.  The critique of 'resentment' as an informing mood in (Green) cynicism is also a legitimate one, I expect, at least for certain prominent thinkers and schools of thought, so I would not want to summarize 'liberal'/left views as being uniformly and universally in line with the sentiments you express (since 'the left' includes a broad range of people across cultures and across several developmental stages).

Me: As to your point about liberal views covering a wide range of specific locations (addresses), I agree.* My response was specific to US corporate capitalism and its liberal criticism, which was missing from Slot's analysis. One of Latour's (re)definitions of design has to do with such specificity, with the fine details, with craft. This expresses in Slot's metaphor of spheres, as each is an autonomous unit while nonetheless being in relation (plurisingular). Slot's critique, at least in Forbes, was so general as to be contrary to his own philosophy. Granted he delimits his critique to Europe but he sweeps all European social democracy under the same rug, denouncing it as moribund due to State kleptocracy.

He correctly notes that direct and selfish exploitation (aka laissez-faire capitalism) was feudal but generalizes about social democracy, presumably Germany's, as indicative of Europe. It seems he recognizes that it was an improvement (development) to capitalism and suggests there is a stage beyond that now too, with which I agree. But that stage, like the notion of designed spheres, will be specific to the milieu to which it is applied. Slot's critique of monospheric, European social democracy though is not apt, nor would such an overriding narrative be applicable for a new stage's specific expressions. His spherological metaphor though is consistent with the next stage of distributed networks, and in that I'm in agreement. It's now a matter of applying such an orienting generalization to specific countries, regions and economies, for each “sphere,” though connected to the network, will have unique characteristics.

In the meantime, critiques such as Honneth's are effective, since in his struggle to apply his principles Slot has not yet found an adequate language or exemplar with which to express it. Hence he regresses to conservative language and ideas to criticize social democracy which come off sounding like, and in many ways are, still conservative. We find the same with kennilingus in its promotion of an integral, conscious capitalism. Perhaps we have to move beyond social democracy, and there is no doubt that in its extreme manifestations the State is a bit totalitarian, but in its rush to get to this new address much is being missed with such sweeping generalizations, like countries and regional economies (Mondragon?) that are already well on the way to transitioning into this new era. And specific initiatives like Rifkin's, who I believe is working with Germany on this?

* For example, Slot uses the term liberalism to denote neo-liberalism, aka corporate capitalism, whereas in the US we might call it neo-conservatism. Also, the views I expressed are fairly consistent with what I call the progressives. I imbibe quite a bit of liberal media, like Rhodes, Olbermann, Maddow, Krugman, Sachs, Sanders** etc. and they agree on the points I made. Granted this is a small faction represented in the US Congress by the progressive caucus of the Democrat Party, most Democrats being as corporately influenced as the conservatives. So it is to this specific address that I refer when I call something liberal.

** Sanders, Democrat Senator of Vermont, by the way is a democratic socialist. And it is his unique brand of such that I find not only not dead but indicative of the move to this new level of social organization.

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